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Meet Chrys Johnson of Player’s Pick Podcast in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chrys Johnson.

Chrys, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I got my start in the industry through landing a Product Development/Artist Relations job at LOUD Technologies (Ampeg /Alvarez/ Mackie) back in 2006. Other than getting to help Snoop Dogg with some Mackie gear and designing some Alvarez guitars for Ani DiFranco, Devin Townsend & Glen Hansard, my main project there was the Ampeg Heritage B-15 with Jess Oliver and George Metropoulos. Life shifted and I was contacted by EMG Pickups and asked to join their team in the North Bay Area (California). I spent most of my days hustling to put together EMGtv video shoots and interviews. My main projects there were Geezer Butler’s signature bass pickups and the 57/66 set. During my time at EMG, my work was noticed by the team at Dunlop and was asked to be the Director of Artist Relations at their HQ in Benicia, CA. There I co-created and produced a short lived. Still, highly revered performance video series called Dunlop Sessions developed a signature guitar pick for Javier & Tosin of Animals As Leaders, a signature Cry Baby bass Wah for Geezer Butler, developed a sig pick for Andy James which in turn influenced John Petrucci helped Dunlop to create the insanely popular FLOW pick line which is based off the old Jazztone 208 shape.

In my time at Dunlop, I was exposed to the ins/outs of all the details around crafting the world’s best and most famous guitar picks… Both through working with 100’s of top name artists and Jimi Dunlop himself, who is THE pick guru full stop. I will forever be thankful for my time working with and for the Dunlop family. In early 2018 Steve Vai introduced me to Moon Unit Zappa, who at the time was in the process of building a fresh new podcast and wanted some custom guitar picks as a small promotional item for the guests. From the moment I heard her voice on the phone, I knew we were going to be friends… I made some picks for her pod and we quickly became pals sharing our love for yoga, music and comedy. Moon joined me one day for a hang in the studio with the TOOL guys. At the same time, they were finishing up their latest album and while there, she witnessed me chatting it up with Adam Jones and his tech about some nerdy guitar pick stuff and told me as we were leaving that she thought I should start a podcast based around something nerdy like that. I told her I didn’t know I was cut out for that sort of thing… All too easy for me to stutter and fumble my words when in the spotlight… But she persisted and asked me to think about it, so I did. One day while making the commute to Dunlop I got a ‘cosmic download’ that included the name and format of the podcast all at once… Told myself then and there if the name and format weren’t already in use that I would commit myself to the project… So here I am… The host of Player’s Pick Podcast 🙂

Now currently living in Hollywood and working remotely for Kiesel Custom Guitars out of Escondido, CA. Jeff Kiesel and I met back in 2011 when I first started working for EMG and have been good friends ever since… He always had a feeling we would work together and now here we are… Making moves together and working with some really amazing artists to create incredible guitars that resonate in a real personal way due to the artist being able to customize so many parameters to their liking… The future is wide open… And we are just getting started.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This is far from an easy industry to work in. So many challenges and obstacles that often make it difficult to stay in it for very long. If it were just product development and I was a 9-5’er it wouldn’t be so bad. Still, I really took to the Artist Relations aspect and that is often a nights/weekends/anytime type of gig as Artists are always coming through town or out on tour somewhere in the world and need help with gear or need face to face consult/gear demo time to make informed decisions for their live shows or studio recordings. Then there is the whole issue of working with famous people… Not everyone can keep it fresh when in a room with one of their hero’s… Including myself from time to time… Haha… Thankful to still have a career after saying some pretty dumb things through the years 🤦🏻‍♂️ Balancing the needs of your employer with the needs/wants/demands of the famous artist who you would like to keep happy along with trying to balance an infinite workload can have a big impact on your social and personal life.. And even when you get most of that into some balance there always seems to be a co-worker or two that wants to cause drama… Eeesh… Office politics! Thankfully in 2016, I got back into yoga/meditation in a much deeper way than ever before… Became a teacher and have for the first time in my life felt like I have all the tools I need to navigate difficult relationships… Not saying I’m good at it all the time because I’m not, but it’s an ongoing practice to become more and more awake to what is real, what is necessary and how to be more kind along the way. Sometimes I still fail at human relations miserably… But I keep learning, growing and pressing on. I think that’s the best any of us can do.

Please tell us about Player’s Pick Podcast.
Player’s Pick Podcast is a oddly specific and slightly nerdy interview based show where I ask great guitar players & bass players about their relationship to guitar picks… Like what they remember about their first few guitar picks, who gave it to them, other players that influenced them and how they got to play the pick they use now. That’s the bait anyway… Haha… Then we talk about whatever comes naturally, but I always try to get a sense of the guest’s belief system or general philosophical outlook on life. What do they think are the keys elements to their success in life, and how do they manage to stay creative and inspired to do the amazing work they do in the world. Being a music lover, I’m always excited to get quality music listening suggestions, so I ask for some recommendations… And being one who loves to make playlists on Spotify, I make a custom curated playlist for every episode… When I review and make edits to each event I make a note of any artist we mention or talk about up to and including their suggestions towards the end and then take their latest albums and mix them with a track or two of all the artists we mention along the way… Not sure. Still, I think that’s unique to this podcast… It’s just what I would want if I were a listener, an easy reference guide so I can sample new music quick & easy.

2019 was the first year of the pod… I released 33 episodes and have had a little more than 10k downloads …not big numbers by any means but not bad for mostly a one man operation doing his passion project in his almost non existent spare time 🙂 Lots more amazing guests have committed to doing the show in 2020…just a waiting game for schedules to align.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
LA is quite simply amazing to me. I have been visiting this city for about 13 years for work while living in Seattle and the Bay Area all the while mumbling under my breath that ‘I could never live here too crowded’….’ Not enough nature’ …ahhh… Never say never 🙂 The thing about LA is that for a small town NorCal kid like me it’s often just overwhelming despite previously having lived close to and around other big cities….this is my first time living in the middle of it all…I’m coming around though! The sheer amount of amazing food and yoga have my attention.. And of course, the endless amounts of live shows make it easy always to have something to do for work or personal enjoyment, oftentimes it’s both.

It’s cliché to harsh on the traffic and air quality here…those things aren’t great, but my main gripe is wishing there were more wide open park spaces that include cool dog parks… I know there are some good ones and maybe I haven’t found the best ones yet but yeah …Nor Cal and the PNW have this type of thing sorted out better, but everything comes with a trade off.

So many upsides to being here that it’s hard to list them all…. Great weather, a ton of great friends, some of the very best yoga studios and teachers in the world are here… And the crazy amount of great food, most of which can be ordered and delivered to your door, amazing! Love Runyon canyon…love Rosie’s Dog Beach… Love Cannabis Café… Love Beverly Hot Springs… Love Yogaworks Larchmont, Hot 8Yoga K-Town & Roam Yoga LA.

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