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Meet Johnny Gomez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Johnny Gomez.

Johnny, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Music was always playing around the house when I was growing up. We were a Hispanic family, so of course there was everything from Mana, to La Union, to Hombres G. However, my dad grew up loving all kinds of music, so I was exposed to tons of Prince, Queen, Dire Straits, Supertramp, The Police… tons of bands from the 70s and 80s. Growing up in communities like South Gate, Perris, and Moreno Valley, exposed me to artists such as Outkast, 2Pac, Notorious BIG, and Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg because that’s what all of my friends were listening to. I just remember anything and everything was playing all the time.

Our house burned down when I was about 11 years old and just about everything was destroyed except for a handful of things, including my dad’s 1991 Alpine White Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar that apparently was VERY safe in his closet my whole life. My whole life changed when our insurance company salvaged and delivered the guitar to our new home. It was still brand new, my dad played it only a handful of times since he bought it. I started messing around on it and my dad got excited, so he got me into lessons. I found my calling! I loved playing that guitar and I played it all day everyday. After about a year, my dad took me on a tour of Musician’s Institute in Hollywood for my 12th birthday. At that point, it was my life’s mission to attend that school and learn everything I could about guitar. I eventually graduated high school a year early and went straight to MI after graduating.

I spent a few years after MI getting into cover bands, sessions, original bands, whatever I could! Around 2011, my family and I moved from Moreno Valley to Orange. My dad had lost his job and was hustling whatever he could, my mom was working in Irvine, and I was hustling to get into some steady gig work. We pooled our resources and were able to move into a small apartment. I kept hustling for a few months until my mom found an ad for an upcoming show at Disneyland. They were looking for guitar players and were holding auditions the next morning! I crammed the required music, my dad and I went to Kinko’s the second they opened the next morning to blow up a crappy cell phone picture for my headshot. I made up a resume for the application and showed up to the audition, I was determined! I landed the gig and worked as lead guitarist for the Mad T Party at California Adventure for about four years. Working there expanded my network tenfold. I was finally working full-time in music, my dad hustled from janitor to manager at a very popular restaurant chain, my mom was working full time, things were finally looking up! I started playing for independent artists in LA, got into wedding band work, sessions, and met one of my best friends and musical partners, Dallas Kruse.

Dallas and I had a deep love for funk and immediately hit it off when we met. We have made two albums (my singing debut!) together, music videos, we’ve done gigs with our music, have built our own custom light show, complete with LED outfits for the band, video screens, and a puppet clone of myself that heckles me throughout our shows. Our albums, the White EP and the Pink EP are love letters to our heroes such as Prince, Rick James, Parliament/Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, and Jamiroquai.

I’m currently (well, not *currently* currently, as most musicians have lost all/most of their work due to the COVID19 pandemic, but as recently as possible) still a full-time musician, doing gigs, sessions, and writing. I’m hoping to make more music with Dallas, as well as some of my other favorite musical friends like Danny Mills, TJ Wilkins, and Julia Carlucci.

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?
Not always! Although my family was in full support of my musical endeavors, finding steady wasn’t easy in the beginning. As I mentioned before, it took up until around 2011/2012, at around 22 or so years old, for things to really pick up. Landing the Disney gig changed everything and it gave me training in things I never thought I’d be doing, like costuming, choreography, acting, makeup, wigs, it really stepped up my game. I was surrounded by tons of talent and I HAD to keep up!

The show ended up closing with only a couple of week’s notice, four years later, which gave me little time to fill up my schedule again. I had to hustle to find any sub-work in any band I could get into. There was about a year, through 2016/2017, that I was subbing in almost ten bands, doing whatever I could! It wasn’t until mid-2017 or so that I finally landed a couple of steady gigs that kept me afloat.

I have tons of “silver medals” or close calls throughout my career. Lots of auditions that were close calls and didn’t pan out when I was being considered. I haven’t given up hope with auditions, I’m still going to try out for whatever I can.

One of my best friends, Julia Carlucci, convinced me to go to therapy in October 2019. I learned that I suffer with depression and anxiety, which explained A LOT of personal struggle that I didn’t understand for years. Certain factors of how I grew up playing music led me to wrap my entire self worth in my level of musicianship, my perception of what success is in music, and my (lack of) productivity. This, combined with my depression and anxiety, made for a toxic combination of insecurity and resentment, as well as thoughts like “I’m too old, its too late, I should give up, I am just taking up space”. I have spent many days in my life stuck in bed, questioning my existence and self-worth, frozen with unexplicable fear. It would come out of nowhere, I would have weeks worth of dark days.

Then I would end up resenting myself for wasting so much time, which would only send me deeper into the spiral. Add to that the development of social media platforms as sources of exposure to the entire world of extremely talented musicians, which created an unrealistic and self-inflicted pressure to live up to musical standards that I thought I could never achieve. It made me resent playing and creating music for a couple of years. I no longer looked up to my talented peers but rather looked down on myself. How did I end up hating this music thing that I’ve always loved so much, this thing I used to define myself and my purpose? How did I end up hating MYSELF so much? I had worked so hard to become the very thing that ended up making me resent myself. I thought I was the only one going through this, I buried everything inside, which got me stuck in a vicious cycle. I became an expert in wearing a fake smile everyday in front of my peers, even though I was sure I was going to throw myself off a bridge that night.

Therapy helped me realize that I’m not alone, I’m not crazy, what I have been experiencing is very common amongst artists/musicians/creatives, and that I can learn to cope with depression and anxiety. I also learned that there are generations worth of deeply rooted family line trauma instilled in me since childhood that I had no idea was a source of resentment. I was inadvertently raised to believe that therapy and the possibility of relying on medication are all taboo and in a way, signs of weakness. Therapy relieved SO MUCH mental and emotional weight from me and I think no one should be afraid of going. It saved my life and I just hope to encourage anyone else that might be struggling with depression to talk to someone, it truly has the potential to make all the difference in coping and overcoming it.

Now here we are, 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic. I lost all of my work for the year within a couple of days. My brother passed away a couple of months ago, my family’s first loss. Though I do still get waves of grief, I still get nervous, anxious, and stressed out, though I still get my down days, I remain mostly optimistic. If it wasn’t for therapy, my faith, and my family, I wouldn’t have lasted a week since the world locked down. I’ve learned to be nicer to myself through this. I haven’t been the most musically productive this year, but I’ve learned to allow myself to accept that there’s definitely A LOT going on and it is okay to slow down, that its ok to feel the downs, the ups, and everything in between. I still believing in pushing through when necessary, but I also know when I need to let myself experience the various waves of grief, feelings, and thoughts of an uncertain future and uncertain career. I’m learning to appreciate the small good things, the small wins, through all the bad that this year has piled on. We’re all together in this and we’ll all get through it together!

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
Guitar playing is my specialty, though I love to write, produce, perform, and sing. I love funk, R&B, and Hip Hop, and I tend to do my best work in those styles. I’m a big fan and a major nerd of those styles, I dig deep and though I love the well-known stuff, I study the obscure stuff too. I love the sounds and the parts, the way the whole band plays. I love to play leads as much as any guitarist, but groove and rhythm are of utmost importance to me and I work hard to be the reliable rhythm player, so I suppose you could say that that’s what I’m known for.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood is having my first music fan moment. I always loved music and music was just a big thing in my family. There was always music playing around the house. However, there was a particular moment when I was probably 9 or 10 that I had a moment of “this is what I’m going to do someday”. I was digging through my dad’s crates full of his CD collection and found an album by Queen, called “Live Killers”. I threw it on to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody (of course). My dad happened to walk in from work and was excited to hear this old live album again. I remember being confused because though it was a live album, the middle section of the song sounded exactly like the album (it turns out that Queen would playback the album recording for the operatic section), but my dad said, “that’s nothing. check THIS out!”. He put on the first track of disc 2, “Don’t Stop Me Now”. I hadn’t even heard the studio recording of this, but once the band kicked in, I was sold. This particular version has an extended breakdown to build up to the guitar solo. The build was SO epic and then Brian May’s guitar solo tore through the stereo speakers, grabbed my entire body, and shook me to my core. I immediately knew, “I want to do THAT!”

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