Naomi Cooke Johnson On Kickstarting Her Solo Career And Unveiling Her Life Story In Her New Music
“I’m just really revealing myself. I’ve had a desire to tell my own story for a long time and that’s what I’m doing.”
Naomi Cooke Johnson; Photo Courtesy of BBR Music Group
Growing up impoverished alongside her ten siblings, joining the award-winning trio Runaway June in 2015, and launching her highly-anticipated solo career earlier this year, Naomi Cooke Johnson is a true product of the American Dream.
Drawing inspiration from strong, female country icons like Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, The Chicks, The Judds, and more, the 32-year-old is finally beginning to tell her own stories through her solo music. Since embarking on a career outside the trio, Johnson has released two soon-to-be smash hits: “Girls Of Summer” and “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet.”
In an exclusive interview with Country Now, the budding country star dished about all things surrounding her new solo endeavor, including what she has on the horizon.
Navigating “A Completely New Experience”
Cooke Johnson kickstarted the conversation by talking about what it has been like being a solo artist thus far, as well as how she has grown since leaving Runaway June in 2022: “It’s been just a completely new experience. I feel like I’ve just uncovered a bunch of other layers of myself as an artist and songwriter, and just a mother and a person. Like, it’s completely just opened up a whole new personality.”
The talented singer-songwriter concluded with a smile, “It’s also felt super liberating, you know, I just had these ideas, visions, and dreams for a long time, and I just have been waiting for the right time to kind of put it all together. So seeing it all coming together finally, it’s just absolutely wild. It’s been quite the experience.”
First Single As A Solo Artist
The star-in-the-making released her first single as a solo artist this past June, a catchy track titled “Girls Of Summer.”
“I didn’t go to school as a kid. I was homeschooled, but still, summer represented a type of freedom to me and my family who lived in a renovated school bus and traveled the country, state park to state park, living without boundaries and rules. Summer then was a cold stream, thick woods, fireworks and dirt under my nails from climbing a tree. Later, when we settled in a small town on the Gulf Coast, I spent my teenage years playing my guitar for tips on a dock in a tourist town, watching the boys and girls of summer come and go as the seasons changed…for three months out of the year it was my job to entertain them,” Johnson shared via Instagram regarding the meaning behind the new track.
She continued passionately, “I was a bit sheltered then and in other ways entirely overexposed to the ways of the world. I was a wild child, hippie kid that came from nothing and had nothing except for a lot of spunk and tenacity. Those summers were my first taste of independence, my first love, the loss of my girlhood innocence, my first heartbreak. That time will always define summer to me.”
“Whatever summer is to you, whether on a beach, a broadway street, or just riding around your hometown with the windows down and your friends by your side, I hope ‘Girls Of Summer’ will transport you to a barefoot euphoria of your own where new core summer memories are made,” the budding songstress concluded.
Drawing Inspiration From Fans
Diving deeper into the story behind the song, Cooke Johnson shared how she wound up finding herself within the lyrics. “I wanted to kind of write a song that was fun and not about love, and more about the women that I see that come to the shows because the women kind of bring it all… At the country festivals and concerts, the women are just the best. The men follow them, and that’s why they’re there, but I really wanted to sing about them, and I realized that I was like revealing myself in it.”
“I feel like, you know, it definitely reveals me in that song, but also I’m talking about just the woman – the girl of summer,” she explained, ultimately confirming the double-meaning behind “Girls Of Summer.”
“Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet”
The rising country star continued to find her own voice with the release of her second solo single, “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” just last month. It is equally as phenomenal and also draws inspiration from her unique childhood.
“Growing up, when any of us turned 5 years old, my Dad would put us on one of the beat-up second-hand bikes that me and my 10 siblings shared and say, ‘Now, pedal hard and steer towards the grass if you think you’re gonna crash.’ That was it. He’d push us down a gravel hill with no training wheels or knee pads while the other 10 kids watched and made bets. After a couple crashes, we were riding that bike as well as anybody, but with scabby elbows, a puffed-up chest, and a grin that lasted for weeks. The bruises and scrapes (in my case a black eye) were all worth it,” she recalled.
“I guess that’s pretty much how I ended up living my life. No training wheels or knee pads, pedaling hard. When I see a crash coming my way, I brace and try to figure out the softest place to land and then get back up and try again,” she explained before adding, “I’ve definitely had my share of scrapes, kicks, and falls but I keep trying. I keep riding. I guess living this way is what makes me feel the most alive. It reminds me to live life the way that I want to, because it’s not a long ride at all. I’m living it on my terms and I hope you will too.”
She then introduced her fans to the song “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet.”
It’s easy to spot a theme through Cooke Johnson‘s music and that’s no accident. Her upbringing shaped her into the person and artist she is today. Now, she’s ready to share her stories with the world.
“I’ve lived a pretty colorful life, and it’s just been full of hard knocks and closed doors, and you know, just getting myself out of poverty level. I have 10 brothers and sisters, and we just were dirt poor my whole life, and it was just always kind of like do or die, grind it out, you know? It was always us against the world pretty much,’ she explained.
“Through living with that, I’ve had to take a lot of risks and just say yes to things that maybe I wouldn’t have said yes to had I been born into another life, and it’s made me a pretty like risk-taking person,” she continued. “I guess my toxic trait is rebellion. I really like provocative, like rebellious people that really live on the edge and are testing their limits, so again, that’s a song where I’m just revealing myself and leaving it open to where people can ask questions.”
Johnson’s Next Song Will Reveal Even More Of Her Story
“Girls Of Summer” and “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” are just the beginning of everything the BMG/BBR Music Group signee has in store for country music lovers.
With her forthcoming single, Naomi Cooke Johnson will continue to peel back layers of herself, proving that nothing is off the table for her.
She revealed, “The next song that I’m hopefully putting out, it’s more of me being able to kind of talk about my story, my journey, my childhood, and what really makes me who I am… I’m an all-American girl. I love this country. I love the people. I’m middle class and below. I know what it’s like to work my ass off. I really connect with those people, and through the music, I want people to have that question answered of like, ‘Why are you talking to us about this?’”
“The next song that I’d like to put out is just more about my childhood and what that was like, and it’s kind of got a theme throughout the record. I’m just really revealing myself. I’ve had a desire to tell my own story for a long time and that’s what I’m doing. So that’s what’s coming up next,” she teased.
Fans can stream “Girls Of Summer” and “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” on their favorite music streaming platform right now, and they can connect with Naomi Cooke Johnson on Instagram @naomicookejohnson for updates on all of the new music she has on the way.
Melanie has been writing for Country Now since August of 2023. Originally from Southern California and currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee, she graduated from Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in 2023 with a BA in Journalism. During her free time, she loves going to concerts and music festivals, binging her favorite TV shows, spending time with her friends and family and cheering on the Oklahoma Sooners (of course).