Now, the singer and composer is aiming to take center stage himself
VIDEO + INTERVIEW BY CLAIRE YOTTS
In pop music, it’s not uncommon for leading voices to emerge from the background.
Johan Lenox appears to be on that path. The 31-year-old Winchester, Mass native has done string arrangements for stars such as Kanye West and Travis Scott and Boston’s Cousin Stizz. With his extensive classical music background and knowledge, he’s become a go-to composer for some of the biggest names in music, and has scored credits on albums like Big Sean’s Detroit 2 and SAINt JHN’s While The World is Burning, to name a few.
Composing, however, is just one of Lenox’s many talents. In our interview with the singer and producer, he said that his main goal right now is to become a pop star. He already has three solo EPs out, and is set to release his debut album this year titled, What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up; he explained the name on Twitter, “The album tries to ask the question of whether my failure to reach anything resembling adulthood or maturity is a personal one, or if our entire generation is doomed, chasing an idea of adulthood and success which was always a lie.”
We spoke about what’s led up to this point.
What was it like growing up in Boston’s music scene?
I wasn’t listening to hip-hop or pop at the time. As a kid, I was going to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Broadway. I studied composition on the weekends at the New England Conservatory on Huntington Ave. in Boston. And in the summer, I used to go to this place called Tanglewood, which is a classic music festival in Lenox, Mass. I also went to Yale for college and studied classical music there.
What do you feel was the turning point in your career?
I did this concert a few years after moving to LA which was called Yeethoven. It was a mash up of Kanye and Beethoven with a live orchestra. Obviously that’s not going to be most people’s path, but since I was coming from a classical background and am interested in expanding the audience of contemporary classical music, it was an interesting experiment. I actually did that with my friend Yuga Cohler who I knew from Boston as well. We did a bunch of classical music stuff together in high school. We did that in LA and NY, and after that concert is when I connected with Mike Dean, which is how I met Kanye and how I worked on Astroworld. It’s also how I met Vic Mensa. One of his managers had a friend who was at Yeethoven and they introduced me to his manager David Appleton.
Do you feel like there is a Boston music scene in Los Angeles?
There’s a whole crew of people. Like Cousin Stizz works with this dude Lil Rich who is a producer. … But they are all out here. … He works with Bia so they all know each other.
There’s this dude Kwaku who writes for Fresh Out The Mint which is a Boston music blog and he even had an event series called BosAngeles.
It’s all in the same circle. It’s not uncommon for me to go into the studio and there’s 10 people and every single person is from Massachusetts.