Canadian singer-songwriter, Johnny Orlando has spent his teenage years in the spotlight. Originally embracing his talents when he was just eight when he started posting covers on YouTube, the artist quickly found himself with a fanbase who were taken aback by his vocal prowess. His rise to prominence in the years that followed served as a reminder that age is merely a number. Now, 11 years on, Johnny has amassed over a billion streams worldwide, signed to Republic Records and Universal Music Canada, and has built a back catalog of truly touching and thought-provoking EP’s and singles. However, in August he let go of a true coming-of-age project, with the release of all the things that could go wrong, the artist's debut album. Containing 12 tracks, the release portrayed an honest journey through Johnny’s life that also gave fans a unique insight into the battles he’s fought along the way. For the vocalist, it was undoubtedly his most mature piece of work to date and the benchmark of what’s to come in the future.
Listen to Johnny Orlando's new album, all the things that could go wrong (Deluxe) out now.
Photography by Anthony Giovanni, Fashion by Edwin J Ortega, Assisted by Andrew Barrios, Grooming: Faye Celeste Words: Jake Wright
Cinematography Wiki Feng
Johnny wears Saint Laurent
Johnny wears Balenciaga cargo pants and mesh top, with an Ami Paris vest.
Johnny wears Dolce and Gabbana
The popularity of Johnny’s early YouTube videos took the artist by surprise. They were Inspired by his love for the artform, as opposed to an intentional career building ploy and were filmed and edited by his sister, Darian, in what was very much a DIY approach that quickly took flight. Even when the covers were gaining hundreds of thousands of views, Johnny retained a very realistic mindset on just how competitive the music world is and ultimately, just how few people really make it. The space he now occupies in the industry was a distant dream when his journey started, as he states: “The question is usually like ‘Did you always want to be an artist?’ Which is not the case. I just don't think I ever really thought it was possible.”
It wasn’t long before Johnny was transitioning away from covers and into the realms of songwriting. It’s one thing to prove your vocal ability on the internet but writing lyrics that connect emotionally with listeners is a totally different challenge. With written support from Darian, the artist independently released his debut EP ‘Vxiixi’ in 2015, a project that proved to the world he was more than just a singer. It also gave him a lot of confidence, perhaps best signalled by the tattoo of the EP’s title he now has on his right arm and allowed himself to believe that he could be a star. However, despite the success of ‘Vxiixi’ amongst Johnny’s fans, it didn’t necessarily turn heads within the industry, and for a few years after he remained an unknown entity. “There was just never any attention from the industry because I didn't know anybody. I kind of just like crept up behind the whole thing.” The artist states, “When I was 15, I started like shopping at record labels and stuff. And they're like, ‘Oh, where did this kid with all these followers come from?’
When it came to signing with a label, Johnny certainly took many by surprise given his large fanbase and growing portfolio of popular releases. However, this put him in a privileged position with multiple companies vying for his signature. The artist decided that Universal Music Canada was the best place to further develop his career and the subsequent releases of EP’s ‘Teenage Fever’ and ‘It’s Never Really Over’ which followed immediately after, propelled his artistry to the next level. Despite his transition to a major label, Johnny was keen to maintain a level of continuity behind the scenes, keeping Darian as his manager. It was a decision that meant that no matter what happened, he always had someone in his corner that he could trust wholeheartedly.
Now, still just 19 years of age, the artist has spent over a decade in the public eye. It’s a life he was never prepared for, but it’s become the only one he’s ever known and has learnt to embrace the unique journey he’s been on. On his long-awaited debut album all the things that could go wrong Johnny delves deep into his struggles with anxiety, the fear of the unknown, pressures of social media, overthinking, and relationships. It makes for a truly intimate listening experience that sees the artist at his most vulnerable, and at points, his happiest. The projects title – taken from the closing track – was chosen due to its very real take on life and relayed that no matter how much success you achieve, life’s never perfect. “I feel like the album is like a series of unfortunate events and it's a bit of a roller coaster.” Johnny remarks, “When things are going great, that's when things start to go wrong again. I feel like that's kind of just life. ‘all the things that could go wrong’, which is about my current girlfriend. She's awesome. We're great. But at the time of writing the song, it was like, two weeks into the relationship and I was so worried that I would or mess up and ruin it for myself. I was so happy I was so in love.”
The album took over two years to create and Johnny originally planned to go about his writing process differently, pushing himself in a direction that was less song by song based. So, he created a spreadsheet of themes and guidelines that covered everything from notes to producers to the album’s visual identity. The artist knew what he wanted but executing it was a different story and upon writing ‘you’re just drunk’ the concept clicked, and he reverted to his usual creative process. “All I knew is that I wanted to be honest. And if I'm being honest, I'm going to talk about the things that affect me in my daily life.” Johnny states, “It all just came naturally. I don't think I touched on those topics specifically in the beginning brainstorm. I just kind of got to the studio that day. And I was like, ‘I feel like shit today I'm going to write about it.’ Or ‘I'm freaking out because I'm starting to date this girl and I don't know what to do. And so, I'm going to write about it.’” Such a way of working allows fans to feel a genuine connection to not only his music, but to who he is as a person as well. It's undoubtedly one of his greatest strengths as a lyricist and on the album we Johnny at his most introspective.
However, writing in such an emotive and often vulnerable manner hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do for the artist. Growing up, Johnny’s house wasn’t exactly the most open emotionally, so for several years he’d become accustomed to sweeping how he’s feeling under the rug. It wasn’t until he began taking acting classes that Johnny began to face how he was honestly feeling. When he started to utilise that feeling within his lyricism, music became a journey of self-discovery and with age he’s become comfortable wearing his heart on his sleeve. “I think it kind of took a long time to get to that point. But now I have no problem being introspective.” Johnny states, “I think that's like one of my superpowers that I've gained doing music. It’s more of a confidence thing for me really. A lot of people feel like they need to be the big macho man, who doesn't have feelings. Then the big macho man breaks down once a year and does something crazy. Whether you see it or not, you're feeling all the same things that I'm feeling to an extent. And if you're not, I would love to hear about it.”
all the things that could go wrong goes above and beyond the intimate storyline, it presents a cemented sonic identity which see’s Johnny’s voice work in harmony alongside a sound that merges elements of traditional pop and alt-rock. At its core, the artist wanted to create a body of work that he would want to listen to and took very much a hands-on approach across all aspects. During his initial brainstorm, Johnny envisioned in a detailed manner exactly how he wanted the base, kicks and instruments to sound, however that vision was brought to life when he settled upon the final recording of ‘you’re just drunk’. Created alongside a producer he’d previously worked with two years prior and a writer new to the team, the track served as a catalyst and between them they went on to create half the album’s material together. The result was vibrant and far ranging in its design -‘leave the light on’ on was an excellent opening song that perfectly set the scene, with an atmospheric instrumental leading the way before Johnny’s passionate vocals trigger an explosion. Whilst ‘fun out of it’, which features BENEE, stands out for its electronic leaning sound and free-flowing vocals that emits natural chemistry.
Johnny wears Moschino
Johnny took the albums concept further with the release of three music videos, each telling a part of a story. Beautifully shot by a creative team spearheaded by Iris Kim, the visuals add a unique layer that serves to bring everything together and complete the entire narrative. Building upon the personal elements of all the things that could go wrong the artist reminds those watching that no matter what pain your currently feeling, it will eventually pass. “It's supposed to show like the world ending, which is talking about a relationship metaphorically.” He explains, “That's kind of the conclusion showing that there's light on the other side. Once you get through all the hurt and the heartbreak, you will always heal.”
Over the years, Johnny has maintained a tight bond with his fanbase, many of which have experienced the artists ascent from the beginning. It’s something he’s always taken great pride and having a following who care about you beyond your music is special. It all stemmed from the personal and authentic approach he took to those initial cover videos, however in the time since and as his profile has continued to grow, naturally he took a step back and savoured the privacy wherever possible. all the things that could go wrong gave the artist the opportunity to return to his roots with ‘Who Is Johnny’, a documentary series filmed on a camcorder that gives fans a unique insight into the albums creative process and see Johnny open up like never before. “I go on my little tangents sometimes. So, a documentary series is really the perfect thing for me because I never run out of things to say.” The artist chuckles, “I just felt like it was a good opportunity for people to see who I am. I used to do YouTube. People used to always know what was going on with me. And since then, I've kind of somewhat become more private. And I enjoy my privacy and just being able to do my thing sometimes. But with that you lose some of the connection.”
The success Johnny has accomplished over the last decade is a testament to an inimitable work ethic and a relentless desire to be successful. Although such an approach hasn’t come easy, and he’s had to make many sacrifices in his personal life, many of which transpired throughout his teenage years, a time when so many are free to grow up slowly, Johnny was already putting his full energy into his music career. This of course has effects which has ultimately resulted in long-lasting complications affecting his mental health. However, with each year that passes the artist has become more aware of how these traits negatively affect him and that journey of self-discovery has been integral to his artistic development. “I realise now that as a kid my benchmarks for if I was happy or not very much depended on my success in the business world; and to an extent it still does. I don't think that was super healthy as a 13-year-old.” Johnny states on his journey date, whilst acknowledging how this affects him today: “I think the most pressure is probably placed on myself by me. I want to be successful. This is my dream; I want to do it. I want to be the biggest and the best. And I have a long way to go. So how am I going to get there? That's kind of the point where I started to lose my mind.”
Fresh off of receiving his fourth consecutive win at the MTV Europe Music Awards for “Best Canadian Act”, Johnny has now release the deluxe edition of all the things that could go wrong. Never resting on his laurels, the artist is determined to set the bar high on the project, knowing that his future material will be graded against it in the years to come. The new edition features all 12 initial songs on his debut album and includes three brand-new tracks, ‘if he wanted to he would’, ‘trust her more’, and ‘hollywood sign’. Not only that, but Johnny recently embarked on a 25-date tour across North America supporting Ali Gatie throughout November and December, bringing 2022 to an exhilarating end. Fans might well have waited a long time for an LP to drop, but Johnny has certainly delivered a vast array of material to delve into that goes far beyond anyone’s expectations. Undoubtedly an exciting talent with endless potential, all the things that could go wrong proves to the world that Johnny Orlando is a star in the making.
Johnny wears a Gucci mesh shirt, with Bottega trousers, and a Givenchy bomber jacket
Listen to Johnny Orlando's new album, all the things that could go wrong (Deluxe) out now.