Graduate Profile - Johnny Lawrence

Ara Music Arts Graduate Johnny Lawrence’s journey as a musician started with his father, a classical pianist in Christchurch. Originally a guitarist, the bass became Johnny’s primary instrument after joining his father’s band.

“I eventually fell in love with it…at first I just wanted to play guitar, but [it was] the foundational aspect - how you’re the grounding the band. I love that big bass sound sitting at the bottom of a groove.”

Johnny credits another Music Arts graduate and his High School Bass tutor, Brett Hirst, with inspiring him to audition for the program. On reflection Johnny describes the positive environment and expertise of the tutors with making the program such an enjoyable experience.

As with many Music Arts graduates, Johnny spent the next several years aboard the cruise ships, playing first with a big band, before switching to a jazz trio.“I spent way too long on the cruise ships, I think on or off for about 6 or 7 years. The Jazz trio was great though, we really took it to the future by mixing electronic and groove into the mix.”

From there he went on to Asia playing the hotel covers circuit, before moving to Canada where he focused his playing on rock and pop before returning home to NZ in 2014.

“I loved playing with musicians of so many nationalities, especially Americans. I have a big love for American music and they seem to have the spirit of that music in them. Some of them truly are on another level and a bit more aggressive about making it.”

Since returning to New Zealand Johnny has found success with R&B/Soul/Electronica heroes Electric Wire Hustle. Having recently recorded and toured with them after relocating to Wellington.

“Work hard and play as much as you can with many different people is my advice. Stay hungry and committed to the music. If you have a passion for it you have to go for it. Keep your head down and dig deep and enjoy it!”


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