Suffolk born, Colchester based antique furniture restorer/musician Ady Johnson, had both livelihoods threatened after he severed two tendons in a finger with a chisel. Thankfully he made a full recovery. Having already had success with Colchester band FuzzFace and gaining an Honours Degree in classical guitar performance, Ady decided to down tools and focus on music.
Ady’s first notable public performance was in 2010 after he busked outside 6Fest – BBC6 Music’s event to celebrate their successful national campaign against it’s closure. Ady was asked by the organisers to stand in for a band on the main bill after they cancelled. Metro ran the story ‘Busker bags festival after band cancel’ a few days later.
2011 saw the release of Ady’s first solo album Tell the Worry Dolls. Recorded predominantly live in the studio, this acoustic album received critical praise from R2, BluesMatters, and a recommendation for album of the year from Press Association. Tracks Pink Flamingos and Jewelly Box were included on two iTunes Essentials compilations. Ady subsequently headlined many shows and supported a wealth of artists including Scott Matthews, Ben Howard and Willy Mason. Numerous festival appearances included Latitude festival, back on his home Suffolk turf.
In 2014 Ady headed to the US for his New York Tour, which included shows in five venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In the summer, Ady completed music for The Last Man, a short film by East 6 Media.
May 2015 saw the release of Thank You for the Good Things EP. The title track being an ode to Ady’s late grandfather, under whom he received his antique restoration apprenticeship. The song deals with, in part, his emotional struggle in leaving the trade behind in pursuit of music. Produced by Mercury nominated/BBC award winning producer Gerry Diver (Lisa Knapp, Sam Lee, Tom Robinson). A previous version of Thank You (recorded by friend and musician Johnno Casson (AKA Snippet) had already been selected for Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape and was aired on his BBC 6 Music Show. This version of the song also made Fresh Faves: Batch 78, on Tom Robinson’s Fresh on the Net blog.
The EP was launched at two shows – one at The Water Rats in London and the second at Colchester Arts Centre. Ivor Novello award winning songwriter Scott Matthews, appeared as special guest and accompanied Ady’s band at the London show. Gerry Diver guested on fiddle. For the second EP launch, Ady was joined by guest drummer/percussionist Pete Flood (Bellowhead). Pete continues to play in Ady’s current full band line-up, along with John Parker (Nizlopi) on double bass and Toby Bull on trumpet, sax and bass.
Thank You for the Good Things received praise from Americana UK and other online reviewers. The title track was again chosen for Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape and this and other songs from the EP received widespread regional airplay. Thank You for the Good Things video was released and premiered by MUZU.TV in June. The EP was chosen by London’s Resonance FM for their ‘Top 5 EP’s Of 2015’.
1st January 2016 saw the release of New Year’s Day (Single mix) and accompanying video. The single was chosen for Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape and also received regional airplay. Later in the year, Ady was invited as special guest to support Scott Matthews and his Band on eight dates of their UK tour in November and December. Reviews from Rhythm and Blues and blog Musical Chairs, praised Ady’s performance at The Glee Club Birmingham.
Ady began recording his second album London Songs in 2017, with Gerry Diver once again in the producer’s chair. In May, Ady was invited to support folk singer Lisa Knapp at the launch of her album Till April is Dead: A Garland of May. Ady also guested on electric guitar with Lisa’s band for her song Staines Morris. Touring included Ady’s first show in France, where he played the renowned Le Reservoir.
Following a successful Pledge Music campaign, Ady’s second album London Songs was released on 23rd February 2018. The album received critical praise from RnR Magazine, Blues Matters and Americana UK among others. London Songs presents songs ranges from intimate vignettes, to full-band Waitsian stompers, inspired by people, places and personal experiences, since Ady moved from Colchester to London. Personnel include Pete Flood (Bellowhead) – drums, Tom Briers – Sousaphone and Toby Bull – piano, trumpet and P-bone.
Tom Robinson again championed Ady’s latest release and regularly featured songs from London Songs on his BBC 6 Music Show. Ady was Tom’s guest for his ‘Johnson and 16 Years of 6 Music’ show on 10 March.
Ady supported the release with a UK tour in February and March. Ten dates supporting Scott Matthews’ The Great Untold Tour followed in May. Ady was invited to play bass guitar for Scott’s band appearances at Middlewich FAB Festival in June and Deer Shed festival in July.
In November Ady took to the road again with Scott Matthews for another nine shows supporting him around the country, as well as fitting in some dates of his own. Ady joined Scott on his song Silence at each of the shows, singing harmony and playing Scott’s Spanish guitar.
During the pandemic, Ady performed a number of online shows and continued to work his third album. 2021 saw the 10th anniversary of debut Tell the Worry Dolls. To mark the occasion, Ady uploaded the complete live footage of the album launch to his YouTube channel at Christmas. The whole show, filmed at Colchester Arts Centre and directed by Rob Watts, can be seen in its entirety for the first time: Tell the Worry Doll’s Launch ~ Live at Colchester Arts Centre 2010.
2022 saw a return to live shows; including tour support for Scott Matthews’ Tour of Northern Ireland/Rebublic of Ireland and a number of shows on his New Skin Autumn (UK) Tour.
The Runner (single), released on 28th October 2022, was chosen for BBC Music Introducing Essex’s ‘Weekly Vibe’ and aired on other radio stations; including BBC Music Introducing Suffolk, Radio Caroline and Cambridge 105 Radio. Inspired by when Ady used to go running through Nunhead Cemetery in south east London, the song deals with (in part) confronting fears of mortality. Imagery evoked in the song is reflected in the original album art by Ady’s stepfather David Leeming. The Runner was recorded live (vocals and guitar simultaneously) at Rebellion Studios, with no click track and minimal overdubs, with the aim in capturing an intimacy and authenticity not often heard in many of today’s recordings. This approach is currently serving as the blue print for Ady’s eagerly awaited third album.
“He’s damn good live!”
Tom Robinson – BBC Radio 6 Music
“One of the UK’s most inventive songwriters.”
Stephen Foster – BBC Radio Suffolk
“…might well be the first contender for album of the year…deserves to be massive.”
9/10 Press Association
“…an ebullient, life affirming collection with a touch of kitchen-sink romanticism worthy of Ray Davies and a bluesy sound filtered through the uniquely English lens of skiffle.”
8/10 Americana UK
“Excellent debut album! – Record company opportunity!”