Songwriters are essentially the bread and butter of the music industry; many times they go unnoticed by the general public, but they are the ones that make the songs we love what they are. We at Got Country Online appreciate and celebrate them and want to give them the recognition they deserve, so in addition to artists, we are now featuring them in our Got the Spotlight segment. Having recently reviewed his birthday bash in Daytona Beach, FL, we wanted to showcase one of our favorite writers, Johnny Bulford.
Music was always happening in the Bulford household, so the foundation was already laid for the 29 year old Orlando, FL native to be smitten with the arts; having received an album of Garth Brooks at the age of 11, he found himself mesmerized and a seed was planted. It wasn’t until, at the age of 12, that Johnny attended a Garth Brooks concert that it really struck him that music was supposed to be something more than an interest; he looked at his mother and said “That’s what I want to do.” Acquiring a guitar and learning to play, Johnny started writing songs and by the age of 15 was performing throughout central Florida, even venturing as far north as Alabama. While landing the opportunity to open for touring artists such as Josh Turner and Emerson Drive as they made their way through Florida, Johnny began attending classes at the University of Central Florida in 2003 as a business marketing major, with a minor in English; a self-professed nerd with high SAT scores and a scholar in Florida’s “Bright Futures” program, Bulford handled the demands of academics while still performing and promoting his second self-released album “What Happens Here Stays Here“.
It was during this time that Johnny entered the Colgate Country Showdown, a nation-wide competition showcasing the best of up and coming talent. Making it only to the state level the first time around and to regional the second. But the expression “third time’s the charm” proved evident as Johnny won the entire competition of over 50,000 artists from all over the United States and securing himself a prize of $100,000 in 2008 with his original piece “How Could I Not“. With only one more class to finish before graduation, Johnny made the ultimate choice; realizing it was difficult to build a fan base while attending college in Florida, he packed up and headed north to Nashville. Securing a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music as a staff writer, the ball immediately started rolling for the Florida native.
Still writing and releasing independent music of his own, such as his 2009 independent album “Livin It Up“, Johnny secured his first album cut with “Flashlight“, a song on RCA recording artist Chris Young‘s 2011 album “Neon“, co-written by Bulford, Young, and Robert Arthur. Bulford holds monumental appreciation for Young, who he credits for really giving him a start in Nashville:
“It was about a year after I won Colgate and Mama Becky (Young’s mother, Becky Harris) asked me to perform at Chris’ fan club party. He’s signing autographs while I’m performing, so I get about 2 or 3 songs in when he stops and just watches the rest of my set. After the party he comes over and asks me to hang out, eventually helped set me up the right lawyer….. He was really instrumental in getting my foot in the door here.”
Young knew talent when he saw it and soon others took notice; in 2011, Bulford, along with fellow co-writers Jon Stone and Phil Barton, secured his first #1 hit with Lee Brice‘s “A Woman Like You“. It was the “game-changer” for Bulford, who has now found another cut with “Lonely Eyes” on Chris Young’s 2013 album “A.M.” and is quickly being a sought-after contributor.
Learning new equipment to record music from home, performing at songwriter rounds and churning out hits with Warner, Bulford is building his fan base and working hard to accomplish his dreams –
“As for anything ‘aspiration’ wise, I’d really love to land a record deal in addition to the publishing one I have. I want to get a single on the radio. And maybe one day, even as an opener for Chris or someone like Brad Paisley, come home to play the Amway Center. Not in a ‘Hey, how do you like me now’ type of way, but more ‘Hey guys, we did it!’ way. It’s been a long journey so it would be nice to bring it back home.”
When not writing lyrical magic, Bulford can be found touring the southeast with his five piece band or performing throughout Nashville. His amazing catalog of music can be found on his website www.johnnybulford.com, including his Colgate-winning song “How Could I Not” and his renditions of “Flashlight“, “A Woman Like You“, and “Lonely Eyes“. Make sure to check out his Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for more information on upcoming performances. With talent pouring from his fingertips, this diamond in the rough is someone to keep an eye on in Nashville.