Hot Show Alert: The Night Game @Sonia’s, Saturday night! (Interview in Post)

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Start shimmying those shoulders, pull out those leather jackets and ditch the winter coats. Boston is finally starting to warm up again and to kick off a spring full of shows, one of Boston’s own, Martin Johnson aka The Night Game will be coming to Sonia’s on Saturday! It’s been a minute since The Night Game’s debut Boston show a few months ago at Great Scott, which we caught as well. Ever since he has released several singles and hints at the album to come out in a few months. We caught up with Johnson to talk his current tour, writing style for this project as well as what he’s been up to this past few years!
Find our chat below and catch The Night Game live Saturday at Sonia’s in Cambridge, which recently acquired their liquor license and is in the same room where TT’s used to live. Tickets are just a hot twelve dollars and The Band Camino will be opening up. With doors at seven, come out and support this LA via Boston boy. In our interview, he instantly connected over the fact that I was in Boston and told me that he desperately would love to be back living here but LA had to be where he went for his career. Welcome him back home with me Saturday, see you there!

You’re playing Sonia’s in Cambridge on the 31st. You were born in the area, you grew up in this area. Maybe with that show in particular, you did that first headlining Night Game tour but this is your first really big North American tour. Maybe looking forward to that show, maybe just how you feel about coming back to Boston?
I mean I miss it so bad. Like I live in L.A. and I moved here really almost out of necessity. It’s where you rehearse, it’s where the studios are and stuff like that. You know when I go home, like last time I get to see my best buddies, my high school buddies and they bring me Harrison’s roast beef from North Andover. I miss it a lot. My dad lives in Maine now so when I come home for Christmas and stuff like that, I pop up to Maine so I go up there. But I mean it means the world to me, that area. I think you’re never really able to find a place that it has been. Like the receptors, the souls of receptors, the place where you grew up. So I’m excited for that show, it always means the most to me playing in Boston.

Perfect, you did spend so much time here and I know everyone else in your other project they’re all from Boston too, right?

Yeah! I’m the only guy from Boston that’s playing right now, in the guys that I’m on tour with here. One’s from New Zealand, one’s from Sydney, Australia. Couple of the guys are from the West Coast. It’s a different thing but it’s still all my own sound, my own show.

Exactly and speaking of that, I know you’re so early into this headlining tour. You’ve only played two of the shows. How were those dates, considering you do now have several singles out and people are starting to find the project.
They’ve been really cool. With Seattle and Portland, we’ve been in the Pacific North-West. Both shows were really something that I was so really pleasantly surprised with. People came out, it’s been fun to see because I’ve been a little frugal with the music. Having things come out pretty slowly and putting one out a time. It’s been cool to see people go find live music videos of songs that haven’t come out, stuff like that, and singing along to those. It’s just a big self-esteem booster to see that people really are feeling it and the connections of people getting in early and some big applause. I’m pretty excited to do the rest of lap and what’s to come.

And I was going to ask, like you said, you’ve been frugal with putting out these singles. Only I believe four are out officially, but clearly you’re playing more then four songs a night. You have the album coming out later this year. How are you approaching these sets? Is it just road-testing the new songs, are you maybe doing a cover or two? How have you been planning these sets?
Pretty much the whole record is the plan. The record that’s coming out this summer is done. Finally. It’s been a second to get the finishing tweaks on it but it’s now done. So with the exception of a song or two, we’re playing the whole record and then a couple covers. It’s a tight set, there isn’t a lot of fluff, we’re really just playing the songs. But it’s been fun, we’re gelling together and playing through most of the record.
And The Night Game, I keep saying it, it’s still relatively new. You had the time opening for John Mayer and you’ve been working on this music. You’ve been playing these shows but for this record, were they all songs you were writing where you were like I know that this is going to be my record or maybe some of them were older?
I was working a bunch for other people. We were off the road with Boys Like Girls and we weren’t doing a tremendous amount. I’ll always want to do that when I’m a little older and stuff like that but I wasn’t getting a lot of artistic fulfillment out of it. I didn’t really feel like it was speaking to me in a deep way. I missed playing, I missed singing, I missed telling stories. Telling my story so I canceled everything and I just stepped into the studio and worked on it. I didn’t want to plan it, I just wanted to write in this space. I didn’t know if I really loved writing music or I was supposed to be doing something else. You get thrown into this kind of thing and you’re like maybe I’m supposed to do this or open a CD shop. Just maybe do something else. I started to develop this vision for it and as it progressed, the songs started out pretty depressing and it kind of flowed into the record it is. I don’t really know that I had a plan or wanted any attention from how I was doing it. A lot of people on socials and stuff like that still, they think I have this grand plan of releasing one song at a time or doing a slow roll out or whatever. It’s funny to see. Just kind of winging it but again, when I was younger I thought I really knew everything. As I get older, I know a lot less and less and less. So it’s like okay what’s the next move or what do I have to do today?

And you’ve obviously been writing songs for so long. Like you said, you wrote for other people, you had other projects and you wrote for this. Is there something maybe really new or left field that you’ve done with The Night Game that maybe you haven’t done in the past? Like maybe something you tried differently?
Yeah I mean feel that when you write for other people, you really try to get the math right. You’re counting syllables and you’re making sure that the song follows a really specific structure. For me it’s an asset, like having that knowledge of what a pop song is supposed to be and you allow yourself to sort of break it where the song calls for it. I think a lot of people, specifically like indie stuff, they break it just for the sake of breaking it. Like where you’re supposed to feel a chord. For me, there weren’t any real rules. A lot of times you feel like there are rules because you’re writing the song that maybe keeps the lights on in the house instead of to tell a story or to make something great. I think that was what was different about this. A total disconnect off from that. Just write what I was writing.

Perfect, and to kind of end it off, you have a lot announced. It’s the first festival run for The Night Game this summer with Bottlerock, Firefly etc. You have a ton of festivals coming up. Maybe some goals or focuses for this year? I know you said the album is finished, planned for the summer, we’re still so early.
Oh man, I mean I love touring. So I’m just really excited to play as many shows as possible. I’m hoping to add some summer dates and some fall dates. It’s like a dream come true, some of those festival line ups, they’re really, really beautiful. It’s going to be amazing to be part of that. At the end of the day, I have to remind myself of this, you get used to your reality of what things are. Annoyed at the road blocks that are in your way but at the end of the day, I have to remind myself that I’m humming some melodies for a living. Strutting around with a guitar and what a blessing that is.

About Author


Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.