Robby Johnson

Though the weather outside might be a little bit frightful, "South Of Me," the romantic new single from newcomer Robby Johnson has many fans feeling delightful as the year comes to an end. He told Billboard that the sound of song stems from being on a winning team. "When you work with the right people, you have the right music, and you write with great writers, you get great songs. I’m not doing this by myself. That helps a lot." Among those believers in Johnson’s talent are ace songwriters Jimmy Nichols and Frank Myers, who had a hand in writing each song on Johnson's forthcoming debut, set for release in 2014.

Johnson was born in Canada, and grew up with French as his primary language, but admits to being very inspired by all things American. "Most of my relatives live in Hartford, CT. So, I would spend most of my Christmases, New Years and Summers in Hartford. I’ve always been attracted to America. When my parents divorced, I moved to a small town about an hour away from Quebec City. We were very poor, so all we had was music, television, news, and movies. That’s what we loved watching because that’s what we saw when we were in the States."

Growing up in the Johnson household meant a steady diet of such American shows as "The Cosby Show" and "Growing Pains," as well as music from some of the most iconic figures in the business. "In Quebec, country wasn’t that big of a deal, but my mom listened to it. I listened to Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers, but my biggest influence would have to be Garth Brooks. My cousin in Hartford introduced me to him, and I just fell in love. I couldn’t get enough of his music."

When Johnson made his initial trip to Music City, his plan was just to record two songs. Upon hearing him, Nichols and Myers had a hand in re-writing that plan instantly. "I had come down just to do a couple songs, and Jimmy introduced me to Frank. We were going to work on a demo he had written with Anthony Smith and Chris Young. He wanted to add some strings to it. So, we were sitting down, and Frank handed me a lyric sheet. He fell in love with my voice, and said ‘I want to work on a project with you."

"South Of Me" is starting to pick up some interest in the industry, with its' warm and inviting style. The song's video has picked up an impressive 2.4 million views on YouTube. Johnson said it was a natural pick for a debut single. "We picked it because it had a great vibe, and we had the possibility of making a video. It's a co-write between Frank, Anthony, and me. We had a lot of fun doing it."

How does it feel for Johnson to be invited into such an exclusive club of Nashville’s top songwriters? "It’s incredible," he says. "You pinch yourself the whole session. I was just a sales rep on the road making a living for my family, and the next day I’m writing with Frank and Anthony. I’ve written with Billy Montana, Danny Wells, and so many great writers. You learn so much. it’s taken my writing to another level. It’s been really amazing."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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