615 Spotlight: Johnny Orr on New EP 'Down South' & How Music Cost Him His Marriage

Johnny Orr admits that his formative musical years were quite diverse. In addition to country that was so prevalent around his home in North Carolina, he was exposed to a wide variety of music. “I was a big John Cougar and Bryan Adams fan in my younger days. Then, I became a big fan of Edwin McCain, and even a little bit of grunge music. That’s where I honed in on the craft of writing. I’ve been writing since I was little, but didn’t really develop into it until then. My influences do run the gamut – from Hootie and the Blowfish all the way to Creed. It’s a wide spectrum, for sure!” 

Along with his band, Orr has just released a new EP "Down South," digitally on iTunes; (with retail release coming on August 5) He tells Billboard that music has always been his focus – so much that in fact, there never was a second choice as a career vocation. “It was all I ever knew, and all I ever dreamed about from being a kid on. I don’t know how to explain it. It was just a natural ability to do things that a lot of people couldn’t do. I wasn’t the favorite kid at school. I was a cut-up, and I was overweight, so it was my way of getting noticed. It became my outlet for friendships and acceptance. So, I got serious about it more than my other friends who were doing it for girls. I knew this was important to me, so I made it my life’s purpose – even to the point of losing a wife to divorce and a house and two acres. I quit my job so I could pursue music full time. I was just tired of not fulfilling my dreams.”

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Orr told Billboard that he tried to include a wide slate of emotions on the record that will explain just who he is. “It’s a collection of six songs that take you from songs and emotions of “Bottoms Up” to “We’ll Get By.” It’s about my life – especially with using "Down South" as the title. It represents living down here, family, friends, going to the lake and that kind of thing. I spent my first few years in Savannah, Georgia until I was five years old, so that’s included too – as well as the breakup songs.”

He admitted that the breakup of his marriage had a deep and profound effect on him. “It was a very heavy time. We were together for almost fifteen years and married for fourteen. As much as we knew we weren’t going to make it anymore, it was a hard thing to do. She knew I was not going to stop playing music, and she never asked me to. She did say ‘How long are you planning on doing this? What is the time frame that if things don’t happen the way you plan for them to that you’ll quit and get a regular job. She was tired of me being gone all the time and tired of the bar scene. I said ‘As long as my voice can keep up, and as long as my body would go from town to town and haul this equipment around, I don’t plan on stopping. So, we just knew.”

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He says that the two have worked out their differences today, and are still close. “We still care about each other. We still talk. I still share the things that are going on. She’s very happy for me, and me too. Still,” he reasons, “you never get married intending to get divorced.” 

If you catch his live show, chances are you will hear a lot of him – and some other notable personalities, as Orr does some amazing impersonations, such as the late Casey Kasem. “That is a long love of mine. I did stand-up comedy years ago, and was not great at it. I tried to do clean comedy – Christian comedy, and sometimes it went well, sometimes it didn’t. But, I don’t know why or how, but I can do them well- Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, many of the Simpsons except for Bart. I also do Barney Fife, Forrest Gump, and the Blue Collar Guys. Larry The Cable Guy is probably my favorite one to do,” he says. “It would be great to be a cartoon character in a movie one day.”


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