Johnny Gates has worn quite a few hats during his time in the industry. The former frontman of Runaway Saints navigated his way through the Los Angeles music scene after the band dissolved as a touring act, contestant on The Voice and a solo artist before returning to Nashville.
The singer-songwriter says the country-rock infused “Hell Outta Here,” the lead track off his forthcoming self-titled EP out Aug. 30, is an introduction to the direction he’s trying to take the project in. “Sonically, it’s a good mix of a bunch of the new songs, and lyrically, I tried to stay as true as possible to a typical night out with my friends,” he tells Billboard about his forthcoming four-track project.
“Hell Outta Here,” which Billboard premieres today (Aug. 15), features Gates’ gravely vocals alongside driving percussion, delicate banjo and soulful electric guitar parts. Penned with frequent collaborators Tyler Thompson, Lauren Luiz and Michael Costello, the song comes from a real place for Gates.
“I had the title floating around, and could remember one specific party with a girl I had just met,” he recalls. “Every time we tried to talk, the music would get super loud. At almost the same time, we both said, ‘Let’s get the hell outta here,’ so we left and grabbed a slice of pizza.”
“Hell Outta Here,” as well as the rest of Gates forthcoming EP, was written and recorded in a small apartment in Hollywood before he relocated to Music City.
“I knew I was moving back to Nashville, to have another go at this whole thing, so I just started writing and recording as much as possible, because I wanted to show back up with songs,” he says. “By the end, my apartment was empty, the car was packed, and we were still laying down the final tracks and vocals. It was pretty chaotic, but honestly, so much fun.”
Gates got his start in music at 18 as the singer and guitarist of Rhode Island-based band Runaway Saints. The group moved to Nashville in 2008 and eventually signed a short lived record deal with Warner Bros. A stint on The Voice on Team Gwen Stefani furthered his confidence as a solo artist. Previously released singles include “Cliché” and “Brooklyn Nights.”
Listen to “Hell Outta Here” below.