Singer-songwriter/producer Martin Johnson — now known as The Night Game — announced Friday (May 25) that he will be releasing his first full-length album under his new alias this fall. The Night Game will arrive Sept. 7, kicking off with a brand-new track called “American Nights” that had Johnson feeling all sorts of nostalgic.
The Night Game’s ’80s-esque sound is no mistake, as the inspiration for his latest song is “courtesy of FM radio” from that era, as he puts it. “I was friends with Tommy and Gina, Jack and Diane, Wendy from Born to Run, and the young man with the greasy hair and greasy smile in a row of pink houses. They were as real to me as the girl who checked out my groceries at market basket in Shawsheen Plaza,” the Andover, Mass., native asserts, referring to some of the most iconic hits from John Mellencamp, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.
Johnson took those timeless tales and channeled them into what became “American Nights,” but had a revelation when he hit the road for a reflection-filled cross-country trip.
“I originally wrote this chorus as a party anthem, but somewhere between putting the car in drive in Nashville and parking it in LA, I realized that the song I was writing left a lot of people out,” he explains. “What about the America that my headlights had just swept over during that cross-country drive under the fluorescence of the Waffle House sign? I thought about the prom king in his fading Bledsoe jersey who used to sell me bags out of the shoe store he managed after high school. I thought about the veteran who hiked Runyon with me still wearing his combat boots cause he didn’t feel comfortable taking them off yet. I thought about the girl I used to see from time to time in New York working the night shift slinging drinks at the gentleman’s club just trying to get by.”
These are all images he alludes to in “American Nights,” which he feels all define the song’s title — something that also changed the whole idea of his anthemic chorus. “I decided to do something reckless: I took my hype song and made it about battered — but still standing — hope,” he says. “And writing this now, I’m struck by how changing one letter changed everything. I set out to write a party anthem, and I suppose I did. I just ended up including the morning after.”
“American Nights” is one of the 11 tracks on The Night Game’s forthcoming self-titled LP. Johnson collaborated with Gotye, Kirin J Callinan and Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek — the latter of whom actually features on a song called “Do You Think About Us?” — on the album, which was produced by Grammy-winning producer François Tétaz.
On the heels of the album announcement, The Night Game will perform at BottleRock in Napa Valley on Saturday. Since Johnson launched his latest musical endeavor in the spring of last year with another dynamic track, “The Outfield,” The Night Game has toured with John Mayer and featured on Kygo‘s title track from the producer’s debut album Kids in Love.
Pre-order The Night Game here, and check out the new video as well as the album track list and artwork below.
The Night Game – LP Track Listing
1. The Outfield
2. Bad Girls Don’t Cry
3. Once In A Lifetime
4. Do You Think About Us? (feat. Caroline Polachek)
5. The Photograph
6. Sunset On The Beltway
7. American Nights
8. Die A Little
10. Coffee and Cigarettes
11. Back In The Van