INTERVIEW: Neon Moon
Josh and Noelle Bohannon, of Nashville wife & husband duo Neon Moon, raised the eyebrows of Americana fans back in 2017 with their debut EP 6:53. Now, having relocated 2,000 miles west to Los Angeles, they’re back with new single “Smoking Gun,” a song that satisfyingly indulges the more polished, countrified side of Neon Moon’s sound.
Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Noelle Bohannon: Great! We’re loving this Southern California “winter” weather. It’s almost 80 degrees in February, so we can’t complain! Thanks so much for talking with us.
Tell us more about your new single “Smoking Gun.”
Noelle: “Smoking Gun” is a song that we’ve lived with for a while. We wrote it almost five years ago and recorded it in 2018. We always knew it was a special song but we held out on recording and releasing it. When we put out our first EP 6:53 in 2017, we weren’t sure if “Smoking Gun” would be cohesive with the other tracks. So we just put it in our back pocket until we felt the time was right, but we always knew we wanted to do something with it.
Josh Bohannon: Our sound has always walked the line between Americana and Mainstream country, which can have very different fan bases. We’ve fallen somewhere between the two and ended up occupying our own little unique space on the spectrum. With that said, 6:53 did have strong Americana vibes even though we were never shooting for an Americana sound.
Noelle: We’ve always said during the writing and recording process that we just want to serve the song, and I definitely think we succeeded in doing that with 6:53. Serving “Smoking Gun” led us in a different direction, to a more mainstream country sound with a cool, indie-Western feel. We’re super happy with how it turned out.
What inspired you to write the song?
Josh: “Smoking Gun” was actually a song that we wrote back in 2015 for a songwriting project we were working on called Our 52 Songs. The idea was to write a new, original song every week for an entire year—52 songs in 52 weeks—and put them up on YouTube. This was song number 51. I think we were somehow subconsciously saving the best for last.
Noelle: After writing so many songs and closing in on the end of such a long and rewarding year, we were looking for inspiration anywhere and everywhere we could find it. We’d actually just returned from a vacation to Los Angeles that week and were feeling the Western vibes. I looked through my log of song ideas on my phone and decided we couldn’t let our song project end without writing this title I had called “Smoking Gun.” Josh immediately was on board and played the perfect intro lick and we were well on our way. If I remember correctly, I think we finished this song in a little over an hour. It pretty much wrote itself.
What was the recording and writing process like for this one?
Josh: We were so happy with how 6:53 turned out that we knew we wanted to go back to the same studio, get the same personnel, and foster the same environment that we had on the first record. We took a scratch track to our producer / bass player / engineer Taylor Bray over at Forty-One Fifteen Studio in Nashville. He just has an incredible ear for music and he knew exactly what to do with the track. At this point it kind of feels like he knows what we want before we even know! And we were lucky to get an incredible group of musicians—Jesse Isley, Mike Hicks, Collin Pastore, Nick Haynes and Chris Benelli—to help execute the vision. Fun story—we got stuck for quite a while on the solo section of “Smoking Gun.” Jesse was playing some really great licks, but it just wasn’t hitting the way we wanted. It had been a long day, so Noelle ran home—we live five minutes from the studio—to let our dog Bowser out. On the way back, she turned on the radio and Johnny Cash’s song “Ghost Riders In The Sky” was playing. It hit her like a ton of bricks. She came in, gave Jesse the reference, and he nailed it within the first couple passes. So we have Johnny Cash to thank for that one!
Tell me about the roles Nashville and Los Angeles have played in your music.
Noelle: Both are great, and incredibly wonderful at providing us inspiration on a daily basis. Nashville has so many creative people moving there in pursuit of making a career out of music. You meet artists and songwriters every single day and you’re constantly surrounded by motivated people. It’s honestly hard not to be inspired by a good healthy work ethic. You go out to shows and writers rounds and hear the songs people are writing and singing. When a song hits you just right and stirs your soul, you can’t wait to get home and pick up the guitar and start trying to write the best song you can. Los Angeles has also been really great for us. The weather is so gorgeous all the time that you can’t help but be happy and feel good about being productive. We go to the beach a lot to center ourselves and remind us of what we’re working toward. All the colors and sounds are still new to us, so it’s easy right now to find inspiration in this new world we’re living in. We spent so much time in Nashville that we honestly needed a change of perspective, and Los Angeles has more than provided that for us. It’s also interesting to see how many country music fans are out here on the West Coast! I knew there was a country music community here, I just didn’t realize how big it actually was.
The two of you being married, how does your relationship influence your music?
Josh: We’re best friends and we pretty much do everything together. When you spend that much time with someone, you get in sync with them on a deeper level. It’s helpful when we’re writing music because we both understand where we’re wanting the song to go and how to get there. The downside of that is when we hit a roadblock and can’t figure out how to make the song move forward. That’s where having a co-writer bringing in outside perspective really helps.
What artists have influenced your writing and how?
Josh: We both grew up in the ’90s listening to country music, so artists like Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith. Toby’s early songs were incredible. Brooks & Dunn were a big influence on us, our name comes from their song. George Strait will always be the king. From there, we got into older country music like the Willies and Patsies of the world. We put out a song back in January called “Darlin” that was a nod to that ’50s ’60s country style. Current country acts we love are Midland, William Michael Morgan, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves and Little Big Town.
Noelle: As far as writers go, Brandy Clark was the main inspiration for us jumping into the songwriting project we did. She’s so great. We watched her perform “Hold My Hand” out here in Los Angeles at the ASCAP Expo several years ago and it was so powerful. It was one of those special moments that made us realize the song is the most important thing. The production can be super slick and sound cool, but without the foundation of a powerful lyric and story there’s no lasting value for us. Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey, Luke Laird, Jessi Alexander, and Chris Stapleton are all writers we dig who also put tons of effort into that foundation of the songwriting process. They must be doing something right because they’re all incredibly successful in this industry. There are so many great artists and writers out there and we’re always listening and wanting to be moved by powerful songs. That’s what keeps us getting up out of bed each morning. It’s a new day and another opportunity to write something great.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new material? What’s happening next in Neon Moon’s world?
Noelle: Yes, there’s definitely more music on the horizon! We have another single and video coming soon. It’s called “Dive Bar Romance.” You heard it here first. The video for “Dive Bar Romance” links up with “Smoking Gun” in a really cool way and we can’t wait to share it with everyone and hear what they think. We don’t have an exact release date yet, but check back with our website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We’re always posting new content and as soon as we have a set date for the next release you’ll be able to find it there!