Johnny O 2001 Interview

Ok Johnny, First off, Where were u born and raised!

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York!

I hear its a good place to grow up at?

Brooklyn, it a wonderful place. Its my hometown. I have lived in Little Jamaica.

At what age did you realize you wanted to be a singer & how did you get involved in singing?
When I saw the dollar bills!!!! (laughing) Naw, seriously, When I was a little boy, I remember standing in the mirror for hours singing songs pretending I was a vocalist.

Ok…before I go any further….I have had some debate on when exactly your debut album came out….was it in 1987 or 1988??!!

It was in ’88…umm..in August of 1988.

You are world reknown as a Freestyle Legend with hits like, Fantasy Girl, HigWays of Love, Runaway Love, and the list goes on and on…Out of all of your songs which would you consider to be your favorite and why?

Oh, My favorite is “Runaway Love.” It wasn’t the sensational smash like “DreamBoy, Dream Girl” or “Fantasy Girl” was, but it was my favorite. “Fantasy Girl” and “DreamBoy, Dream Girl” got the major backing on sales. “Fantasy Girl” today would be considered Platinum because it is a worldwide hit. “DreamBoy, DreamGirl” was a very popular song and actually went top ten on the BillBoard’s Hot 100. But the production on “Runaway Love” was a unique song in the sense that it was so powerful. Charlie Babie really put out his heart and soul in that song and I helped him with the lyrics and arrangements. We just caught ourselves in that song. That song right there is a very unique Freestyle song!

How did you get involved with Mickey Garcia & Mic Mac?
Mickey worked for my uncle for a little while at the Clam Bar. He was doing mixes for HOT 103 and saw him growing with his music. I started seeing him with his brand new Lincoln Continental…and I was like…wait..he is getting paid..(laughing), so, one day he came in the Clam Bar and said, “I just bought C-Bank’s contract.” Remember, at that time, I didn’t know who C-Bank was and freestyle was not called “Freestyle” but instead called Latin Hip- Hop and Lisa Lisa was the queen in that Era. So, I was like…”What is that all about?” Marc Anthony was involved in it at the time too!! So, when I heard that genre of music.. I was like..”I like this…I can do this!!” So, I approached Mickey and told him, “Hey Mickey, give me an audition.” He told me..”Come on Johnny..All you want to do is get on the band wagon..(laughing)” “I said..naw..just give me an audition, If I stink, then I will go home,” and Mickey said, “You know johnny, thats fair!!” So, he gave me a chance and he was like, “wow, I have track for you,” and that was fantasy girl. Actually, I wrote “Fantasy Girl.”

Actually, that was my next question!! Was that song written for anybody in particular?
Yeah, that was for a certain young lady that I knew at the time who died..so…yeah that was a long time ago!!

Looking back, what is your best memory as a Latin Freestyle singer? Is there something that stands out??
Yeah, One in particular was when I got honored for my career as an artist at Walt Disney World. I got an award for my achievement as a singer and got my hand imprint and signature on May 15th, 1994 at the Imitation Chinese Theatre that Walt Disney has. That was a real honor. I currently am pushing in the acting field as well. I am praying the doors open for that too!!

Tell us why you left freestyle? Was there something that led you in another direction?
mmmmm…2 things!! I was very disappointed in the Freestyle market. It seemed like it was in this Planet Rock era and no one was being original. It seemed that nobody really cared. They had these singers out there that…well, you know!! Back in the day like 87 or 88, if you sang some of the songs that were from 92 -94, they would of bood you off stage. I spoke out and told everyone that the music out during the early nineties was not freestyle…that was garbage!! I mean some people were having gigantic hits during that time and completely deserved it. But when you have people comin out with the 30th Planet Rock beat, I got pissed off and said that was too ridiculous. I told myslef that this was nonsense and retired. Also, by that time, I really got close to the Lord; so, I told myself that I would devote my life more to Him. I just said no more to music because no one was taking me seriously. I am not going to mention any names, but alot of huge artists were selling themselves for dirt cheap. They were hurting themselves and the market. Another thing, I have to tell you boldly, LUIS, and you know.. your my friend..I am not ashamed that I am a FREESTYLE ARTIST. I am bold to tell a hip-hop gangsta rapper..”you like that stuff…thats great..But You know what …I AM FREESTYLE!!!” You know What I mean!! I love pop and everything but my music is FREESTYLE!!! I like to play songs and do them, and they respect me for that!! They go, “A, you know this is slammin..you can sing!!”…I am like, “Thats right, We can sing!!” I am just waiting for MTV, VH1, the Grammys, and everybody to step and say, “You know what? We have been neglecting this culture of music for too many years.” I think its time to honor Safire, TKA, & George Lamond. Lets talk about all of these wonderful artists that we have, Lets talk about Marc Anthony who is gigantic now..lets talk about his origin, Lets talk about the J-LO that says she grew up on FREESTYLE and that she loves Johnny O & George Lamond, LETS TALK ABOUT IT, YOU KNOW!!!

I feel ya….In 1995, You returned to the music scene with your album, “Call It Watcha Like.” How did you hook up with ZYX?
Well, when I ventured out into Florida, me and georgie got together and put the album together. ZYX came in the picture and set up a small budget. It was more of a partnership on the record label side, Exit Records, and it was really good. “Call It Watcha Like” was a reflection of my frustration of me wanting know, Who was I? What was the market saying? You are Funky Melody in Australia, you are R&B in Brazil, you are Euro freestyle in Europe, and in the US..you are freestyle. So, Who Am I? So, I name the album, “Call It Wathca Like.” You know call it whatever you like but call it what it is!! Its music that moves the heart. I threw that name out there and everybody loved it. But by that time, the freestyle market was so saturated that the DJs were saying that this music was out the door and it started hurting us.

Don’t mean to interupt, but one song that stood out in your love of freestyle was the song, “freestyle.” on the “Call It Watcha Like” album. It seemed that song was the crying anthem for freestyle.
You know Luis that is one of my dream ones…exactly what you just said!! I wanted “Freestyle..its time to party” to be the anthem and basis for freestyle. If you listen to the lyrics , which I know you have, you will hear me screaming out to my fans and to everybody….”Listen, our music is slammin.” “This is dope…yo…we are rocking,” Know what I am saying!!! Its like saying, “YES, you can have your hip-hop, YES, you can have your R&B, Yes, Pop, Nsync and everybody else, but you know what? There is George Lamond!! Yes, there is a Johnny O, YES, there is TKA…know what I mean. Hello, we exist..”HI!!” Look at our popularity, Look at our crowds and the way we do clubs!! For that reason is why in my heart, “Freestyle, Its time to Party”, is the anthem for Freestyle! I really do believe that!!!

You were originally from NYC!! Why did you move down to Florida?
MONEY!!! Naw, (laughing)…I chase money alot don’t I!!! Seriously, it was because Freestyle was dying out in New York and it was a better business decision to do so. It allowed me to work more closely to George Garcia and with Exit Records. Ever since then, I liked Florida beause of its sense of peacefullness and calmness!! I also feel Freestyle is making a comeback here with a new station giving Power 96 some competiton and that is Party 93.1!! So, Freestyle is not only coming back but the entire dance scene is becoming gigantic here again.

Recently, you have returned to the club scene in 2000 appearing in Emerald City in Florida and continue do so throughout the country and even in Canada…how do you feel about that?
It felt Awesome!!! I was scared because I was telling myself, “What am I doing.” But it was awesome in the sense that it was a confirmation of my fans that I was still in their hearts. I recieved huge amounts of write ups telling me to comeback and that I needed to come back, basically, my fans were pouring out their hearts for me to comeback. You know, I felt that love. So, I did a little research and thought that If I was going to make a move like that, I better make sure this is the right move. I prayed about it and told myslef what am I going to do here! I did my research and realized that the market was coming back. You know, If the core artists of freestyle would step up and say, “I am not embarassed to call myself a Freestyle Artist. Its my roots and my origin and that I am going to come out and give you the most powerful and slammin freestyle you have ever heard.” You know I am going walk it and try to set the pace for the youngsters that are coming up, the New Freestylers, which are just as talented or even more than I and thats fine. But you know what, I am coming out here so lets join forces and lets show this world that FREESTYLE IS HERE TO STAY FOREVER!!!. You know, when I performed at BEATSTOCK in front of 17,500 screaming fans, that right there, solidified our place in the market. To see those fans enjoying the music of our Freestyle family like Coro, Cynthia, Myself, and Safire, It was awesome!! Safire is one of my dearest friends. She is like a sister to me and love her very much. Its no secret. I really do admire her and respect her opinion. She is very dedicated to her career and is always there to give me encouragement. Encouragement is what this market needs. You know, we need unity, encouragement, love and seems now that the core artists that started this back in the day are now stepping up. I am telling you…Its going to get crazy. I really feel 2002 will make a mark in the industry and really excited on whats going to happen!!

This past november you participated in ARTISTS AGAINST TERRORISM!! How did you get involved with that and what was that particularly designed for?
Nelson Cruz, a really dear friend of mine, got moved by the incident that happened on September 11th and really wanted to make a difference. So, he devised a plan through some sponsorship to come up and create this track. With all of the backing that he received, he was able to offer us a part in it. He called me to do some backgrounds on it. I was able to meet alot of the people that were affected by this tragedy and really was a touching moment. I really thank Nelson and his crew for allowing me to be a part and support it 100%!!

You are preparing for your return this year with your new album!! Tell us how that came about?
Yep, its true!! Its going to be an incredible album. There are so many ideas that are behind it. As you may know, I will be on ZYX Records, the USA/German label. Its a German based record label. I have worked with them for many years and in fact, have been with them since 1991 in the sense that they have been workig with my old record label, MIC MAC. They also worked with my other label, Exit Records. So, I approached them, and we started talking. They came to me and offered me a recording contract and told me that they would be very interested in distributing me and having me as their artist. You know, I gave them the figures and numbers that would make this deal work. They came back to me and sat down and worked everything out. Its a pleasure being on this label. We are currently working on it right now with my co-producer of the album who happens to be ADAM MARANO. I will be writing all of my songs so my fans can really feel Johnny O…just to let you all know!!!

What kind of album is this? Will it be 100% Freestyle?
Well, no! I would say it will be 70% Freestyle and about 30% Pop. But the Freestyle that I will do will be so incredible that I am not sure if they will call it freestyle. I write freestyle and I sing freestyle so no matter what I do, it will always contain freestyle. The pop just means “Popular.” On the pop, you might have hip-hop tracks behind it or techno, but the album will be a FREESTYLE ALBUM. My dream is to have a Grammy for Freestyle..thats my dream!!!

Have you all come up with a name for the album?
No, we don’t know yet! We were thinking of calling it, “NGF, ” which means the New Generation of Freestyle. We are stillin playing with that idea and just have to see how the market will take it. We love the idea and everybody went bananas when they heard the name.

I have heard some debate of whether the term “Freestyle” should change its name to a more marketable name like “New Dance.” It seems the major labels cringe when they hear “freesytle” and figure that with a name change will allow our music to be more acceptable. What are your feelings on that?
I am not opposed to it but do not support it. You know to change the name again….here we go again. If the name would change, I would prefer it to be called Pop…”Popular.” Yes, our music is dancy and new. We are putting out new tracks still, so, its not old. But if you use “Pop,” that market is already established and know what a gigantic market that is. Actually, if you really listen to some of the more established groups in pop, you could easily add a few organ hits or trumphet blows and there you go…..you have freestyle. You can easily hear this in Nsync or Backstreet Boys.

I would like to comment on that. Take for instance Pink’s new song. I really feel that song has a freestyle influence in it.
Yes, Yes, Yes…Luis!! You hit that one on the nose. There you go. If we are to change the name, lets change it to what it is, “Popular.” But hey, if they want to call it “New Dance,” I say more power to them…..know what I am saying.

Are you planning a tour for the album?
Oh yes!! That is ZYX’s number one priority right now!!! Most defintely!!! They already told me that they want to get a single out first which will be out hopefully at the end of february and then right behind that the album..BOOM!! Of course, that is a very old formula and has proven to be a very successful formula for any artist. The tour will begin in the United States. I am currently working with some promoters in Florida and New York with likes of Sal Abbetello. But as you know, ZYX is in Germany. Yep, I am heading to Germany and will be doing Austria, parts of Switzerland, and without a doubt, Italy!! Italy has a huge Johnny O fanbase. I also plan to swing over to Brazil and make an impact in South America. I already came from Canada.

Thats right, The Euro Freestyle Invasion!!
Right!! Let me tell you, The crowd went bananas!! I didn’t get any bad write ups at all. I got, “Johnny was dope, etc.” The whole concert was slammin and the energy was incredible. There was nothing negative and feel the acceptance that everbody is giving us including me. The crowd must of been like 5,000 people. They were screaming and yelling for every group that was there like Angel from the Cover Girls, Adam Marano, Lil Suzy and some techno groups that were their also. Everybody did great and got a wonderful response. The promoter, Ben, and Tony Monaco were awesome as well!! You know, that right there solidified even more the love of the fans for me and Freestyle. Because of that, I am doing this and coming back. Its all for the fans and the love of this music!!!

You have been around in this Freestyle game for years and have become close to alot of the freestyle artists. So, this question might be kind of hard. What are your favorite freestyle artists & songs?
I think I love Johnny O. I think he is slammin…ha ha!! Johnny O all the way baby (laughing) !!!! No, seriously, everybody know this. George Lamond is my best friend. George is a phenominal vocalist. If you ever want to experience a true freestyle singing concert, you must see George. TKA too!! Kayel is another wonderful vocalist. His singing ability is so unique and awesome. As for the female freestyle singers, It would be Cynthia…she is my sweetheart!! Safire and Judy Torres…..If you go to one of their concerts, you better hold on because he will be on your feet! I have so many friends in the industry that I love dearly. But the ones I just mentioned are the ones who are my good friends. But there are many others out there that they know who they are and know that I do love them as well!! I mean my list would be non stop if I would sit here and name everybody. But like I said earlier….My favorite singer has to be Johnny O…you know…(laughing)!!! I got to give him props..the kid can sing.. ha ha!!!

(laughter in room)

I have asked this to some of my past interviewees and am curious on what you have to say. What is your definition of freestyle or What do you think Freestyle should be?
Its a cultural music that expresses love, hurt, & emotions. Its a genre of music that contains strings of breakbeats and bass. I want to use this word and is my favorite word, “Artistical Design.” Come one….lets get unique and original!!! Lets stop following everyone else and try something different. Open Freestyle’s horizon…that is what freestyle is to me. Its a genre of music that has shocked the world and am pleased to see the European culture has taken notice of our music. Because of them doing it, they have given freestyle a fresh sound. Some of the freestyle that comes from Europe is so slammin!!

I know you have been working with Stevie B in the sense that he has helped you with some connections oversees. How has that worked out?
Stevie is a wonderful guy. We are still working on that and look forward in talking to him when he comes down here to Florida. I haven’t entered that door yet but am looking forward to working with him. He is touring alot and respect him very much. Stevie has been out here for years. He has open the doors in freestyle for us tremendously. I love the guy tremendously and he knows that….RIGHT STEVIE…YOU KNOW THAT!!!!!

Ok, Johnny…don’t want to keep you on forever..I have a few more questions!
Naw, don’t worry!! I will charge you by the hour (laughing).

Do you have any advice for new and upcoming freestyle artists trying to make it in the biz? Would you encourage them to stick with their love of freestyle, or get into a more ‘stable’ genre first?
Mmmm..depends!!! There are a variety of people out. My advise is first to do your research and find out who are your favorite lyrical artist is. Imatate them and go to those vocal classes. Get yourself in order. It would be good to sign up and get piano lessons. Learn everything there is to know about the studio end of it and find yourself a really good manager that knows what he is doing and who will not cheat you out of your money!! Next, begin working on a demo and find the key people who know how to do freestyle or whatever genre of music you wish to do. After you get the demo done, it would be a good idea to creat a package like a bio and picture. Then, you can have that package and begin sending it out to all of the freestyle labels in the market. Start doing your local collage radio. In fact, that playe a very instrumental part on my career. Try to get with an artist, promoter, or someone in the business and explain your situation so that they can help you get exposure. The NUBMER ONE thing is to keep the faith!!!! Don’t get discouratge. Don’t worry, you will get plenty of “NOs” but that one day, you will get that “Yes.” Also, be original!!!!

Alot of people don’t know the story of what happened to MicMac. In your point of view, what happened?
On that end, I will have to be careful!! There are so many things that occurred with Mic Mac. One thing that I do know happened was that they really did burn alot of bridges. It really hurt them alot!! Some of those bridges was with their artists. Unfortunately, Mic Mac closed and once was one of the biggest dance labels around during its time. It was a freestyle icon during its day. It really hurt me to see what had happened between Mic Mac and myself. I am grateful that I still have my name and that Johnny O still continues. I do not hold a grudge on any of the individuals at Mic Mac…I really do not!! I have learned to give forgiveness but I tell you one thing..”I am alot wiser!!” You know alot of things happened and some of those stories you hear are false but then some of the ones you hear are very true.

Do you have an email address or website where your fans can reach you ?
My fans can reach me at: JohnnyOFanClub@aol.com, and just to let all of you know; Johnny O answers all of his emails personally!!!

Well, Johnny, Is there a message or anything you would like to tell your fans?
Yes, I say hang on, hold on, you know…grab a hold to the chair!! Johnny O is coming out and will be exploding onto the scene!! When I come out, I am gonna ROCK this industry. I am so happy and confident..forget about it!! Just wait till my album comes…you will see my energy!!!! I am going to need everybody’s support when the album comes out. I want to reach the media and without the support of my fans, it will be hard. I want to get on a video or tv pilot so that I can make aware of freestyle and our music. I am not going to be ashamed of calling myself a Freestyle artist. I am a freestyle/pop artist and because of the love of the fans over the years, I have been able to do this. You know when we go to the club…you know what time it is!!! Get Ready!!! I am ready baby!!!!!

Well, Johnny!! Its been a pleasure talking with you today and just like everybody else am excited to see you back doing freestyle again. I want to thank you for taking your time out for this interview.
Thank You, Louie!!

I would like to say it was an honor to speak with one of Freestyle’s premier singers. He is a very down to earth type of guy who through the Lord has achieved so much!! Freestylemania wishes Johnny O the best for him in 2002.

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About freestylemania

Freestyle fan since day 1. I started Freestylemania.com back in 1997 but finally got a real looking website in 1999 and have never stopped since.