Track premiere: Brian Johannesen, “Music Business Blues Breakdown”

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Brian Johannesen on stage at the Yacht Club. Thursday, April 8, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village.

Ready for some new music from Iowa City musician Brian Johannesen? I know I am! His loping, longing Northern Town was a favorite when it came out in May of 2017, a year after his return to Iowa City from Nashville. Since then, he’s made his mark on the community as one of the top-notch show bookers in the area, along with continued performances of his own (and recently — full disclosure — starting work at Little Village in distribution, calendars and ticketing).

Now he’s got a new tune for us: “Music Business Blues Breakdown,” the first single from his upcoming fall 2019 full-length release (recorded, like his last, at Flat Black Studios). Johannesen has reassembled the core dream team from Northern Town (Ryan Joseph Anderson, electric guitar; David Zollo, piano; Brian Cooper, drums; Ryan Bernemann, bass) and leans hard into his signature storytelling style with this jangly, uptempo indictment of the challenges working musicians face and the current administration’s views on the value of art — a response, Johannesen said, to Trump’s yearly attempt to defund the NEA and other organizations in his budget.

“It is such an unbelievably small drop in the bucket and it’s not about saving taxpayer money because they raise defense spending every year as well. Compared to most countries in Europe we spend a laughably small amount on arts funding,” Johannesen said. “And the fact that this administration tries every year to slash that budget, despite knowing Congress will not pass that budget, is just a slap in the face to the arts community … It’s hard enough out there for artists. We don’t need anyone making it harder.”

“It costs less than Mar-A-Lago / And those vacations that you take,” the track admonishes. “And that’s a mighty small toll / To preserve a little bit of soul / But instead you’ve got another eighteen holes to play.”

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