One year ago I discovered an intriguing singer – Johnny Hammer – a young boy singing Mary Did You Know? – a Christmas song celebrating the birth of Jesus. The surprise came when I realized the music Johnny sang the song to was an upbeat dance vibe.
A little research led to my discovery of Christian Techno – a music genre I had no idea existed. I found a few labels (Andy Hunter, Scott Blackwell, Owl City to name but a few… ) and a DJ rocking the club scene with songs filled with positive messages. Johnny recorded Mary Did You Know? when he was only twelve years old. Signed by the Nashville-based Christian dance music label Technopraise, his youthful appearance and clear treble voice made Mary Did You Know? appeal to people his age (and younger), casual listeners and devoted fans of electronic vibes.
A few weeks ago, Technopraise released Hands to the Sky, a new song starring Johnny Hammer (by then aged thirteen) and Alexis Lundt. Hands to the Sky features the same upbeat, modern sound and encourages people, especially teens and younger kids, to put their hands in the sky and show their love to God by raving. The song is accompanied by a grand movie video in which Johnny and his singing partner Alexis sing to their dancing friends (more than 50 kids are featured in the video).
Johnny on stage in his newest music video
Credit: Photo by Zen Wohlers
Back in 2010, I called Johnny’s Mary Did You Know? “a great song with a real message, set to catchy vibes that makes me want to dance”. In the past year, I have listened to the song countless times. Hands to the Sky is likely to share the same “fate” – a prominent place on my mp3 player.
Two great songs, sung by a young and talented singer. Yet little was known about him. So, here at TheSkyKid.com, we decided to approach Yuri Mamchur (a music producer and the founder of Technopraise) to inquire about the possibility of obtaining an exclusive interview with Johnny for the readers of TheSkyKid.com. Our request was granted and today, on his birthday, we are happy to have Johnny join the parade of young stars featured on the site.
Note: For this interview, the questions posed by theskykid.com will be represented by an “SK” and “JH” will indicate Johnny’s responses. To view captions on any of the pictures in this article, just run your cursor over the picture.
SK : Hello Johnny and thank you for agreeing to this interview for TheSkyKid.com. Who is Johnny Hammer? Would you introduce yourself, how old you are and where you’re from?
JH : Hello, my name is Johnny Hammer. I am 14-years-old on December 30, and I live in Tacoma, Washington with my mom, dad, and three older brothers.
SK : A Christian message and techno music – an interesting combination. It becomes even more unique when you add a young and talented singer. And yet, there are some people who associate raves and electronic vibes with substance abuse and similar stereotypes. Do you agree the combination of the message, your age and the music is an unusual one and how do you respond to the negative image some people have about raves and electronic music?
JH : I think Christian Techno music is a great idea. Popular top-40 music is what kids my age listen to. This sound we have achieved while incorporating a Christian message gives teens a chance to rave about Jesus, but also listen to the music they think is cool. Using this style of music does not support drugs and alcohol. That is what several Jesus Believers do not get. God wants us to worship Him in any way possible. That does not mean it always has to be guitar and drums, or old-fashioned classical. As long as you are doing it for a good purpose and not hurting yourself or anyone else, it is worship to God.
SK : Who is your favorite adult singer and your favorite young singer?
JH : Very good question. My favorite adult singer is Jason Mraz. His lyrics are so complex and he gives a very natural and warm feeling when he sings. My favorite young singer is Greyson Chance. I think he is a genius. His voice and talents blow my mind away; I don’t know how he does it. I look up to both of these people and would be SO HAPPY to get a chance to meet them.
SK : How did you get involved with the Nashville-based Christian techno and dance music label Technopraise?
JH : It’s a funny story. Yuri Mamchur, producer and founder of Technopraise, was my camp counselor at a local camp here in Washington when I was six years old. My family and I continued to stay in touch with him, and he even lived with us for a while. Today, Yuri is one of our closest family friends, and more of a friend to me than anything.
Johnny Hammer & Alexis Lundt
Credit: Photo by Zen Wohlers
SK: Besides your obvious talent, you are very photogenic and come across well on your videos. Since the release of your YouTube videos, do you get a lot of fan mail, and is it predominately from girls?
JH : I have gotten “Good Job!” and “Congratulations!” from people at my school and family friends for my new video. My Facebook page has gotten several friend requests, so we made a fan-page so people can still follow me. Mainly my fans are girls, but with the help of Alexis we have gotten a few new guy fans too.
SK : In addition to recording for Technopraise, you also write your own music. Could you talk about what happens in your head when you compose? Does the creative process happen with you even before you write it down or put your hands on the keyboard?
JH : When I compose, my mind just becomes absent from everything else. I have stayed up very late on school nights just writing down lyrics and poems (but still keeping a 4.0 grade average). I don’t really know how I get the ideas, they just kind of hit me from the environment that is happening around me. I come up with the tunes while I am writing. I have always been excellent with words since I was little, and now that is greatly helping me when I write songs.
SK : How does your faith play a role in that process?
JH : Honestly, when I am writing, it is almost like a prayer. I have a confession or a problem, so I talk to Jesus about it. He helps me think it through and everything is resolved in the end.
SK : Do you have any stories to share of people telling you how much your music has inspired them?
JH : Kids and parents have contacted me through Facebook telling me how great it is that I am making music that tells the story of Jesus, but also is catchy and something kids like. I know I have made faith more prominent at my school, and teens have viewed it in a different way.
SK : You have two singles out: Mary Did You Know? and Hands to the Sky. Would you tell us why they were selected to be your first presentations and what the process was like recording them?
JH : I recorded Mary Did You Know? in September of 2010. That was my first time ever in a recording studio, so it was a little nerve-racking. I had never sung pop professionally, so I was still getting the hang of it. Then in October, my dad and I flew down to Nashville where Yuri lives and we filmed the music video. That was awesome! We had all these fancy lights and the music was bumping all around me. It took about seven hours to film. Since my first song was released, I have grown a lot both physically and as a singer. I have tended to focus more on pop, but still keep my classical side strong.
“Hands to the Sky“
I learned we were doing Hands to the Sky this summer of 2011. I practiced for four months before we actually recorded the song. Yuri and I decided we also wanted another person to sing with me to make it a duet. Alexis Lundt, who we ended up choosing, is a really close friend of mine and we go to the same school. We have sung together in competitions before, so we already knew our voices blend really well together. The music video was filmed in early October at locations around the Tacoma area. At school, Alexis and I recruited our friends who wanted to be featured in the music video. Total we got about 40 kids. It took from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm to shoot the whole music video. They used a RED One camera, which is the most advanced digital camera, the same type that they used to shoot Avatar, Transformers, etc. It was a very fun day, almost like a party being filmed. We did the music video before recording the song for weather reasons (Washington state becomes very cloudy and rainy in the Fall). It took 15 hours to record the song! However, it turned out wonderful, and is a very strong track.
SK : What tunes are currently on your CD player/iPod?
JH : I have tons of music on my iPod, but I mainly listen to what I like to call “chill pop”. Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, Matt Nathanson, and Train are some of my favorites. I also have a lot of Christian music, mostly Scott Krippaehne. Like any other kid, I listen to a lot of top 40 too. Adele is one of my recent favorite pop singers on the radio. I LOVE Taylor Swift though. I went to her concert in September and I am pretty sure I screamed for a half hour straight when I found out I was going. I watch Glee and also buy their albums. When I am old enough, I want to try out for the Glee Project, or just get on the show (: The Beatles are my favorite rock band. I tend to listen to the overall feel of the song, rather than the lyrics.
SK : What are two things people might be surprised to learn about you?
1. I don’t dye my hair, it is naturally this white! (:
2. I am a definite rebel when it comes to doing crazy stuff (I do not mean drugs and bad things like that). I have jumped off a 100 ft (30 meters) cliff into a lake (don’t try that). Backflips off bridges are my new hobby. I have been a hardcore double-black-diamond skier since I was 10, and have ended up in some pretty sketchy situations where I am screaming “Help!” for an hour straight.
SK : What do you enjoy doing outside of music? Hobbies?
JH : I like to run and play sports such as lacrosse, swimming, and skiing. My family has a boat, so we go out in the Puget Sound during the summer and inner tube, water ski, and wake board. I do a lot of local theatre too. I have been in 23 plays/acting gigs. I’ve played violin for 10 years and piano for five. Hiking in the North Cascades was a big thing I did this summer. I enjoy hanging out with my friends after school and through sport-related activities. My brothers are all very entertaining and we do a lot of activities together.
SK : Anything else you’d like to share with TheSkyKid.com readers that we haven’t asked?
JH : There are a lot of bad things in this world that can negatively affect a person. Drugs, early sex, and alcohol are just some of the dangerous things that can cause teenage problems. Remember to keep your mind on God and don’t lose faith in Him. Think about Him before you make your decisions. He is always forgiving and will never let you go.
SK : Where can your fans buy your music?
JH : You can buy my singles on iTunes and Amazon.com. You can also listen to my music on Spotify and Rhapsody. Please, take a moment to “Like” my Facebook page and make sure to stop by technopraise.com to see what we are up to!
Our thanks to Johnny Hammer for his time in answering our questions. We’re very glad we decided to seek more information about him via this very informative interview. We think our readers will agree that this is one very talented and well spoken young man who obviously has combined his musical talents with a strong faith and has produced wonderful music and a very positive outlook on life. We think he has a very bright future ahead of him and look forward to following his career.