Johnson flourishes in Nashville's creative scene while staying true to his roots

Meridian native Ben Johnson admits he's staying busy. 

Now at home in Nashville, Johnson thrives in a whirlwind of creativity and collaboration while balancing deadlines, commitments, and personal life. Still, he returns to his hometown to conduct the Stage 2 orchestra each year, as he did for the 13th time for the troupe's recent production, Guys and Dolls.

This Meridian Community College alumnus (Class of 2012) continues on his successful path as a songwriter, producer, and member of his and his sibling's country band, Track45. His mom, Susie Johnson, is the director of MCC's Arts & Letters Series and Stage 2.

"Working with a lot of artists I grew up idolizing are people I call friends now," Johnson said. "Five years ago, I was trying to get my foot in the door; now I feel like I've gotten into the door … inside, looking around," he said. 

The songs he's penned include “Best Thing Since Back Roads,” “Beers on Me,” “Give Heaven Some Hell,” “Gone,” “New Truck,” “One of Them Girls,” and “Take My Name.” But that's not all. 

"I've gotten to work on many special projects the last few years," Johnson said. "I got to work on a Morgan Wallen project last year; just finished working on a Jelly Roll project, and working on a Lewis Capaldi's project right now," he said, explaining it's of a pop genre. "Which is kind of fun to get out of the country world a little bit." 

There's more. "I've started working with a girl named Dasha, who I think is incredible, and on top of that, of course, still working with my sisters and our music for that," he said.  

"And, I started a TV show; I'm trying to get in the TV business a little bit," Johnson said. 

Balancing his countless projects requires efficiency, and Johnson compared it to assembly line work. "I think the more efficient you can make each of the different things you're trying to do, the more time you have to do the things," he explained. 

That efficiency helps to drive his creativity, and structure is an essential element. "Because the most valuable resource you end up having – which is for everybody – is time," he said.  

Despite his busy schedule, Johnson makes time for personal enjoyment, from participating on a recreational softball team to canoeing to picking up a pickleball racket. "It's getting the most out of life," he said. 

Reflecting on his time at MCC, Johnson expressed gratitude for his educational experience, which he described as foundational. "Through the scholarships and grants I got here, I was able to really have a huge leg up – not just on my career – but life in general," he said. 

Johnson continued: "Moving to Nashville, I was debt-free, and I already had my general education courses finished." He attended Belmont University on a cello scholarship and earned his bachelor's degree in commercial music with an emphasis on composition and arranging. He also met his wife, Lauren Conklin Johnson, a composer and musician. 

Before coming to MCC, Johnson had been homeschooled, and attending college was a new experience. "Truly, the thing I learned the most was how to be in school – I had never been in classes before."  

He also gained the value of collaboration. 

"In my MCC music theory classes, I remember hearing people's different points of view, and I thought, 'Wow. There's so much I can learn not just from the teacher but from other students and being around people.'" It's a trait he continues to use today – especially when working with other songwriters. 

Another MCC connection? "A lot of my closest, lifelong friends I made out here," Johnson said, adding, "It's really special to be back where I have so many fond memories." 

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