Finding Your Creative Voice: A Q&A with Singer/Songwriter Jillette Johnson

Jillette Johnson sits on bed while strumming a guitar.
Photo courtesy of Jillette Johnson.

How would you describe your own creative path?  

I started writing songs without knowing I was writing songs when I was a little kid, like three or four years old, walking circles around the sandbox, singing whatever words and melodies popped into my head. As I got a little older, my curiosity about what hidden songs lay inside of me intensified, and I became entirely fixated on songwriting as a daily expression. Every life experience became fodder for a lyric, every free moment became an opportunity to write. Now, in my mid-thirties, after having made a whole life out of making music, I try to remain in my three-year-old sense of wonder, pulling from my stream of consciousness, always a student of my own inner world. 

Does connecting with nature inspire your creativity? 

Whenever I feel stuck on something, like if I’m in the middle of a song and I can’t get the chorus, I go for a walk. The sounds of the birds, the colors of the leaves, the clouds in the sky, the breeze on my skin, it all soothes my brain into a sort of surrender. When I’m given the opportunity to be truly present with the natural world around me, and to fall into its quiet, calm rhythm, my brain relaxes and there is all of the sudden space for me to hear myself. Intrusive thoughts seem to eventually fade, and that quiet voice that is so pivotal to the creative process becomes clearer and clearer. 

Can you share your favorite creative quote? 

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

– David Bowie

What are some of your aspirations for the Creative Nature Retreat?

I hope that retreat guests walk away from this experience feeling rested, recharged, connected to themselves and the natural world around them, and inspired by the creative mysteries they carry inside of them. I hope that anyone who comes to this retreat who feels afraid to start something leaves with the courage to simply try.

This retreat is engineered to be a safe space for expression, connection and inner and outer exploration. You do not have to identify as an artist or to have a steady creative practice already under your belt to be here. There is no such thing as making bad art or being a bad artist. Our only goal is to show up and let the rest follow. 

Jillette Johnson will lead a Creative Nature Retreat at the Campsite at Shield Ranch on Oct. 6-8. 2023. Jillette is a critically acclaimed recording artist based in Nashville who has released four studio albums, has appeared on national TV, and spent the last decade touring the country.