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An interview with Stevie Johnson, Fallapalooza Opener

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TWAANKALU at Fallapalooza

Stevie Johnson, a senior film and television studies major, performed under the name TWAANKALU at this year’s Fallapalooza. Johnson said the key to his success is self love. 

While other students spent the morning of Fallapalooza kicking back with their friends, listening to music to get in the mood and stocking up on sunscreen and body glitter, senior film and television production major Stevie Johnson was preparing for his biggest performance so far. From winning Mane Entertainment’s Singer-Songwriter Competition on Sept. 5 to opening up for Jeremih under the stage name TWAANKALU at Fallapalooza, September has been a huge month for Johnson. 

I had the chance to catch up with him after his performance, and he chatted with me about what it feels like to take on the Fallapalooza stage, performance advice and the many benefits of tonal yoga.

Ally Boulas (AB): How are you feeling?

Stevie Johnson (SJ): I feel great, honestly. It seems like a culmination of so many things and also the beginning of so many things. I’m happy and I’m going to enjoy myself now, and probably tomorrow and the next couple of days I’ll go over the video and see what I can do better, and I’ll take what I learn from that into the next opportunity. I feel hot, I feel active, I got to keep doing stuff. It feels fulfilling, it felt really good. I finished my last song and I went, “Damn, I wish I had more songs.”

AB: How could you describe the feeling of being on stage? 

SJ: It just felt like a big ass hug. A lot of my friends were there, but there were also a lot of people who were just complete strangers. I just felt supported. I felt also that I was happy in myself and that I was supporting myself with my voice. For a long time I dealt with confidence issues about my voice, stemming from the fact that I’m so new to singing, you know? And so I’m still getting past that and realizing that people [like] my voice and that I don’t have to try too hard, I don’t have to strain, I don’t have to worry. I just have to take care of my body, practice and only good things can come from that.

That was my first legitimate, professionally produced performance, so with the monitors on stage I could hear myself damn near as good as you all heard me. So I could control how loud I am or how quiet I am by telling them, and so it was just me, I felt supported by that. And there was that constant, nonstop reassurance that I can do this because I am currently doing this, and I can hear myself, loud and clear.

AB: Is there anything you told yourself right before you went onstage? Is there anything you did to prepare?

SJ: Oh yeah, I prepare all day long. I went to this tonal yoga class [on Saturday], have you heard of that? It’s crazy, it’s like yoga but less about the body postures and more about associating noises you make with movement. So it sounds weird as hell! But it helped a lot, and I did some of that today. And I always try to meditate and reflect on my experiences and relate them to the reason why I’m here. And I think a lot about who I do it for. I want to do it for myself because this is what I find fulfilling, and sometimes I think about the future. 

AB: What do you think you learned from this performance that will help you going forward?

SJ: First thing: To listen to my soundcheck. If I feel beautiful for my soundcheck, I’m beautiful for my performance.

Second: the crowd size doesn’t really matter. You only pay attention to the people in the front, honestly. Whether it’s fifty thousand people — hopefully, one day — or if it’s just a couple people in the room, I’m only paying attention to my friends and a select few people, so you got to get up there and do your thing regardless.

Third: Self love. Self love is so important. Not only in my voice and in my music, but in the subject matter and my stance and my presence physically on stage. If you are not satisfied looking at yourself, that’s going to get in your head and make you think that other people are not satisfied looking at you. And once you’re in your head, you’ve already ruined yourself.

AB: So, you have to be your first fan?

SJ: Yes. Your best fan, too. 

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