Johnny Blanford III, better known as his stage name Johnny B33 (pronounced "Bee"), has been a sort of
Swiss Army knife in the Dallas arts scene since he first came around a few years ago: He's been an MC, dancer, actor, rapper, singer, videographer and photographer. But now, with the release of his second in a series of three astrologically themed albums, Aries Moon, he’s ready to focus on the role of bandleader and frontman.
Before Aries Moon, he released Leo Sun. Coming up next is Virgo Rising.
Much like travelers of old (and TikTok users now), Blanford lets constellations guide his artistic and musical output — but not define it.
“Your sun is everyday and how you are perceived," he says. "I can be loud and obnoxious, and I can be shy. I think there are two extremes. I can either be asleep or breakdancing in the middle of a room.”
Blanford laughs and continues: “Aries (his moon) connects that. ... Fire sign. Determined and courageous and go out on a limb. I think that's what I want to do musically. Being courageous and taking a leap. Virgo Rising is more about being more cautious and is kind of the only thing grounding me.”
Blanford's gospel is one of self-reflection.
“I write my lyrics in such a way where there are a lot of statements that can bring up questions but they’re up for interpretation," he says. "For me, but [that meaning] could be different, but no less valid, for someone else. Answer your own damn questions.”
Lyricists often provide a Rorschach test blot of sorts, where listeners ascribe different meaning to the writer's intent. Blanford is not here to provide comforting words.
“I write to inspire ideas and concepts ... to motivate," he says. "It might be therapeutic for me, but I’m not y’all’s therapist. The therapist is in you. ”
Aries Moon, and its predecessor, Leo Sun, feel almost like vision boards or soliloquies taken from a larger play. Most songs on both are about 2 minutes long or less.
Blanford says that is by design.
“That’s kind of the idea," he says excitedly. Tierra Whack, she’s a rapper, she had a project that was 10 or 15 songs and they were one minute exactly, back to back. In this age of TikTok, everybody consumes their media so quickly I didn't want it to seem like a lot and wanted people to absorb it more quickly. I don’t think it should take an hour for you to get an idea across.”
Each album is basically a choose-your-own-adventure of morality and ethical thinking, both of which Blanford seems to have thought about through much of his life.
Lately in addition to playing shows to promote his albums, Blanford has been hosting a weekly jam session for fellow musicians, no matter the discipline.
Jo Indigo of Chilldren of Indigo says Blanford performed for the first time at an open mic that Indigo was hosting.
“I was a huge fan of his from day one," Indigo says of Blanford. "He is one of those people who supports the whole scene whether it’s hip-hop, jazz, rock, blues, R&B, afrobeat, or some whole new shit I’ve never heard. Johnny is there supporting. He has always been about bringing all the talent in Dallas together.”
Blanford echoes Indigo’s sentiment when describing his Thursday night event at On Premise in Deep Ellum.
“It’s like ‘Here’s the mic, bro,’" he says. "I created it because I want to be in a space where I can create music with the people I love including the people I don’t know that just want to create and try it. I’m over here trying to be selfless and selfish at the same time. To refine the experience I had and help other motherfuckers create. If you think you got a song or a vibe then do it!”
Listen to Aries Moon below: