The songs, including the title track "Hemingway," his father's military nickname, are equal parts roadmap and lament, with a country flavor reminiscent of Johnny Cash. They have a higher purpose than biography, though: The album raises awareness of veteran mental illness, and shines a spotlight the warning signs of suicide with the hope of saving others.
To increase his reach, Johnson started the nonprofit OperationHemingway.org, which spreads the same message as his music. It's become a hub for public education on suicide and mental illness, and also raises funds to help veterans on the road to recovery.
"I don't know if anything could have saved my dad. But I do know that even as a kid, I saw warning signs. And I wish someone would have had the courage to speak up on his behalf and do something to help," Johnson wrote on his website.
Hemingway (State Fair Records, 2018) is both an album and an audiobook, and has already caught the attention of national outlets like NPR and National Geographic. In a 2016 report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that an average of 6,000 veterans commit suicide each year—making Johnson's mission more than pressing. Head to his show on Friday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m. to join the effort and hear his story for yourself. Lee Penn Sky of The Oliphants will open, and tickets cost $15 with proceeds benefiting Operation Hemingway.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs support, please reach out for help by calling or texting the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357. All calls are confidential and anonymous.