Tiny Desk Contest entrant Oh He Dead on newfound motherhood and love : All Songs Considered Judges for NPR Music's Tiny Desk Contest watched thousands of videos, and here on Weekend Edition we're highlighting some of the standouts — this week: C.J. Johnson from Oh He Dead.

Tiny Desk Contest entrant Oh He Dead on newfound motherhood and love

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OH HE DEAD: (Singing) It only takes just one time. And now we're choosing this lifetime.


That's a song from the Washington, D.C.-based band Oh He Dead. The group was one of the standout entries chosen by judges for NPR Music's Tiny Desk contest.


OH HE DEAD: (Singing) I was told to take my time, told it would be a long time before I could see my baby.

KHALID: The song, called "The Foreigner," was written in February 2020. The band's singer, C.J. Johnson, composed the lyrics when she was pregnant with her first child. She joins us now. Welcome to WEEKEND EDITION.

C J JOHNSON: Hi. How are you?

KHALID: I'm doing all right. Your baby that you were pregnant with, Wallace, is now presumably a year old. Is that right?

JOHNSON: He is. He turned 1 in August.

KHALID: One in August - congratulations. This song was about him. It was about you. You know, it was about the changes in your life. So talk to us about, what did you want to express when you wrote the song? Do you recall what was going through your mind?

JOHNSON: I think I just wanted to express all of the feelings that I had in that moment. A first child - you know, you have to tell everyone. You know, you got to tell your parents. Your parents tell the family. I'm in a band. So I got to tell the band. I got to tell my friends. And there were a lot of mixed emotions about it. I was so caught up in, like, everyone else's emotions. I was, like, kind of confused on, like how I even felt about, you know, having my first child. I was kind of in love with the fact of, you know, having a baby. And, you know, I was a little down about some of the negative reactions to me being pregnant. But in all, I myself was excited and just in love with the fact that I was going to be having, you know, a mini me (laughter).


OH HE DEAD: (Singing) It only takes just one time, and I know we'll be all right.

KHALID: You know, you mentioned that there was this little bit maybe, right? - I don't know if it's anxiety or nervousness. But I think a lot of us new mamas have. We worry that...

JOHNSON: Oh, yes.

KHALID: ...Having a baby is going to change our dreams. Were you nervous about that, that the baby would affect your dreams, your plans as a musician?

JOHNSON: I was nervous about a lot of things. I think I was more so nervous about if I was going to be a good mom or not. And I think that's every new-time mom's, like, nightmare. Like...


JOHNSON: ...It's just in your brain of like, oh, my God. Like, I'm going to be taking care of a human? Am I going to be a good mom? Am I going to be a bad mom? And, you know, you just get that question in your head. And it just - it takes you down a rabbit hole. And you're just constantly thinking about it. And yeah, I think that was one of my biggest fears about being pregnant.


OH HE DEAD: (Singing) I already know what they all think.

KHALID: So talk to me about the song. Why the title "The Foreigner?"

JOHNSON: Well, I looked up what (laughter) - funny - I looked up what Wallace's name meant. And the foreigner popped up.

KHALID: Huh. You mean, like, if you look up what Wallace means?

JOHNSON: Yes, what Wallace means. Foreigner pops up. And I was like, ooh, this is interesting. I never felt like he was a foreigner at all. But I think the territory was foreign to me of stepping into that role of being a mom.

KHALID: So how is Wallace doing? And is he going to be going trick-or-treating?

JOHNSON: I don't know if Wallace is going trick-or-treating. I will say, this, dude. He does love the scary movies. So I think we might spend some time and some costumes watching scary movies.

KHALID: You going to dress him up?

JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I was thinking of Buzz Lightyear. I'm thinking of a superhero theme. But I don't know what I want to be yet. So I'm just like, I have to be somebody from "Toy Story."

KHALID: I hear you. Well, thank you so much, C.J. I really appreciate you taking the time.

JOHNSON: No, no problem. Thank you for having me.

KHALID: That's C.J. Johnson from the band Oh He Dead. The music is by band member Alex Salser. You can see their Tiny Desk Contest video "The Foreigner" on our website, npr.org.


OH HE DEAD: (Singing) I fell in love without love, -out love, -out love.

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