Meet Jonny Goood — Wiz Khalifa's Childhood Neighbor Who Went from Cop to Lady Gaga's Bassist
"It's been an amazing ride," says the rocker, who recently released his album Bass Hop
And now he’s ready to stand in the spotlight himself.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Goood, now 30, attended Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he played football at the Division II school. Following an injury, Goood was forced to hang up his cleats.
Soon after he took up playing the bass guitar and balanced his passion for music with with a more practical career trajectory, following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a police officer.
After a few years, at the age of 23, Goood retired his badge and moved to Los Angeles to pursue music professionally.
Then, thanks to a chance encounter at a guitar store, he got his first big break: a job playing with R&B star Keyshia Cole. One gig led to another, and in the past seven years, Goood has worked with everyone from the Weeknd and Miley Cyrus to Wiz Khalifa and Gaga.
In February, he dropped his album Bass Hop, a 10-song collection of rock-tinged hip-hop. Following the LP’s release, Goood opened up to PEOPLE about his long road to success, from sleeping in his car to performing at the Super Bowl.
“It’s just been a ride,” says Goood. “I graduated to where I am now, just putting in the time and being humble and working hard, it’s been an amazing ride.”
Tell me how you got into music.
I was real big in sports and athletics growing up. I got to college, played football, and when I was about to turn 19, I ended up getting injured — I broke a finger and my cheekbone. It actually ended up being one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.
My sister bought me a $50 bass that helped me over my mental wounds of not being able to football, and I just ended up falling in love with it. In my dorm room in a basement in a Division II college in the middle of a cornfield, I took my time, and I really just developed my craft.
After college, you became a police officer. How did you get into that?
That was actualy an amazing time in my life. My dad has been a cop for 30-plus years. I grew up in Pittsburgh, in public school in the inner city, which wasn’t the best environment. My dad took it upon himself to protect and serve and to be unlike the majority that might had been around at that time. That really stuck with me.
My mom and dad met in the military; my brother was in the Marine Corps; I’ve worked with him as a cop as well — my whole family was really built their life upon integrity and righteousness, doing the right thing and morals, so that led me into law enforcement.
It just gave me a good backbone. I went in at 20, I was the youngest you can be, the only way they would have let me come out of the academy is if I graduated the academy at 21, so I actually had my 21st birthday in the academy. I did that up until I was about 23. So I just chose to take a gamble; I had never been to California before I moved there. I just drove. The rest is history.
What was your breakthrough moment?
It was on a whim, and I’m learning that’s how life happens. You get an itch in your heart and either you chase it or you don’t. I remember just moving to LA, I literally had $250 in my pocket, I was living with a friend of mine who was already living in someone else’s house — so it was like we were stuffed on one blowup mattress.
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I went to the guitar center one day, and I was playing bass, just minding my business checking out gear I couldn’t afford, and this older gentleman came up to me and told me I sounded good. I got shook his hand and said thank you and introduced myself. From there he invited me to a demo session, then I got asked to work with Keyshia Cole. It was just from a handshake!
One thing led to another, and you went on to work with Jhené Aiko, Joe Jonas, the Weeknd, Miley Cyrus. Who else?
I got to work Wiz Khalifa, which was like a full-circle [moment] because I grew up with him; I’ve know Wiz Khalifa from when I was 9 years old, and we graduated from the same high school! Working with wiz was like “Whoa!” because it gave me the youth that I needed to keep as an adult. That was awesome.
Then you went on to work with Lady Gaga. You performed on her Joanne World Tour and at the Super Bowl last year. What did you learn from her?
First of all, she is a rock star. That’s the first thing I learned about her. When I got hired, I remember walking in with my bass to meet her. I love Gaga. I know her music, I see how she conquers the world, how she rose.
She’s very cool very humble. She gave me a hug, sat back down at her piano and told me to plug my bass in. She said, “Can you play?” And then we just [jammed] out for at least 20 min; as a musician that’s the greatest introduction you can have, just sitting down on your instrument and just playing and that was our first time. Since then she has treated me with love and kindness from that point all of that.
She’s such a fearless woman and someone who is literally 5’2 but has the heart of giant. She’s definitely one of the hardest workers that I’ve worked with and that’s something I will gladly take from her — her ability to work hard.
And now you have your own album out. Tell me about the work that went into Bass Hop.
The story goes back to before I was working with Gaga. I made music in my car when I was broke. I was sleeping in my car, and I wrote songs in my car, waking up, rolling a joint, plugging in my microphone and just trying to heal myself from the lows I was in. So these songs go all the way back to the time of me sleeping outside a CVS parking lot, up to working the Super Bowl. And while I was working on the Joanne tour I was actually making my own music on the road and in Omaha, Nebraska.
What goals do you have now?
I just want to play. I want to tour. I want to rock the world and send out good vibes and good energy for the rest of my life.
That’s why my name is Jonny Goood: The 3 O’s are just for the mind, body and soul; I truly believe that. You have to take care of your whole being, and if you can do that you can move on to what the universe has for you next.
Jonny Goood’s Bass Hop album is out now.