Estacada transplant Skylar Johns says city has helped him grow as musician
Guitarist and vocalist Skylar Johns has been connected to Estacada long before he moved here for his final year of high school.
Years ago, his uncles played live music at the Safari Club, and he would visit places like Promontory Park while growing up in Canby. So when he became an official resident of the city in 2012, it was fitting that his transition was akin to coming home.
Johns, whose band the Clear Creek Renegades plays at the Old Mill Saloon bimonthly, credits his time in Estacada with moving his music career forward.
"I came (to Estacada during) my super senior year of high school, and I thought it was going to be kind of a drag but I ended up seeing the joys of everything," he said. "Nobody had heard me play music out here before, and it gave me a fresh start to really jump in."
Johns won first place in the 2012 Estacada High School talent show, something he describes as a "significant accomplishment."
"I had competed in talent shows all four years of high school in Canby, and I had never won," he said. "It's a lot bigger school, but there was a lot of competition in Estacada. It wasn't like I was a shoo-in."
In addition to success in the talent show, Johns has enjoyed getting to know the Estacada music scene.
"It's been really cool to meet the musicians out here," he said. "There are a lot more people that play music than I thought there would be."
Motivated by these factors, Johns continued to spend time working on his music, writing more than ten original songs during his first year in Estacaca. He works as a tree climber for his brother's company Henry B's Trees, but dedicates much of his free time to music.
Johns first learned to play the guitar 12 years ago, when his older brother introduced him to the instrument. His interest in music quickly grew.
"(My brother) moved away for the summer, and when he came back, I was twice as good as he was," Johns recalled.
Rather than taking music classes while growing up, Johns opted to teach himself much of what he needed to know.
"I took it all hands on and taught myself how to play," he said.
In March 2016, Johns joined forces with fellow musician and Canby resident Aaron Robinett to form the Clear Creek Renegades.
"I've filled in for other bands before but never considered myself as part of a band before now," Johns said. "It's one of the funnest things I've ever done, by far."
Using guitars and cajón drum, the duo plays original songs and covers from a variety of genres. Their music influences range from Hank Williams Jr. and Sr. to Sublime.
"When we came up with the band name, the Clear Creek Renegades, we were thinking of renegades as the ones who shy away from the norm," Johns said. "We really like to keep everybody on their toes."
During live shows, Johns and Robinett strive to keep audiences engaged.
"(With our cover songs), we really want to make them our own," Johns said. "If people wanted to hear the original (song), they could listen to it on the radio."
After playing at private parties in Boring and Damascus in its beginning days, the band has played at the Old Mill Saloon every other Saturday for the past several months.
"It's one of our favorite places we're played so far," Johns said. "It's definitely a good atmosphere. Everybody gets along, and it's fun to watch people sing along to the songs we're playing."
Johns believes the band's unpretentious attitude has been beneficial to the success it's seen thus far.
"We don't go in there saying we're the best in the world, but when we do go in there and play, we've never had a person saying they didn't like the way we sound."
In the future, the Clear Creek Renegades hope to expand to the Sandy and Clackamas areas, but they don't want to venture too far from home.
"We like being local and playing local shows," Johns said. "It makes me appreciate things more. You have people around who have your back."
Johns is happy that he and Robinett have a regular gig in Estacada, since the city had had a such a significant impact on his life.
"Before I even knew it as home, it already felt homey here," he said.
Catch the Clear Creek Renegades
Skylar Johns and Aaron Robinett, the musical duo that comprise the Clear Creek Renegades, play at the Old Mill Saloon every other Saturday. Their next performance is scheduled for 9-11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at 150 S.W. Frontage Road.