Eric Johnson in Conversation Albums, acoustic and guitars
Eric Johnson, Grammy award-winning guitarist took time out to talk to Bluesdoodles about his first solo acoustic album EJ released on Mascot Group Label.
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Austin, Texas and beyond? EJ: Lots there are some great bands and music in Texas. Johnny Richardson was a huge influence but there is just so much great music. I listened to all sorts of styles and players out there including Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton Bill Conners, styles vary but always quality.
BD: How did you get into music were you from a musical family? EJ: My brother and three sisters we all had piano lessons, learning classical music my parents were not musical but supported my playing. Then I had guitar lessons. I took up the guitar because everyone I was listening to was playing the guitar. I listened to all types of music not defined by genre The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures. There were so many great dudes to listen to. The crossover with Ravi Shankar playing with Janis Joplin and others mixing it up, it was not about genres it was all about good music that excited.
BD: Having reviewed the Album, can you tell us Why a Solo album now having won countless awards and peer recognition is the acoustic another branch of the Johnson Guitar Tree EJ: Well, I have always included one acoustic number on all my records. I have always enjoyed playing acoustic it is different from my solo electric guitar in a band. The essential in acoustic is a very good song that can stand on its own the words have to be very good. There is an immediacy in acoustic playing it is always a challenge to capture the song so it has a potency. The album is another voice of my guitar the album has an intimacy that only acoustic achieves.
BD: How did you choose the covers, especially deciding on opening with an instrumental version of Mrs Robinson EJ: Well, Mrs Robinson came about fiddling with the tune on my own it sounded great and I was searching for a song to start the record. The realisation came that it might be the right way to start the album with the guitar getting the listeners attention. The other covers fitted in with my own tracks.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting? EJ: Inspiration is everywhere. I have to allow the thoughts to unfold intuitively they evolve naturally. I have to stop the brain from interfering as too soon it clinches the lyrics so that they do not have time to develop naturally. The brain part is good to give the words a final polish but not too soon, you need to leave your creative window open for words to be descriptive painting a full picture. You need to be able to let your thoughts wander so there is a freedom in the construction of the lyrics. It was great fun to record a solo acoustic record, the simplicity there is an innocence in the process with a feel of naturalness with lyrics that can be obtuse like Wrapped In A Cloud.
BD: You have a big supporter in Joe Bonamassa. He and many other younger guitarists have named you as an influence…. Have you found this has been a boost to your own career? EJ: Big admirer of what Joe Bonamassa does and it is very flattering that Joe and other guitar players respect and admire what I play. The reality is all guitarists learn from everyone else. I am genuinely honoured the other guitarists feel that way about my guitar playing.
BD: Did you always plan to be a musician and what advice would you give to budding professionals EJ: Music was what I wanted to do my career developed I just kept playing with bands making original music. Kept rehearsing and working with different people. It was a step by step progression lots of practice and determination hard work eventually led to record deals and where I am today. The answer is if you want to achieve success it is about talent and hard work there is no easy simple route.
BD I am sure you have many plans for 2017 and beyond are you planning a UK/European Tour? EJ: Now that is funny you should ask that question, we were discussing just that today a tour of Europe and the UK. Would love to visit the UK and tour all over especially like to see Eastern Europe.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing EJ: Bass: Billy Rich or James Jamerson… No I will have two bass players Guitars: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Wes Montgomery Drums: Joe Morello Vocals: Paul Rogers
Guitar Tech – Me When asked to jam I will say no I am listening to you guys that is enough for me!
Read why Bluesdoodles said “EJ is an acoustic album that has an intimacy between performer and listener not often achieved on a studio album. The light and dark shadows and moody intensity all keep your attention on the lyrics and above all the melody.”HERE
EJ Solo Personal Acoustic Guitar
from Eric Johnson
EJ is Eric Johnson’s first solo acoustic album with four covers and nine originals as we get up close and personal. A different side of Eric as we hear the piano, guitar with either steel or nylon strings in perfect accord with the vocals that sting with emotional fallout. Eric Johnson has created an album that has quiet intensity, it is as personal as a recorded album can be. Close your eyes sit back and relax as you enter the private space of Johnson’s front room.
Opening with an instrumental version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson the scene is set this is mellow time the wood and steel can be appreciated as the vibrations sting through the immaculately produced track. This is not the last guitar finger picking slashing through the melodies from a consummate guitarist that makes the acoustic hum with energy and rays of chord driven sunshine, including Once Upon A Time In Texas. We have Spanish flamenco style as the guitar serenades up on Serinidad and closing the album as we begun with a stylish instrumental Song For Irene.
The album EJ released thirty years after his breakthrough solo release we are treated to nine originals and four covers. Along with Mrs Robinson , another Simon & Garfunkel favourite is given the EJ treatment. Scarborough Fair with piano and vocals that gives the number a gently lilting feel. One Rainy Wish is given a spectacular re-arrangement as Jimi Hendrix goes mellow with an edge as the piano imparts a jazz inflection. With the dance-driven country fair vibe of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise. Joining Eric is guest guitarist Doyle Dykes making the music a technicolour array of twists and turns as the acoustic six strings are explored.
His own compositions add musical depth and demonstrates the feel for the instrument whether it is guitar, piano or vocals that EJ is using to deliver the melody. It will definitely be no Wonder that this is an acoustic album that will get the listeners attention the guitar is the perfect backing for his vocals on this track and Fatherly Downs, which for me is my favourite the lyrical beauty of the words and the sting of the string make the track full of interest as in November where the piano and cello develop a sound scape that reflects the month as winter takes hold with a melancholy sadness.
In his own words “Ever since I was young, I’ve played piano and acoustic guitar in my private life,” Johnson says. “This type of music has always been a part of me, but I never showcased it on any kind of bigger level, like a full acoustic record. With EJ, I just decided to be more honest with myself and everybody, and show more of my personal side.” EJ is an acoustic album that has an intimacy between performer and listener not often achieved on a studio album. The light and dark shadows and moody intensity all keep your attention on the lyrics and above all the melody.