One For the road

All the per­ils of play­ing moun­tain top venues and the san­ity-restor­ing joys of golf…

Guitarist - - Contents - Words David Mead

What was your first ever gig and how did it go? “It was at a sports bar in North Dakota near my home­town. I was scared and I don’t re­mem­ber much of it, I just re­mem­ber be­ing fright­ened! I was 13, it was a blues band. I started tak­ing guitar lessons from them and later they asked me to join as their singer.” De­scribe your cur­rent stage rig… “I’ve two Fender Deluxes and I take three gui­tars: a cus­tom Fender Tele­caster that I’ve played for years – it’s got hum­buck­ers in it – a Les Paul and a Gib­son J-45 acous­tic. Then I use an over­drive pedal for most of the lead stuff, a Route 808, and a couple of pedals by a com­pany called Jam: the Tube Dreamer and their wah wah which they call the Wahcko. I use a clean boost pedal made by Whirl­wind called The Bomb and then an oc­tave fuzz pedal called COB – Clean Oc­tave Blend.” What piece of gear is most es­sen­tial to your live sound? “The Deluxes. I could prob­a­bly do with­out ev­ery other thing on my pedal board if I had to and just have the guitar and the amps. I’ve been through quite a few amps over the years: I used to play Vi­bro-Kings, which I still love and would prob­a­bly use still, but they blow up!” What non-mu­si­cal item couldn’t you do with­out on tour? “My golf clubs keep me sane out here – I’m a golf ad­dict. As of­ten as I can I try to get out and sneak in as much golf as I can. I just love it and it’s very cathar­tic thing for me to do, so it helps me just recharge for some rea­son.” What’s the near­est you’ve come to a Spinal Tap mo­ment on tour? “I’ve ac­tu­ally had all of the Spinal Tap mo­ments, I think [laughs]. I’ve an­nounced the wrong city – ‘Hello Cleve­land!’ – to the point I don’t do that any more. I won’t say the city even if I’m pos­i­tive I know what city I’m in. I’ve got lost back­stage at some of the big venues; it’s like a rats’ maze and you get lost. That’s why mu­si­cians love [the movie] be­cause they’ve been through it all.” What’s on your rider? “We don’t have much… peanut but­ter and jelly, so­das, chips and salsa. For some rea­son there’s this aw­ful bowl of candy that keeps reap­pear­ing, I don’t know why.” What’s the best venue you’ve played in and why? “There’s so many ties for first, but I’ll cite Glas­ton­bury as one of the coolest ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve ever had play­ing mu­sic. We got to play three years ago and it was just great. When you’re there it’s just a sea of peo­ple and they’re just bounc­ing from stage to stage hop­ing to hear some­thing they like and they’ll stay if they like it. It was neat start­ing with no­body in the tent and peo­ple just kept on com­ing. It was neat be­ing dis­cov­ered by peo­ple.” What’s the worst jour­ney you’ve had? “Oh, man there’s been some good ones. There’s a win­ery that we play in Cal­i­for­nia. It’s on the top of this moun­tain and they didn’t build the road with buses and trucks in mind. The bus driv­ers have to do all sorts of cor­rec­tions and we had the back wheels of the bus hang­ing off the side of the moun­tain at one point. But the driver didn’t tell us un­til after, so that was pretty treach­er­ous.” What’s the weird­est thing that’s hap­pened to you on tour? “The whole thing’s weird! [laughs] We got to go out and play in front of Aero­smith in my home town of Min­neapo­lis, Min­nesota so I was all ex­cited. I used to not wear shoes on stage, which proved to be un­wise. I think some­thing spilled on the stage and I just slipped. But is was like from a movie; I flew up in the air and landed on my back right in the mid­dle of a guitar solo in front of 20,000

peo­ple! Em­bar­rass­ing… it was just weird how it hap­pened; it just seemed like some­body grabbed me and threw me down to the ground and I was not ex­pect­ing it.”

What’s your best tip for get­ting the au­di­ence on your side?

“[Laughs] Give them a lot of money, that’ll do it! I don’t know, just be­ing hon­est and sin­cere and heart­felt about what you’re do­ing – I think that’s a good way to get an au­di­ence on your side. I think that’s why we love mu­sic. We love to con­nect with hu­man be­ings do­ing some sort of art with pas­sion.”

What’s your tip for good live sound?

“Ex­pe­ri­ence. You’re at the mercy of the con­di­tions at that par­tic­u­lar venue, so ev­ery show is dif­fer­ent. The vari­ables change ev­ery day and be­ing able to ac­cli­mate to them and just em­brace them. I’ve learned that if you just em­brace that: ‘Okay, it doesn’t sound good, but I’m go­ing to play any­way and make the best out of it,’ that’s kind of the key to it.”

How do you warm up be­fore a gig?

“Just some sim­ple vo­cal warm-ups and I warm down af­ter­wards. I play guitar, too. Noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar, just play guitar 15/20 min­utes be­fore­hand, get the mus­cles warmed up.”

What’s your favourite live al­bum?

“Oh man, that’s hard. There’s a James Tay­lor record from the early 90s [1993’s Live] and Donny Hath­away Live. Those are my two favourite live records. I’m a huge James Tay­lor fan; he’s my big­gest in­spi­ra­tion. The Donny Hath­away record sounds un­be­liev­able; his per­for­mance is just le­gendary. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

“I just slipped on the stage. I flew up in the air and landed on my back right in the mid­dle of a guitar solo in front of 20,000 Aero­smith fans”

Jonny and his cus­tom Tele have come far since his de­but at 13 years old

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