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Bohemian of the Month: Justin Johnson

by Erik Brock December 25, 2016

Bohemian of the Month: Justin Johnson

We had the privilege of sitting down with Nashville songwriter and guitarist,  Justin Johnson! Justin is one of the most dynamic players we’ve ever seen – incorporating soul,  roots, country and blues to create his own unique and seamless tone. He’s been known to play a wide variety of funky instruments – from one string slide guitars to cigar box guitars – and now his very own vintage BoHo! We’re excited to welcome him into our #TeamBoHo family and we’re eager to announce him as October’s  Bohemian of the Month! 

Erik:  “You recently ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign for your album,  If Walls Could Talk, that was recorded in the famous  Cash Cabin in Tennessee. How much preparation went into writing and recording this album? What was the biggest obstacle in the whole process?”

Justin: “I moved to Nashville last December, after living on the road and touring full-time for 4 years.  I settled into a historic Braxton Dixon house in the Tennessee hills, and began the writing process for “If Walls Could Talk,” inspired by Nashville’s rich musical culture, and also the art, history, and architecture of that home.  Braxton Dixon is the master builder who built Johnny Cash’s iconic la
ke house, and also played a part in the construction of Cash Cabin Studio.  His artistic legacy is a thread that is woven into every aspect of this album.

The biggest obstacle with the album project was that I performed  all of the parts for every instrument myself.  In other words, I arranged all of the songs, chose the instruments best-suited for the arrangements, test recorded all of the songs thoroughly, and then, once we went into the studio, played everything from upright bass and cigar box guitar, to mandolin and mandocello, myself.  You can watch the entire studio recording process on the Behind-the-Scenes DVD that is included with each “If Walls Could Talk” CD.”

Pick up a copy at:  www.JustinJohnsonLive.com

Erik: “Some would say you’re a bit of a “roots revivalist”. It’s extremely rare to come by a guitarist with your style and raw finesse – especially in this day and age. What does roots music mean to you?”

Justin: “I think of Roots Music as the pure wellspring of creative expression that led to many of the refined, altered, and polished genres of music that we hear today.  If I love a genre of music, I always trace that genre back to where it came from.  For example, in my approach to Blues music, rather than following modern day Blues, I am much more interested in immersing myself in the gospel melodies, early folk songs, hymns, work chants, and field hollers that led to today’s Blues music.  That is the music that inspired those early Blues players, and led them to develop the style that we now call “Blues.”

With Jazz music, I look more toward the early Dixieland, Jug Bands, and Ragtime pianists who first defined the genre, than towards the later artists who broke the early forms of Jazz up into sub-genres such as Bebop, Smooth Jazz, Big Band, and Fusion.  All of those later genres have enormous value and merit, but I don’t feel the full magic of the later genres without first understanding the language that spawned them… starting with the modern incarnations would be akin to reading a great book by opening it up in the middle instead of starting on the first page.

To me, the beauty and power of “roots” music lies in drawing inspiration from the deepest sources available, and then elaborating on those foundations with the entire vocabulary that we have available to us today.”

Erik:   “If you could write and record a song with any artist (dead or alive) who would it be and why?”

Justin: “Thats a tough question because there are so many incredible guitarists who aren’t with us anymore, who have influenced my style and approach to music; Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt, Lightning Hopkins, Jimi Hendrix, Doc Watson… the list goes on and on.  But if I had to choose one artist who I could record with, it would have to be  Jimi Hendrix.  I’ve always felt a deep connection with his music, and if there was one guitarist who understood the language that I try to speak through the guitar, it is him.  His technique, style, and fearless approach to blending the past with the future has always been something that I’ve striven towards, well before hearing him for the first time.  But once I heard that first Hendrix song, I knew that someone out there was hearing and speaking that same language… leaning on feel, emotion, and genuine self-expression as a technique, instead of techniques that were already pre-defined, polished, and neatly packaged.  I love how he always challenged the listener, while at the same time giving them exactly what they wanted, and I would have loved to have had the chance to collaborate and record with him.”

Erik: “What does your typical day look like? I know for many musicians, day to day life can look much different than most peoples. Are you able to do music full time? Do you tour? Give lessons? Maybe all of the above!?”

Justin: “The Short Answer: All of the above… every day!

The Long Answer: I am a full-time musician every minute of the day.  The first job I ever had was being a full-time musician, and I have been fortunate to be able to stay on that path ever since.  I wake up thinking about music, and I go to bed thinking about it.  Planning albums, teaching lessons, arranging songs, rehearsing live show, booking gigs, answering interviews (like right now), and the countless tasks that make it possible for me to do what I love for a living.

The most  important thing, though, is reaching the audience with something new and genuine every single day… whether it’s through a live show, an online live stream, a video on  Youtube, a blog article, a newsletter, or anything in between.  I’m always looking for ways to give back to the people who make this all possible… the fans!”

Erik:  “With the thousands of hours you’ve put into developing your skill and craft, you could probably play/record with just about anyone! Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?”

Justin: “I always try to plan ahead one step at a time, but the next steps I’m most interested in are more film and soundtrack work (I’ve recently had original music featured on nationally airing commercials and in the Ken Burns documentary “ Jackie Robinson”) and also collaboration with other artists.  I’ve released my last two albums as a soloist, recording all of the instruments myself, but some of my favorite albums are the result of collaborations between different musicians who expanded upon their solo careers by teaming up with other artists to create legendary albums through their combined visions.  While I can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet, my next album will be a collaborative, full-band album.  This is the first time I’ve said anything about it publicly, as its still in it’s early stages, but you can look forward to some exciting collaborations on the next album, and you can bet there will be a Bohemian Guitar on there, as well!  We will be releasing more information soon from my website, so stay tuned!”

To learn more about Justin and his music, check out the links below:

Official Website:  www.JustinJohnsonLive.com
Official Online Store Link:   www.RootsMusicSchool.com/store.html

To see Justin’s first reaction to his Vintage BoHo, check out his unboxing video below:

Live Bohemian Guitar Unboxing:  https://youtu.be/gFQ3SIrF3m0

Erik Brock
Erik Brock


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