Jonny Lang appeared on the world’s radar as “Kid” Jonny Lang, the hotshot 14 year old guitarist with the skills to backup the hype, but has quietly evolved into one of the most consistently great artists of the past 20 years. It has been 7 years since his last album, “Turn Around” but as Lang fans know, part of the reason for his success is the quality of his catalog. The new album from Jonny Lang, “Fight For My Soul” is both the next logical step and a bold new chapter for the 32 year old guitar superstar, combining the classic blues style he’s known for playing with some refreshingly great new musical horizons. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lang about the album, his life and much more, read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi Jonny, I’ve been listening to the advance copy of your new album and fans have a lot to be excited about when it is released September 17th. I’m sure over the course of recording you kicked around a few ideas, what led you to the album title, “Fight For My Soul”?
Jonny Lang: It’s one of the tracks on the new record but I also thought it fit the all-around sentiment of the album as a whole. For me, in the past five or ten years there have been a lot of moments where I feel like I’m hanging on for dear life (laughs). So I really do feel like a lot of what was inside of me during that time ended up in these songs and that kind of made me feel like the title was fitting.
LRI: This album still contains a ton of blues element and is obviously going to appeal to all of your fans but also maybe a few people who haven’t bought a Jonny Lang record before. There is a lot of great, catchy material and it sounds like you are really reinvigorated. Were you able to write without worrying about genre or style and just pick the best possible songs?
Jonny Lang: Yeah man, this is really the first time that I haven’t been afraid to just do the music that’s coming out of me. This feels like the first time I haven’t tried to eliminate stuff that I felt wouldn’t fit or would rock the boat or be too much of a surprise to people who enjoyed past records from me. Yeah man, what you said is accurate and I’ve wanted to make this record for a long time.
LRI: I know some of the reason for the 7 year wait for this record is due to the fact that you’ve gone through some life changes and started a family. I might be reading to much into the lyrics but it seems like some of that made it into the album as well. People can watch the lyric video for your new song “Blow Up The House” and draw their own conclusions but do you feel like you’re a different guy than you were when you were doing these interviews 10 or 12 years ago?
Jonny Lang: Absolutely. Absolutely, totally different. I mean, I feel like I’m a bit more balanced than I ever have been, not such a basket case anymore (laughs). Having a family has been an incredible blessing, it was kind of the very thing I needed in my life to balance me out because I’ve been so weighted just one way and that is just no plan, no agenda, no organization, no anything, come and go as you please, make music and whatever. The thing is….you can’t do that as a dad (laughs) so having a family has been really good for me. To be totally honest, for the first year or two, it was really painful for me. It’s been a real deep thing because it kind of causes you to revisit your childhood in a lot of ways, stuff that you would never, ever choose to or want to remember in a lot of ways (laughs). Those are the things you kind of end up having to face or come back to, all kinds of hidden….bonuses (laughs) that you don’t expect to deal with. The kids themselves were amazing from the get-go so it wasn’t them at all, it was just me going through the whole growing pains to get to where I am as a father.
LRI: Do you think that having the benefit of extended time between releases allowed you to have enough pre-production time to sort out the songs without bogging yourself down when you actually got in the studio to record?
Jonny Lang: In some cases yes but in other cases no. There was a lot of flying by the seat of our pants involved also (laughs) but I enjoy that, that’s my favorite way to do it. Fortunately the musicians on the record are just so damn good that we can afford to do that and that’s kind of the fun part about recording for me. I can just go in and go “Ok, here’s the new song” and just play and sing it for them on an acoustic guitar.
LRI: You obviously get a lot of justified attention but do have a very talented band as well. The background singers and the instrumentation is top notch on “Fight For My Soul”. How do you think your band adds to the overall presentation of these songs?
Jonny Lang: The melodies and the musical arrangements themselves are pretty much intact after I bring them to the band. After that, the band brings a lot of intricacies, like “Are the drums gonna fly this groove or this groove or this groove?” or is this bass player going to follow this bassline or another route. There’s an infinite number of ways a song can be done and it’s awesome to have a group of great musicians that really know each other well, by the way, the musicians on the album are also the band who have been out on the road with me for a few years now. Just knowing each other musically so well is an amazing feeling to experience that give and take in the studio, just having that benefit of everybody knowing exactly what everyone else is going to do made it really fun. There was never a doubt for me, whether or not they were gonna interpret it in a way that would honor the song.
LRI: You have opened for the Stones and you’re currently playing some shows with Buddy Guy who you’ve known for a while now. Is it still a thrill to be able to share a stage or watch a guy like Buddy on a given night for you?
Jonny Lang: Man, absolutely. The time I’ve been able to spend hanging with Buddy and doin shows has been priceless to me. It’s been such an honor, not just because of who he is as an icon of American music but also just because of how he is as a person and how he handles that role that he has. I mean, I’m a white guy from a northern state (North Dakota) and really I have no business singing about the subject matter or doing some of the blues material that Buddy Guy does. When I started out playing that kind of music that was kind of the first time Buddy heard of me, when I was just starting out, playing straight up blues stuff. Buddy could have easily dismissed me and said “That’s a nice trick there kid but you really don’t have the right to be doing that” (laughs) and I would have totally understood. That would have been okay by me. I would have understood why he would have said that but it’s been the total opposite with him, he LOVES it when younger players pick up on the music or are influenced by the music that it derives from. He tries to make them popular, he promotes the younger artists and he’s been no different with me. He’s just a great guy in general.
LRI: Thanks for speaking with me Jonny. I look forward to seeing your new tour. Last question… now that you’re a family man how has that changed your approach to touring and being away from home?
Jonny Lang: We have kind of had this rule where I won’t be gone for more than two weeks at a time but you know how it is, when it’s a new album cycle and you’re touring to support an album you just have to expect to be gone in order to make it work. We’re gonna be spending a lot more time together as a family on the road so that should be fun!
Sep 14 Choctaw Resort & Casino Event Center w/ Keb’ Mo Durant, OK
Sep 15 Bourbon Theatre w/ Honor By August Lincoln, NE
Sep 17 Fargo Theatre Fargo, ND
Sep 18 State Theatre Minneapolis, MN
Sep 20 Coronado Performing Arts Center w/ Buddy Guy Rockford, IL
Sep 21 Overture Center for the Arts w/ Buddy Guy Madison, WI
Sep 22 The Pageant St Louis, MO
Sep 24 House of Blues Cleveland Cleveland, OH
Sep 26 Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA
Sep 27 Keswick Theatre Glenside, PA
Sep 28 Irving Plaza powered by Klipsch New York, NY
Oct 01 New Morning Paris, France Sold Out
Oct 03 Borderline London, United Kingdom Sold Out
Oct 05 Avignon Blues Festifal Avignon, France
Oct 06 X-Tra Zurich, Switzerland
Oct 08 Fabrik Hamburg, Germany
Oct 09 Zeche Bochum Bochum, Germany
Oct 10 Muffathalle Munich, Germany
Oct 12 MAGIC MIRRORS Nancy, France
Oct 14 Melkweg Old Hall Amsterdam, Netherlands
Oct 15 Ancienne Belgique Brussels, Belgium Sold Out
Oct 16 Rockpalast Crossroads Festival
w/ THE FOG JOGGERS
Oct 18 House of Blues Houston Houston, TX
Oct 19 Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival w/ Sonny Landreth,…
New Orleans, LA Free
Oct 20 House of Blues Dallas Dallas, TX
Oct 22 Ogden Theatre Denver, CO
Oct 25 Talking Stick Resort Scottsdale, AZ
Oct 26 Saban Theatre Beverly Hills, CA
Nov 05 Potawatomi Casino/Northern Lights Theater/Expo Center Milwaukee, WI
Nov 06 Potawatomi Casino/Northern Lights Theater/Expo Center Milwaukee, WI
Nov 08 House of Blues Chicago Chicago, IL
Nov 09 State Theatre, Kalamazoo Kalamazoo, MI
Nov 10 The Palladium Carmel, IN
Nov 12 The Palace Theatre Greensburg, PA
Nov 14 NYCB Theatre at Westbury Westbury, NY
Nov 15 Park Theatre Cranston, RI
Nov 16 The Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY
Nov 19 Ruth Eckerd Hall w/ Buddy Guy Clearwater, FL
Nov 20 Kravis Center w/ Buddy Guy West Palm Beach, FL
Nov 21 Knight Concert Hall w/ Buddy Guy Miami, FL
Nov 23 House of Blues Orlando Orlando, FL
Nov 24 Center Stage Theatre Atlanta, GA
Apr 28 L’Olympia Paris, France
Lead photo by Marc Nader from www.seethemuzic.com