Contributed by the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre
A Kootenay organic farmer with Prairie roots in Saskatchewan and a love for music — Johnny P. Johnson has got something genuine and relevant that engages his listeners.
It’s been a while, 10 years in fact, since Canadians have heard anything new from Johnson. But with a new album just dropped, Prairie Roots Grow Deep, it’s worth the wait. The album, true to the flag emblazoned on the front, is all about what it means to be a Canadian. Johnson will perform it at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, October 29.
Johnson writes songs about both the simplicity and complexity of life, accompanied with his creative harmonica and strong rhythm guitar. He has previously seen success with his last album, which was nominated for album of the year by the B.C. Country Music Association. But with the pressures of life and family calling in Shoreacres, just outside of Nelson B.C., Johnson took a hiatus from pursuing his musical passions.
“After being involved with two bands, several recording projects, and a solo project I thought I should concentrate on my children and their final years at home,” Johnson explained. “For seven or eight years I let the music go to the back burner, you might say. “
But ideas for new songs were fermented during this time and when inspiration struck, Johnson wrote music and kept the fire alive.
“Music has always been a friend of mine and I decided to embrace it again now that I have the time,” he said. “The songs on my new album were actually written during this period of time that I took off with my kids. Having the hiatus allowed me to experiment with them until I felt they were ready to record.”
Johnson’s style is what he says CBC would likely classify as alternative country, but it has a unique vibe that Johnson labels ranch rock.
For the Revelstoke show Johnson will be joined by his teenage son Javan Johnson on violin, mandolin and backup vocals. Guitarist Jason Thomas and stand-up bass player Hal Rezansoff, both Kootenay musicians, will also be on deck for the performance.
With a talented crew and a fresh new album, Johnson is excited to bring his unique style to Revelstoke.
“I’d like to think my music has sincerity and a realness that will connect with my audience and listeners,” Johnson said.
Johnie P. Johnson playes at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre this Saturday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. You can read a full Q&A with the performer after the video.
Q&A with Johnny P Johnson
If you just met someone in Revelstoke and they were thinking of coming to your gig, how would explain your show and sound?
For years my oldest son would say, “Dad you’ve got to do something with your music.” So I did and because he thought others should hear my music, I decided to record again and get my music out there. It was pretty neat to have your teenage kids like your music.
The coolest part is my son, who plays mandolin and an energetic violin/fiddle, is now able to play and tour with me. As far genre, CBC would probably label it as alternative country like Blue Rodeo and such. But it also has a driving roots, folk vibe which I call Ranch Rock. For my show I am also joined by a stand up bass and guitar player.
Have you been to Revelstoke before?
I am very excited to play in Revelstoke. I love the feel of the town. I have never played here before, but I know the hockey rink and the soccer field. Years ago I played university hockey with an old friend from Revelstoke that lost his life at an early age, so I always think of him when I come through this area.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened for you lately and why?
I think finally finishing an album and getting songs out there is exciting for an artist. Working with an award-winning producer like Tom McKillip who was so closely connected to and who played with Ian Tyson for years was pretty exciting as well.
Also you can’t help smiling when you hear your first single on the radio after working hard to finish and get it out there.
What hobbies do you do outside of your music to help you recharge and inspires you in your music? How does it help?
I am an organic farmer in the Kootenays. I also have a farm in Saskatchewan that I go out to three times a year. I think that being tied to the land grounds me. Much of what I write about is what happens around me and the everyday things that affect people’s lives.
Who are some of your favourite composers, musicians and bands from the past and present?
I’ve always been a big Blue Rodeo fan. I think they have always stayed true to their music, never trying to go after a type of genre. They just played songs that they are inspired to write and perform.
Also Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson are all songwriters that I very much admire. I like the old time country greats like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. They both headlined music festivals I’ve played in and it was a pleasure to see them live back stage.
In addition, I tend to gravitate to Americana artists like Buddy Miller, Jamie Johnson, Lucinda Williams and the likes of Sturgill Simpson to name a few.
What’s do you prefer: performing or writing/jamming and why?
I like all three and all three offer a different experience. Singing harmony and playing harmonica with other musicians is always fun, but singing live in front of an audience is energizing for me. The process of writing songs takes me to another place that is hard to explain.
What is your most valued material possession?
Some of my farmland in Saskatchewan has been in my family for generations. I feel very connected when I am there. I know I’ll never sell the farm.
Is there a particular song or musical passage that never fails to move you emotionally?
It is pretty tough to beat How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace.
What are you thankful for?
This one is easy. My wife and children for sure.
What decision did you have to make, or support you received, that was critical to your career?
Support from the BC Country Music Association back in the ‘90s with two album nominations help validate my songwriting. They are a very supportive group.
Also when fellow musicians, comment on your songs and say, “These are good songs,” that’s when you feel you are on the right track. It’s all about the songs.
I spent a lot of time sitting in a church as a kid. It wasn’t particularly fun, but I remember how good singing some of that gospel music made me feel. I think that is why I like music.
For a long time though, it was all about hockey and sports in general. Although this sounds funny, singing at the back of the hockey bus and at parties did inspire me to take my music further into songwriting and performing when that part of my life was done.