The more I think about the music I have been exposed to during my life, I seem to have some constant questions that come to mind. These perplexing thoughts have plagued me more and more as I am reminded how long some of these musical artists have been part of my existence. Maybe it’s my age that causes my mind to be more curious about the intellectual process of creating music rather than the gratuitous emotional response. Regardless of the reason, I want to know that as an artist progresses throughout their career, are they still able to push the envelope without forgetting where they came from? Does the creative process get harder as one goes on, or does it flow from their fingertips without even thinking? Ultimately, how does our past affect the pursuit of creativity? It seems that for one musician, those thoughts are just as constant.
“The present and the future is really what we are.”
Eric Johnson has had an amazing and creatively rewarding career. From his longstanding performance history with the famed Austin City Limits, his platinum selling album Ah Via Musicom that released the Grammy Award winning song ‘Cliffs of Dover’, to a plentitude of critically acclaimed releases and collaborations over a 40 plus year career; this guitarist is still trying to create without repeating or focusing too much on the past. For a lot of artists that have this length of musical history behind them, that is a challenge that usually ends with a slew of “Best Of” albums remastered rather than straight up recreations of the hits. Or better yet, a fresh look at the same artist, all the while pulling the best parts of a lifetime of experiences. I guess I look at it this way. A few new lines on the face doesn’t change it, it just gives the familiar viewer more to look at.
Eric’s most recent album EJ was a bit of a departure so to speak. This solely acoustic album released in 2016 showed a side of this artist that was laid bare for the audience; maybe, just maybe more so than ever before. Playing non-electric leaves nothing to hide behind. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is experienced for player and instrument. It seems to remind most players just who and what they are. And for anyone that circles the world of electric guitar enough, this can either lead you down new creative paths, or leave you stranded on the roadside. It seemed to be the start of something Eric’s spirit might have needed.
After an extensive tour promoting EJ, this guitar wielding and aesthetic entertainer is back out on the road. The “Great Northern Tour 2017” is the culmination of Eric’s electric past and his laid bare acoustic subtleties. With fellow musicians Chris Maresh, Joe Travers (Berklee College of Music alumnus), and songstress and musician Arielle, this tour is proving to be an artist trying to figure out a parallel road to keep both his electric and acoustic passions going. I mean, that is all any artist wants to be able to do throughout their life, just to keep things going. Well that and to not get lost in a sea of rehashing the same old view. For Eric, it seems he is “…just trying to widen up the horizon a little bit.”
I recently had the chance to speak with Eric Johnson about his current road being traveled. Take a listen to our chat about his place in this creative life, his upcoming show at The Bull Run in Shirley, MA June 3rd, and the possibility of new music! You might just find a new creative road on your horizon…