JAM Magazine Main Features

Jonny Lang

All Grown Up And Loving It

Blues Guitarist Jumps On Board The Experience Hendrix 2012 Tribute Tour

The Experience Hendrix tour is going on its 12th year now. Though it's a showcase of Jimi Hendrix incredible, yet brief career, it's also a gathering of phenomenal guitarists who have all been touched by the legendary musician. This year's tour coming to the Winstar Casino March 23, 2012 will include several legends themselves, including Eric Johnson and Bootsy Collins who have just joined the tour. Other musicians include Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, the Doors Robbie Krieger, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos, prodigy's Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang, as well as Robert Randolph, Dweezil Zappa and Mato Nanji from Indigenous. The rhythm section consists of Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, Collins and Billy Cox, the original member of the three--piece Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jonny Lang received his first recording contract at the ripe ol' age of 15 when A&M Records signed him in 1996. The singer / songwriter didn't disappoint. He released the critically acclaimed multi--platinum hit, Lie to Me a day before his 16th birthday. The next album, Wander this World was released the following year and earned a Grammy nomination. In 2006, much to Lang's surprise, his Gospel tinged recording, Turn Around, won him his first Grammy Award. This is his fourth time as a member of the Experience Hendrix express.

JAM: How has the music of Jimi Hendrix influenced your own music and playing style?

Jonny Lang - Obviously as a guitarist, it greatly influenced me, especially the past few years I've been on this tour. Specifically, Jimi Hendrix was an artist who actually showed you how you can be completely reckless, and still do it in a way that makes sense to people. The music can still tug at their soul. He kind of helped confirm some things for me about my playing. I never considered myself a technical wizard or anything like that. You could say that I'm kind of sloppy sometimes. I always wanted to be more technically proficient, but if I was telling the truth, I'd say that I'm just too lazy to work at it (laughs). I've said this about Buddy Guy too. He and Jimi are both really good examples of refined recklessness as far as guitar players go. Hendrix brought his style to the point of being an acceptable way to play guitar to the masses, and an acceptable way to play music in general. That's why I love him and his music.

JAM: Excluding yourself, who do you think is the best guitarist on this year's Experience Hendrix tour?

I have to pick one? Oh shoot. That's like comparing apples to oranges to bananas to grapes. Everybody is incredible, but I would say that the most underrated guitarist on this tour is Mato Nanji from Indigenous. He is absolutely unbelievable. I grew up playing gigs with Mato. We've run into each other from time to time over the years, so we know each other a little bit. Every time I see him, even to this day, he gets better and better. His musicality, in general, is just awesome. I love his playing.

JAM: Which musicians are you playing with on this tour?

I'm playing most of my set with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith. I'm doing five songs with him. Mato does one of the tunes with us. I play with Billy Cox on a tune, and Buddy Guy on a couple of tunes.

JAM: Brad Whitford has always been an underrated guitar player, especially in Aerosmith, where Joe Perry always steals the spotlight.

I know, man! Tell me about it! He truly is an incredible guitarist. A lot of people hear the cool guitar on Aerosmith records, and don't realize that a lot of it is Brad. Like the song "Last Child", that's his solo, and it's one of the most memorable solos they have. Brad's great, and he's a wonderful guy to be around.

JAM: What is your favorite Hendrix song to play live?

I like playing his version Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower and "Like a Rolling Stone", which is also a Dylan song. If I'm picking one that Jimi wrote, it would be "Fire". It's just brilliant. All of his songs are, but as far as the energy of that song goes, "Fire" is the perfect name for that composition. I just love how energetic the tune is. It sounds like the entire band is flying by the seat of their pants through the whole thing, like they might not make it to the next bar. I love that about the song.

JAM: In 2006, you released the incredible, Grammy--winning album, Turn Around. I thought it was a pretty bold move to switch to a Gospel theme after being so established on the mainstream side of rock. Songs like the title track, and the very personal "Only a Man," were particularly moving pieces. Why was it important for you to do a record like that?

You know, I feel like the songs that come out of me are just a part of my life. It's like having a conversation with somebody at that particular time in my life. The recording captured a picture of where I was in that time period. Honestly, I think it was the only record I could have made with the themes that were talked about. I was just at a point where I was just really grateful for the things I had, and I still am. This particular sequence in my life was just a very grateful time, and the songs I wrote were sort of based on that emotion. It was a time of personal discovery. I guess you could say I was sort of graduating from childhood in a lot of ways. Even though I was still in my twenties, there were a lot of things I had learned, and a lot of those lessons were included in the album as well. I wrote about the same themes I would've been talking to my friends about in person, just in the format of a song. I wasn't thinking, "Hey, let's make a Gospel record." I didn't think in a million years the album would be considered. I thought people would say, "He's getting all spiritual on us. Look out!" Again, I didn't think the Grammy nominating committee would ever consider my record, much less in that category, but I'm happy they did!

JAM: It's been five and a half years since you've released a studio album. I read that you're working on some new material. When can we expect to hear it?

I'm about halfway done making the next record. It's taking a long time. Putting the songs together, along with the recording process, are actually the easy things about it. It's just that I haven't had the time to do it. With all the touring I've been doing, I haven't had that much time at home. Also, my kids are at the age that I don't want to miss as much of them as I am, let alone anymore than I am. If I were to go record every time I was off tour, I'd never be home. It's just more important to me to be home. I'm sneaking some recording in. It's taking a while, but we should get some solid blocks of recording done in the near future.

JAM: Since the Lie to Me tour, you've been making changes to your band, and they've become better and more soulful. Will you be sticking with the guys you've been touring with for the last few years, or will there be more changes?

No, man, I don't plan on making any changes anytime soon. It's funny. I never really wanted to change any band members over the years. It just sort of happened like that. People either can't be on the road, or someone leaves for one reason or the other. The band keeps evolving that way. I am so happy with the guys I have right now, they are the best musicians I've ever played with. I'm loving it right now because it's just so easy to travel with them and we all get along.

JAM: Right now, you're in the middle of your fourth Experience Hendrix tour. Out of all of those tours, what has been the greatest moment?

Man, there have been some ties for first place. I'll just pick one. There was one night where Eric Johnson was just out of control. He got totally lost in the moment. He was playing at the very edge of his ability, and it was unbelievable. That's the great thing about these tours. There are so many incredible guitarists that somebody has a moment like that every night. That's what makes this experience special.