June 23, 2022

Jacob Johnson, Musician, Songwriter, Teacher

Jacob Johnson, Musician, Songwriter, Teacher
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Have you ever wondered what it's like for your favorite band when they are on the road touring? My guest Jacob Johnson talks about the highs and lows of touring and playing in front of an audience, from writing songs without a guitar, to how Willie Nelson and his grandma inspried his journey to working musician.

Follow Jacob on Instagram - @jacobjohnsontunes 

Find him on tour on his website, JacobJohnsonTunes.com 

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I think his inability to deal with his demons kept him from doing his best work.

Welcome to another episode of Chewing The Fat. I am your host, Big Robb. Thank you so much for tuning in, downloading, following the podcast. I certainly do appreciate that. Thank you to the folks that have bought me a coffee at ChewingTheFatBR.com. I appreciate your financial support of the podcast. And also thanks for the folks that have picked up a journal on the website as well. I really hope that helps you in your journey, in your mental health journey. That's that's really cool. So I hope you're able to put that into some good use.

I'm very excited about my guest today. Tried to get him in for kind of December for all the music episodes and stuff like that. And just schedules did not work out, but he is here now, please welcome my music guy. It's the one and only Jacob Johnson. I'm here. Man, I'm glad we're doing this. This is so cool. I'm glad we made it work. I am too. And that I'm here in person. I've done these things on Zoom or on the phone before, and that's fine. Yeah. But it was a nice excuse to...

cruise down to North Augusta and you know. Well this isn't that far, I mean this isn't unfamiliar territory. No, no not at all. Little pop down highway 25 and here we are. Yeah, so I mean cause I think I was first introduced to you here playing in Augusta. It may have been a Ryan Abel intro or something like that. Probably, probably. Where you may have been jamming with him down at like Metro or something. Probably something like that. Somewhere like that. Yeah, he was probably involved somehow.

Yeah, and Augusta and North Augusta, like this whole area, it was one of the first places I started playing out of town, you know, when I started traveling to play a little bit. I mean, I had Greenville locked down, but then there was Augusta, North Augusta, Florence was another place I was hitting. What we in show business call secondary markets, no offense, but I mean, and Greenville's one of those too. I mean, Greenville's a little bigger, but yeah, you go to just nice, chill, like smaller towns and find the people who...

want to come hear you. Yeah, no, that's awesome. So is, uh, in Europe in travelers rest, is that homes that born bread? Yeah, that's where I come, you know, Northern Greenville County travelers rest or thereabouts Landrum, you know, they're close by. Okay. Okay. Um, have you always been musically inclined in your, in your wee youths? Well, man, when I was a young kid, like two, three, pretty much from the time I could like, you know, have a thought or stand up to,

you know, in front of the TV. Anytime there was a guitar player on TV, if it was Buck Owens and Roy Clark on Hee Haw, or if it was the Dillards playing the Darling family on the Andy Griffith Show, I was like mesmerized by the TV if anybody was playing guitar. And same, you know, every once in a blue moon, we'd have like a Southern gospel group with a guitar player, you know, at the church where my dad was preaching. My grandmother played a little bit, so every now and then she'd get the guitar out, and I was just like,

everything shut down in my brain, and I just honed in on what was going on with the fingers. It wasn't even necessarily, I knew it was happening in the hands, and I was staring at the hands. Yeah. So by the time I really started learning, you know, in earnest when I was 11, 12, 13, around in there, it sort of felt like the culmination of, you know, something that my young life had been leading to already. It was like, yeah, I'm...

old enough to like, I'm gonna really learn to play this thing. The guitar is not larger than me anymore. Exactly, yeah. No, that's awesome. Yeah, and I guess just that just being indoctrinated in that, you know, in those previous years, to get reached 11, 12 or whatever, you know, and just always being around that and being fascinated by it. Yeah. That's so cool. That is so cool. Did you, from 11, 12 years old, did you take any like official?

Lessons or no, no, and I'm not I'm not really what they call paper trained. Okay, my My dad's mom we called her mom Johnson. She played and sang and she would play in Like in pickup bands. So when country acts would tour in the 40s and 50s They wouldn't carry their whole band and everything around with them It'd be the star and maybe a sideman and then they would just hire people in whatever town they were in so she got to

like singing play with Ernest Hubb and Hank Snow and people like that when she was coming up. Oh wow, that's too cool. Yeah, yeah, so and she taught me the first three or four chords that I learned. And she didn't, you know, she didn't get the guitar out very often, I didn't hear her play a lot. But she taught me the first few chords and kind of set me on my way a little bit. Yeah, that's awesome. And then so from that point on, it just, you just kind of diving into it more. Yeah, kind of, I mean, I was sort of slowly

wading into it because I mean to be honest nobody else in my family is really I Mean musical necessarily. Okay. I mean they would listen to the radio and my mom would put records on every now and then But I was in a lot of ways. I was sort of on my own, you know finding So the stuff I started listening to was what my mom would put on which was like old Elvis records Roger Miller still have Roger Miller and Johnny Cash

Gotcha. And so that that's what I was listening to when I was 12 years old um A buddy of mine who I'm I'm still really close with uh, chuck He was he was

He's about, I don't know, maybe 15 years older than I am. So when I was first starting to learn, he was in his late 20s, and he could play. And he was into The Dead and Tony Wright. And he was my guy. When you're getting into music, you've got your guy that's a little older than you that shows you how to do Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz. And it kind of hips you to the stuff you need to be hip to. And it ended up his wife wasn't able to go to see Willie Nelson with him.

So we had this extra ticket to see Willie Nelson at the Peace Center. And I was like, I'll go see Willie Nelson at the Peace Center. And man, Willie, that was probably 1998 or so, when Willie was playing, he played all his stuff. But he did a bunch of jazz standards. He was on a big like Django Reinhardt kick. So that got me on Django when I was like 12. And I started checking out Django tapes from the library. Oh, that's awesome. And it was a, you know, if it hadn't been for that,

not, you know, there's no telling what I would be doing right now or even what I would be listening to. Yeah. But I would assume that, like you said, being able to see it live, there's different magic that happens in a room where you've got an audience and there's a live performance going on as opposed to watching it on television. Yeah. You can get excited about television concerts and things like that. Yeah.

but there's a special stank, there's a special magic that just happens when it's live. No, that's definitely true. And he was still, I mean, he was in his late 60s, early 70s, where he was then. He was still doing like two and a half hours and then another 30 or 45 minutes of encores. I mean, they were still really long shows. And I just saw him a couple of weeks ago and he was still doing 90 minutes. I mean, you know, 89 years old, God bless him. Yeah. And I'll keep going as long as he keeps doing it. Yeah, for sure.

But it also, I don't know, it kind of gives you a frame of reference, too, if you have all this, you know, music is so overwhelming. There's so much to listen to and to learn and try to process and learn the history of. So kind of having, I think I helped to have one guy who sort of could carry me through everything from Hank Williams to blues and jazz standards and Django and Chris Christopherson. And it was one stop shopping.

Kind of, you know, it gave me a little bit of everything early on. No, that's awesome. That's awesome. Do you have, do you remember like the first song you learned to play? Let's see what sticks out. And I know, I know it wouldn't have been the very first because it's got a lot of chords in it. Okay. But crazy by Willie was, was one of the very first. Yeah. And

Yeah, and he had a lot of chords in it. I don't know what I was doing, but I worked my way through it and I could do it. Now, he has a very specific style. You have a very specific style that I absolutely love. It's finger style. That's what that terminology is for this thing. I'm kind of what you'd technically call hybrid, because a finger style player will usually either play

with just his fingers or maybe with a thumb pick like Tommy Emmanuel or Chet Atkins. I use all the fingers in my right hand like a finger style player, but I've also got that flat pick. So I'm using both. I'm using both. So they call that hybrid, which is, I mean, it's just what feels natural to me. Some people are like, man, like, must take some, and it does take a lot of practice, but it's more comfortable to me than just straight flat picking or just straight like.

just playing with my fingers. Right, right. And, well, this is gonna sound like a dumb question. It's like, did it take you a long time to learn that? But I mean, you wouldn't know because that's the style that you learned to play from the beginning, right? Yeah, yeah. And, well, when I first started, let's see, I mean, when I was really learning my way around the guitar, I got an electric guitar from my mom's parents, you know. So the grandparents have really...

been my guides musically in a lot of ways. So they got me my first electric guitar. And right about that time, I was starting to journey into from Johnny Cash into like Carl Perkins, but then from Carl Perkins kind of into like this whole world of blues, and then Clapton and Hendrix and David Gilmore, the Strat guys. So really all through high school, I was doing just really meat and potatoes,

guitar, strat style. So I started doing the acoustic thing a little bit more when I was maybe 18, 19, and I was using my fingers more, but the hybrid thing I think sort of started evolving from there. Yeah, yeah. So were you in high school? Did you have any bands that you were a member of? Yeah, no, there was, I mean, really there was one band that I played with from probably the time I was about...

14 or 15 Up until I was in college and we had you know, we'd lose a member here gain a member there It wasn't the exact same four guys the whole time, but it was essentially the same band for a lot of years Yeah, and we'd gig a little bit. I was the youngest we were all within three or four years of each other, but And we would do the we did the Wild Wings. Yeah

You know, we came down and hit the one down here. And you know, because they were all, I don't know how it is now, I'm sure they're probably all still booked somewhat corporately. There was like one guy who booked all of them in South Carolina, North Carolina. So we did the Wild Wing circuit. And you know, if you're 16 years old and you've got, you know, 500 bucks a night for four guys, I mean, a buck 25, that's what I would have made doing a part-time job. So that was essentially like the only.

summer job I ever had, you know, was playing guitar at Wild Wings and where, you know, wherever else. Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. Type of music did you guys play? Was it the kind of rock and roll stuff? Yeah, I mean, everything. And we did a good bit of original stuff, but we did, you know, like the kind of stuff you got to, you got to play at a wing joint. I mean, cause that was what we listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jackson five and, you know, Prince and Bob Marley and.

you know, Hendrix, all that stuff. Yeah, yeah. Did you kind of find your voice in those days too? I mean, literal, like, taking on singing and stuff like that? No, I would sing a little bit, but I just enjoyed playing guitar. You know, we had another singer. I'd write some of the stuff, and I would do harmonies here and there, but I just enjoyed being in the back and interacting with the band. And I still enjoy doing that when I get a chance to, and letting somebody else.

be up front and I'm just kind of grooving in the back. Yeah. You know, taking really unnecessarily long solos to fill a four hour set. That's awesome. That's awesome. What was the name of the band? For the first couple of years, we were called Exit 39. And then after that, we were Alternative Solution, which makes us sound like an alternative band. But we were still just kind of a funky, you know, sort of quasi-jam band-ish a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. Very cool.

So did you go to college? I did, I went to college and I finished in three years. I didn't graduate, but I finished. Was music part of that as far as like, were you going for your musical degree or something? No, I didn't know what I was doing. And if I had it to do again, I mean, obviously I would have done the same thing because if I hadn't had different information, I've realized looking back,

that I did not have really musical mentors. I mean, I had people who kind of like helped me out when I was a kid, but when I started playing music full time, I didn't know anybody else that played music full time. And there was nobody to say like, well, if you wanna do this.

then you should move here, you should go to this school, or you should do that, or if you want to do this, then you should move to this city. And this is kind of the, because there are sort of these paths, even in kind of, even within the arts, music, theater, whatever, there are sort of paths to careers, just like anything else. And I didn't know that. So I was like, well, I mean, I'm playing gigs, and I'm paying bills, and I'm starting to put out some music. So yeah, this is what I need to do.

and now however many years later I'm the adjunct guitar instructor at the college that I dropped out of. So that's one for our side. There you go. That's one for our side. Awesome. What a win. It's like you're gonna pay me back the money I paid you for that three-year education. It's the long way to get it back. Yeah, yeah. Well, and I'm after that honorary degree. Yeah. You know, that's my path. That's my track. Yeah, I have faith in you. It'll happen.

Um, have you, you know, with your, your playing and, and all like that, do you have any other like passions outside of music really? Um, yeah, I mean, I enjoy, um, I enjoy anyone who has sort of a unique medium to tell stories. So I love, um, you know, I love Chaplin.

I went through a big Chaplin journey a couple of years ago. But I'm big on Gene Kelly, the way you had, who was the guy before, Fred Astaire. If you look at a Fred Astaire movie, when he does the dance number, everything stops. But when Gene Kelly came along, he was using his art form, dance, to the last 20 minutes of An American in Paris.

is like this impressionistic ballet with no dialogue and it resolves the plot. Yeah. And so that, like, I'm into that kind of thing. Whether it's, you know, or Hitchcock. I'm a big Magic fan. I love David Copperfield. Oh, wow. People think of David Copperfield, and they think, statue of liberty and trains and great wallets. But he's a theater nerd.

And he's very detail oriented and the stuff that he does in his live shows is that there's a lot of storytelling and a lot of You know a lot of creativity and he's a very driven performer. Yeah, and I don't know that's the kind of stuff that inspires me That's awesome. Yeah, it's so cool for you to take that kind of inspiration and I Don't want to say that you're like doing magic tricks on stage when you perform, but I mean

For somebody who doesn't know how to play guitar, you are doing magic tricks. Well, and I use that still. Like, when I was younger, I was really into sleight of hand. And like, I was in deep. I'd go to like conventions and things like that. And I was pretty good. I haven't kept my chops up. But there's a lot of stuff about controlling an audience and connecting with an audience and entertaining and commanding attention that has really stuck with me. Yeah. You know?

I think I have, I think I saw you do a, a YouTube video or something where you did, you kind of had the hidden flat pick that you, little hidden flat pick trick that you kind of palm the flat pick to hide it while you were doing your hybrid work. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that's a great example. But also there was a time, I couldn't have been more than 16 years old and I was performing for a big group of kids. It was either at a school. I want to say it was at a school somewhere.

And there was this one kid who was just really just being very just talking and being disruptive and just moving around and distracting everybody. So I pulled him up on stage and I gave him a a handkerchief to hold, you know, with great into like hold this just like hold it up where everybody can see it and you stay right there. And I just left him there. That's crowd control, man. That is knowing how to deal with an audience. Yeah.

That's awesome. And you totally use that kind of thing in bars. I try not to play a lot of those anymore if I don't have to, because I can't do the kind of show that I really like to do in one. But yeah, when you're doing magic, you have to be really tuned into where everyone's attention is. And you really know if they're looking at the place they're not supposed to look, and you know how to get them to look somewhere else. And man, when you're by yourself on stage, or for me

I know if there's somebody having a conversation in the bathroom, you know, like I really, I can feel when I'm losing people's attention, I can feel when I've really got like a moment that I can draw out. And I think that's something that's somewhat unique to a solo performer that you don't totally get if you're playing with an ensemble or if you're part of a cast or something. Right. Do you find that, and I would assume it's true, but you may tell me no, I've got it completely wrong, but...

in that when you're crafting a solo performance, when you put your set list together, you're taking the audience on a journey, I would assume. I'm assuming there's storytelling involved in the songs that you play after each other or whatever. Totally. I don't work off a set list hardly ever. Sometimes you have to if there's something, like back when people used to listen to the radio, you'd have to...

Do all that so they could pay ASCAP and BMI and all that kind of thing But I do kind of have Sort of blocks of songs or certain things that I know like okay after I do this song or song a B or C, you know, that's a Certain feel or length or a certain type of song. I know I need to follow it up with one of these. Yeah So I kind of think in blocks and I do try to think maybe two or three steps ahead. Yeah

And and I I try to feed off the audience, you know Like it's like I say I can tell when I'm starting to lose them or when like I've really got their attention and I can maybe Do something a little more drawn out? I know if I tried to make a list I'd get halfway through a song and be like, oh, yeah Yeah, they're done with me right now. Yeah Do you do any like?

audience engagement in between the songs like that. Do you do actual like storytelling or background on any of the songs? Yeah, a little bit. It's sort of, you know, it comes and goes and things kind of evolve different ways, you know over time. I want the songs to speak for themselves. And I think for the most part they do just because that's that's more or less my my style of songwriting is pretty cut and dry. It's very narrative. There's not usually a lot of explaining that has to happen.

But for certain songs there is, or I might want to set it up a certain way and let people know what they're in for so that they can be ready when they hear the first couple of lines. So they kind of know how they're supposed to respond. Right, right. Going back to Magic, they say in Magic that you need to tell the audience what you're going to do, do it, and then tell them that you did it. Right. And so, and I think that can probably apply to most of...

the performing arts on some level. I mean, yeah, you've made a contract with the audience that you're gonna do a certain thing. Yeah. You gotta kinda do that. Yeah, yeah. And there's, you know, for example, I've got a song, The Ferry Boat Waltz, and it ends on this really unresolved chord. It ends on like a five chord instead of going back to the one. And, you know, that can be hard to do because people don't know if they should clap, but I'm very intentional.

with my body language, I hit that chord, I kind of pause for a second. Give a little bit. Yeah, and then I relax, and I sort of tell them with my body language, I did it, that was it, it's time for you to clap now. Yeah, yeah. And a lot of times you see somebody maybe ending a song that way, and the audience doesn't know what to do, because they're not, the performer's not telling the audience if it's over yet. They're kind of still in suspense a little bit.

themselves too. Maybe because they're waiting to see if anybody's gonna clap, but no, they're not gonna clap till you relax and tell them it's over. Right. Pow. So, do you have like any current projects you're working on? I know you had, I guess it was right, it was in November or so, you released the Hymn Project. Yeah, yeah, I did, I did a, I guess more or less an EP of gospel tunes. Mm-hmm. I've got a couple of things.

I'm working, so sort of my COVID project was assembling a small home studio, which that was never something I really wanted to do, but I didn't have anything else going on. So I got some gear and my drummer in Atlanta, he's got a little recording set up so I could send him stuff and he could send it back to me. And I've slowly learned how to work my way around, you know, like...

a DAW, Ableton, Logic, I'm kind of learning a little bit in both. Right. So, I've never had a lot of success working with producers and getting a sound I wanted. So what I've done with a couple of things recently is I've mixed it and gotten it pretty doggone close and then sent it to the guy that really knows how to do it and be like, okay, here's what I wanted to sing, here's what I'm going for. Now you do...

Finishing yeah, you do the fancy stuff to it right you went to school for that. This is what I'm going for Yeah, that last bit of polish. Yeah, so there's there's a couple of there There's one thing I've got I got one in the chamber that'll that'll come out probably in maybe a month or so and a few others that I'm More like in the beginning stages of is there a certain theme to it. Are we doing more gospel tunes?

There's so much I want to do. These are original. There's one called, the one that'll come out first, unless just something crazy happens, it's pretty much done, it's called Surviving the Dream. And it's pretty much about what we're doing right now. Like you started a podcast. Like it's cool to play music full time. It's about that moment in hopefully everyone's life where

You have to do something really foolish and unwise because you know it's the right thing to do. Yeah. And so that's called Surviving the Dream, and it's kind of fun. And I stole the melody of the old song from the 1800s, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. You know that? We had weird childhoods if we'd know that song, because I guess other people don't know that. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that came out pretty nice, and I'm

some swag together for that. Because if it's a single, people want to support you. And I want to let them. So I want to come up with, I want to have a cool t-shirt design or a poster, some things like that that people can put their hands on. That's awesome. Yeah, I love your music. And I'll just say this because we're talking about music. Your Christmas album is one of my absolute favorites. Wild and sweet. Thank you.

I, and I'm one of those weirdos that listen to Christmas music year round. I hear you. So you are getting your, you know, your fractional, fractional, fractional pennies from me, from streaming. I appreciate it. From streaming those songs. I appreciate that. Well, I say that. I actually bought it on iTunes so that you would get more money. Well, thank you. You know, cause that's. Even better. Yeah, well, you know, that's the thing. A lot of people don't realize that. It's like, it is fractions of cents that you get per stream. It is, but you know, that stuff's not going anywhere.

And it's its own thing. Nothing stays the same. The music business has never not been in flux. And I guess what I've been aware of very recently is that while streaming can be a problem, or it's frustrating in a lot of ways, but you don't have to pay $2,000 for 1,500 CDs that are going to have to sit.

And you're probably gonna house or your closet or something trunk and you're selling them in a parking lot Yeah store. Yeah. Yeah. No, I totally understand that I do recommend folks that if you do if you have a friend that does music Or you have a friend that does theater if you have a friend that does anything where they ask you Hey, I'd love if you would support me and you ask them. How can I support you buy a ticket? Don't ask them to give you a ticket to go see the show buy a ticket to the show

If they have an album and they release it digitally and it's gonna be on Apple Music or Spotify or something like that, ask them is there a link I can actually buy the album? Sure. You know, because there, that's, yes, love equity is, it warms our hearts as performers and things like that, but the more that you are able to put your dollars behind that love, it allows people to do more stuff. Yeah.

and to do more projects and do more of those things. That's what keeps theaters open and keeps bands traveling and keeps artists with paint and paintbrushes. It really does. And you're also, when you buy a ticket to a concert or to see a show or something, you're also supporting people who are supporting the actors. Like that theater is paying the actors or they're giving me a guarantee or something. Like you're...

helping them get the return on their investment that they're putting into people like you and me. Exactly, exactly. And I think that's so important. So if you have the desire to support, support. Yeah. Really support. Yeah. Because that's the thing is like, as a friend of someone, you feel bad to tell them, no, I'm not gonna.

give you a ticket or maybe you just don't have the tickets to give or you don't have a redemption code to download the album for you or something. It's okay. Go ahead and spend the 10 bucks. Buy the album. Pay the cover. Buy food. Buy drinks. The two-drink minimum. Yeah, whatever it is. Yeah, leave a big tip. Whether it's for the musician or the staff, again, even the theater in the city, they're supporting me by having me be there. Absolutely.

Another one of your favorite, not your favorite, my favorite, my favorite songs of yours is the Pamlico sound. What's the story behind that? Well, there's a really cool music festival I played at a lot of probably five or six years in a row, a lot of years, and that's a lot of years in a row to do a music festival because there's, you know, they want to get other people in. Out on Okraoke Island.

And I guess I wrote that song after being out there the first year and just having a great time and feeling really inspired. And I came back. I guess on the drive out there, I had seen signs for the Pamlico Sound, because that's the body of water between the coast of North Carolina and the Outer Banks right in that area. And that just kind of went in the file a little bit. Pamlico Sound, OK. And I think.

That was probably knocking around in my head for a little while. And I think a lot of it came together on a bike ride. I was just, you know, riding my bike and it's a good way to clear your head and, you know, toss lyric ideas around. I think most of that I came up with on that bike ride. The music was really inspired by that violin piece from

the Ken Burns Civil War documentary, Ashok and Farewell or Ashok and Farewell, I'm not sure how you're supposed to say it. Do do do, do do do do, do do do, do do do do. So I kind of had this melody in my head that was sort of based around that. And I kind of arranged the guitar around the melody, which this is kind of getting into like guitar, you know, guitar geek area. But it's easy when you're writing,

if you're a guitar player at any level, to just kind of let your hands drive and let your hands do the patterns that they're used to doing. And that's not usually good. It's better to let your ear drive, you know, and let your hands kind of find the thing that you're hearing so that you're not just regurgitating patterns and shapes and things that you've done a million times. So that song was definitely an example of that. Yeah.

Is that kind of what your writing process is normally like? Do you do lyrics you come up lyrics first and then music is it always music first and lyrics? The music versus lyrics that's that's a little different for everyone I think but I do usually try to not write with a guitar in my hands because I'll just I'll sit and play You know, so I'm I might get part of a melody with a guitar in my hands or I might use a guitar to kind of like

flesh out a melody or finish finding it. But it's better for me to write like with a notepad and pen and not be fiddling around with the guitar the whole time. So for you it's easier to go ahead and get that rhyming structure or whatever the, whatever your first chorus bridge, chorus verse, whatever laid out and then.

And then I kind of arrange it. Yeah, I was about to say, I would assume, even though you're writing words and rhymes, you're probably forming those notes as you're saying them and what's gonna lift, what's gonna drop, you know, the dynamics necessarily of the piece, and then would inform the playing part of it. And then I've got people I'll show it to, and depending on what the song is and kind of what it feels like and what direction it's going.

There are different people that I might take it to. Friends that I've got a buddy up in North Carolina who went to school for screenwriting at USC in California. And so he has this great way of analyzing structurally what's happening in the three acts and where I'm getting off track or what I need to wrap it up. And we've written a couple of songs together.

And you know, and there's stuff that he brings me that I can give sort of a unique ear to. Yeah, that's an awesome way, I never even thought of it in filmmaking terms of the acts of a movie or a play. But yes, it's the same type of thing in a song. Yeah, and all storytelling is that way, you know, on some level, I mean, Charles Schultz, three frames, man, like simple lines.

Only I've got a book sitting on my coffee table that's a bunch of Charles Schultz drawings and ephemera and that kind of, and it's called Only What's Necessary. And man, like if you can't be inspired by that as a songwriter, like, okay, how does this guy tell a story with a beginning and a middle end and end with like three frames? Because songwriting is very limiting in that way, you know? It needs to be short to keep people's attention and to keep from getting monotonous.

And just the verses and choruses, just poetry in itself, if you're writing to a structure, it's very limiting. So you have to be a problem solver. And that's kind of what it is, I think. That's awesome. Seeing as you're here, and I didn't ask this before, would you want to?

play anything. I know you don't have a guitar in your hand right this second, but I have them within arm's reach. I could play something. And I got mine in the car or I can play one we got here. I'm easy man. You sure? Yeah. Okay. Hang on. Live in studio, it's Jacob Johnson with Pamlico Sound.

Stars are her covers and the ocean's her lover But she knows that he gets around

Breeze heaves a sigh like a salty lullaby She falls asleep to the Pamlico sound

They've been calling for showers for three or four hours. But the rain, been a drop, hit the ground. The Atlantic's just right on this Saturday night as she falls asleep to the Pamlico sound.

in the water like her old grandpa taught her and her poles by her side on the ground and she'll sit there till it's night just watching them bite

She throws him back in the Pamlico Sound.

Like the waves and the foam, she follows the tide, because she knows it'll bring her back home.


The roads that she'll travel are steep and paved with gravel But she left her problems in town

She holds time in her hands and as rain hits the sand, she falls asleep to the Pamlico sound.

That was awesome. Thanks, man.

All right, Jacob, this is the second part of the show. This is where we kind of dive a little bit deeper into you. We'll talk more about mental health and maybe your mental health journey. I personally deal with like depression, down days. Some days I just, it's like, it's hard to get out of the bed. It's just a sad down day. Sometimes you just need to cry. It just happens. And I think everybody deals with that stuff in.

Everybody needs to know that everybody deals with that, that you're not alone in those days. Everybody kind of has those. So for you, and I say this to a lot of artists that have been on, musicians, performers, we take that stuff a lot of times and it helps to inform the music we write, the performances we give, the art that we make, but inform, not keep us down by. So for you, how do you...

keep the darkness at bay? I mean, I guess that depends on, you know, what particular flavor of darkness I'm dealing with at any particular moment. I mean, it's good to, I feel like now that I'm in my 30s, I have a little more stability than I did when I was in, you know, my 20s and traveling, like all the time, because man, it's really.

it's hard to be on the road by yourself, you know, like, cause there's moments where, you know, everybody's standing and applauding and they want a picture with you and you're the best person in the world and you've got this room full of smiling faces. And there are these other moments where, you know, you're like hungry and alone and you're far from home and you're questioning every decision that you've ever made. And those moments might be like 45 minutes apart. Right. Like it's a real roller coaster. And so, I mean, there's a, there are a lot of,

bad ways to even that out, you know? And that's why, I think that's why you see so much struggle with addiction, with musicians and, you know, stand-up comedians, you know, these people who like, have these very kind of rollercoaster, I mean, some people just like to party and be irresponsible, you know? And that's its own thing, but.

There's something really unique that's happening when you're on the road by yourself and you're sort of dealing with all these emotions and trying to process life moving around you where maybe you feel like you're in the same place in a lot of ways. So, I mean, the relationships in my life are a lot of that and having like friends who are outside of music, you know.

I don't have many friends who are outside the arts, but I've got a couple. Yeah. You know, that I can sort of feed off of their creative energy and stay inspired by instead of being discouraged by whatever I feel like I'm up against. I mean, my faith is a big deal to me, understanding that I'm not here by accident,

you know, that there's something kind of cosmic going on and there's something really profound, whatever you believe, there's something really profound about like entering the world the way it is and trying to leave it better than it was. You know? I mean, God told Adam and Eve to cultivate the earth, you know, like.

make a garden, write a song, start a podcast, like sew a dress, just making things. There's something cosmically important and profound about that. So I mean, I guess those are the two primary things. But just trying to stay out of my own head and to not be...

and trying to not be discouraged by success that other people have, and to not take that as a personal affront to me. Yeah, yeah. No, you're absolutely right. And these are more kind of like cut and dry, you know, cognitive things. Yeah. Because yeah, man, comparison is the thief of joy. And, you know, like however I might wanna compare myself,

to somebody else and say, well, man, if I had his mentors when I was coming up, where would I be? Or what would I be doing? And that's all fair. But somebody else, some other kid out there can be looking at me and saying, well, if I had had, if my grandparents bought me an electric guitar when I was 13 or whatever. Just trying to understand my place and be comfortable there

be comfortable there without being totally satisfied there and knowing that like another part of keeping the darkness at bay is to continue making something, you know, understanding that like you're still here for a reason. And even if it's, you know, nine months into a lockdown and you haven't played a show, like you gotta start making something, you know. Yeah, for sure. And I think,

You're right about the comparison thing because you don't know where that person is on their journey and a lot of people want to Compare the beginning of their journey to the end of someone else sure, you know, it's like oh man They got blah blah blah. You don't know what they did to get to where they are. Mm-hmm You just started you're yeah, you know or or even if you've been in it for a while and you're like man The person's right. Well, you know your voice is unique. You're

point of view is unique and it's valid and needed. They don't need another whomever. They need you to be you and a genuine you, not a mimic of someone else. Yeah, yeah. I mean, and there's nothing wrong of taking inspiration from people. Oh, totally, yeah, you have to. That's what helps form you. That's what helps to, you know. That's what keeps this whole thing moving, you know?

keeps moving music forward and the guitar forward and other mediums forward. Yeah, because you hear something and somebody else is doing, you're like, oh, I like that. How can I do, let me work something out similar to that. Or let me, that style, the whole finger picking and hybrid and then it's like, oh, if somebody had never even heard of that and now they're Google searching what is finger picking? And they kind of like the whole thing that

where you had the Django face, you know what I mean? Because of Willie Nelson, like you may not have been introduced to that otherwise, you know? To go search out those inspirations. Yeah, I mean everybody's got their own journey and you have no control over someone else's success. You only have control over like what, how hard you're willing to work for what amount of success or return. And people are gonna draw those lines at different places for themselves. I mean, I think,

I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but I think a lot of people would have quit by now. But you know, I'm happy with everything that I've done and I want to keep working harder. And I think that's one of the hard things to figure out for people sometimes too is that you can be happy where you're at, you can be content and happy in your quote unquote success or whatever.

but still have a drive to do more. Yeah. It's not that you're, cause the English language of it, I don't know the word to say for that. You know what I mean? Because it's like, oh, well then you're not content. It's no, I am content. Yeah. I'm happy here, but I also still have a passion and a drive to keep doing and keep moving forward, keep going up the hill. Yeah, cause I mean, and it sounds cliche, but like it's the journey, man, you know. It is. And,

I mean, in Genesis, like Adam is working before sin and the fall of man, right? So in the Christian faith, like work isn't part of the curse. Work is part of like the perfect garden of Eden is that you're working and you have fruits of your labor, and there's something like really profound about that.

that work is good, you don't necessarily have control over what type of financial success, but you know, or even professional or commercial success. But you know, you can try to make the thing that you wanna make and make it how you wanna make it and perfect your craft and hone your craft. Yeah, I think I'm figuring out a way to say the words I was trying to say. So you can be content being a farmer.

but you're not only going to harvest once and be done. You continue to sow the seeds, to continue to grow the crops, to continue to harvest the fruits. You're still a farmer, you're happy being a farmer, but it doesn't mean you're not content because you keep sowing seeds, you keep farming. So you keep at it. You talked about those highs and lows being on the road.

And it's, it is a, it is, it, and I think for performers that receive applause, you know, there are some, there's something about that. It is energetic. It is, uh, you know, it's, it's life giving it's soul feeding and it does put you up so high, but I think that's also why you feel so low so quickly as well, because once it's gone.

They're not going to stay there all night clapping hands for you or whatever, you know, batting you on the back. They've got to go home to their lives. Yeah. Life gets back to normal for them, but it doesn't for you. You're still kind of out there in a way. Yeah. You go to the budgetel and get the whatever pizza was left backstage from craft services or whatever. And you're like, I'm still, you know, you're still riding high on the show, but yet.

Where did all the people go? Cinder block walls and... Why didn't I get more money? Right. Yeah, yeah. Is that...

I don't know what the question is I wanted to ask here. When you're in those times, is there something you do to reach out? So somebody you reach out to, do you journal, or is it like, well? You know, I talk on the phone a lot when I'm on the road. Like I'll have long phone conversa, probably more long phone conversations than a normal person would. Because we kind of.

live in this day, you don't just call somebody and talk to them for an hour. I mean, you might every now and then. But if I'm traveling a lot, I might have an hour long, two hour long conversation with somebody that I've known for 15, 20 years, like every night for three or four nights in a row. I mean, I'm not bugging the same person all the time. But I feel like that's allowed me to keep in touch, maybe a little more closely.

with people that I wouldn't have otherwise if I was just sitting at home and called somebody. And she's like, what are you doing? Nah, I'm just sitting at home, just wanted to talk to you for an hour again. So yeah, so that helps. I mean, just something to like sort of try to keep you tethered a little bit and not feel like you're totally by yourself out there. And to not totally feed into that whole artistic thing of like, well, the pain is what feeds the art.

man and you know like there's there's maybe a very little bit of truth to that like but if you if you really want to be able if you want to have a mastery of your craft then you've got to be able to let that stuff go you know um and man this this might be really controversial but i just don't think drugs did that much for Hendrix

I think there are people that maybe, there are artists that knew how to deal with some of that stuff, but I really think it kept him from being as good as he could have been. I think he had a lot of inspiration and I think he had a lot of raw talent, but I think maybe he was missing some of the craft of music and working with a band and putting together out. And that's not to say that he didn't do great stuff, people are gonna be mad at me and that's fine, whatever. I just don't.

I think his inability to deal with his demons kept him from doing his best work. And that's sad, that's tragic. Well, and I think that's part of what we're talking about here is maybe he didn't have that circle of influence that he could reach out to, or it was a different time. Maybe he didn't feel like he could be vulnerable as a human to talk about.

you know, his feelings, you know, I mean, there's such a stigma against men talking about mental health and, you know, and even in the black community, men, you're supposed to just man up and do the thing and just, you know, that's it, that's what you're expected to do, as opposed to really working through those things, those demons that you're, you know, dealing with, whether it be with medication, prescribed medication.

or therapy, or like I said, even something as simple as having a circle of confidence that you can talk with openly. And the arts are, you know, creativity is such a great way to process all that stuff, you know? If you just decide that you're just going to live in it because you think, you know, you're Hendrix or something, then like you're going to miss out on, man.

Travis Meadows is a brilliant, brilliant songwriter who's written a lot about his own addictions and demons and things like that. And he chose to not live there, but in a lot of his music, he's working through all that and he's processing a lot of difficult things, but he's not glorifying them. Like, yeah, I'm just out there, loner on the road, man, that's me, me and my demons. I mean.

that you're not doing anybody any favors doing that. You've got something really important to say that maybe somebody else needs to hear that the world might need to hear. And you're just, you're living in this other thing that you're not wanting to step out of.

Jacob it's time now for the third segment of shows time now for the fast five the He's the fast five Thank you, I appreciate that I feel I feel awkward seeing as you are actually my music guy and You know tell everybody been workshop in the theme song for the fast five for

for a while now and sorry I was ghosting you there not returning your your emails that's okay I mean it's fine I still love you you know I mean I feel like you can you can cut out like what we just did you can use that reuse that you can use that on the other episode okay cool yeah I think I think I mean I may do that is that what that waiver was yes yes exactly anything you say is mine the fast the fast five

is powered by PodDecks, which is an app created by my friend Travis Brown. It's created for podcasters, gives you interview questions, icebreakers, things like that. But they're also physical decks, so if you have a hard time talking in front of people, you can take some of the cards out and ask some cool questions to kind of break the ice with folks. As a matter of fact, if you head over to chewinthefatbeart.com slash poddecks and use promo code CHEW, you can get 10% off your physical decks. But I'm going to use the app.

I'm gonna hit the randomizer here. No wrong answers, Jacob, okay? No pressure, no wrong answers. Just first thing that comes to the top of your head and here's question number one.

What kind of shower ideas do you get? Shower ideas. What does that, you mean, what do I think about in the shower? No, no. Well, I think that I think it's more like, you know, they say the best three, an invention for the shower. Well, maybe, okay. We were going a different direction. That's again, no wrong answers. I took it as like, you know, they say the best place for ideas are the three B's, either the bar room, the bathroom, or.

the bedroom because you're more relaxed, you're, you know, your mind's open to whatever's going on. So I think that's what they mean by shower ideas. But if you have a shower invention idea, I'd love to hear that. I don't, I don't. I was hoping you did. All I, I mean, I don't really think in the shower. I just warm up my voice. So that's what I do every morning. I do some scales, I'll sing a little bit. If I'm in a nice hotel, that sounds good, I'll sing a lot. But yeah, just warm up my voice, no thinking. Any, any, any, what's your warmup?

routine like? I mean, is it a specific, you know, like weird noises and then like some lip rolls to get my diaphragm activated, you know? And then I'll, you know, I'll just, I'll sing something random, usually like an old Sinatra or something like that. Nice. Okay. Good. Question number two.

If you could bring one famous person back from the dead, who would you pick?

famous person back from the dead. See this is one of those things that I've I've thought about and I thought oh I'd love to bring that person back.

I think I'm going to shoot from the hip and I'm going to say Jack Ruby. Cause we got to know what his connection was to Oswald. You know, we got to know what his connection was to Oswald. Wow. Okay. I think the whole thing comes together if we know why Ruby shot Oswald. Wow. Yeah. That's what I'm using my one pick for. Wow. That is, that is super deep. That is super. Yeah. But solve a lot of mysteries. Yeah. Yeah. Or, or cause a lot more, you know, maybe so. Yeah. Yeah.

That's good though. Jack Ruby. All right. Hey, question number three.

Do you like to plan things out in detail or are you more spontaneous? I'm pretty detail oriented about my craft anyway, about music and songwriting and life. Uh, I, a little bit of both, you know, like I like having a general plan and having some, going to destination a, but what you do there may be, I like, you know, we can have some options. That's fine. But when it comes to like music and what I do on stage, I'm very, and recording, I'm very detail oriented. Okay. Okay.

Well, I mean, I guess that also makes sense because, well, depending on where you're recording, you're also paying them by the like hour, minute, or whatever. So you wanna be, use your time wisely. So that makes sense. All right, question number four.

Burger or hot dog? Burger. Yeah? Burger. Okay. Okay. Medium, medium rare. Maybe some pimento cheese. Maybe I'll try some bacon on there. Ooh. Worth a shot. Bacon. Bacon and pimento cheese? Yeah. Yeah. Fancy. Just an idea. I like it. Bacon on a burger. No, I mean I like bacon on a burger. We'll try it. I like bacon on a burger. That's good. All right. And number five.

Do you have any pre-show rituals or routines? I try to dress nicer than the people who are there to see me and I try to restring my guitar and make sure my voice is warmed up. That's the main thing. Nothing weird, no like weird, you know, tie-rish. Yeah, nothing like that. Yeah? Nothing like that. Okay, all right, I like it. I like it, I mean that's...

That's a very, you're a very responsible musician. I try to be, I try to be. You only have control over so many things in show business. And I've got control over me and how I show up and if I'm on time and if I look like I'm getting paid to be there. And if I sound good, because I got a fresh pack of strings on. That's awesome, I love it, I love it.

Awesome, Jacob. Well, that's our Fast Five and that's the show. Thank you so much for being here. My pleasure, man. I'm glad we did it. And I really do appreciate this. If folks want to keep up with you, what's the best way for them to do that? Probably Instagram is what I'm on most, but they're all at Jacob Johnson Tunes, Facebook dot com slash Jacob Johnson Tunes, Instagram, Jacob Johnson Tunes, YouTube, Jacob Johnson Tunes. So I'll let you know what I'm what I'm coming around. All right. And when you're releasing.

the new album, are they still called album when it's a digital release? Yeah, yeah, yeah, they can still be. I feel like the term album is sort of medium neutral, you know, because you can have a photo album. That's true. You know, you can have a record album, you can have an album on a disc. But I'm mostly doing, the next few will just be singles, so they'll just be streaming singles, probably till next year. Well, I'll put those links.

in the show notes and you can always check out our guests on the website at chewingthefatbr.com. Again, Jacob, thank you so much for being here. My pleasure, man. Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed it. And if you would like to support this podcast, I'd appreciate it if you bought me a coffee at chewingthefatbr.com. But until next time, I look forward to when we have a moment to sit a spell and chew the fat.

Jacob JohnsonProfile Photo

Jacob Johnson


To watch Jacob Johnson play guitar is to watch someone do what he was born to do. Johnson glides up and down the fretboard with total confidence in a way that reminds one of Leo Kottke, barely looking at the instrument as he weaves delicate, dazzling melody lines with the occasional percussive thump on the strings. His sense of melody is a strong as his virtuosic playing, and his songwriting reveals a modestly bemused look at the world.

Johnson began playing when he was 10 years old, thanks primarily to his grandmother. “She played with pickup bands back in the ’40s,” he says. “When country acts would tour, they would just book a band in whatever city they were playing in. So she played with Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow and a lot of people like that. She taught me the first three or four chords I ever learned and said, ‘Jacob, if all you ever learn on the guitar is these three or four chords, you will always be able to pick up a guitar and play songs for people.’”

After that initial introduction, Johnson says he progressed quickly through his teen years. “There was a period of a couple of years where I went from zero to 60. I started out listening to Johnny Cash and then got into the old rockabilly like Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent, then it was the blues and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Clapton, and Hendrix. I guess by the time I was 18 or 19 I’d started getting into Phil Keaggy and Michael Hedges, who I consider the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar.
“He was one of the first players who got into two-handed tapping, alternate tuning, that kind of stuff. At a certain point I decided to focus on the acoustic guitar because there was just something about it. It seemed like this was the instrument that was going to give me my voice; that would allow me to develop my singing and songwriting in a way that my electric playing didn’t.”

Since dropping out of college in 2007, Jacob has traveled the country in (so far) six mini-vans, honing his craft, and making friends and fans along the way. Most of these were friendly now-forgotten faces that offered a warm meal and a couch to sleep on, but some were able to offer more. Such was the case with Grammy-nominated Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. Emmanuel put Jacob, as his opening act, on such notable stages as The Birchmere in Virginia, The State Theater in Maine, and The Newberry Opera House in South Carolina.

The songs and performances that developed in those touring years became the basis for Jacob’s most recent album, “One-Take Jake”. “One-Take Jake” features 11 of Jacob’s most requested songs recorded live in-studio with no-overdubs. The songs range from his own award-winning “The Ferryboat Waltz”, to his unique take on the Disney classic “Chim-Chim Cheree” by the Sherman Brothers. Few mistakes slip through the raw, understated production, but they underscore an important truth. While his talent may seem otherworldly, it’s not magic. It’s real, which is even better.

(By Vincent Harris adapted from The Greenville Journal)