Mike Ragogna: What advice do you have for new artists?
Eric Johnson: That’s a really good question. It’s a broad question insomuch as trying to answer it, but it’s still a good question. I was just listening to a brand new band on a CD recently that was really, really great. I did a blues tour with B.B. King once and I was out there trying to play this B.B. lick and that B.B. lick, and I can play blues guitar but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I should try to make a career of playing blues guitar, there’s plenty of people who can play it better than me, but I love the blues. But I’m out there doing this tune and that tune and he brought me into his tour bus to talk to me once and he said, “You know what? You have this special, unique gift. As an artist, you should find that pulse that’s unique and that nobody else can do that way and just resonates in your own certain way. You should grow that and make that strong and really appreciable and people will then resonate to that.”
What happens is no matter how good we get, we put on this generalized suit of what we think we should adorn ourselves with. This band is really great but it sounded like this other band and the production sounded like another band it was all cleaned over and polished. It made me think about my own records where you can’t reach in and feel the person inside. You see the aura and it’s all beautiful, it’s all great, but you can’t reach in and feel that thing that you have that’s unique and you’re really expounding on then you don’t have as much esteem to do what you really want to do. That would be my advice. Actually, I’m talking to myself as I say this.
MR: That’s terrific because I was going to ask what you would have told Eric Johnson when he was starting out.
EJ: That’s what I would say. I think many times, I get seduced by the recording studio. “We could do this, we could do that, let’s put this effect on that,” and it all just gets this Doppler effect to where the listener is reaching out with his hand to try to catch it but it’s out of reach so they just admire it from afar instead of having it assimilated into their cellular structure. I need to think about how people assimilate things into their heart. I guess what I’d like to do is try to make music that resonates with people and has an impact on them. I want it to create something in themselves. It’s like the difference between a knick-knack sitting on a table and somebody giving you a card that has some words that go into your soul.