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Interview:
Time is on guitarist Eric Johnson's side
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Eric Johnson has never claimed to be prolific.

The Grammy Award-winning Texas guitar hero — a player’s player who was even thanked by Rush’s Alex Lifeson for inspiring a guitar solo on 1993’s “Counterparts” album — took five years between his latest album, 2010’s “Up Close,” and its predecessor, and his discography is marked by gaps of several years. Simply put, more is not necessarily better in Johnson’s world.

“I think I’ve exhausted the idea of just doing stuff till the cows come home,” explains Johnson, 57, who hosts guests such as Steve Miller, Jimmy Vaughan and Sonny Landreth on “Up Close” — which was released on his own Vortexan record label. “Musically you can get some stuff that’s interesting and can be really nice, but I like to get a little more vibe going, and that’s a matter of just getting synchronized with where your benchmark of playing is.

“Some people, maybe they can do that quicker. A lot of my heroes sit down and are great from the second they start playing. Others need to struggle more. I lean a little more to that side of the fence, I’m afraid.”

That said, however, Johnson promises that he still spends time working on new material during those long waits between albums.

“At any moment I’ve always got news songs I’m working on,” notes Johnson. “I think that I could just be recording all the time if I let myself, but sometimes I won’t even go into the studio for several years ’cause we’re busy doing other stuff.

“That might be a better way to do it, I guess, instead of getting bogged down with, ‘OK, I’ve got to come up with 15 songs’ or this huge body of stuff for an album. That’s always in the back of your mind, ‘Oh, I’ve got to come up with a whole CD of stuff that’s decent.’ Maybe if I didn’t have that mindset I’d feel lighter about it. But I’ve gotten this far doing it my way, so I can’t predict a big change, really.”

Eric Johnson performs Wednesday, Jan. 11, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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