Eric Johnson is a platinum selling guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist who’s extensive career dates back to the mid 1970’s. Johnson’s latest offering is a live album titled “Europe Live” which is a collection of tracks recorded during Johnson’s recent European tour. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Eric recently about the new release as well as his current plans for a new studio album.
Adam Lawton: What was it that interested you in doing a live album as opposed to a traditional studio album?
Eric Johnson: We were touring Europe and at some point during that run the company who put out the European version of my album “Up Close” contacted me asking if they could record some of the shows. It wasn’t anything that was planned ahead of time. After everything was done they sent me the tracks to see what I thought. We went through all the tapes and there ended up being quite a bit of stuff we were able to work with.
AL: So the album is a collection of takes from a number of different shows?
EJ: We recorded 4 different cities with the bulk of the performances coming from the Amsterdam show. The forth city we recorded in was Paris and that was just a board tape. It was never meant for anything. I decided to put one acoustic song on the record which was different from the electric stuff and that ended up coming from that board tape. What you hear is the actual two track tape from the board as there was nothing we could really do to that track being is was done from the board.
AL: What do find to be the most challenging aspect of doing a live album?
EJ: Keeping everything live and performance oriented is certainly the hardest part. When you have that reference point of the live material there is a raw spark that happens. When you deviate from that it’s really obvious. This has been a great thing for me to do and I have found a lot of entertainment in it.
AL: Do you see yourself doing more live recording as opposed to studio recording?
EJ: Yes, Definitely. Even working live in the studio is something I am open for. The more you are able to do in real time the more energy and emotion I think the work will have. This has made me rethink my entire way of doing things as I want to be able to incorporate more of the live process whenever I can.
AL: For the shows that were recorded to you alter the night’s set list in any way from the nights that weren’t being recorded?
EJ: Not really. We just did our sets and I didn’t think much about the recordings. Other than a couple extra lines running off the amps to the back room I never actually saw what was going on. There wasn’t a vibe of we were making a live record it was more of just someone was out there recording the show that night. Everything was very off the cuff.
AL: With your last studio album being a reworking of the “Up Close” album do you have plans to start on a new studio record any time soon?
EJ: Right now I am currently working with Mike Stern on a collaboration record. We have finished all of the recording and we are in the middle of mixing as we speak. That album should be out in November. The album is sort of a fusion record as Mike comes from the jazz world and I from the rock world. It’s mostly an instrumental record with the exception of one track. The album is very song oriented and not just a bunch of riffing. I am really excited about it as it turned out great. I also am finishing up a solo acoustic record that I hope to get out soon. Doing an acoustic record is something that I have wanted to do for about 10 years now. I am a big folk music fan so I am excited to do something in that style.
AL: When you are working on a record outside of the rock genre what steps do you take to adjust your playing and tone?
EJ: I just try to keep my ears open and learn more about music. I try and take the new things I have learned and incorporate those things into my own sound and playing. Being around other musicians from different areas they are naturally going to play things that I don’t know. I am always listening to try and make my playing better and to support those I am playing with. It’s been a great learning experience for me.
AL: Do you have any tour plans in place for this spring/summer?
EJ: We have a 3 week Midwest tour planned for August. That will take us to Chicago, Minneapolis and a few other places. In November Mike and I will be doing a 2 week tour of the East Coast.