|Grammy Award Winner Eric Johnson Brings Creativity to The Intersection|
by Jim and Jen Shaneberger
Eric Johnson, you’ve heard him, but you might not know who he is. His Grammy winning instrumental song Cliffs of Dover has been a staple at sporting events for over 20 years. He’s “one of the most respected guitarists on the planet”, according to Guitar Player Magazine.
Luckily, he’s coming to The Intersection in downtown Grand Rapids this Sunday. We had a chance to talk with him about his life and music.
Growing up in Austin, TX was Johnson’s first break. The music scene is vibrant and thriving, and it always has been, according to Johnson. He admits he “played and played” around town until he landed his first spot on Austin City Limits in 1984, catapulting him into the national spotlight. Though rumored Prince saw the episode and recommended Warner Brothers Records sign Johnson, in truth, Johnson has never met him to verify the story. Regardless, Johnson’s 1990 album Ah Via Musicom earned platinum sales, and he continues to write, record and tour the globe.
Though we didn’t ask him any questions about religion, his spirituality was evident in his answers. When describing his writing process, he mentioned the importance of making space for creativity, intentionally setting aside time ‘sit down and play’.
“When we’re more open to creative energy, then it can start flowing. It’s like surfing a wave and you get on this place where it starts coming quicker and more natural, and I think that’s the best stuff,” Johnson explained. “Otherwise, it’s more manipulated, coming from our minds and it doesn’t have the same effect.”
For Johnson, songwriting is a welcome discipline that’s grown with practice over time.
“Practicing writing means being available to the energy,” he stated. “It’s learning how to open up and let it flow.”
His life is also disciplined concerning consumption choices. Johnson’s been a vegetarian since age 19, when he realized that humans don’t need to eat animals in order to remain healthy. He maintains that the tradition of eating animals is one that we’ve been conditioned to accept.
“We are very conditioned. We rearrange our perceptions by a certain mode of tradition. If we step out of that tradition, we get a little clearer with our perception,” he said. “It takes a lot of mental justification to blur this interesting invisible line between our pets and other animals.”
It’s his ability to embrace discipline that shapes Johnson’s intricately detailed music. His precisely complex yet emotionally moving songs are a testament to his dedication. And, he insists that his inspiration continues to grow with time.
“I can be as inspired in the new stuff I’m doing as well as I used to be, and I think there’s potential to be even more inspired in the future. It’s just a matter of staying in the present, and not deciding that your whole resume artistically is based on your history,” he explained. “We get solidified in our history, and we have to break that mold and just be in the present. See where that leads.”
Johnson’s latest challenge is to become a better performer, carrying performance into the studio. He said he strives for a contiguous performance, where the music has an honest spontaneity to it. Rather than putting it together piece by piece, which he’s done in the past.
He’s also recently engaged, and looking forward to a life filled with family. When asked how a growing family would affect his music career, he said, “we’ll have the youngest band, and take them all on tour!”
Indeed, the future looks bright on all fronts for Eric Johnson.
133 Grandville Ave, SW
Sunday, March 3 7pm
Guitarist Jim Shaneberger splits his time playing with a number of Grand Rapids bands, while wife Jen owns and directs music production company Industry Standard Entertainment. Photos by Paul Jendrasiak.
Published March 2, 2013
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