Music

Visiting Grammy winning legend opens up on the guitar

Austin-raised Eric Johnson is scheduled to play the House of Blues in Dallas on Wednesday.
Austin-raised Eric Johnson is scheduled to play the House of Blues in Dallas on Wednesday. Eric Johnson

His name doesn't register like Hendrix, Van Halen, Clapton, Stevie Ray or The Edge, but to the performers of the world the name Eric Johnson is among the greatest of the greats to ever hold a guitar.

Few guys can shred quite like Johnson. You've heard him, but you just may not know it.

The Austin-raised Johnson is 63, and on an extended U.S. tour for his new album, Collage. He is scheduled to play the House of Blues in Dallas on Wednesday.

This is an interview I've always wanted. We talked about his career, the process of creativity, and the evolution and direction of the an instrument he helped to define.

With technology so good and computers able to generate the sounds of an electric guitar so well, are you concerned about the evolution or direction of an instrument that's been so important to your life?

The guitar thing became so adulated that it's like a sports icon that blew itself out. People got oversaturated with the Olympics of it. The popularity of it waned and it became an important instrument in a different way. Everyone now uses it for short melodies, or textual sounds. Or soundtracks with an edgy sound. The days of letting a guy go off for three hours and get intoxicated over it are over. It turned into this technical application. Once people have heard it a thousand times, it loses that specialty. There are other factors; social media is such now that people are familiar with every single note and they are overloaded with it.

When you were younger and trying to make it, did you ever try to create something that you thought, 'This has got to be a hit or I'm dead'?

I get what you're talking about; a lot of times I would try to write a great tune. Every time I tried that it turned out less than best. It's wearing a raincoat inside out. It's got to come from within. The best ones, the few hits I did have, have been happenstance. I wrote 'The Cliffs of Dover' in five minutes. If you try to construct it and stress about it, it won't happen. You just get too far into your own head and what comes out is processed food.

When you finished 'Cliffs of Dover' did you know you had a good one?

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