Jonny Lang was swept up in blues and rock music at the age of 12, and he began an adventurous ride in recording music at the age of 16. Now 32 and a happily married father of four, Jonny has recently released his latest album Fight For My Soul. The album was recently released in early September. With five albums that all graced the Billboard 200 charts, and winning a Grammy-award for his 2006 album, Turn Around, which was the last album before taking a seven-year break, Jonny made a life altering conversion to Christianity in 2000. His conversion has become a much-discussed topic in several of his recent and past interviews, and this interview reflects a bit on that as well, along with his loves of blues, other great guitar players and musicians, and his favorites.
Lang has a deep love for people, and during our interview he expressed his reasons for this along with what he hopes to convey through music. He has shared the stage with several notable artists including The Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, Aerosmith, B.B. King, and Sting. Jonny is one of the most humble and grateful musicians I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.
Read on to discover something about Jonny Lang that you might not have known beforehand.
How’s the tour going so far?
Jonny: We’ve been going for a couple of months on this run.
Are you still having a good time playing?
Jonny: Yeah, yeah! I still love it.
It’s funny because I am 31 years old, and I have been listening to you since I was in high school.
Jonny: Wow. That is one year younger than me.
Really? You’re 32? We kind of grew up together!
I smiled when I read that you had converted to Christianity because I am also a fellow Christian.
Jonny: Oh yeah…okay, awesome! Very cool.
Speaking of religion, how has music changed for you personally over the years since you started out so young?
Jonny: The whole thing for me has kind of shifted. I feel like when I first started out it was exciting and fun for me, and now it’s kind of changed into something I’m making more about people other than me. I am just trying to find which ways this can be either positive or a blessing to other people. I start with the songs themselves, and try to write stuff that hopefully relates to people and can help somebody that’s listening to them. I’m still figuring it all out, you know. I’m not sure exactly where the journey will lead, but that’s the general idea.
I think we’re all trying to figure it out, huh? [laughs]
Jonny: Yeah, for sure!
Do you think that your perception has changed since becoming a Christian and being in the musical and entertainment world?
Jonny: Yes, definitely. My relationship with Jesus is probably the thing that focuses what I do. When He touched my life, I think a love for people was definitely imparted in that. Not that I’m the greatest people lover of all time, but it is something I’m more passionate about. I really enjoy having an opportunity to be a positive force for somebody else.
Absolutely! Not to keep the focus on Christianity, but I find it fascinating that you converted over the years. After being through so much, do you think it’s harder for you as a musician now? Or are you just evolving from something you did when you started out?
Jonny: There are periods when life is tough, and periods when life is not so tough. It’s like a roller coaster, as it is for everybody else. You learn things along the way and make mistakes – profound mistakes in some cases – and learn from them. [You] try to keep moving on, you know?
(I told Jonny he hasn’t lost his North Dakotan accent, and he mentioned – while laughing – that, “you’re so southern that you would think anyone sounds like they’re from North Dakota.” He stated that he’s heard people worse than me, and states that I’m “just country enough, and I can understand everything you’re saying.”)
So, what has been your highlight on this tour so far? Or have you gotten to it yet?
Jonny: This particular tour? Getting to play some of the new songs off of the new record is fun, and there have been some incredible audiences. We got to go to Europe for a couple of weeks and play over there. We are trying to make our rounds over there a little more frequently than we have in the past. We’re just trying to do a little more international type stuff, which has been fun.
I know you’ve played Atlanta before. Do you like playing in Atlanta, and do you get a good crowd when you come here?
Jonny: I love Atlanta.
Jonny: I love it! The music lovers that come to the shows there are awesome. They get a little rowdy, which is what you want. But they’re also discerning listeners, too. We always have a blast when we come down there.
I think that playing the blues is such an inherent thing. Speaking of the audiences, how do you personally connect with them during a performance?
Jonny: Well, it’s something I think I’m getting better at over the years, but I think it has a lot to do with the songs – what the songs are about and how clear the messages are, or how clearly you’re able to portray those messages live. I’m not like a choreographed stage person [laughs] and I don’t have certain things I try do every night, so it’s kind of off-the-cuff, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I try to have a couple of intimate moments where everybody can feel like we’re all part of the same thing and try to forget about all of the distractions for a couple of hours. Just let music do what it does.
Who do you think is making really good music today?
Jonny: There are tons of artists out there making amazing music. I’m trying to think of one that really stands out. I’m drawing a blank, actually. Do you know who Foy Vance is?
Sounds familiar, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of him before.
Jonny: I think he’s got a lot of notoriety in the last couple of years, and I saw him on YouTube 8 years ago or something like that. I fell in love with this guy’s music and I think it’s actually getting pretty popular now. You should check him out. He’s amazing!
I definitely will check him out! That’s how I learn about new artists too.
What are your top five albums or bands you wouldn’t want to live without?
Jonny: Stevie Wonder and James Taylor. Those are probably the two biggest ones, and they are my biggest inspirations. Also Albert Collins, Prince, and who else? I’ve got one more, right?
Yep, you’ve got one more.
Jonny: [laughs] I’ll say Chris Whitley.
Who was your first concert and what has been your favorite thus far?
Jonny: Man, the best live concert I think I’ve ever seen was Aerosmith.
Jonny: Yeah, they were just insane. I saw them 13 years ago or something, but they were unbelievable. That guy’s [Steven] voice was flawless night after night.
I don’t think that was your first concert. What was your first?
Jonny: The first band that I saw was the band that I ended up joining, and they were called Bad Medicine. They were a local band in North Dakota.
I always learn something new from the artists I interview. I love it!
What do your kids think of your music, or are they too young to realize that their father is a musician?
Jonny: They love music in general. As far as what I do, they get mad when I have to go on stage and they ask, “Why do you have to work?”
Aw, I bet that makes you sad. Does it?
Jonny: It’s the only downside to what I do. Fortunately, sometimes they will join me on the road for a couple of weeks. We don’t get to do that all the time, but it is what it is.
You don’t do it forever, and you’ll be home soon.
Thank you for taking the time out to speak with me and Atlanta Music Guide today.
Jonny: Absolutely! Take care.
Get your tickets for Jonny’s show with opening band, Honor by August, by clicking HERE.