Interview with St. Louis-based Jeremiah Johnson: the voice of Mississippi River blues blending with the struggles of everyday life.
How has the Blues, Rock and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
If there is one thing my music journey has taught me, it’s the fact that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I have seen people who look conservative completely burn up the dance floor and throw it down. I have also seen big strong biker guys break down in tears when they hear a song that touches their heart. In the end of the day, it seems we all have a big heart for music.
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
It can be hard to describe my sound, but it starts out with a 70’s southern rock, blues-based foundation. I have a bit of a Kentucky/Southern accent that comes out occasionally, and I always try to do what is best for the song. A good song is where the magic mojo all begins. There are thousands of amazing guitar players, it’s good songwriting that separates the diamonds from the coal.
It seems like I have been dreaming about playing the guitar and writing songs since my life began. Truthfully, I was 6 years old when I first begged my parents to pay for guitar lessons. It’s been a long road and a lot of years with the same dream.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
There have been many moments in my career that I could point to as “important experiences” and it is hard to say that one or the other was more important. I would say I am extremely thankful for the friendship I have had with Mike Zito and Devon Allman. I have known them for decades now and it makes me happy to see both doing so well. They have both been good to me. Zito and Allman have both produced records for me.
The best advice I have is, “Every step forward, no natter how small, is a step in the right direction. It could be a long road ahead, just keep moving forward and you will reach your goals. The true joy of life is in the journey.”
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
In 2019, I was fortunate enough of tour with Mike Zito. We had a 12-hr drive across Germany and Zito asked me if I wanted to take a journey or ride in the van. I said let take a journey! We rode in a taxi, two different trains, two different trains and one short plane ride. We arrived at the hotel doorstep in about 10 hours and I had such a wonderful experience traveling across Germany. I hope to be back in Europe in Fall of 2021.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I can’t say I miss anything nowadays; I just wish blues was popular like it was in the 80’ and 90’s. Bands like The Fabulous Thunderbirds, SRV and Eric Clapton used to be on the big radio stations. If we keep going the way we are headed with streaming services and lack of interest in physical CD’s, smaller blues artists are not going to be able to earn a living.
Why do you think that Ruf Records (Label) continues to generate such a devoted following?
Because Thomas Ruf is a genius! Hell, he signed me didn’t he! Seriously, Ruf Records consistently puts out high quality artists who push the envelopes of the genera. I am proud to be on Ruf Records and have a great relationship with everyone at the label.
What would you say characterizes St. Louis Blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
To me St Louis Blues is somewhere between Texas and Chicago styles of blues. Lot’s of horn players, plenty of piano players and a solid band that can not only shuffle, but they can bring the heat. It’s hard to explain. Why don’t you come visit our city and I can show you how good it feels.
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
Blues music brings people of all kinds, together and helps one realize that we are more alike than not. I hope my music makes you want to dance, close your eyes and forget what troubles you.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
I would like to go back to the amazing concerts I went to in my youthful party days and actually pay attention to the damn concert! I went to some great concerts and only seen half of them!
Interview by Michael Limnios