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Johnny Burgin Interview

Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Eddie Taylor, Luther Tucker, Earl Hooker, Willie James Lyons, Willie Johnson, Sammy Lawhorn-- gotta have the vibrola arm! Those are really my favorites. Of course the greats like Albert King, Magic Sam, Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Elmore James and BB. And I keep going back to Django Reinhardt, he had a lot in common with Earl Hooker personality wise imo! I was really influenced by Howlin Wolf drummer Sam Lay, because he was my boss for two years, and taught me how to be a pro and how to play guitar in an ensemble way. Tail Dragger gave me the space to grow into myself as a guitarist and got me started on a great career. I had some great teachers in Blues School!

What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?

I went from working locally in Chicago/Midwest clubs on the weekends to touring close to 200 nights a year under my own name, and wherever I go, I'm drawing a crowd. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

What do you think the best aspects of the music business are?

The freedom, and the camaraderie. I love it.

What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?

RELAX! You really have to let the music happen. Lowell Fulson told Bobby Radcliff, and he told me. I was just way too pumped up in my 20s lol.

Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician.

The business is tough.There's no shortcuts and no getting around it.

The only real leverage you have is how many people you can bring to your shows. And people listen to music with their eyes. So a strong visual presentation is truly key, those are just the brutal facts.

Do you have any anxiety about performing live?

It used to be really bad. I'd be in the van with Eddie Burks or Sam Lay, driving to Cleveland or someplace, feeling like I was going to the gallows. Now it's just a hair of anxiety, you WANT that to keep you sharp. The trick is to use it to your advantage.

If you had to choose one... live performance or studio work, which do you prefer and why? Live performances absolutely. It's instant gratification. It's great when you're giving to and getting something back from the audience.

Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.

My dad was an actor, and he had lots of sayings from the theater. One of them was "the same people you meet on the way up, you meet on the way down".

Seriously, the guy who's getting coffee at a session could be booking an important club in a few years. So be nice! And it's good to really go out of your way to meet people, cultivate your fans, etc.

What do you like most about your new album?

No Border Blues Japan was all about putting a spotlight on some special Japanese traditional blues players. They were cherry picked from a great intergenerational underground blues scene there. They're all super traditional and very soulful, with many classics from Delmark, Chess and Vee Jay records as their stylistic North Star, so it was a natural and automatic fit. It's so interesting to see how blues music resonates in foreign cultures. And it was nice to make a record that wasn't about ME.

What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays?

A lot of great stuff. One thing that's been great about all the touring I've done is I've ran across some great artists and made some great personal connections. Eddie 9V, Bobby Radcliff's younger brother and great harp player Bruce Ewan, Franck Goldwasser, RJ Mischo, Aki Kumar, Skyler Saufley (great guitarist from Pheonix City AL, doesn't have a record out yet but I play with him when I tour in the Southeast), EU bands like Jesus on a Tortilla, Big Joe Louis, Tomi Leino, Big Sandy and the Flyright Boys (I've rekindled my love of Rockabilly), Hanna PK, Ben Levin. I like artists that play guitar that makes sense and has a natural tone, not a bunch of meat-headed, over-distorted guitar-hero "shredding"-- I immediately tune that stuff out.

How do you promote your band and shows?

I'm on the road a LOT, so I just work it one city/show at a time. I personally reach out to local fans and have developed a small street team in some markets to help put up posters, do their own posts, etc. A good email list is important. I try to stay active on Social Media. In-stores at record stores are great and I'm all about blues radio. Blues djs are loyal, almost always unpaid superfans-- treat em like gold! And an old fashioned press release to local entertainment writers doesn't take THAT long to do and can pay off. You can't just preach to the choir.

What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc?

My email list, you can sign up on my site

Johnny Burgin Live on FB, or you can find me on twitter and instagram.

Anything you would like to share, from new merch to upcoming shows/tours or songs/albums?

I started a rock and roll instrumental record. I'm really excited to finish and release it and I am chipping away at my next blues CD, "Ramblin from Coast to Coast".


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