THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH - feature
Q&A | Jamey Johnson
Resume of singer colorful
Thursday, January 29, 2009 3:04 AM
By Aaron Beck
They come around every now and then: salt-of-the-earth country vocalists with a resume ready-made for country music.
Jamey Johnson, an Alabama-bred singer-songwriter and guitarist, should be counted among them.
The voice behind one of the standout singles of 2008, In Color, has smoked Parliaments since he was 12, struggled through a well-publicized divorce and spent his time away from concert stages doing construction work and serving eight years in the Marine Corps Reserve.
On Friday, Johnson, 33, and his band will visit Columbus to play In Color and other tunes from his second major-label album, That Lonesome Song -- which has been nominated for three Grammy Awards.
Johnson, who will also perform next Thursday on The Tonight Show, recently spoke to The Dispatch.
Q: How big a deal is being nominated for three Grammys?
A: It is a big deal because it's the first of any type of award that I get to share with the people who make this music -- my band. It was just a bunch of friends making a garage-band-type record.
Q: The first time I saw you play was on David Letterman late last year.
A: I haven't been that nervous since the first time I did the (Grand Ole) Opry. All I could see was four big ol' eyeball cameras that represented roughly 50 million people watching the show.
Q: What do you hope listeners take from your songs?
A: I write songs from emotions and actual events or from actual feelings. That's what I was looking for as a fan when I listened to guys like Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash and Vern Gosdin and Mel Tillis.
Q: You were in the Marine Reserve for eight years. Was that something you enjoyed or tolerated?
A: It was a good time. After one of my corporals in the unit heard me sing, I had to carry a guitar out to wherever we were going. We'd go to the Mojave Desert for a few weeks, and I'd end up getting passed around from Hummer to Hummer with a guitar: "Go sing for this general or that general."
Q: How was Alabama as a place to grow up?
A: Alabama's great if you've got a gun. I've noticed that the people there are way more serious than people are in other places about their survival. You never know; it might be a person coming at you, but it could be a critter, too.
Q: When did you start playing?
A: I was playing guitar when I was really young, 10 or 11. It's just my calling in life. Just like a preacher has to put together a sermon, a songwriter has to get up and write a song and go hunt an audience.
Q: Before people started to record your songs, was there a point when you questioned what you were doing with your life?
A: Hell, I still question what I'm doing every day. I still don't know what the hell I'm doing. I write a song and go out there and sing it.