I'll be joining Suzie Vinnick's band for the Fabulous Nanaimo Blues Festival 2017. Suzie is one of my absolute favourite people to listen to as well as play with. She's got a voice to melt your heart. The lady is also a really good guitarist, so that will make it a very special show to catch if you follow my musical adventures. 

www.SuzieVinnick.com

 The music business is hard enough, and for many artists being a travelling musician makes having a family a real challenge. I have heard so often from fans "When will you be coming to _____", and I am hard pressed to answer. My wife doesn't like my spotlight shining on her, and really wants her privacy. But we've been living with Cancer now for 7 years, and it's had a tremendous effect on me, and my commitment to travel and be away from home. I just can't keep it hidden as without you having this knowledge I may appear to not want to perform. Now it is becoming quite important to get out and work as we need the money for treatments and to continue winning this battle. So, please, I am interested in bringing my music all over Canada. Making the album Cold Outside was really letting the genie out of the bottle, as most of it is inspired by our real lives. Looking forward to now being able to perform for you all, and continue my life with Susan staying healthy.

 

We made our first trip off the island, finally. We were asked to perform at the 2017 Blues Summit in Toronto. This is a cross section of recording artists from Canada picked by the Toronto Blues Society to showcase there skills for a national and international collection of blues DJs, event organizers, and buyers. Oh, and the few exceptional fans. 

Held at the Marriott Hotel in Downtown Toronto, it had a convention like feel to it, as well as a reunion of friends for the musicians. Canada may be a huge country, but its blues community of musician are very aware of one another. I, personally, have made many friends across the country, meeting at festivals, workshops, and events like the Summit. This has been my 3rd trip to Toronto to attend. In the past I came as the event is timed to coincide with the Maple Blues Awards. Those few time I was nominated for awards. Well no nominations this year, but this was a great chance to get back into circulation with my new CD.

Our showcase went well, and i was surprised by the many compliments I received on the new CD. It's easy to feel like your hidden away when you live on an island, and rarely leave. It was good to know the media really got my music out there, and people did notice. With so many great artists these days all without record labels, and all struggling more or less, there is a warm vibe of maybe empathy and comradery. Everyone works really hard for very little. Hmmm... "it was the best of times and it was the worst of times". Could also be that I've been at this so long, I've just warn a comfortable groove into the scene where I fit and feel at home. 

 

Meanwhile back at the farm... Cold Outside had a pretty good year. It would be boaring for you to weed through all the great reviews and top ten lists. You can read them if you want in the press page. I was really happy with the attention it received considdering the best in the country seemed to all release a CD this past year.

We had a little change of Band members recently, as travel is in my future, and I needed to have a band willing to hit the road. I was born in Halifax NS and left before I really developed any memory of the place. It always presents me with a problem when explaining where I'm from. I've carried that Nova Scotia birth certificate all my life, but I really do feel I'm from Victoria BC. I learned to play guitar here at age 9. So for 2017 my goal is to make it back to Halifax and play there. It's a great city of blues musicians, with a list of hometown players that are absolutely top notch. So I've been sad to let go of both Rick, bass and Ross, drums for now. They have no reason to travel of follow my exploits. They were both first rate musicians and my friends. I'm lucky to find John Hunter, and George Fenn, two great blues musicians who are willing to follow me across the prairies to the heart of the country, and of to the maritimes. John play drums in the band for seven years previously, and has been playing with George in both Harpdog Brown's Band and Dave Harris's new CD project. Harpdog needs no introduction but Dave is a great blues musician from Victoria with a huge encyclopedic knowledge of blues history and a hell of a guitarist and rack harmonica player.

I finally found a Club I liked and wanted to play at here. I like to get behind one room and really work for them. We'll be starting regular Thursday night shows there very soon, the first coming January 12.

Happy New Year to you all. We all said good bye to someone this year. One thing remains constant, and that is things change. And they do keep on changing, so what may be sad now, may pass and something new and good may be right around the bend.

May 1st, I'll be starting delivery of our new recording COLD OUTSIDE, a name all Canadians can relate to in one way or another. Features 11 new songs written by Bill Johnson and performed by Rick Erickson, Darcy Phillips, Ross Hall, and with our very Special Guests, Joby Baker, and David Vest.

Digital downloads will be available at that time too. Hope it gives you a chill...

 

"Cold Outside" That's the title for the new Bill Johnson recording that's soon to be released. It features 11 songs, lyrics and music written by Bill. "I recorded at Baker Studios again with Joby Baker producing. He was a founding member of my band back in 1993 as drummer and sometimes bassist. Our last CD was recorded there and, as they say, that became my breakout album. Joby and I always maintained some connection over the years. He used me for session work routinely when he began his studio, and we both had recently been in Suzie Vinnick's band on her Western tour."

Another re-appearing guest is David Vest, also this years Maple Blues Piano Award winner. "I think, in 2009, we lured David to the Canadian stage, filling in, while Darcy was busy with his gig with Jann Arden. David played on Still Blue (2010), and he was quite a motivator in getting me to proceed with Cold Outside."

The present band spent much of 2015 playing Swan's Hotel and dusting off after Bill retreated to playing solo acoustic shows during most of 2014. Rick Erickson played Bass on 10/11 songs, while Darcy Phillips plays all the Hammond Organ, and most of the piano parts. Both David and Darcy also benefited from Baker Studios Grand Piano. Ross Hall, our drummer, laid down the two fat shuffles on the disc but Joby played the rest as it was simply more efficient with a producer who drums… Needless to say Joby records a wonderful drum sound. "I think if you have a good stereo, Cold Outside is going to sound amazing. I was floored listening to the final mixes through the studio's best monitors."

Leave a note if you'd be interested in buying a copy of Cold Outside on an audio file quality, good old vinyl record, (thick and heavy). It's pretty easy to create these again, and we'd love to offer a choice to the people who still love them. We won't spam you, we just want to get an idea how interested people are in this format.


Expect a New CD Release for Early 2016

 

 Expect to see a new recording released soon From Bill Johnson. Recorded and produced by Joby Baker who also played drums, and featuring Darcy Philips Keys, David Vest Piano, Ross Hall Drums, and Rick Erickson Bass.

"This time round I had twenty songs written to draw from. We settled on 11 songs, and returned to Baker Studios where we recorded Still Blue in 2010. I 'm really happy with this disc. i feel i grew as a writer. I had lots to say I guess. I'm quite proud of it. While there's some very traditional ideas, i stretched out into places I've always wanted to go. I heard to a lot of pre war folk, and country blues, during the last ten years and noted how those artists drew inspiration from other popular styles of the day. This opened doors for me to try new ideas. So expect a few surprises."

So far the feedback from the musicians working on the project has been really satisfying. When the guys who are going to record the songs tell me they love the songs and are really into working on them, it's a great feeling. I respect these people a great deal. I know I've done my job when they're excited and inspired."

I've been very happy with my new Guild Starfire III. With all the reissue guitars on the market, I was slow to make this purchase. I kept coming back to Larsen Music in Victoria to play this guitar, as I just couldn't find fault in it. It had these small humbucking pickups Guild used during the mid 60s that I loved right away. This new guitar, equipped with the modern version, capture that bright airy tone of the originals just like I remember them. This guitar has everything I wanted in my newest guitar. I held off as long as I could. It's just a great new instrument.

Guild has even reissued a new version of my old trusty Capris, complete with a great reproduction of the big spanky single coil pickups I love.

Kudos to the new owners of Guild!

The LR Baggs Lyric acoustic guitar pickup/mic

I was intrigued by The LR Bagg's Lyric acoustic guitar pickup system as Ricky Skaggs was demoing it for LR Baggs on line. He raved about it, and from what I could hear through my computer speakers, it was... really good. I also believe a guy like Ricky is honest as the day is long, and he wouldn't get behind a product unless he believed in it. 

So I bought one. As I am a guitar tech of moderate talents, the install was very simple. 

Sound: Ok I have two opinions here. In plugging the Lyric into my little Fishman acoustic amp, I was knocked out how real this pickup sounded. Amazing in every way. I complain about the feel of amplified acoustic guitars often. The sound produced by the guitar played naturally is a direct connection of fingers - strings - sound board - your ears and the vibrations of holding the guitar. So much is normally lost when amplifying and acoustic guitar. It becomes an electric guitar in many aspects. With the Lyric, it was an amazing revelation. It was like playing with a great mic on a sound stage. I had a studio job to do that weekend and I went ahead and used the Lyric plugged directly into the digital converter. The sound was amazing. IT WAS MY GUITAR the way it sounds to me. The low strings were beautiful and dark but still present, while the trebles were tone-full and much as you would expect with a good dynamic mic. I was blown away as I had only dreamed of reproducing this sound through an amp. I used the guitar for every track as needed and was very pleased with the results. What a time saver. No setting up mics and remaining in one position while playing. What freedom! OK at this point I was in love, and it was spring time, and flowers.

Live: I use a Bose L1 Mark II line array PA system and a Martin HD-28 when performing. It is the best small PA for me, but that is another review. I foolishly drove off to my solo gig in a fairly busy lounge with out testing the pickup. I was horrified with the results I got upon first turning the PA on and plugging the guitar in w/EQ flat. It was thin, and toneless, and feeding back at every attempt to correct what I was getting. I had never experienced such a change in performance. OMG, I was in a mess. It was unusable and I had 45min to get it together. Nothing was working. Luckily my Bro in law was in the audience and we weren't to far from home. I had to ask for him to drive to my house and grab my trusty D18 with its K&K Western Pure pickup. He returned with the guitar and the gig went well, and the mission completed.

I then set the L1 up in my living room and began working on the Lyric. There had to be a mistake somewhere, on my behalf, and sure enough I had forgotten about the presence control. I turned it way down, and then began getting the tone that was my guitar. But try as I could, I could not recreate the success of the studio sounds I had been so pleased with. I found it very sensitive to feed back and the top of the guitar became a lightning rod for the unwanted sounds of holding the guitar. I could not get close to the volume and tone I needed to perform. There comes a place where the amount of EQ-ing becomes too complex. It is just not worth carrying a time bomb around with you, until you find yourself in a situation where the EQ just isn't available. Now I did not try bringing the Fishman amp and using the direct out to feed my PA. It is possible that using it may have created a more stable playing situation. I decided against it and removed the Lyric, sadly. 

Conclusion: This is an amazing tool for lower volume situations in unison with the same equipment on a regular basis. For studio applications it's a wonderful tool and makes life real simple, and with great results. I'm keeping my Lyric in its box on a shelf in my music room. It will come in handy for recording or maybe for another guitar. As for my main performing instrument, it requires a simple, great sounding solution. So far my best results have been the the LR Baggs M80 sound hole pickup, the LR Baggs I-Beam, and the K&K Western Pure Pickup. I have also had great results with two Beta 57 Mics, but only under certain circumstances.

I will soon write an entry on various systems for amplifying acoustic guitars, and how they work best for me. Until then, good luck with your guitar journey.

Bill Johnson

It just seemed like a natural thing for me to do. As I do try many products and perform and record with them, maybe I can help you make a decision buying your next Guitar, Amp, or Gadget, by offering my observations here.

I lost my mother November 16. She lived 91 years. She had an incredible 60 year career as a pastel artist. It's been very hard to say good-bye. A legitimate reason to sing the blues...

Well we've started back at Swan's, Victoria's only full time live music venue. Dates are posted on my Calendar. The first two were great fun, having my favourite band back behind me. Rick Erickson-Bass, Darcy Phillips-piano/organ, Ross Hall-Drums.

Yes I got nailed by the latest super flu bug December 30th. Terrible timing, but as of today Im feeling much better. I thought I was going to get Pneumonia again, but I guess seven years of non-smoking has finally begun to help me fight that off. This is the first year I forgot to get a flu shot. Trying to stay away from these bugs when your job is to sing in rooms full of many people, is very difficult. There's another issue for healthcare, and support for the arts. 

 

I'll be starting up teaching again this fall and winter. It's time. I've been absent since starting work on Still Blue. 

  • I work best with people who already play by ear
  • I will attempt to teach you some theory if you like.
  • I can give you the ground work you need to start writing your own music.
  • In my home
  • In your home (added cost)

Write me first. bill@billjohnsonblues.com

Absolute beginners, may find me too confusing. I have played since age 9. I can't even remember what not playing was like. I do remember the many obstacles I faced over 40 years, and I can help there too.

 

I'll be playing solo at the Charles Dickens Pub in Sidney October 4th and then again on the 11th. Playing three sets, so I'll be doing all sorts of music, from my newest original work to Willie Nelson... I have a few surprises too.

What a Great idea, listening to live music and sampling the best BBQ from all over. We will have the band there 5pm on Sunday.

it's happening in Esquimalt starting Friday night. Lots of great music to be heard over the course of this event. Can I get you anything else? Enjoy...

I am looking for a new person or group to manage my career. I guess the first order of business is that you believe in what I do and will convince others that I have something worth listening too. I make music and perform for listeners. I do not want to have to sell it. Do you want to?

Yes, I have the music nearly ready to go to work recording the follow up to Still Blue. I do move slowly. I can't wait to get into the studio environment and get to work with some great musicians. 

Hello Friends and Friends I have yet to meet. I am hoping I can create a place to find out details about where I might be playing. I'm not spending much time working on internet advertising for my music. I'm tired of that burden. It seems to me Facebook is too much of an invasion of ones privacy. I don't want to know all the random info that comes out of that site. I do want to inform people, who care, where they can see me play music live. I also want to sell CDs to those who want them.

I don't want to tell you what is and is not blues.

I also don't want to invade your computer, over and over, day after day, because I think you need to be prodded into following my thoughts.

The pendulum is starting to swing the other direction and its time to focus on writing music, walking the dog, talking with my wife. I began this journey into the NET in 1995 on a dialup modem with a 486. It was fascinating to read and listen to music oriented info. I've met thousands of people here. I've been called names, been threatened, found praise, and sold CDs in this last 20 years spent online.

I really think it's time to slow down and get back to life as I once knew it. Many people who 5 years ago refused to own a computer to surf the net now have climbed on board. It seems everyone is expressing their thoughts and satisfying their egos. 50 year old men and women are behaving like teenagers because of their lack of written communication skills. I suppose some great stuff is happening too, but everyday I have to weed through 50 messages to my email address, to find the ones which are from people who want to send me a letter. the other 45 are trying to get me to like their music, so in return they will like mine? WTF? (((DELETE))) Then there are the bad jokes.... well not much to add there. How about the thieves trying to rob us? Wouldn't you like to be able to shoot them with your stun gun...

So I am pledging to end my Facebook pages. I'm just going to leave a link to this site. If you want to know where I am and what I'm up to I will post it here. I might even offer a thought or two. The change will be that you can drop by when you are interested.

 

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