August 2, 2018
Jon Gordon Langseth Jr., alias Jonny Lang, was discovered in the late 1990s as part of a wave of blues guitar prodigies.
In the late 1990s, we loved nothing so much as white teenagers who could play the blues like aging African-American men.
Lang, who will perform at the Clyde Theatre on August 11, has developed a lot as a player and as a person since that time.
He said it is difficult to listen to recordings from his younger days.
“I would say it’s like looking at an old yearbook photo of yourself,” Lang said in a phone interview. “It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. What was I wearing? Look at that haircut!’”
In the wake of his first blast of fame, Lang struggled briefly with alcohol. But he said he avoided most of the pitfalls that can swallow up young musicians who experience early success.
“I used to party pretty hard,” he said. “But, all in all, I am happy about the way things turned out. Very happy, in fact.”
In the decades that intervened, Lang expanded his musical palette to encompass soul, funk, and rock. He embraced Christianity, got married, and started a family of his own.
Lang said everything happened naturally. Well, his family happened naturally, of course, but what Lang is referring to is his musical excursions and explorations.
“There’s not really a whole lot of me consciously directing it,” he said. “I really enjoy letting things fall into place.
“Life is what dictates my next move,” Lang said, “Where I am at in the moment. What I am feeling. I try not to force it too much. Usually the inspired part of it is what makes the most sense.”
Land added that new songs tend to come together in the studio with input from the entire band.
The music business has changed a lot since the late 1990s. Three decades ago, major musicians made most of their money through CD sales. Nowadays, it’s live performances that pay the bills.
“Fortunately,” Lang said, “I’ve been able to tour and have that be the main source of income all through the years. It’s acted as a buffer against all of those changes you mentioned. Because, yeah, if you’re trying to make money making records, it’s a tricky thing.”
Lang hastens to add that he still covets a radio hit.
“I am not going to pretend I wouldn’t love that,” he said. “That would be great.”
Family complicates touring, of course. Lang said having children (five of them at last count) is the best thing that has happened to him.
“Family is my top priority,” he said. “It’s about more than just me saying, ‘I’m doing something I love and I’ll come and go as I please.’ That was a big change in life. You find out how selfish you are.
“It’s a Catch-22,” he said. “It’s the thing I do to support them and it’s the thing that takes me away from them.”
They’re 10 and younger and Lang said he looks forward to the day when they’re old enough to accompany him on tour.
Lang said he’s been lucky enough to have a number of music legends fill the role of father figure for him.
The most influential of those is Buddy Guy.
“We are out on the road with him now,” Lang said. “You look up to him because he’s just this iconic legend. He was around when this genre of music he plays was born. And he’s still here.
“To hang out with him and have him be so kind and nice to me and inviting and accepting… He’s just been a really good guy to me and that’s meant a lot. It’s been a good example for me. I have grown up seeing that.”
Asked to cite someone he would like to collaborate with that he hasn’t had a chance to work with yet, Lang gives a surprising answer: James Taylor.
“James Taylor and Steve Wonder,” he said. “They’re my favorites. I’d mop the floor for them. Anything for a chance to be in the same room.”
Lang has realized the dreams of many a young musician. He said he doesn’t have any “long-term, off-on-the-horizon destinations to be reached” at this point.
“Whenever you do that,” he said, “you find out when you get there that it’s not what you thought it would be.
“I just want to be as good of a dad as I can and as good as of a husband as I can,” Lang said. “I want to try to honor what God has give me the best way that I can. Hopefully, the music that we do can be something good in people’s lives.”
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