For Jon Herington, the musical category doesn’t matter; he goes from jazzy blues to rock and everything between. He shines in any genre.
Interview by Danielle Boise
It’s all about music for Jon Herington. As a seasoned guitarist, he has performed with some of the greatest musicians of all time, like Steely Dan, Buddy Montgomery, The Dukes of September Rhythm Revue and even unexpected artists like Bette Midler over his acclaimed, nearly 30-year career.
Jon Herington sat down with Target Audience Magazine to discuss his new record, Time On My Hands, how it is to work with so many talented people and how the music industry had changed over the last three decades.
Hi Jon, you’ve been extremely active in the music scene since 1985. In your opinion, how has the landscape of the music industry evolved or devolved in that nearly 30 year time period and what has the biggest impact been made to you on both a professional and personal level?
Well, the business has surely changed in the last 30 years. It has affected me in a couple of ways. When I first moved to New York, there was a very active session recording scene, but it seems to have gotten much smaller over time.
I still do a bit of recording, but it’s less than I used to do. Also, people say it’s more difficult to make money from radio play and CD sales, and that certainly seems to be true. Even though those seem like negative developments, for me they have led to a lot more live music playing, which is something I love to do, so it feels like it’s had a positive impact on me.
Do you feel your style of music has stayed in step with the strides that the industry has made or do you feel you march to your own beat?
I’ve been happiest ignoring the contemporary music scene, basically. I used to be much more interested in staying up-to-date with new releases, new sounds, etc., but as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to focus more on my own musical projects and interests, and I find that’s easier to do if I don’t let myself get distracted by a lot of the new stuff that’s happening.
You have a new album, Time On My Hands, that is coming out on August 3; how long did it take you in the studio to record the 10 original tracks and what is your favorite song on the Time On My Hands?
Well, the basic tracking only took three days or so, but since I was doing the overdubbing in my own studio, I was able to take as much time as I needed to do the vocals, the guitar solos that I hadn’t recorded on the basics, most of the keyboards, and some percussion and some extra guitar parts. So that phase lasted months, though it got interrupted by a lot of touring, as well. It was a bit of a struggle to try to finish the mastering before I left for this Dukes of September tour that I’m on now, but we managed to get it done and it feels like both a thrill and a relief!
I don’t really have a favorite tune on the record, but I do have things I like about some of the songs. I particularly like the guitar solos on the first track, “Shine Shine Shine,” on the title tune, “Time On My Hands” and on “I’ll Fix Your Wagon.” I like the hybrid vibe of “Sweet Ginny Rose” – it sounds like a Bo Diddley raga to me! And “Runnin’ Out of Time” has a kind of haunting sweetness to it that I like.
What is your most interesting back story that helped create the song material for TOMH?
Well, before we started putting the material together for this record, I had decided that I wanted to do a record which really featured the guitar in a bigger way than I had ever done before. Because of the stuff I grew up listening to, like the Beatles and the Stones, my natural tendency is to write more concise songs with a short guitar break in the middle. So in a way this project challenged me as a songwriter. It also seemed to call for lyrics with a lighter hearted attitude, so when my own approach seemed a little too serious I made a point of getting together with a friend or two of mine to collaborate on the lyrics, and, not only did that turn out to be a lot of fun, but it really helped!
You have worked with so many talented musicians over your career as a freelancer of sorts and then within your own band The Jon Herington Band, and then you also perform in the supergroup, The Dukes of September with Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs, and Michael McDonald; how is it juggling so many different bands?
Though sometimes it can feel exhausting, generally I really like the variety of all the different work I do. I like the challenge of it.
What are the draw backs and pluses of pursing one’s career like this?
I think it’s really good for my musicianship, my skills. On the one hand it can feel frustrating to be shifting gears all the time, musically speaking, but on the other hand it helps keep things fresh and interesting.
The biggest drawback, I guess, is that all the touring as a sideman can make it difficult to keep the momentum of my original music project going. But I really like my sideman work, so I’ve learned to accept the interruptions and to be content with working my own band as hard as we can whenever we get the chance.
Do you ever feel that the creativity suffers or is it inspired by a constant rejuvenation of so many different perspectives and vantage points by having an influx of creative people in your life?
Well, it can be hard to find time to write when I’m busy working so much. I need some quiet and some space to create, so I may have to start actually scheduling that kind of thing in order to find it!
You are out touring right now, do you have plans for when the tour is done and are you currently collecting material for the next album or will you take a little bit of a break a decompress?
As soon as this tour ends in late August, my own band starts two months’ worth of East Coast area shows. We’re trying to push the new CD, and trying to keep the momentum of the live band going, too. I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve started work on a couple of songs, but nothing’s finished yet, and though I can’t resist writing when I get the urge, I’m not really in a hurry to get to more recording – I’m glad for the break from it after working pretty intensely on finishing the new one.
Finally, what is the best advice that someone has given you about working within the music industry and do you have any advice for new talent working their way up the ladder of success?
Well, I don’t remember getting any particular advice from anyone, but I’ve been able to do very well and feel very satisfied simply by doing what I love as much as I’ve been able, and I think that might be pretty good advice.
Visit www.jonherington.com for more information on all things related to Jon Herington and to find out where he will be performing next.