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Newcastle’s Tony Johns releases his new album, “Natural”

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Tony Johns is back – celebrating the release of his new album “Natural” at Lizotte’s on the 2nd February. We caught up for a chat with the iconic local songwriter. [/cs_text][cs_text]Take us back to the 80s in Newcastle. What’s one of your fondest memories of playing the circuit from that time? 

Not only did I gig sometimes 7 nights a week but the venues were so well patronised ! The audiences were generally happy and enthusiastic to join in singing on the cover songs as well as keen to hear my originals. The biggest blast was to hear my audiences singing along to my own songs. Venues where this occurred included the Bel-air hotel Kotara[now a Mcdonalds], The Belvue hotel on bank corner, the Cricketers Arms Cooks Hill and the Hunter River Hotel East Maitland. I had weekly residencies at these venues lasting over 3 years !

You once supported the Big O (Roy Orbison), how did that come about, and did you get to meet the man himself? 

A nerve racking experience playing to a capacity crowd in the auditorium of the Newcastle Workers Club booked by my management at the time “Rock City Promotions”. I played some of my original material and also did a duet with Marguerite Ashford [ a prominent local performer at the time ]. Unfortunately Roy Orbison lived up to his reputation as a recluse and entered and exited the stage directly from his limo ! I didn’t get to meet him .

Many people would remember your music from a song you released called, “PCA The Easy Way”. Tell us about that song, and how it influenced the rest of your career. 

PCA was written[tongue in cheek] about my experience of being booked for drunk driving ! The arresting officer was well known in Maitland [my home town] so I used his name in the song…that made him more infamous and boosted the popularity of the song ! I had a front page story in the local paper with officer “Wells” pretending to arrest me in the photo ! The song made it into the top10 on the local radio charts and subsequently sold well and boosted my career ! I recently saw a PCA single for sale on ebay selling for $12…so it’s still out there spreading the word about the evils of drinking and driving !lol.

During the 90’s you contracted Spasmodic Dysphonia, which really put a break on your career. Can you explain what Spasmodic Dysphonia is, and how you’ve managed it over the years in order to get to this point. 

Spasmodic Dysphonia is a neurological disease that causes spasms in the muscles that operate the vocal chords. It ended my singing career as I couldn’t control my voice well enough to sing a whole song. An analogy would be like asking an artist who has parkinsons in his hands to paint a portrait . It also affected my talking voice and makes me sound nervous or stressed especially in noisey environments. I adapted my playing to electric guitar to concentrate on playing more lead and melody and I occasionally join in on vocal harmonies in the lineups that I perform in.

Your new album is called, “Natural”. Why? And how did this album come about?

I named the new album “Natural” after the title song which I wrote from the perspective of a mother giving up her baby for adoption. That mother was my daughters grandmother and the baby was my daughters mother. The most wonderfull surprise for me was that my daughter[Sophie,who was 5 when I wrote the song] ended up singing it on the album !

I began recording the album in the mid 1990’s and had only recorded 4 vocal tracks before my voice failed. The tapes were shelved while I sort treatment for my condition but 15 years later we decided to ask other singers in to finish the remaining tracks. Mark Tinson in his “Steelville Studio” organised all of this as well as converting the ¼” tapes to digital format so they could be preserved. Now, 20years later, the tracks sound like they were recorded yesterday !

The songs are very personal and earthy about my family and lifestyle, hence the title…..”Natural”.

Tell us about the vocalists who came in to help you with the completion of this release.

Mark Tinson put the word out to singers he’d worked with to come in and help finish my album and Newcastle’s finest answered the call ! I am so honoured to have the voices of Kevin Bennet[The Flood/Chasin’the Train], Julie Wilson[Andy Firth’s Nova Swing], Brien Mcvernon[Retro Rockits], Michael Hawke[Jungle Kings], Peter DeJong[Heroes], Justin Ngariki, Ty Penshorn[Hornet] and Sophie Gibbons[my daughter] singing my songs and I will be eternally gratefull to them !

Where did you record the album, and what’s it like to sit back and listen to the final product? 

The album began it’s life 20 years ago at Tinno’s Överhead Studio”in Cook’s Hill and was completed at his Steelville Studio in Kotara. The calibre of musicians who performed on it is mind blowing !….Session musos such as Steve Sowerby[drums-Eurogliders], Ian Lees[bass-Moving Pictures], Rick Melik[Keyboard/piano-Joe Bonamasa], Bob Spencer[guitar-Angels], Mark Tinson[guitars/mandoline/dobro-Heroes], Tony Azzopardi[percussion-Doug Parkinson band], Michel Rose[pedal steel-Lee Kernaghan band], Mark Collins[banjo-Goldrush], and Wayne Goodwin[deceased-fiddle/strings-Emmylou Harris band].

It gives me immense pleasure and pride to hear my songs performed by such a brilliant array of talent !

How can people get a copy of the album?

My album is available at Black Pug Records at Islington or I can mail you one if you contact me at Tony Johns @tonyjohnsmusic on Facebook. It’s also available in digital format online at CD Baby, Amazon, Itunes etc…

Tell us about the song, “I Know This Road”.

Ï Know This Road” is a blues song I wrote about the grind of constantly driving up and down the Newcastle to Sydney expressway [M1] in the 1980’s and 1990’s when I was doing a lot of gigs down that way. It’s on my 1998 vinyl album called “The Way I Live” which is also now available on CD.

Also, tell us about ‘Tribute’, the song you’ve done the video for . . . 

I wrote “Tribute” for my father in 1996 who was, at the time, dying with asbestosis cancer. I painfully recorded it the day after Dad died so it could be played at his funeral…..the pain is obvious in my vocals !

How have you embraced all the new digital promotion and distribution channels that drive the music industry these days? 

The technology at hand nowadays for promo and distribution is fantastic !

In the 1980’s it took me weeks to drive to every record bar in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley !…now .. from my home office, I have organised selling outlets for my album around the world in minutes !…

I get notification when one of my songs gets airplay on internet radio in the US, Canada, Sth America, Europe and Asia !
I have old friends and fans from all over the globe [ some from 30 years ago !] contacting me through Facebook to ask about my music.

What’s next for you? 

All my concentration is on my Show at Lizottes on Thurs 2nd Feb 2017 to officially release “Natural” and showcase some of my previous songs. An Impressive line-up of musicians will be performing my material that night including; Mark Tinson, Sue Carson, Dave Carter, Pam Gully, Julie Wilson, Jim Porteus, Terry Morton, Robbie Long, Emil Matla, Sophie Gibbons, Brady Gibbons, Brien McVernon, Michael Hawke, Pete DeJong, Justin Ngariki, and Ty Penshorn.

This event will undoubtedly be the most significant in my 30 year career to date, and I look forward, with an open mind, to whatever the future holds ![/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][x_button size=”large” block=”true” circle=”false” icon_only=”false” href=”” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””]BOOK TICKETS FOR TONY’S LAUNCH AT LIZOTTES[/x_button][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]