Twenty years of Greg Johnson

NEW DAD: Greg Johnson is going on tour to get some sleep.
NEW DAD: Greg Johnson is going on tour to get some sleep.

Only the father of a newborn baby would think hitting the road would be a way to catch up on sleep. But that's exactly the mindset Greg Johnson has ahead of his 20th Anniversary tour starting this week.

Johnson is the proud new dad to Ruby June Iris Johnson ("if she wants to be a country singer, she's all set"), his first child with wife, American stuntwoman Kelli Barksdale.  

"There's less sleep even than touring. This will be the first tour I get more sleep on tour than at home," he said between proudly showing off videos of the two-month-old.

He is also the proud dad to new album Exits - his 10th - due out later this week.

Recorded at Johnson's studio at home in LA, the album features a touch of Kiwi with guest appearances by Flip Grater and Geoff Maddok among others, who found themselves in the right place at the right time.

Clocking in at a lengthy 18 months to record, the extra time spent in the studio meant it evolved into something Johnson is proud as punch about.

And like his last record, which was one of the first attempts by a Kiwi musician to crowd-fund an album, Exits was independently funded, with a little help from some eager fans.  

"This one, I didn't want to push too much because my fan base is very loyal. They come to all the shows and they buy the merch and they buy the records and I didn't want to force the issue too much. But at the same time, a couple of hundred of the hardcore were happy to pre-buy a deluxe version of the record."

"I don't know how long the patience of the public will last in that kind of thing, or the interest, but it works quite well."  

Changing technology and new ways for talking to fans is something Johnson thinks about. And things are certainly different since he stepped on stage with hits like Isabelle and Liberty two decades ago.

"There's no doubt it's easier to reach the audience than ever, and if you maintain a relationship it's mutually beneficial.

"I probably don't Tweet as often as I should. Actually there's a line in one of my songs on the record, 'when time was still a friend and not a tweet'.  But I actually really like that stuff, it's fun. I like that fact people can actually write [to me]... you can be as close or as far from it as you want to be."

But the plan is to get pretty close during these live shows. With a live band and some old favourites making a comeback, Johnson said it's good to be back, even if the muscle memory hasn't quite kicked in for some of the classics, like his very first single Two Feet off the Ground.

"It's a reinvention, trying to remember chords and all of that, but the songs stand up - some of them though, not all of them by all means.

"It's really rewarding to have a large catalogue of songs to draw on for shows; it means it's not boring at all."

Greg Johnson 20th Anniversary/ Exits Album Release Tour

14 - The Meteor, Hamilton
15 - Victoria Theatre, Devonport
16 - Mayfair, New Plymouth
17 - Paddington Live, Auckland
22 - San Francisco Bath House, Wellington
23 - Brewers Bar, Mt Maunganui
25 - Matakana Ascension Wine Estate, Auckland
29 - The Osti, Waiheke
30 - Naval Point Yacht Club, Lyttleton

1 - Dux Live, Christchurch
2 - Paddington Live, Auckland

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