‘Real-deal’ roots, R&B
Todd Anders Johnson steers clear of cliches
October 24, 2008
In a year where gas prices and cost crunches have made it hard for many regional bands to keep up with touring, Todd Anders Johnson has come up with a solution – one that covers at least two states.
Having recently moved to Boulder from Seattle, Johnson recruited horn players and a rhythm section from the Front Range, leaving in tact the group he played with in the Pacific Northwest.
“It kind of allows me to fly out to Seattle and pay for a plane ticket and book shows out there, without having to book a full tour from here,” Johnson said about his live show, which brings socially conscious messages to an amped-up Latin jazz sound.
With song clips in a couple of Warren Miller movies and a performance at last year’s X Games behind him, Johnson went into a Boulder studio to record his first album, “As it is above, so it is below.”
On Saturday, Johnson and his band, Salem, bring their tour in support of that record to Mahogany Ridge. Johnson talked with 4 Points about how the CD turned out, how he’s developed connections in the action-sports world and why social messages go well with music.
4 POINTS: You’re touring in support of your first studio record. Tell me about it.
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TODD ANDERS JOHNSON: I kind of produced each tune as I would ultimately have (the band members) play it. It’s not often that I would tour as an eight- or nine-piece, but that’s how I did it, and it’s been going well. :
It is diverse; there’s definitely a good spectrum in there. I definitely recorded the songs a little bit more mellow, a little bit more song-oriented, and not as rippin’ (as the live show). : It’s not that the songs are 3 1/2 minute radio songs, but I just kind of wanted the songs to sit by themselves. There are a lot of parts there, but it’s not a jam record.
4 POINTS: Is the live show pretty intense?
TAJ: In the live show, we definitely let it out a lot more and play to a room. : It’s kind of like a funk band. When you have like an eight-piece funk band, if everyone just plays their part, the aggregate is huge.
4 POINTS: How did you get involved with some of the ski and snowboard videos and companies you’ve worked with?
TAJ: If you are interested in it, you can definitely find your way around, and it’s helpful to get some of the gigs under your belt and it legitimizes it all the more.
4 POINTS: Do you think the kind of music you make fits well with action sports videos?
TAJ: I think it can, for sure. : Probably half to two-thirds of the record I think would, and then I did some tunes that are a little more mellow. But that’s because I’m an artist, and I’m producing music not so I can be on Clear Channel radio. But there are elements of funk and tinges of jazz and reggae that people who are into cool, action sports – if you want to call it that – (those people) like those elements.
4 POINTS: Do you do any of those action sports?
TAJ: I love outdoor sports, especially with eco-companies. : I think there’s a need to hype that, and it’s such a big industry, I’m hoping I can be kind of an ambassador to some of these companies coming up.
4 POINTS: Does that interest in socially conscious companies translate to your music?
TAJ: A lot of my lyrics are about social change and what’s going on in the world. : I believe in the tradition of Bob Marley or Ani DiFranco or Michael Franti, that change through music is possible.
4 POINTS: How do you express those messages in music?
TAJ: I think stylistically, if people sink their teeth into the style, I think that’s the first hurdle. Someone’s got to be able to resonate with the kind of music you’re playing, and then there are the words.
I don’t know, I think there’s this thing about producing music that’s real and original and not just cliche, and I also think there’s something about kind of soulful or roots or real-deal music, that when you’re doing it for real, there’s an authenticity that can’t be denied.
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