The Buck Johnson Band plays Howiee's
Nashville singer and songwriter Buck Johnson's debut album, "Enjoying the Ride," delivers a batch of fresh rock anthems that celebrate an American way of life.
"The songs are about who I am," Johnson says during a telephone call from his band's van. Headed to Santa Barbara, the group kicked off a West Coast tour Tuesday at The Red Piano.
"They're about about growing up singing gospel with my family, and the English rock bands I love that were influenced by Delta blues — the very thing I grew up singing. Bands like Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page on guitar, ZZ Top, B.B. King, the Carter Family," he says.
"'Enjoying the Ride' is about a state of mind. The songs are personal, but that makes them universal. If I'm true to myself and write from my heart, anyone can relate to the emotions expressed."
Johnson and his touring band — Los Angeles guitarist, singer and songwriter Geoff Pearlman, Nashville bassist Judd Fuller and "this young whippersnapper, Matt Hapson, from Fresno" — make a stop to perform Friday, March 10, at Howiee's on Front, 16 N. Front St., Medford. Rogue Valley rock band The Legendary Goodtimes will open the show at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Look for stand-out songs “Country Rockin' & Reelin',” a tribute to Southern country life written by Johnson and longtime collaborator Charlie Midnight, and "Living in America," a Grammy-winning R&B song written by Midnight and Dan Hartman and recorded by James Brown in 1985.
"Charlie is one of the best songwriters I know," Johnson says. "We've collaborated for 15 years or more. Great songs can be done many ways, and this album is all about great vocals and songwriting."
Johnson's debut recording project had a while to simmer before it was finally sent out into the world. The songs are tight and put together well.
"It took place over the span of a couple of years," he says. "Charlie and I started working with L.A. producer and mixer Mark Needham. I sent him about 80 songs, and we whittled that down to what is on the record. Mark loved my vocals, and he replaced my drum tracks with Kenny Aronoff's and added guitar by Waddy Wachtel. The rest was done in Nashville at Ocean Way Studio with fiddler Stuart Duncan, drummer Nick Buda, guitarist Rob McNelley and bassist Michael Joyce."
Johnson and his band will showcase the album, as well as sneak in a few covers by Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and maybe Leon Russell at the Howiee's show, Johnson says.
"We have this thing where we like to slip a cover song into an original we're playing," he says.
Johnson is living the rock-star dream. Aerosmith's keyboard player since 2014, he plans to be with the long-standing rock band when it begins its Aero-Vederci Baby! European Tour in May, with shows set in Israel, Georgia and Russia, then through Europe.
"They're all a little bit older than I am, but they're young at heart," he says. "It's amazing what Steve Tyler can do at 68. He's an inspiration. Aerosmith's farewell tour could go a few years. It will take a while for them to say goodbye to everyone. They've got the energy. The band is playing great. They're so on point."
The franchise that is Aerosmith is too large to be considered for smaller, intimate audiences.
"The demand when they come to a town requires (huge venues)," Johnson says. "In the States, they do arenas, with 15,000 or 20,000 people attending. Some of the European festivals — Download Festival in Donington, Sweden Rock Fest — those are big numbers. There could be as many as 50,000 to 60,000 people. Who knows, though, maybe they'll do some theaters."
Johnson hails from just outside Birmingham, Alabama. He attended Minor High School in Shady Grove and Birmingham-Southern College, where he met his wife, a former Miss Alabama. He spent years playing rock ‘n’ roll, country and other kinds of music in bars and at festivals around the region. He co-wrote Carlos Santana’s hit “Just Feel Better,” sung by Tyler, and he made the Top 40 twice with country band Whiskey Falls.
Johnson and his family have lived in Nashville since 2006, where he co-writes and tours with such musicians as Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles, John Waite, Tal Bachman, Shawn Mullins and Matthew Sweet.