Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center: Johnny Lang inspired by James Taylor


GREAT BARRINGTON -- So as it turns out, master blues guitarist Jonny Lang has a local connection to Berkshire County.

"James Taylor," he said. in a recent interview. "He and Stevie Wonder are without a doubt, my two biggest inspirations.

"If you want to talk about influences, well, that's different," said Lang, who is performing 8 p.m. Thursday at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. "I would have to say B.B. King, Albert Collins and Albert King. But Stevie Wonder and James Taylor, just about everything about them inspires me.

"The songs they write, how well they sing, just the way they are on stage," said Lang. "I get a lot of inspiration form all that."

Lang admitted that he never met either artist, adding that he performed at a benefit at which Wonder worked.

He regularly performs Wonder's "Living for the City" in concert. And he and his band have been working on a James Taylor song, as well.

"I can't tell you what it is, because I don't know if it will be ready by the time we get to the Mahaiwe," he said. "But we're going to try to get it down."

Lang is touring in support of his latest album, "Fight For My Soul."

It is, he said, a very personal album.

"Well, the last seven to 10 years of my life have been kind of a rollercoaster ride," he said, referring primarily to his continued commitment to Christianity, as well as the expansion of his family. Lang and his wife, Haylie Johnson, have four children.

"Getting married and having kids was so amazing," he said. "But it isn't always easy. Having children creates logistical things you don't expect. I loved having children, but it kind of derailed my career for a little bit.

"I have to admit, before it happened, I thought having kids was going to be a piece of cake," said Lang, laughing. "It's fun, for sure. But there's a mental piece, a focus you need, that I wasn't ready for."

Speaking of parents, Lang credits them with fostering his love for music growing up in Fargo, N.D.

"My dad introduced me to this band of blues musicians, The Bad Medicine Blues Band," he said. "I remember the first time I heard them play, I realized that I had to learn how to play like that."

Lang would up taking guitar lessons form Bad Medicine's lead guitarist, Ted Larsen.

Lang ended up joining the band before embarking on a solo career. In 2006, Lang won his first Grammy for "Turn Around."

Lang also appears regularly as part of the Experience Hendrix Tour, a tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix. He performs with legends like Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton.

"It's hard to explain the feeling when you're on stage with guys like that," said lang. "You realize how lucky you are to be there."

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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