We met Jacob Johnson of the trio Son of John to discuss their wonderful news Every second step scrapbook (reviewed here), which features a broad and exciting new musical direction, as well as cementing its new lineup of bands.
As we mentioned in the review of Son of John’s new movie Every second step album, the band’s line-up has gone from solo to duo to trio since the release of their debut album autumn anthem in 2016. It was a busy time for Jacob Johnson, who now leads the band instead of going it alone, playing with a central unit of John Parker on the double bass and Jack Walker to the battery. “I ended up meeting John a few years after the debut album was created and toured,” Jacob begins. “We released a little EP together, Living in Fieldgate, which was very stripped down. I wanted this to capture the live environment of us bouncing around each other, which was really nice. After spending years playing mostly alone, I realized how rewarding it is to play with others.
The recruitment of John and then Jack Walker meant a change in sound for Son of John, after the traditional sound autumn anthem, both additions having a background in jazz. This detail can be heard throughout Each Second Footstep, resulting in an album very different in style from its predecessor. “I met Jack in Birmingham, and he asked me if I wanted some drumming there,” Jacob explains. “I wasn’t sure it would work before we tried it, but it takes you down other avenues, and you also use their inspirations and where they come from. Jack is jazz trained, but he likes also modern music and hip-hop, and it’s nice to have that range of styles to incorporate into the songs, rather than mine Songs like the traditional blues number John the Revelator and the original The Waves from Each Second Footstep fully demonstrate the new diversity offered by the band. Yet the same could be said of any of the songs. The sound is not just sonically expansive, but intellectually, with adventurous touches and the musical influences of the other two members of the group creating depth and color.”John also loves jazz”, continues Jacob. “He is a [Charles] Both Mingus and Edgar Meyer are fans of and learned from Danny Thompson, who learned a lot about jazz earlier in his career. I like the idea because it’s never fixed; it can change every night, and sometimes it’s great, but other times it might not. It’s quite fun with that risk and a bit more improvisation.
Jacob has been less involved in jazz than the others, his background being rooted in folk and blues guitarists and alternate tunings, an element that is less visible on the new album but still integral to the foundation of the sound. “You just have to make more room,” he says. “The more complex you become, the less space there is; I really liked playing with the others, but sometimes it can feel too crowded, so I can back off a bit, and they can step in, and we can blend into more than one group. But the guitar is always at the center of the writing process. It’s a writing tool, and that’s never going to change, but sometimes I find really complex parts and try to sing along to them, and it just doesn’t work. I’m not at the level Martin Simpson,” he laughs. “I can’t do that, and I liked making space for others and thinking about what the song needs. Does it need a long guitar solo? Maybe not.”
There is a good variety of music through Every second step, a characteristic that Jacob noted in the work of some of his influences, including José González and Martin Simpson, as well as a major figure. “It may be obvious, but a huge influence on me is John Martin,” he smiled. “Thinking of his Solid Air disc, there are many varieties of songs on it; Air solid is nothing like May you neverwhich has nothing to do I do not want to know. They’re all very different sonically, but they’re all still John Martyn. There are levels of his influence on the record, but I think what I wanted to achieve was to have all my influences in there somewhere. Also noteworthy is the balance heard on the album, which was recorded as a trio for the most part, with embellishments added later. “Yeah, it was pretty much recorded live and then we would go back to them afterwards with vocals and stuff,” Jacob explains. “I like it because the songs tend to move and change a bit; those great records from the sixties and seventies would. They did as many takes as possible and chose the best one. There’s something about capturing live audio; it’s not the best production, but that’s not the point because you can capture something more. Of course, however, the album is much more than a trio recording, with the additional arrangements, especially strings by Kate St John, adding a lot of texture and character to the songs while still keeping space in the his. “A lot of things I like to listen to are pretty minimalistic,” Jacob says after a pause. “But I think the songs have to come and go and maybe crescendo. Waves‘crescendo is pretty big, but it has to work somewhere; you can’t start a hundred percent. It’s hard to be fair and sometimes I’ll be in there and think we’ll try the oboe and see what happens. You have to know what the song needs and when it’s enough, but that’s a fun part of it all and hopefully it benefits the music.
As mentioned in the album’s review, Each Second Footstep is an essential release.
It releases on July 22, 2022; you can pre-order Each Second Footstep via Bandcamp: https://sonofjohnfolk.bandcamp.com/releases
More here: https://www.sonofjohnfolk.com/