Interview: Will Johnson of Centro-Matic – Living Room Show – Macon, GA – 2/17

photo by Matt Pence

photo by Matt Pence

Will Johnson is a busy man; When he’s not touring with his band Centro-matic (a band he founded in 1997 in Denton, Texas), he’s probably engaged in a number of other musical endeavors. Whether he’s playing alongside Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James, and Mike Mogis in Monsters of Folk, or alongside David Bazan and Matt & Bubba Kadane in Overseas, writing, recording, touring – and more recently, painting, are his passions.

Even still, Will holds a number of other acts to his credit; South San Gabriel, New Multitudes, Molina & Johnson, The Undertow Orchestra etc..

Starting on February 11th, he’ll be setting out on a series of intimate, living room shows in the Southeast – including three dates in Georgia.

Feb. 16th – Atlanta, GA – Purchase Tickets

Feb. 17th – Macon, GA – Purchase Tickets

Feb. 18th – Athens, GA – Purchase Tickets

I had the chance to speak with Will briefly about his in-depth involvement with his work, the great state of Texas, and the last time he visited Macon. Tickets are still available for the show on February 17th, but they’re moving quickly.

photo by Adam Smith

photo by Adam Smith

You’ll be embarking on a run of “Living Room” shows in just a few days How long after Centro-Matic started touring did you realize the stripped down, more intimate sets were something you wanted to work into your schedule? I guess because most bands start with a far less organized version of what you’re doing, it’s kind of a way to get back to basics..

Before we formed the full band version of Centro-matic, back in 1997, I would do solo sets with only an electric guitar and vocal mic.  So as far as playing my own songs goes, I sorta started out this way. Those shows were amplified and usually in venues, but the idea and delivery was similar. Doing tours like this peels things back to just the song, allows me to experiment with new songs, reinvent some old ones, and crash and burn without taking anyone down with me. I like that it puts everyone on neutral turf and omits some of the sensory barriers we sometimes encounter with regular venue shows.

I remember the first time I saw Centro-Matic was at AthFest 2011 on the larger of the two outside stages.. You mentioned the band’s close relationship with Drive-By Truckers and I’ve always been curious about how you all came to know each other and the history that’s played out from the relationship..

I met Patterson back in 1999, or maybe 2000, thanks to Brent Best (Slobberbone).  They would come through Denton and play at Dan’s Bar every once in a while. In September of 2001 we played Athens on one of our early tours, and given the events of the previous week, it was just a terrible time to be on the road. Patterson was one of maybe twenty people in the crowd, standing up front singing along, and
occasionally shuttling drinks to us. It turned out that he liked our record Distance and Clime.  We all stayed at his house that night and the friendship was cemented from thereon. The Truckers came through Denton two weeks later on one of the first legs of Southern Rock Opera, we all went out for barbeque together, and I opened for them that night at Dan’s. Since then we’ve regularly constructed reasons to hang out, record, and tour together. The Truckers family has been about as good to us as anyone has, really, and we’re lucky for that.

Between Centro-Matic and your work with Monsters of Folk etc.. you’re quite the busy person.. What occupies your time when you’re not writing or on the road?

My family. They’re my community when I walk in the door. I make baseball-oriented paintings when time allows.

Scorpion was your first fully solo record in a number of years – Is the album a collection of more recent work, or songs you’ve been working on since Survey/Voyage that didn’t necessarily carry the feeling you wanted in your solo work?

Most of the songs from Scorpion were written during the week of that session. I like keeping things in the moment, especially with some of the solo recordings, so it became an immediate document of that
particular time.

Other than home, do you have a favorite place in Texas? From growing up in the Hill Country, I’ve always been convinced it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth, though I’ve not seen much of the state below the Guadalupe..

My wife and I roam the Hill Country regularly and West Texas whenever we get the chance. I like the West Texas terrain, space, and sunsets. We’ve got a handful of friends out there, and would eventually like to have a place out there one day.

From what I could find, Centro-Matic was last in Macon in 2007 for a show at the Hummingbird! Any particular memories from your time here?

It was the end of an August tour and I remember we were pretty fried, but we had a really great time playing that show. The crowd was kind to us and I’ve been hoping to get back since.

Will Johnson – “You Will Be Here, Mine”

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