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Thoughts on the Road, Barbecue and Catching Lightning in a Bottle: Southside Johnny Ventures South

February 2, 2015
Southside Johnny

Southside Johnny

Southside Johnny has been burning up the roads of America – and stages all across this vast nation – for more than 40 years now. The New Jersey “human jukebox” brings his audiences an exuberant mixture of rock and soul, shake-your-booty songs and heartache-soothing — or inducing — ballads that have packed venues with discriminating music lovers for decades. The legions of fans of his joyous, soul-soaked delivery include pals Bruce Springsteen, Miami Steve (aka Little Steven) Van Zant and Jon Bon Jovi.

With his sturdy band of road warriors called the Asbury Jukes, Southside Johnny will rock the house at McGlohon Theater Friday, Feb. 6. His nickname, in case you were wondering, comes from his love of Chicago blues, the best of which has historically emanated from the south side of the Windy City.

Recently, Johnny (real name John Lyon) called blog contributor Tut Underwood from the road to share some of his thoughts on music, his career and other information essential to the well-rounded culture vulture. Here’s a few highlights from their chat:

Tut: You haven’t played in the south too much, or am I mistaken?

SSJ: No, it’s true. We don’t play a lot down there. We did play Morris College back down there, and a few places in North and South Carolina, but it was a long time ago. It’s just not a territory that we’re very well known in. But we’d like to change that, and that’s why we’re coming down. Because if you get a chance to see us live, you will have a good time, I guarantee it.

Tut: I see you’re working on a new record this year.

SSJ: Yeah, I’m hoping to have it done by this summer. I’ve got the songs all written. Most of the arranging is done, but once you take all these songs to the band and let them play with them, they change. So I have to see what direction they’re gonna shift it to. I always like that process, where the band adds what they want.

Tut: Between your last studio album “Pills and Ammo” and this new record, you seem to be doing a lot more writing than you’ve done in the past, is that right?

SSJ: Yeah, well, I’ve had Steve Van Zant writing me songs and Bruce Springsteen, and I had a lot of songs I wanted to cover. I wrote, but I never thought my songs were as good as the songs I was given. So it wasn’t really that big an ego trip for me. But now that Jeff Kazee and I and Bobby Bandera are writing, I feel like the process has come around. You know, I like what I write. But believe me, if Bruce were to hand me, or Steve were to hand me a song that was better than one of mine, mine would be gone.

Tut: You’ve put out a lot of live albums. Do you think you sound better live than in the studio?

SSJ: No, but I think the live experience is a lot more fun than the studio — for the audience and the band. But I think we’re good in the studio too. There was a time that I thought we were better live, but that was a long time ago. You know, we really didn’t know what we were doing in the studio when we started out. But I think we’re way over that, and these guys are very professional. Except for when we’re having food fights.

Tut: Do you have them on stage?

 SSJ: Oh, yeah! (laughs)

Tut: So in Charlotte, we should expect a food fight on stage?

SSJ: You bring the right barbecue, I guarantee somebody will be wearing it. Actually I ride with my merchandise guy, Phil the Kingpin, and both of us, as soon as we heard we’re going through North Carolina, I said the best barbecue I ever had was in North Carolina at some little joint way off the highway, so we’re looking forward to that.

Tut: Anything you want to say to the fans in Charlotte?

SSJ: Just come and have a good time. We’re looking forward to it. We want to play for people, and we hope they will come and enjoy themselves.

You heard the man! Join Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes live at McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square on Friday, Feb. 6. A few seats are still open, so get yours today!

Want to hear more from Southside Johnny? Read the full interview HERE.

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