Gary James' Interview With Greg Johnson Of
The James Taylor Tribute
Shower The People
He sure looks like James Taylor and he sounds like James Taylor too! He is Greg Johnson. Greg has put together a James Taylor tribute group called Shower The People.
Q - In the current Rolling Stone magazine with Katy Perry on the cover, it says she would like to make an acoustic album / CD. Her producer said you're not going to hear an acoustic record that much on the radio. That's strange, isn't it? Time was when you could hear Paul McCartney singing "Yesterday" on the radio or hear a Jim Croce or Cat Stevens or a James Taylor song on the radio. Greg, why can't we hear an acoustic song on the radio today?
A - That's a good question. Yeah, times are a changin'. I just think it's a different style. Kids are listening to things that are more techno. I think they've drowned out the true essence of an acoustic guitar. It breaths. I think they're drowning out the natural musical sound using just too many gadgets. There's too much gadgetry going on in today's music. There are a few people out there that are trying to do the acoustic thing, but it's very rare. Back in the '60s and '70s, especially the '70s, there was a lot of acoustic bands like America and all that Soft Rock stuff. Jim Croce, Taylor. I loved Dan Fogelberg and Simon And Garfunkel. You don't hear that anymore really. I thought John Mayer was one that stood out to me as someone who was sort of in that vein, but he's gone a little more electrical. David Wilcox, Marc Cohn. They're people that are still trying to keep that acoustic sound alive. I don't hear many sharp 'live' acoustic guitars like you heard in all the Taylor songs. It's very rare.
Q - Maybe it's because no one can write lyrics like James Taylor did and does.
A - It just seems like that whole singer / songwriter thing, where the words meant as much as the music, that's gone. We don't have that combination where the Simon And Garfunkel lyrics written by Paul Simon were just beautiful. Two vocalists together. You don't have that layering of vocals of Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young. That doesn't happen anymore. There's a little in the Country genre, but it's that Soft Rock sound I think you're referring to that seems to have disappeared. Kids just like something catchy. They're all about the hook and not about the meaning of the song.
Q - You're based in Cape Cod, but you're not originally from Cape Cod, are you?
A - No. I grew up in Sudbury. I went to Lincoln - Sudbury High School, which is a suburb of Boston, about 45 minutes outside of that area.
Q - You moved to Cape Cod in the early 1980s?
A - Yes. My family always had a Summer house in Cape Cod. We'd come here for a month or two months. Then my parents went through a divorce and my mom ended up with the Cape Cod house. I ended up here in 1983 after I graduated from the University Of New Hampshire and just decided to live here and make a living on Cape Cod. There's a lot of music, a lot of Art down there. I'm also a professional artist. I paint murals all over the town, large aquatic murals of whales and sharks.
Q - Is that what you did when you first moved to the Cape?
A - I moved here and got into the field of teaching. I was an Athletic Director and a Physical Education teacher. I played music here in the local venues, doing cover songs and a lot of James Taylor stuff. I always got people saying, " You sound a little like him," or "You look a little like him." I've always gotten that. I played last Saturday in Hyannis and I had somebody say, "You know, you look a little like him." (laughs) "A little different, but the same general idea in the eyebrows." I've heard that the last thirty-five years and I finally decided to do that tribute band show and it's been going really well.
Q - And you've been doing the tribute show for how long?
A - A little over five years. I'm out playing in local restaurants and pubs on my own, not doing that show because I can't get those people together as often as I'd like to do it. If I went out on the road, I'd probably have to do it on my own. There's six people in the band. I have three female back-up singers, a drummer and a bass player who also plays keyboards and electric guitar. So it would be tough for all six of us to do anything off of the Cape. I'm not saying it's not going to happen, but it's just hard to do when one of 'em has a small child.
Q - Since you opened for Kate Taylor (James Taylor's sister), did she do a double take when she saw you?
A - No. She was very nice, down to earth, totally untouched by fame. She obviously knows her brother and the family is very famous, but if you didn't know that before hand and you met her, you would never know that she's James Taylor's sister. She's just a very nice person. She didn't do a double-take, but I did tell her I was doing this show and I think I gave her a photograph to give to James, hoping to hear something, but I never did hear anything. A very nice lady. Then I saw her play at the Cultural Center. She came back a year after that and played there and we had another nice chat. She lives out on the Vineyard. A very cool, eclectic, different kind of lady. Very nice. Super down to earth. I would suspect that James Taylor is the same way. I'd love to meet the guy someday.
Q - You don't even know if he knows about you, do you?
A - I don't. I do know there's another James Taylor tribute that he did show up for. I don't know if he knew him before hand or not or what that was all about, but he did show up and surprised this other guy. I don't know if he sang a song with him. I forget who the guy was, but I believe there are six people in the U.S. that I'm aware of that do this. I don't know how extensively.
Q - You almost have the whole country to yourself! You could tour.
A - I'm hoping to get it to that level because I'm at a place now in my life where I could just do music for a living. But when you live on Cape Cod, we're used to working three or four different kinds of jobs. So you have to wear different hats when you live on the Cape unless you have a steady teaching position, which I no longer have. I'm part-time, but that gives me more time to do my music and as I said, I also do artwork around the town here. I'd love to go on the road. It's just a tough thing to figure out how to do this.