Pop, jazz, reggae, R & B, dance, chamber music and some tracks difficult to categorize offered by this LA-based artist. Themes include relationships, spirituality, perfectionism and culture clash. Marianne Williamson appears in 3 songs in a unique way.
I wrote my first song when I was four, which is the age I was in the photo on the cover of Acoustic Remedy. I'm deeply spiritual, very eclectic and gay, so this album includes two long prayers set to music, Gregorian chant, soundbytes from a lecture by renowned author and lecturer Marianne Williamson, dance music, reggae-flavored tunes, jazz ballads, a marriage equality anthem and an intimate reworking of two classics performed as a duet with harpist Carol Robbins. My hometown of Porterville, CA has been in the news a lot lately for ousting their mayor because she declared June, 2013 to be Gay Pride Month. But, aside from being a curious clash of viewpoints and backgrounds, Porterville is also a well-known producer of great musical talent. When I grew up it was cool to be in band and we had several excellent choirs. For a kid who pretended jump ropes were microphones he was singing into and cans from the kitchen cupboard were a choir and orchestra he could conduct with a wooden spoon, it was a great place to deepen a natural love of music. My Dad was a Lutheran minister and loved music a lot. My Mom plays piano by ear and was blessed with a beautiful singing voice. That love of music carried me through some dark times in the 70s as I began to grapple with the knowledge that I was gay, and tried to figure out how that fit in with my Christianity. The music of singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester was a beacon of light to me. Her songs of self-worth and inner strength guided me and nurtured my soul. I used to record songs I wrote on cassettes, type out the lyrics (yes, with a typewriter) and mail them to her. The ladies who worked in her manager's office thought it was cute and gave them to her. A few times she sent me cards and notes. After college I started studying with her voice teacher and met her a few times. Then one time her husband needed someone to sing a couple of demos for a musical he was writing and I got the gig. We recorded in their home and Melissa cooked dinner. I got to drink tea from her favorite mug. Since I was the guest, Melissa handed me the baked whole chicken first and I was so nervous that after a long spell she smiled and took the knife and fork from me and said "Oh, you need a little more than that dear." I looked down to see a tiny little pile of mangled chicken on my plate.
I tell that story to help illustrate the power music can have on a person, and the power it has wielded in my life. I've often said that I would consider myself a success if I could do for someone with my music what Melissa has done for me. So, when she recently announced that she was having a video contest for fans to post showing them performing her music, I had to go all out. I did the mashup of two of her songs that is included in this album.
After 50 years, I wanted this album to be a picture of who I am as a person. That cannot be drawn without including Marianne Williamson, whose wisdom and guidance has shaped me through nearly three decades. I am the cantor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, CA. On Pentecost I was singing a beautiful Gregorian Chant invoking the Holy Spirit which has been referred to as "The Golden Sequence". It suddenly occurred to me that the chant was very similar to the prayer Marianne uses to open each of her lectures, which she calls "A Way In". So I laid them side by side and was delighted by how much an 800 year-old chant and a modern prayer were in synch with one another. I took instrumental sounds from all over the world like sitar and shofar and created the tone poem Invocation that is part of this album. Marianne loved it and suggested that I do more. With that, the album was born. A lifetime of creative energy and experiences was unleashed and I tried all sorts of new things. I suppose people will judge whether or not the album is innovative and inventive, but I can tell you that for ME it is. I had such fun in the studio! I have never felt more alive and purely joyful. I had been having severe vocal problems due to allergies and was starting to think my singing days were over. Through this project I found my voice, changed my eating habits and even dropped thirty pounds! It was cathartic on so many levels, a true Acoustic Remedy.
The "Wise man" in the first song. "Little Bits of Heaven" is Dave, the counselor who helped me come to terms with being gay after my Dad died. Dave was a Jungian analyst, but also a Lutheran minster himself, so he was perfect to guide me through the portal to a wondrous journey of love and spirituality that continues to this day.
This album has songs that have been written at different times in my adult life. I didn't worry too much about whether it was "hip" or what people might like. I just played with it. I expressed from deep down in my soul and, for better or worse, this album is ME. I've been told some of the sounds seem "dated". What does that mean? They're sounds. I selected them because I liked them and they were what I wanted to express. I'm a fifty year old man. Why shouldn't some of the sounds be "Throwbacks"? You're listening to the culmination of a lifetime, not the past six months.
My friend Michael Canyon Drebert, who made the amazing video for "Invocation", pointed out that I try to stay on the level of cause, which means I try not to worry about the effect of my music, because if the cause is pure, the effect will be fantastic. I say "try", because I am not always successful. Here, it means that I succeed if I make my music my way. Then, whether one person buys my album, or one million is immaterial. I've always said that if just one out of every 350 people in America alone liked my music, that would be one million people. Perhaps you will be one of them. If not, there is so much great music out there for you so enjoy and explore. Thanks for checking me out. "What you look for, you will find." Just PLEASE let me know if my music moves you the way Melissa Manchester, Rickie-lee Jones, Alanis Morrissette and others have moved me. That would be pretty cool. Peace to you. Johnny