Update: This entry is from my column that originally appeared in the Northern Colorado entertainment magazine The Scene. While I'm not doing this column anymore, I'm still as involved as I can be in the Fort Collins area music scene in general.
This edition’s topic: Uncle Johnny
Answers Your Questions
This month I've decided to answer some of the questions sent to my MySpace*
account. Thanks especially to Morst and Amy.
Q) What do you eat/drink to stay healthy on the road? A) I
drink a lot of water and try to eat well as often as possible. Some of us like
to have a cocktail here and there (wow! what a surprise!) and I try to balance
out the erratic sleep hours and alcohol with rest, re-hydration and a healthy
diet. I'm so thankful for tours where we play college or hippie-centric towns,
because the fare tends to be healthier. Unlike those long drives through the
Midwest, where sad bands can be seen wolfing down Hostess Cupcakes or Pop Tarts
in gas station parking lots. I try to eat my biggest meal of the day a few hours
before the show (it's hard to sing with a full stomach) and I eat little or
nothing after-show. (This helps me sleep better.)
Q) What music do you listen to on the road? A) Depends on my
mood like anybody I guess. Sometimes I can't stand listening to rock music
because I play it myself every night. Other days I can't get enough, especially
if it's something new that I'm obsessed with. I really like Backyard Tire Fire,
Beck and The White Stripes. From the old school I listen to Bob Dylan, Neil
Young, The Pixies, The Smiths, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones. To relax or
escape from a bad day, I listen to Dead Can Dance, Bonnie Prince Billy or Nick
Q) Do you listen to music when you're trying to get inspired to write
music for your next project? What else is inspiring? A) Sometimes, but
the new music I come up with almost never ends up sounding like what I've
listened to. Sometimes simply listening to any music can get you in the mood to
write. I come up with a lot of rough ideas on the road but it's a challenge to
finish anything. I need some solitude for that to happen and there is not much
solitude there. I often hand whatever guitar riffs I've come up with to my
partner in Cracker, David Lowery. He's a great songwriter and a lot more
prolific than I am. Peter Buck from R.E.M. once told me that when he tries too
hard nothing happens. He gets his best musical ideas just sitting and watching
something like a baseball game on television with a guitar in is hands not
really paying that much attention. Strangely, I often come up with music when I
have a fever. The fall is good, so I'm glad Cracker is recording this fall and
winter. The Canadian Geese that start flying overhead here in the Colorado fall
never fail to give me a strange creative melancholy. I like their cacophonous
honking. It's musical chaos, but in a good way. If I had to translate this into
advice, I'd say don't bother with what works for others. If inspiration strikes,
make the time somehow.
Q) So, is the whole "groupie" thing a reality, and if so, how do you
react to it? A) Every band has their stories.... I myself happily take
pictures and flirt a little with "friendly" fans. The aggressive, really drunk
or scary types, we generally let the club deal with. For those who don't take
the "Thank you, but I'm happily married" hint, I have a few stock responses. I
reach for my cell phone and ask them, "Let's call my wife. Maybe it will be OK
with her?" Or I ask if they would like to help move some amps please, or perhaps
do my laundry. No takers yet….
Q) What are the best and worst things about playing in a
band? A) To me one of the worst things is the physical toll the
traveling takes. Being away from family and friends can be a disorienting,
difficult and lonely experience. Living out of a suitcase is something I've been
doing for most of my adult life, but it still sucks sometimes. For me the best
aspects are playing shows, knowing you are a part of people's lives. I love
meeting new people every day. Another great thing is waking up in that hotel
room somewhere and remembering that I make music for a living. When things get
rough I silently remind myself that I don't have to do this. I GET to do
Uncle Johnny, over and out.
Johnny Hickman is the co founder and lead guitarist for the band Cracker.
Info at www.JohnnyHickman.com, Crackersoul.com.
*Update: FYI, I really don't check my MySpace anymore.