The guitar has been very good to Eric Johnson, earning him international renown as a player, composer, recording artist and live entertainer as well as an ever-growing audience of admirers. And Eric Johnson has been very good to the guitar, spotlighting its myriad melodic, sonic and lyrical splendors, paying homage to its heroes and innovators, collaborating and playing with many of its finest contemporary talents, and fostering its continuing vibrancy as a primarily instrumental genre in popular music.
“He's an extraordinary guitar player accessible to ordinary music fans,” notes the Memphis Commercial Appeal. That’s because Eric Johnson plays music and not just the guitar. He is also a gifted player of the piano (his first instrument) as well as songwriter, singer and song interpreter. Or more succinctly, Eric Johnson is a diverse, versatile and fully realized musical creator who plays guitar like no one else.
The pivotal event in Johnson's rise to becoming, as Guitar Player says, “one of the most respected guitarists on the planet," was his million-selling, now-classic 1990 album Ah Via Musicom (which loosely translates as "communicating through music"). It was his second release, following Tones, his 1986 major label debut.
Musicom yielded three Top 10 singles – "Cliffs of Dover," which has become Johnson's signature song and won a Best Rock Instrumental Grammy, and "Trademark" and "Righteous." It made him the first artist to ever score three Top 10 instrumentals. Now, 28 years later, he revisits that landmark recording with a 2018 tour on which he will play the album – hailed as a "masterwork" in Amazon.com's review – in its entirety.
The Austin, Texas-based Johnson also closes out 2017 with a new album, Collage, that combines five new original songs with five covers that reflect both his inspirations and range: An acoustic version of Jimi Hendrix's "One Rainy Wish," The Beatles classic "We Can Work It Out" in a Caribbean groove, B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby," the surf rock classic "Pipeline" and Stevie Wonder's 1966 #3 pop hit "Uptight (Everything's Alright)."
The years prior to Ah Via Musicom and since are rich with accomplishments. Over the now five studio albums that have followed it – Venus Isle (1996), Bloom (2005), 2010's Up Close (and its revised European version Up Close – Another Look, now being issued in the US), EJ (2016) and the latest – Eric has broadened and enriched his rock guitar palette and further delved into his love for blues, jazz and country. He's earned six Grammy nominations, has topped or been listed high in countless greatest guitarist lists in music publications, and been featured on the cover of most every guitar magazine, many more than once.
Johnson released an album in 2014 with jazz guitarist Mike Stern, Eclectic, that also landed him on the cover of Downbeat. His catalog further includes a collection of outtakes, demos and live treats, Souvenir (2002). And in 1998 his never-before-issued very first album recording from some 20 years before, Seven Worlds, was finally released by its producer (All Music Guide hailed as a "classy false start to a great career").
As an ardent live performer who regularly tours, "Few rock guitarists can take an audience on an unforgettable journey like Eric Johnson can," observes Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. His primary live performance configuration is as a trio, most often with some of Austin's top players, including drummer Tommy Taylor and bassist Kyle Brock, who toured with him following Ah Via Musicom's success and return for the 2018 outing. He's also done acoustic tours both solo and as a trio with noted players Peppino D'Agostino and Andy McKee, and electric guitar tours with his hero B.B. King and pal and peer Sonny Landreth.
His concert performances have been captured on a number of releases. Europe Live (2014) "serves as a fine introduction to this stunning musician," says All Music, as also do the his two Live From Austin TX CDs plus a DVD from his "Austin City Limits" performances and Anaheim Live (2008). Eric's side project Alien Love Child as well released an in-concert disc, Live and Beyond, in 2000. His 1996 tour with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani hit stores the following year as G3: Live in Concert.
Johnson is an avid admirer of fellow guitarists past and present, and has recorded and/or performed with such other notables as Chet Atkins, B.B. King, James Burton, Jerry Reed, Steve Miller, John McLaughlin, Jimmie Vaughan, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Dweezil Zappa, Adrian Legg, John Petrucci and others. He has paid homage in song to such players as Jerry Reed (“Tribute to Jerry Reed” on Bloom), fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan (the Grammynominated track “SRV”) and Wes Montgomery (who Johnson saluted in his Ah Via Musicom song “East Wes”). He has to date appeared on eight Experience Hendrix tours paying homage to one of his seminal guitar icons.
Eric's artistic journey began in his teens in the Austin clubs, not long after joining the psychedelic rock band Mariani and later touring with the jazz-rock fusion group The Electromagnets. Eric's burgeoning reputation and touts from both Prince and Christopher Cross helped win him a deal with Reprise Records in the mid-1980s. The album that resulted, Tones, failed to chart. But it did earn him his first Grammy nomination for the song "Zap" and landed him on the front of Guitar Player magazine with the cutline: "Who is Eric Johnson & why is he on our cover?" Once Ah Via Musicom hit, the Los Angeles Times noted how he had already "been compared with rock's immortals." But Eric himself modestly demurs. "I don't think I'm a rock god. I just keep playing. It's fun, and I'm glad people enjoy it."
Arielle is considered a music industry triple threat because she could enjoy an impressive career solely as a singer, songwriter or guitar player, but she has combined all three of those gifts to create a unique artistry that defies genres and borders.
She recently opened for Gregg Allman and traveled to Los Angeles in late September as the lone female and only Nashvillian to compete in Guitar Center’s Onstage with Vince Gill contest. A New Jersey native who was raised in California, she has already made the cover of Guitar Player magazine and released the single “California,” which reached No. 3 on CMT Pure. She was also cast as a guitar player in the TV show Nashville. She is gaining comparisons to Karen Carpenter and Eva Cassidy for her pure voice with a four-octave range.
Arielle has an associate’s degree from the Musician’s Institute in L.A. and studied in London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. Queen’s Brian May created a guitar role specifically for her in the West End musical We Will Rock You.
More recently, she played guitar on tour with Cee Lo Green before deciding to move to Nashville in early 2016. She is receiving attention for her new songs such as “Pulse,” “Aquamarine,” “Dead Broke,” “The High” and “Kitchen Sink.”
Whether it’s her guitar playing or singing, she never feels the need to show off. Indeed, she adheres to the philosophy that less can be more when it comes to expressing experiences through her songs. “The hardships and the insecurities are the reasons why I’m able to be vulnerable and real in music,” she says. “I like for the representation of me to have imperfections in it. I don’t want to hide; I want it to make sense when people hear the music. If I went through it and it was that hard, it is meant for me to share it with others who have been through it.
At the age of five, Arielle began singing with the Peninsula Girls Chorus of California. Her father bought her first guitar when she was ten years old. She has worked with musicians such as Nuno Bettencourt, Michael Angelo Batio, Uli Jon Roth of Scorpions, and Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen. In 2011, she was a guitarist for Cee Lo Green at Coachella, after which she was signed to Open E entertainment. That same year, she was featured on the cover of Guitar Player Magazine's online magazine Guts & Glitter.
In 2012, Arielle sang with a number of global activists in Taiji to protest dolphin slaughter. She also opened for Heart, Joan Jett, and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash at Kiss the Sky in 2014, which was a concert raising awareness for captive whales and dolphins.
In 2013, she teamed up with Red Decibel Music Group (Adam Watts & Gannin Arnold) to produce her EP California, an acoustic guitar folk/pop track; this track became one of her most notable and played songs. Her video of the song ranked #3 on CMT Country Pure Charts.
She has also been featured on the TV Show Nashville 3 times, as well as being handpicked by Vince Gill to play with him onstage in September, 2016.
Arielle also designs guitars, and has more recently set up her own recording studio, where she records and releases material independently.
Eric Johnson has announced plans to perform his celebrated album AH VIA MUSICOM in its entirety at dates across America in 2018. Johnson shares, “I listen to the fan feedback and comments as I plan my projects and tours. That's how I got into the recording and subsequent tour with Mike Stern. Same thing with the acoustic recording and tour because I kept hearing ‘Hey when are you gonna do that acoustic record you've been talking about for years’. But by far, the most feedback I've been getting from fans is to play the entire Ah Via Musicom record live so I figured I've put this off for too long. The time is now, and the timing worked out for Tommy Taylor and Kyle Brock to be involved too so here we go.”