Jeff Johnson is a musician’s musician, one who connects with a wide variety of people on a grand scale. Born in 1956, Jeff began experimenting with making his own recordings at an early age. After graduating from Portland State University in 1978, he began devoting his attention to Ark Studios and established ArkMusic, which has been home to every Jeff Johnson project since 1977.
Jeff’s collaborations with Irish flutist, Brian Dunning, include the acclaimed Windham Hill release, The Music of Celtic Legends – The Bard & The Warrior. Like the duo’s early Songs From Albion trilogy, its inspiration came from bestselling fantasy writer, Stephen Lawhead’s Byzantium.
WaterSky, Jeff’s latest collaboration with Phil Keaggy, takes their listeners on eight new instrumental voyages akin to floating in a canoe through the awe-inspiring Frio river canyon. With Johnson providing keys, percussion & vocals and Keaggy acoustic & electric guitars, cumbus & bass the album is a complete entwining of two men’s musical visions and provides moments of true inspiration that neither man could have achieved without the other.
Kevin Belmonte recently caught up with Jeff for this week’s “Fridays with Friends” installation.
Kevin Belmonte: What/who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?
Jeff Johnson: My muse is like the wind – it blows around quite a bit. Sometimes it’s a passage in a book or a place that I’ve visited but often it’s as simple as the sound of a bird’s song. The older I get, the more I notice just how infused and subtle the world is around me. Humbling, for sure.
KB: What artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc) are you following/do you recommend? (i.e. who are your favorites?)
JJ: Wow, let’s keep this simple for now …
- The Inklings (all of them!)
- Orkney poet, George MacKay Brown (who I was fortunate to have met a few years before he passed from this life)
- Stephen Lawhead (of course!)
- Thomas Merton
- Kathy Hastings (my dear friend and artist in crime)
- Van Gogh (read his letters, too, they’re amazing)
- J.S. Bach
- The Blue Nile
- Arvo Pärt
- Lennon, McCartney & Harrison (their drummer is pretty good, too)
- Pat Metheny Group (we have a saying about them: “they must be stopped!”)
- Joni Mitchell
- Gabriel Axel (claim to fame: Babette’s Feast)
- All of the great musicians that I’ve had the privilege to work with: Sandy Simpson, David Friesen, Brian Dunning, Janet Chvatal, Josef Luptak, Wendy Goodwin and of course, Mr. Keaggy.
KB: How can readers of “All Nine” get involved in what you’re doing?
JJ: Check out my website here: www.arkmusic.com