Interview: Mark Johnson of Delta Moon
by Myles Hunt
August 30, 2015
When it comes down to it all, jazz is my favorite genre of music. However, blues-rock proudly comes as a close second. In pairing with my jazz series I thought it would be worthwhile to touch base with the blues as fall approaches. With a flood of talented blues masters out there, I decided to check in with a band that has regularly appeared on my shuffle. To my enjoyment, Mark Johnson of Delta Moon was kind enough to answer my request and shared his journey within the blues.
To start, I was curious to learn about how his ambitions into music. “Well, I’m not sure I have choice! I am a guitar player and a musician. I have to play every day. It’s my therapy. I always have a guitar with me where ever I travel. I couldn’t imagine life without being able to play music. We call ourselves lifers; we will play until we simply can’t do it any more. In reference to Delta Moon, once a band starts to have a little success, it kind of feeds on itself. You see a little progress and you want to build on it. You know how difficult and competitive the music business [is] and you want to, at least, stay at the level you are at and hopefully move up a bit.”
Since he has made a successful career with Delta Moon, I wondered if he had any favorite projects he has worked on. “Our latest CD, Low Down. I am really happy with the sound of this one. The grooves, songs and performances are all really strong. The sound of the room we recorded in was nice and it has a good organic feel to it.” I can attest to this man’s passion on Low Down. It is an excellent new piece of blues that will be rippling its way through the ear buds of many.
Performances come far and wide for Mr. Johnson. He shared with me his most memorable. “The ideal performance for me is any time there is a great interaction between the band and the audience, no matter what the venue or setting. We just had a great one in Soria, Spain, at The Enclave de Agua Festival. Every ounce of energy and emotion we gave to the crowd, they gave the same right back to us. It became a huge party.”
Unfortunately, shows are not always perfect. Mark gave me a glimpse of that struggle. “In general, the most difficult performances are when your equipment [are not] functioning. It’s hard to play well when your amplifier is blowing up. Once I stepped in dog doo-doo right before going on stage at The Virginia Highlands Festival and didn’t realize it until I was on stage playing. It was really hot and the sun was beating down on me and the smell got pretty unbearable. That was a difficult performance!”
Being in the blues genre, I asked Mark if he had any opinions on the music scene today. “I am OK with it. It is what it is. It’s our job to survive and hopefully succeed within it. I think there are lots of folks interested in honest, soulful music. Those are the folks we want to connect with. With the Internet, we can do this no matter where they are.” I admire this man’s optimism and remain hopeful that great music will thrive as well.
Music seems to be the end all be all for Mr. Johnson. When inquired if he would want to explore another medium, he gave me a straight answer. “… Music is enough. I have been at this 25 years or more and I still feel like I am just getting started! I will continue to investigate ways of combining music with other things I am interested in, like organic farming, quality micro-brewing and social change.”
I have been a fan for quite some time with a love of Delta Moon’s songs such as “Jessie Mae” and “Lap Dog”. I asked Mark how he felt about those songs. “I am glad you like those two, I was co-writer with Tom on both of those songs! They are groove-oriented songs that originated from riffs a came up with. I would like to do more of this groove-oriented, North Mississippi Hill Country music, even West African style music.”
Influences range everywhere for Mark. “… Jimmie Vaughn, Pops and Mavis Staples, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, The Rolling Stones, RL Burnside, Link Ray, on and on and on. [There are] too many to count.”
The crew remains busy. “We are still touring in support of Low Down. Heading around the Southeast, Colorado, New York and Canada this fall. [We will be] back to Europe in February. I am writing, practicing and working in the garden. We are gearing up for recording the next CD!” Keep an eye out for these legends people. I am serious; the blues is a genre that is sublime and unique. Delta Moon are prime examples of musicians who honor that craft. Check out their new album and become a fan!