This Weeks Feature: Jonathan Robinson
By: Scott Bucholtz
Today, Jonathan Robinson is Hittin’ The Note. In fact, he does every day. He is one of the lucky few who gets to spend all his days engrossed in his passion.
Born in Hamlet, NC, a little town in the middle of nowhere. His dad was a chicken farmer. He moved here in 2000 to go to Charleston Southern as an English major. He fell in love with a local girl, got married, and has been here ever since.
He had a friend in high school who had a job at the only little music store in the county. He was always bugging Jonathan to come look at the guitars and hear him play. One day, when he was almost 17, he went down to see his friend just so he'd stop bugging him. He didn't even really listen to music at the time. Jonathan was really into sports, football was a big deal at his school. They were state champions – obviously that was his focus. But when he saw the electric guitars he became enamored. He actually bought one that day before he left the store. A black and white Fender Stratocaster. Talk about love at first sight!
He dove deeply into Eric Clapton, The Eagles, and eventually Jimi Hendrix. Since he was already interested in writing, writing songs seemed a natural progression. He feels that since he had never been into music, he really fell into his own style pretty easily. He remembers his mom being a little upset that he'd spent all his money on that first guitar. She was sure he would stick it in the corner and never touch it. In fact, nothing could be further from what actually happened. He became truly obsessed. He taught himself by watching others and reading every book, magazine, and whatever else he could get his hands on. Within the first year he had a band, which was even before his friend joined a band. Guitar and music has been his life ever since. For four years now, Jonathan has been teaching guitar full time and is very much in demand – he currently has 57 weekly students! He also “dabbles” with piano, bass, harmonica, mandolin, and drums. He has even experimented with the violin/fiddle a bit and as soon as he can get his hands on one again he plans to renew those efforts.
He had not played out much in the Charleston area until the King of the Blues contest this past summer. While the winner was Dan Wright, the judges revealed that it was nearly a 3-way tie between Jonathan, Charlie Kendall and Dan. As a personal witness, I can confirm that viewpoint. It was there that he found out about the Lowcountry Blues Club and its weekly jam, which he says has to be about the “coolest thing he has ever been a part of”. He has come out to the jam almost every Wednesday since. He says it is his favorite night of the week, “hands down”. I can add that being on stage with Jonathan makes me feel the same way.
As for his biggest influences/inspirations? He says that is always a hard question...There's the obvious ones; Clapton, Hendrix, the Eagles, Tom Petty, B.B. King, Santana, Robben Ford, Lynyrd Skynyrd, all the usual suspects. He is sure that the bands that were on the radio when he was growing up really influenced his songwriting and, to some degree his playing. Bands like Matchbox 20, The Counting Crows, The Goo Goo Dolls, U2 and Edwin McCain. He says: “I'm not sure how cool that is, but it's definitely the case”. His favorites? Pretty much the same as the list above. Though he says he loves the Allman Brothers. He just loves good songs...there's a new band called Mumford and Sons that he adds to the list and a local-ish band called NeedtoBreathe whose last album (The Outsiders) ranks among his favorite albums of the last 5 years. We should give those a listen.
He most enjoys getting to jam on songs that let you be really expressive. “Jams that feel organic and improvised...the kind you can add your own touch and voice to, and use to express whatever you feel at the moment, whether it's happy, desperate, hopeful or exhausted. If the song lets you do that, then I love to play it”. He adds that there's “no one I've played with at the jam who hasn't been a pleasure. I'm so impressed every week with the rhythm sections. The bass players and drummers always do such a solid job of holding everything together and keeping all of us guitarists where we need to be. I think that's what makes it so successful week after week”.
Jonathan had a couple of his own bands in North Carolina (both Christian Rock and Modern Rock). Over the last five or six years he has led worship at churches and church events as a Musical Director, and he plays with a Christian Rock band: The T Culler Band. They have had the opportunity to open for National Touring Christian Rock bands (he has even played the North Charleston Coliseum). He states that “the not playing out much is, hopefully, about to change”. He really wants to get out and play his originals as much as he can. He just put together his own trio featuring his original material that recently made their first appearance (at Awendaw Green). He adds; “playing with Scott Bucholtz and Jojo Wall is great fun, and, I think, a pretty killer line-up”. (note: gratuitous plug)
Something that many don’t know about Jonathan is that he has been going back and forth to Nashville a good bit, working on publishing and selling his original material. He feels that he has made some great contacts and feels confident that he will have a decent shot of breaking into that market as a writer. He plans to spend ever more time there this year. Though he acknowledges that this may be ambitious, he plans to record an album before this year's over. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how that pans out... Having experienced his skills on stage first hand and knowing his original material, my money will be on Jonathan!
This weekend look for Lowcountry Blues Club member around town:
Last week's feature, Captain Kirk, will be with The Starling band at Fat Boys in Monks Corner. Sarah Cole and The Hawkes will be at the Kickin’ Chicken (WA) on Friday. Castle In The Air and Heyrocco will be at the Music Farm on Saturday. Plane Jane will be rockin’ Halligan’s in West Ashley Saturday as will Whiskey ‘n’ Ramblin’ at The Griffon downtown. Monday night, Shovels and Rope will be at The Pour House. Don’t forget, yours truly will be with The Mason Dixon Band Friday at Hanahan’s and Saturday at Famous Joe’s in West Ashley.
On a larger scale, try JJ Grey & Mofro Friday night at the Music Farm.
Looking ahead, some members and friends have sent us info to share:
The Jefferson Coker band (with Rob Lowe and Dave Jones) will be playing Friday January 28th at the new Village Tavern for Jefferson's CD Release party. Whiskey N' Ramblin, featuring Keith Syn Clarry (one of the bartenders at HTBBQ) will be opening. Music starts at 9pm. It is original blues/country music. You can hear the band at: http://jeffersoncoker.com/ or look for them on facebook...
Also, The Bluesonics from Savannah are playing at HomeTeam Barbecue at West Ashley on the 29th of January. Come check out this traditional blues band with lots of shuffles and a little funk.
And be sure to put this on your calendar - an amazing upcoming blues festival right here in Charleston, organized by blues godfather Gary Erwin:
21st annual LOWCOUNTRY BLUES BASH, February 3-19
A blues 'venue crawl' (clubs, bars, pubs, restaurants, art galleries, a church, a rec center, a community center, a hotel, and a boat!)
The best & most enduring blues festival in the Southeast USA with many all-ages shows, 70+% of the shows are FREE admission. Where cover charges apply, most are reasonable ($3-15). Blues starts at noon on many days and goes into the night...
50 great national, regional, local blues acts
25 intimate venues (the way the blues was MEANT to be experienced!)
17 action-packed days & nights
99% of the venues are smoke-free, some venues are within walking distance of each other. Go here to easily print your own brochure: www.bluesbash.com or pick one up while they last at venues around town including Home Team BBQ... We'll see you there!!
To get info in this blog, send all details of your event to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "Attention blog-writers" as the subject heading, please. Also, let us know if you would like to be one of our blog-writers!
Featured artists with birthdays in January are Leadbelly, Etta James, and Jonny Lang.
Check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at http://www.reverbnation.com/lowcountrybluesclub, and join us on facebook and twitter.
And of course, we hope to see you at the blues jam next Wednesday night at Home Team BBQ West Ashley!!
LMW, January 20, 2011