Born to Burn: Eric Johnson

Born to Burn: Why I Play Guitar Originally printed in Guitar World, October 1992 Eric Johnson “I started playing guitar when I was about 11 years old. I was able to pick up a lot of it by ear since I had been playing piano from the age of five. When the electric guitar started becoming so prominent in the early Sixties, I really got jazzed up by it. So when I started playing guitar, it was especially easy for me to transpose some of the stuff I’d learned on piano. “My guitar playing wasn't received well [by my parents] at first — it was rock and roll, after all, and the amps were real loud. Plus the more I got into it the more I started thinking that this is what I might want to do — rock out for the rest of my life. That wasn't received real well either. “The fact that I lived in Austin definitely had a big influence on my playing because there was such an active guitar scene. Guys like Johnny Winter and Freddie King were always playing around the area, and seeing them and other guitarists first-hand had an impact both on my playing and on my wanting to be a player. “I developed my style by listening to records and by taking things in different ways. I really enjoyed listening to good guitarists, from Chet Atkins to John McLaughlin. There is a certain energy that happens when someone devotes a lot of time to their playing no matter what style they play. “When I was a kid the guitar was such an oasis to me. Because I played I ended up hanging out with kids who were four or five years older than I was who were also musical. But it wasn't a big social thing and I ended up spending a lot of time by myself. Through junior high I was never really interested in sports or anything like that and after school I would just run home and get out my Jeff Beck Truth record, sit there by myself, and learn all these songs. In some ways I think I grew up too fast: by the time I was 12, I was hanging out with kids who were 17. So there was this whole area of growth that I bypassed. “Sometimes I’ll be playing and certain things I do with my equipment will all of a sudden make my sound so much better. This excites me, and I'll want to know why that happened. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll be playing, and all of a sudden something sounds horrible. I end up chasing it for three hours and in the process change three guitar cords or something. And then suddenly I think: Why am I doing this? There are beautiful parks out there and things to do in life. I just want to stay aware of what’s going on around me, because life's too short. “I’m in my mid-thirties now and to keep the romance alive and the game interesting I have to develop new rules sometimes. You have to reinvent certain things to keep yourself passionately connected to what you're doing. If I didn’t do that, I'd lose interest in the electric guitar.”

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