Interview: Johnathan Rice

posted January 22, 2008

by Corinne

Johnathan Rice

How are you?

I am.

"Further North" walks the line between indie folk and an edgier rock sound. What were your intentions while making the album?

Yeah. Everything was different. And if I recorded it now, instead of almost a year ago, it would sound different. That's the beauty of time gone by. With Further North, we all just got in that big room at Sound City Studios and hammered out a few takes of every song and picked the takes that felt the best and that was basically the record. It was very much about the moment. I wanted to hear my band's first instincts, not their 23rd instincts. That approach was 360 different on my first album. On Trouble Is Real, we really put a lot of time into the arrangements and never really went for full band takes. Lots of overdubs, lots of arranging. We were going for a dream sequence type of record, with everything and the new Gibson kitchen sink pedal too. Further North was a reaction to that. Shattering the dream and swallowing the shards. I had been on the road for two years between making each record, acquiring the kind of confidence that only comes from being on stage night after night after night. I took that confidence into the studio, got a bunch of great players together, got stoned, drank a bunch of knob creek and tried to turn it into swagger.

How are you feeling about the album now that it's out and in the hands of fans?

I love playing songs from the album live. There's a lot of room, a lot of space for the boys in the band to play what they feel. If we feel mellow, it comes across. If we feel like getting in a fight, it comes across too. I'm really honored and excited to see kids in the first few rows singing the songs with me. When I wrote the songs, I thought of them as slogans that everyone could sing. It's wonderful to hear people having a good time.

All of your songs really tell stories. As a songwriter, do you find it important to convey a certain meaning or idea with each song?

I like telling stories, in person and on stage. Not that being on stage isn't being personal, but you know what I mean. When I write, I very rarely have a specific intention or anything. It just comes the way that it comes and becomes something right before my eyes. I don't really force it. I just drink a lot of water.

You've got some dates coming up supporting Matt Costa. What are your hopes for the tour? Are you looking forward to it?

I'm looking forward to playing solo, cause I've been with my band since the summer and I'm losing my hearing. I'm looking forward to having a drink or six with Matt as well, cause he's a really good lad. He makes a cameo in my video, y'know.

You've been touring a lot the past few years. Do you find it hard to adjust when you return home?

I've been traveling and playing music on an endless loop since I was seventeen. The unnatural has become natural. I love feeling out of place in any hotel lobby. In the Southwest they have a cactus in the lobby, in the North and Midwest they have a weird tree. It's great. I'm starting to get a feel from each city. I've also realized that every city outside California is fucking freezing.

Who are some underrated bands that you think deserve more attention?

Benji Hughes and Morgan Nagler are my favorite underrated songwriters. Both can be found on MySpace.

Morgan under Whispertown 2000. One day, they won't need my help or yours, but check em out so you can stay historically accurate.

What have you been listening to recently?

I've been listening to Leon Russell. And really enjoying it.

If you could have written any song, what song do you wish you had written and why?

I'd have to say Happy Birthday.

Thanks for your time!