New York based guitarist Jon Herington has worked both in the studio and toured with Steely Dan since 1999.
He is frontman for the Jon Herington Band and has studied both classical & Jazz composition. He has toured with Boz Scaggs ,The Blue Nile and opened slots for Bruce Springsteen to mention some of his achievements. He also knows something about Scottish beer!
Hi Jon, What are you working on at the moment , a new album ?
Jon Well, I'm just about finished with a long, 56 show Steely Dan tour, and yes, the next project is to finish the overdubs on the new record we began recording back in March. I'm going to try take a few days to concentrate on re-entry to home life and to relax and sit still before I jump right in, though.
Do you have a preference in regard to live work & working in the studio , if so why ? how do they contrast ?
Jon I think I'd miss the other if I only did the one. For some types of recording, they don't differ too much, but when I'm not recording live with a band and I'm recording alone doing overdubs, it can be a very different experience. There's a way I get to experiment when I'm overdubbing by myself where the lines between improvising, composing, and arranging all start to blur, and often more unusual and interesting things develop.
Have you ever suffered from writers block , if so how have you overcome it ?
Jon I've generally been pretty facile when coming up with musical ideas. With the musical side of things, the challenge is to recognize what has the most value, whether it was easy or difficult to compose. With the lyrical side of things, I have to be much more patient. If I don't have a good idea I can get stuck. I'm fine once I'm convinced that an idea's a good one, because I'm a good editor. But the blank page can be daunting - I have to wait for my muse.
Do you have a particular Steely Dan album that is a personal favourite or brought something out in you that you were unaware of ?
Jon Both Aja and Gaucho are my clear favorites, though there are great songs on all of the records. Those albums have no weak songs, no weak performances, and the records are audiophile favorites. And with those two records in particular, it seems that so many of the aspects of record-making were at their peak and aligned: the songwriting; the recording quality; the arranging skill; and the stable of session players at the top of their game. Somehow it feels to me like there was a kind of shared enthusiasm for greatness among everyone involved, a kind of unspoken conviction that this was great, fresh work that deserved everyone's best.
How do you feel about the impact the internet & technology has had on the Music Industry , what would you say are the positives & negatives ?
Jon Well, the record industry could never have existed without technology, of course, and you can't make time stand still. So I welcome all the innovation, though it certainly brings change, which can be unsettling. To me, the trick is to stay focused on the work and make sure the technology is used to serve the art. There's been a kind of democratization in terms of recording - almost anyone can do it cheaply now. That's a plus. But there's a lot more product out there to sift through, and most of it is very bad, so it's challenging, disheartening, and time consuming to search for greatness in that glut of stuff. That's a minus.
You have opened for Bruce Springsteen with your first band Highway , how was that experience , what did you learn from it ?
Jon I'm afraid my memory is pretty dim there. I was an early fan of his, and it was always great to hear him, so I'm sure it was an exciting experience for our band. But he was playing locally a lot, and so were we, so I imagine we took it in stride.
You have also toured with The Blue Nile who are a Scottish treasure , how did that come about ?
Jon I was asked to sub for Larry Saltzman, a friend and another New York based guitar player, who had to interrupt his tour with them to get married, as I recall. One thing I learned was that the Scottish beer we were drinking on the tour bus had a much higher alcohol content than what I was used to - I remember tumbling down the tour bus steps after the long ride from my first show to the hotel in the next city - Paul and the band were very kind, and carried me inside.
You juggle many balls with your musical career what with your own band & working with others , how do you time manage , stay inspired & keep your energy levels up ?
Jon The variety saves me, often, I think, in terms of inspiration. Right now, for example, as much of a thrill and a challenge playing the SD catalog is, I'm excited to get back into working on my own music. Since I've had to wait to finish it, it's made me very hungry for it, which is always good. I try to live well - exercise, good food, etc., but because I still have so much enthusiasm for the work, that keeps my energy up most of the time.
You have mentioned you like George Benson , what is it about him that inspires you ? as a Jazz musician he had huge success in the disco genre , what would you say contributed to his success ?
Jon He's simply an enormous talent. He has an unbelievable natural musical gift and he's also an extremely self-disciplined worker. His melodic gift, his lyricism, is phenomenal, and though he's one of the most brilliant athletes on the instrument, you never hear the technique - it's always in service of the music. He's certainly had great success because of his amazing singing and the broad appeal of some of his records, but there's no doubt in my mind his success would have been assured on the merits of his guitar playing alone.
And Lastly , what colour is January ?
Jon In the daytime in the Northern Hemisphere, often white.
Many thanks Jon for your time.
Jon Thank you.