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Jonny Lang Looks Forward With ‘Signs’

Daniella Hovsepian

Jonny Lang was 16 years old when his 1997 album Lie To Me became an inescapable presence on radio. Lang's mixture of soul, blues and R&B quickly earned him a loyal following. He was first exposed to that blend of music on his family's farm in North Dakota.

"My parents usually had music on in the house and it was usually old soul music," he says. "I can't imagine another one of the families that I knew in that area playing old soul music in their houses. I think I got pretty lucky with my folks listening to that music. I think it inspired me to be a singer. I grew up with all those great singers and wanted to be like them."

Lang had only begun playing guitar a few years before the recording of Lie To Me, but recalls that the instrument took over virtually every element of his life. The process of learning the instrument remains a fond memory.

"I don't remember the difficulties. I remember trying to get vibrato going and that being frustrating but mostly I just remember being obsessed with trying to learn guitar," he says. "I was in my room all day, every day for two years just always, always, always trying to learn new stuff."

By the mid-2000s Lang was incorporating elements of gospel music into his material and enjoying strong interest from the Christian market with albums such as Turn Around and Fight For My Soul. This September, he'll release his first album in four years, Signs. Writing a new record, he says, is often a spontaneous process.

"It just happens. All of a sudden I'll go through this season of songwriting and it's kind like a faucet comes on," he says. "It comes out, then shuts off again for a while. Then it turns on again and I don't know how to control it. It just kind of happens on its own."

He has said that Signs is more guitar-oriented than a few of his previous albums, marking something of a return to his early work.

"The ideas that were coming to me while I was writing were a lot of guitar riff-based song ideas," he says. "I said, 'Well, I guess that's the direction.'"

Despite more than 20 years spent as a professional musician, he's keeping his eye on the future.

"I'm a big supporter of the idea that you don't have to plateau. I think if it feels like your ideas are inspired and in the moment and you're not laboring for them, the perception is that you're always getting better," he says. "It's felt like that to me. I feel like I've become a better songwriter, I've become better at fine-tuning what is I do over the years. I hope I never get to the point where I feel like I've run out of inspiration."

Lang performs at The Orpheum Theatre with opener Jenny Wood Friday evening.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

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