Published: 13/05/2014 10:18 - Updated: 13/05/2014 10:30

On the road with Ethan Johns

Ethan Johns
Ethan Johns

ETHAN Jones may be one of Britain’s most in-demand producers, but the coming week will find him far from the confines of the recording studio as he embarks on his first ever visit to the Highlands.

He may have worked with the music industry A-list, including Sir Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Laura Marling, The Vaccines and both this year’s Belladrum Festival headliners, Tom Jones and Razorlight, but when it comes to touring Ethan takes a more down to earth approach.

"I drive myself around in a VW camper van," he revealed.

"It’s just a really nice thing to do. There’s not so much of the regimented life of touring with a bus and a crew and a tour manager. That can be quite isolating in a funny sort of way because you’re locked into a schedule. I have to be at a certain place to soundcheck, but how and when I get there is really up to me.

"I also write quite a lot on the road — I pull up a chair, make a bit of food, pick up a guitar and play."

Over the past couple of decades the multi-instrumentalist has escaped the studio to touring with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, Tom Jones and Ray LaMontagne, but he had not gone on the road to perform his own songs for over 20 years.

"I’ve always been playing and writing. I’ve just been helping other people with their music for 25 years and now it’s time for me to do my own, I suppose," he said.

"For some reason I started writing a lot more than I have in the past. I played a few shows and I really enjoyed playing them. Not to get too philosophical, but it seems ti me that one of the points of using the time you have is to get better at what you do.

"For me that means becoming a better guitar player, a better songwriter and a better singer. And the way you get better is by doing that more often."

The burst of creativity led to last year’s solo album If Not Now Then When? with Ethan’s dad Glyn, himself an esteemed producer who has worked with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Who, helping out on production duties.

For this year’s follow up The Reckoning, Ethan found himself swapping roles and putting US Ryan Adams in the producer’s seat having produced four albums himself for the former Whiskeytown frontman.

"I have a lot of respect for Ryan," Ethan said.

"I showed up with the songs and let him do his job — in the same way I hope the artists I work with let me do mine. I don’t think artists can produce themselves. It’s a very slippery slope. You can’t have perspective on what you are doing."

Ethan admitted it was a struggle not to pitch in with his own ideas, but the final product is all better for leaving Adams to have the final say.

"I stand by the record in every way," he added.

"I would have watered it down and it wouldn’t have been as powerful as it actually is."

• Ethan Johns Highland tour will take him to The Ironworks, Inverness on Thursday 15th May; the Woodlands Centre, Stornoway, on Friday 16th; The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, on Saturday 17th; and Watercolour Studio, Ardgour, Fort William, on Sunday 18th.

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