It's always playtime for Scott Johnson
For many musicians, family life doesn't come into
the equation until after the playing days or over.
Melanie Thortis |
Scott Albert Johnson let loose on the
harmonica Friday night at Soulshine Pizza on the Reservoir.
Scott Albert Johnson will be
playing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each Wednesday, starting
tonight, for four weeks at Parker House in
The travel and late hours can make being
an available parent difficult, if not impossible.
But for one Jackson musician, finding a
way to manage both has made him happier as a performer and a
Scott Albert Johnson, a noted harmonica
player and vocalist with an eclectic style, can often be seen with
his children at a performance.
At a recent show at Soulshine Pizza, he
played part of his set with his two sons, Charlie and Benjamin, in
"It's definitely a balancing act,
sometimes more balanced than others," Johnson said.
Johnson, 39, became serious about making
music in his early 30s, but has had an inclination for the arts
While growing up in St. Louis, he began
singing at a young age and eventually took violin lessons.
"That didn't really take very well, but it
was kind of a start into playing an instrument," he said.
Johnson's family moved to Jackson when he
was 10 years old and he branched out as a musician.
As a teen, he played bass guitar in a band
and sung in the choir at St. Andrew's Episcopal School.
The interest in performing would continue
during his time at Harvard University, but other things began to
steal time away from music, such as being the place-kicker for the
school's football team.
"I think I'm fifth or sixth on the
all-time (Harvard) kick scoring list," Johnson said. "Music somewhat
took a back seat."
After college, unsure of what direction to
go, he enrolled in the journalism program at Columbia University.
Music moved to the trunk.
"I really did not do music from the time I
was 21 or 22 until I was 30," he said.
It was at the point that he began playing
casually with a co-worker who happened to play guitar.
He also began seriously playing harmonica,
an instrument he had experimented with in his youth.
The note formation, which is achieved
through blowing and drawing air through the harmonica, was a natural
fit for a singer like Johnson.
"It's closer to the human voice, in my
opinion, than any other instrument," he said.
That allowed him to more easily relate
music from his thoughts to the instrument. After a few months of
practice, he knew he was on to something.
"I realized this was actually my
instrument," he said. "I was better at this than I ever was at the
bass or guitar."
He returned to Jackson in 2003, looking
for the opportunity to turn his music into a profession.
"I thought, if I wanted to be serious
about this, this would be a good place to go back to," he
The move turned out to be a good one.
Along with places like New Orleans and Memphis, Jackson provided the
gigs he was looking for. It also gave him the opportunity to begin
dating his future wife, Susan Margaret Barrett.
"Meeting her and getting together with her
so shortly after I got back was one of the greatest and most
unexpected blessings of my life," he said.
Barrett remembers music being a constant
companion during the early years.
"When we first dated, I think we were out
every night, just listening to music or him playing music," she
That changed when Johnson found out about
the pending arrival of his first son, Charlie.
He was in Lithuania at the time, as part
of a two-country tour of Europe, playing with a native band.
Johnson rehearsed in a building he learned
was the former KGB headquarters for Lithuania when the nation was
under Soviet control.
The local band was extraordinarily
talented, he said, but communication was not a strong point.
"They keyboard player did not speak more
than five words of English," he said. "But he could play
He received a call from his wife,
informing him about Charlie's scheduled debut.
Things began to change quickly, Johnson
"It's amazing how immediately your
priorities adapt," he said. "You don't really have to think, 'Now
I'm going to put my child first.' You just do."
The trick was to figure out the logistics
of managing a music career while taking care of a child, he
Barrett saw Johnson adjust quickly.
"I think it shocked him more than anything
that, after he had children, something was more important to him
than music," she said.
That balance continues today, where
Johnson, now a father of two with another on the way, tries to be
the best musician and father he can be.
He still plays gigs and still plays out of
town, though not as far from home as did before Charlie and Benjamin
The reason is simple.
"I still love playing as much as ever and
I'm still serious about having a career in it as much as ever, but I
hate being away from my family," he said.
Playing in town allows his sons to attend
his performances, too. In his younger days,
three-and-a-half-year-old Charlie was a staple on the Jackson music
"When it was just Charlie, my wife would
bring him out most of the time to my shows," Johnson said. "At Hal
and Mal's, they all know him."
Johnson still wants to make it as a
full-time musician and is taking pre-orders for his new album now.
For more information, visit www.scottalbertjohnson.com.
Any continued success he finds will be to
the benefit of his family, not at the at the expense of it.
"There's so many gradations of what I
consider success that I would find satisfactory," he said. "That all
would have to be in the context of what's best for my