Scott Albert Johnson

Scott Albert Johnson – Harmonica Player of the Month

By Jaine Rodack

Scott Albert Johnson has been around. By the time he was thirty, he had lived in Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York, California and the District of Columbia. But it is Mississippi that he calls home; it’s where roots were grown, and hearts were won. And it would be Mississippi that called to him, and to which he would return.

Unlike many harmonica players, Johnson didn’t pick up the harp until he was in his early twenties, his musical education beginning sometime between the second and third grade, when, like many children his age, he took Suzuki violin lessons.

Scott stayed with the violin for a few years but, by his own admission, he wasn’t very good at it, eventually setting it aside. “Many people were happy about that,” he laughs, adding that, despite that fact, those lessons served him well, providing a framework for later musical endeavors.

As time went on, Scott found that he had a pretty good voice, joined the school choir, and used his vocal talents to win a series of leading roles in various middle school plays. And the harmonica? It was but a glimmer in his teenage eyes. “I was a singer and a bass player long before I was a harmonica player,” says Johnson.


Bluesharp Info

How did you discover the bluesharp?
~ I used to mess around with it during college, when I was a bass player and vocalist in bands. Then I put away music for several years. When I came back to music, I wanted to do something to go with singing but I didn't really like playing bass and singing at the same time. I thought I would try the harmonica, and very quickly I became addicted (and also realized that I was getting better very rapidly).

If everything would be possible (waking the dead included), which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ Either Paul Butterfield (for his sheer aggression and attitude on the harp) or Stevie Wonder (I know, a chromatic player, but as an overblower I am very influenced by the chromatic in terms of phrasing).

What is your favorite blues harp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I am a Seydel endorser and play the 1847 Silver. I play all kinds of music, especially jazz and rock, and I find the steel reeds on the 1847 to be the most responsive and durable.

What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ Listen to everything from as many genres as possible, including other instruments like horns or the guitar. Little Walter is held up as the standard now, but he was an innovator from another planet in his time. He got that way partly by emulating the horn parts he heard on records. Be a sponge and learn from every source you possibly can.

Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I use both, depending on the situation. Probably a bit more lip pursing due to the amount of jazz I play and the way I use overblows. I think most players are best served to learn how to do both well.

Give us the 3 most important albums every (beginning) blues harp player must buy.
~ Little Walter "His Best"; Paul Butterfield's Better Days (first album); anything by Sonny Terry

How do you clean your harps?
~ Clean? :) I just use a damp rag.

What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ "What are you trying to accomplish as an artist?" I am a songwriter first and foremost. I am hoping to pour my ideas and worldview and emotions into the universe in a way that touches the heart and the mind in equal measure. My use of the harmonica is just one part of that.In terms of just my harmonica playing, I try to show that I can use the harmonica to put my personal stamp on any kind of music.

Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ Comfortable, fun, warm tones, cool temperature... joined by good friends. The studio is about good chemistry between musicians and engineers more than it is about equipment, in my opinion. Ideally there's a place to relax between takes.

Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ I generally only get nervous when I have to talk to the crowd, especially if they are teenagers. When I am actually singing or playing, I can (and usually do) lose myself in the performance.

What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ Every day that I play music is memorable, because I view the ability to make music as an immense privilege. If I had to point to one or two specific events... (1) In 2007 I performed at the first Mississippi Grammy Celebration. I got to play a couple of songs with Marty Stuart and James Burton. (2) In the spring of 2016 I performed my song "Fragments" at a chapel service at my high school alma mater, St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Jackson, Mississippi. The song is about trying to understand one's place in an infinite universe, while thinking about someone who is gone from our lives forever. This was not long after my Mom died, and I made a little speech or sermon before we played the song. This was a great privilege for me, especially since my Dad was in the audience.


The image of singer/songwriter Scott Albert Johnson going down the road feeling bad is fairly apt if you listen to all nine songs on his sophomore release “Going Somewhere” (Monkaroo Music). He doesn’t exactly know where he’s going but, hey, as George Harrison says, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” He covers Peter Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember” as an irresistibly jaunty rocker. By the time he finishes with the pensive “Fragments,” he’s broken on through to the other side of understanding. We feel his pain yet there’s a quiet optimism at work. Maybe it’s from growing up in Mississippi with the blues all around him. He certainly manhandles his harmonica with a master’s flair. Maybe it’s the journey itself that harbors such meaning for him. Either way, Johnson is a triple-threat artist who can sing, write and blow his emotions clear on out of his harmonica like nobody’s business. You cannot pinpoint his genre either and that’s a good thing.

Rootstime [Belgium]

It's been seven years since you and I read about this harmonica musician from Jackson, Mississippi in this journal. The article talked about this unusual and versatile harmonica talent and now, after listening to his recently released second album, this is something I would like to confirm.

The name Scott Albert Johnson may not ring a bell, but several extensive listening sessions to his new album [Going Somewhere] provide some interesting insights. First, the harmonica seems to be an instrument solely invented for him. He truly works magic with this instrument; every "phrase" he adds fits like a glove. Sometimes I hear the influence of Toots Thielemans, then Howard Levy, and then Stevie Wonder. It is not surprising, then, that he was named one of the Top 100 harmonica players in the world. Secondly: the man's voice is phenomenal. He is a great and funky singer, who can easily claim his place in the soulful blues genre. At times, it's hard not to think of Robert Cray, but in other songs he successfully pulls off that swinging country touch.

Third: Johnson is an incredible songwriter. Seven of the nine songs on this album are his own. The two covers are from The Ghosts ("Haunt My Dreams"), which includes writer Brett Winston playing guitar on the song, and Peter Gabriel ("I Don’t Remember"). In his own songs, Johnson writes about man's journey: who we are, where we stand and where our lives take us. His contemplations on life are cast in beautiful melodies, sung by a voice that – take it from me – seemingly knows no limitations.

Johnson’s music draws from many genres, and that is both the strength and weakness of the album. Sometimes one wishes it was less eclectic. But maybe this says more about me then him. Johnson is a man who isn't easily pinned down, and the album therefore takes effort from the listener. It's my experience as a listener that your expectations are determined by the things you have heard before, and one can easily get stuck on certain sounds and genres.

This aside, "Going Somewhere" is a very diverse album that, as said, requires some effort to fully appreciate… but once you do, it yields a rich scope of musical experiences. The last song "Fragments" is a magnificent ballad, with Johnson’s voice and harmonica accompanied only by the piano of Chalmers Davis. It literally drops the curtain on the album. As human beings, we don't mean much in the whole of things. At best, we realize that we know nothing; only the future will tell where we end up, and the journey is more important than the goal, so to speak. This last song stands in contrast with the album’s opening [title] track, which floats on a “Magnificent Seven” bass line, a playful hopping guitar, a Robert Cray-ish vocal interpretation and a bluesy harmonica. The character singing the first song thinks he knows all the answers to the questions that the final song is about.

To summarize, Scott Albert Johnson has made a pretty complex album that nevertheless makes for extremely pleasant listening. Songs like "Jailbird", with its 80s drum beats and Beck-like slide, or “All,” which is pure and simple funk, make the listener very happy every time because they sound catchy and fun. It's his joy of playing that makes his music so catching.

I said it a few times: artists like Scott Albert Johnson are not a dime a dozen. He has made another excellent record. Going Somewhere was produced with the financial support of a Kickstarter campaign. It took two runs to finally collect sufficient funds. I'm happy he succeeded. This album deserved to be made, and especially to be played and purchased. [Dani Heyvaert]

Scott Albert Johnson’s new record “Going Somewhere” literally starts with a bang–a big drum groove–that is soon capped with feverish amped harmonica whose lines pay homage to the blues tradition without ever directly invoking it. Throughout this record, on every track of which Johnson sings lead, plays harmonica, and produced or co-produced–he also wrote or co-wrote every track except for a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “I Don’t Remember” and Brett Winston’s “Haunt My Dreams”–the songs are memorable, the singing intense, and the harmonica new and powerful, often in surprising ways. It’s a great record if you’re into rock n’ roll; in fact it’s the most daring rock harmonica record since the early 1990s, when Blues Traveler came along to shake everybody up with a completely different take on the instrument.

Rock n’ roll is about outsize emotions and gestures, and this record is full of them. The production is big and colorful, often very 1980s-synthpop-influenced, especially on those pieces where Johnson adds color to the harmonicas with effects. (That Peter Gabriel tune fits right in with this program.) Johnson has deployed no less than 5 guitarists, 3 bassists, and 6 drummers among the album’s nine tracks, and he’s chosen well. Every track has the right players for the groove, and the guitarists complement the harp brilliantly, thank you. Johnson’s singing is typically upfront and impassioned, as befits the style and the material.

The record’s liner notes mention only Lone Wolf harmonica gear, but you very quickly hear other sounds in the mix, and a look at Johnson’s recording notes confirm that he used a Digitech RP200 running tweaked versions of my patch set for Digitech RP for many of the harmonica parts. I hear a lot of phase shifters and autowahs in theses pieces; “If I Only Knew The Words,” an anthemic rocker with a huge chorus, includes phase-shifted and otherwise effected harmonica that’s practically indistinguishable from a synth, and “I Don’t Remember” ends with an extended jam between two heavily effected harmonicas whose wickedly twisted lines climax in an amped and reverbed (and relatively conventional) lead harp that’s about as big as it gets.

Did I mention that Johnson’s harmonica style is new and different? He’s clearly got influences, one of which is apparently John Popper. But I doubt that anyone hearing Johnson would mistake him for Popper; his note choices and phrasing are very different from Popper’s, often jazz-influenced, with a lot more space than Popper usually leaves in his solos. Johnson often plays fast, but he’s not just spraying notes around; his lines resolve, sometimes at length, but like the title of the record, you always get the feeling that he’s going somewhere. Like Popper, he often transitions over wide spaces in his lines with a glissando or a rapid burst of notes. Also like Popper, his tone is brighter and lighter than a traditional blues harp. He’s got plenty of power, but it’s a very different kind of power than you hear from a traditional blues player (like Grant Dermody, whose “Sun Might Shine on Me” I reviewed recently on this blog.) I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this record to pick up on what he’s doing here, exactly because it’s so different from the usual harmonica trick bag, and I suspect a lot of other players will too.

After the shattering climax of “I Don’t Remember,” the record gives us “Simply Human,” an attractive synth-poppy piece that asks us, in the context of a robot soliloquy (“My hands… are not made of skin…”), what it means to be a human being. Johnson serves up solos on acoustic harmonica and phase-shifted harmonica, both sounding eerily natural and synthetic at once. The last piece on the record is “Fragments,” an emotional workout for voice, acoustic harp, and piano. It’s a stripped down song, but it’s as big and lush with feeling as anything else on the record.

Of the record’s nine pieces, two–the jokey country music sendups “Jailbird” and “A Bigger Gun”–left me cold. The rest of “Going Somewhere” knocks me out, and I’ve listened to it over and over in the last few weeks, marveling at the invention in Johnson’s lines and the glorious settings he’s provided for them. This record deserves to be widely heard.

Cashbox Music Reviews

"There are harmonica players and then there is Scott Albert of the best harp players in the world." -MORE-


Scott Albert Johnson Going Somewhere (Monkaroo Music/Hemifran)

Now here we have a very sensational musician from Jackson, Mississippi. His name is Scott Albert Johnson and besides a beautiful soulful voice, he can also play the harmonica very well. His latest album 'Going Somewhere' follows his 2007 release 'Umbrella Man'... This album is an excellent mixture of rock, jazz, blues, funk, country, world music, etc. etc. One of the finest tunes is the Peter Gabriel cover "I Don’t Remember," which is a very strong aggressive midtempo rocker with superb vocals by Scott. A song like "A Bigger Gun" dives into bluegrass, while singer-songwriter pieces are also included here and there, but bluesy rock a la Van Morrison, with the harmonica sound a la Toots Thielemans, that is what this record is all about. Just listen to beautiful songs like "Going Somewhere," "If I Only Knew the Words" and "Jailbird" and you will understand the nature of this honestly recorded album. Without a doubt, Scott is someone to keep your eyes open for in the future, as he has something unique to offer.

Harmonica Happenings

ALBUM REVIEW: Going Somewhere by Scott Albert Johnson
Reviewed by Paul Messinger

My first listenings to the new Scott Albert Johnson release, Going Somewhere, somehow made me think of the movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” As some may recall, the movie told the tale of the Coca-Cola bottle that fell from the sky and is found by a tribesman living in the Kalahari Desert, without any context to understand this magical object.

Listening to the things that SAJ does with the harmonica in many ways makes me think that, like that tribesman, Scott Albert Johnson found the vestal harmonica that fell from the sky and, without any prior context, discovered his own, singular language in which to relate to and summon song from this object that somehow fell from the heavens.

It’s as if all the context that we as listeners expect and depend on is somehow undiscovered still, and Scott Albert Johnson encounters this ten-hole talisman that fell from the sky, for the first time, for all of us … The joy and wonder in which he encounters this celestial object, and arranges the sounds and silences of this new-found world are, in a word, profound.

Scott Albert Johnson is, first and foremost, a songwriter. His songs cover a kaleidoscopic range of life experiences, inner imaginings, and song-stylings that have often been largely untouched by the ten-hole, which, for we harmonicists make them all the more innovative, and well, fascinating …

Songs like “Simply Human,” the heartfelt cry of a robot who yearns for inclusion amongst the humanity he has been programmed to serve, are just not among the usual harmonica-music themes. In production notes provided to this reviewer, SAJ describes the song’s musical structure: “the increasingly seamless mix of organic and synthesized instrumentation is meant to complement the lyrical theme of our merging with our creations.”

In “Fragments,” as Scott explains in the production notes: “Walker Percy once wrote in The Moviegoer, "Not for five minutes will I be distracted from the wonder." That’s pretty much the way I feel all the time: in awe of Creation and Infinity and very much unsure of what it all means (but grateful for the chance to be here to consider it at all). I wanted to try to capture this feeling in a song about the fundamentals of who we are and where we are going.”

Then, in tunes like “Going Somewhere” and “All,” there is the FUNK … It is a Dr. John meets Frankenstein funk, filled with rat-tat-tat staccato bursts, harp lines structurally set up to function as funky horn lines, but then they morph into something ‘other.’ For example, in “All”, Scott’s first break is an 8-bar, noteless warble that ‘suggests’ a flat third; that’s the best I can describe it, you just gotta hear it … The 2nd harp break blows freakily precise lines, in freakily imagined time phrasings with the rest of the band, then blasts into a solo saturated with a tweaked Richard Hunter phaser-effect-patch … Then, more freakily precise, freakily-effected, freakily imagined funk-section-line-playing seals the deal …

And on and on it goes, through different musical styles and characters of Scott’s imaginings, tune after tune … with a great band that features such luminaries as Chalmers Davis (a Muscle Shoals/Little Richard sideman… check out “Haunt My Dreams” for about as ‘evil’ an organ part as you’ll ever wanna hear), Scott Albert Johnson re-imagines the instrument as if … well … as if it fell from the sky, and he encountered it as if it had never been played or heard before.

Experience the joy and wonder of it … this is a ride worth taking, folks.

Clarion-Ledger [Jackson, MS]

"I really enjoyed writing the songs. One of them — "If I Only Knew the Words" — goes back 12 years. I scribbled a few lyrics on a napkin. The napkin came up missing, so I had to rewrite it. Meanwhile, I came up with a melody. The premise of the song is about a couple that has a hard time communicating with one another. But it can also be whatever somebody listening to it wants it to be. It can mean something totally different to them."  -MORE-

Johnson said he became obsessed with the harmonica, but mastering the “harp,” doesn’t brand him a Blues artist. He said he’s more of a rock musician with jazz influences like fellow singer and harmonica player Blues Traveler front man John Popper. The overblow technique allows Johnson to interpret all kinds of music with the harmonica. Johnson also credits Howard Levy, Toots Thielemans, Stevie Wonder and the late Chris Michalek as major influences.  -MORE-

Jackson Free Press

Writing, recording and distributing an album is never an expedient process. For Jackson vocalist, songwriter and harmonica player Scott Albert Johnson's latest record, Going Somewhere, that was especially true.

The road to Going Somewhere, which came out on June 9, began shortly after the release of Johnson's debut full-length, Umbrella Man, in 2007. Only a few months later, he began working on a follow-up record... -MORE-

country jukebox [Munich, Germany]

"Going Somewhere" by Scott Albert Johnson
SCOTT Albert Johnson, who was born in St. Louis and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, is not only a singer, songwriter and producer, but also a gifted harmonica player. His musical interests are as diverse as his skills. He has united elements of rock, jazz, blues, funk, world music and country into his own personal DNA, thus cultivating a totally original sound and creating an amazing bridge between generations and genres. "Going Somewhere" is a cleverly chosen title for an album that reveals many routes that open-minded and curious listeners should follow.

Relix Magazine ("On the Verge" artist)

Umbrella Man leaves no stone unturned. Scott Albert Johnson's debut mixes blues, rock, folk and jazz, unified by first-rate harmonica playing.” 

Jackson Free Press - "A Maverick of Harmonica"

In modern music, instruments such as tambourines, trumpets or acoustic guitars can seem like an afterthought—hardly necessary in the minds of average listeners. Amidst the center-stage singing, drumming and attention-grabbing guitar playing in contemporary songs, other items get added as flourishes rather than musts.

For Jackson-based songwriter, singer and harmonica master Scott Albert Johnson, however, the alternatives to this sidelining of instruments are simple: Write smart, know your instrument and play exceptionally well.

"By and large, harmonica players are terrible musicians," Johnson says. "Harmonica has gotten a bad name because so many people toy around and (call) themselves harmonica players without knowing what they're doing. They'll be in rock or blues groups, struggling to make something sound good because they won't even know what key the band is playing in."

Johnson, whom Jackson Free Press readers named "Best Musician" in 2009 and 2010, had his fair share of experience with the music world before finding his niche with the oft-misunderstood harmonica. As a child, he tried his hand at violin, and he sang in his middle- and high-school choirs at St. Andrew's Episcopal School. During his freshman year of high school, a friend gave him a bass guitar, and another friend asked him to join a band, The Strangers, within days of each other. The Strangers had a booked gig coming up in a couple of weeks, and Johnson agreed to play bass.

During his college years at Harvard University, he set continued to play the bass and sing for bands while also focusing on his commitment as kicker for the football team.

Years later in Washington, D.C., a musician co-worker heard that Johnson had a good voice and suggested they play together. This pairing brought up the harmonica.

"I remembered goofing off with one before, and I figured out a few things like major scales and bending notes," Johnson says. "I learned pretty quickly that it was my instrument. I had more natural ability on it than any other instrument."

Johnson came back to Jackson to visit family and play music in 2003, believing it to be a temporary stay. Then he met photographer Susan Margaret Barrett. The two are now married and have three children: Charlie, 8, Benjamin, 6, and Lily Margaret, 4. Johnson says he also instantly felt accepted in Mississippi, a state with several successful harmonica players in its history, including Lester Davenport of Tchula, Sonny Boy Williamson II of Glendora and James Cotton of Tunica. Johnson started playing shows frequently, both within the Jackson area and regionally.

After making the United Kingdom's The Harmonica Company's "Hot 100" list in early 2012 and the success of his 2007 full-length album "Umbrella Man," Johnson is now preparing his sophomore album, "Going Somewhere," for an early 2014 release.

"I'm definitely in the homestretch of releasing the new record, which I've been at work on in fits and starts for years," Johnson says. He combined his different skills and interests to create the record. "I consider myself a jazz player but a pop and rock songwriter. There's also some futuristic-sounding stuff mixed in, which sounds more like 21st-century music with synthesizer and samples."

Johnson gives a curious quality to portions of the recording by adding digital effects to his playing—without marring his top-notch harmonica chops, of course. Johnson says the album questions where society is going as well as where he's going as musician and as a person.

While songs such as the catchy funk track, "All," and the bouncing pianos of "A Bigger Gun" deal with tough topics such as expanding materialism and snowballing violence, they boast fun melodies and a tongue-in-cheek delivery that keep the album far from being a somber affair.

The Next Big Thing [Germany])

"There is a warmth and a deep soul to this latest offering from harmonica virtuoso Scott Albert Johnson. Gifted with a clear, emotionally satisfying voice and a complete grasp on what makes an honest, thoughtful song work, Johnson invites us to dance the night away, get hot, get sweaty and get involved. There is a rare love and passion in these recordings, an uncompromising dedication and a joyfulness that sets this way above many similar attempts. This is the sound of someone who lives and breathes the music he creates and wants to share it with anyone that will listen.” 

Tuesday Magazine

 “Scott Albert Johnson's unique sound is irresistible and virtuosic in its breadth. Umbrella Man is a work of rare beauty and innovation. Rich, bluesy, and played with a heartfelt passion for the musical craft, his songs come as a refreshing challenge to a scene stifled by genre.”

(Rootstime [Belgium])

“Scott Albert Johnson is a harmonica player of the highest class, and a fine and versatile singer and songwriter as well. He has been blessed with a beautiful, clear and unique voice, and his harp playing varies between steaming blues solos, Toots Thielemans-like jazzy stuff, and more subtle playing. His style intermingles pop, jazz and roots music and, of course, blues influences.”

Blues Matters [UK]

“Scott Albert Johnson is a harmonica player, and what a polished and exquisite player/songwriter he is.  Umbrella Man has proved to be an unexpected and very pleasing surprise.”

[Jackson, MS] Clarion-Ledger

“Scott Albert Johnson is a virtuoso harmonica player. But he's also an accomplished singer and songwriter, as his debut CD Umbrella Man undeniably proves... Johnson's musical versatility is on prominent display on Umbrella Man, a disc that mixes blues, rock, folk and jazz into a varied and eclectic stew.”

Hooked On Music [Germany]

Scott Albert Johnson has a versatile voice and is extremely skilled on the harmonica. He is, and I'm not exaggerating, a virtuoso.  Anyone with eclectic listening habits will definitely find Umbrella Man worthwhile.

Jackson Free Press

"On Umbrella Man , Scott Albert Johnson displays the confidence of a seasoned musician. With never a dull moment, the album takes the listener on a ride. It has taken Johnson three years to bring Umbrella Man to fruition. It has definitely been worth the wait."

Northeast Ledger

For many musicians, family life doesn't come into the equation until after the playing days or over.

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 dad.

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 his lap.

"It's definitely a balancing act, sometimes more balanced than others," Johnson said.

Johnson has had an inclination for the arts since childhood.

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 said.

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 said.

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 anything."

He received a call from his wife, informing him about Charlie's scheduled debut.

Things began to change quickly, Johnson said.

"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 said.

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 were born.

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 scene.

"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

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 family."

From Harvard to harmonica, Scott Albert Johnson 'Going Somewhere' with latest CD project

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