Guitar legends Mike Stern and Eric Johnson were both at the top of their respective genres—jazz and rock—before they even decided to team up. But now that they have, recently releasing their album Eclectic, the duo has created a scintillating musical fusion that is sure to have Nelsonites rocking out in the aisles when they come to the Capitol on February 4.
“I think that’s what music oughta do. I love when beautiful things meld together. Categories don’t really matter to me,” Stern told the Star, noting that his own compositions have a variety of influences.
“I’ve got one tune that sounds African. We use stereo sound, and we’re getting big sound off the guitars. But then sometimes we go soft and dynamic. Sometimes we’re playing stuff where we’ve got more of a jazzy feeling, a jamming kind of thing, then we stretch out,” he said.
Stern said he jumped at the chance to collaborate with Johnson, who scored a worldwide hit and a Grammy award for his 1992 song Cliffs of Dover, when he was first given the chance years ago. The feeling was mutual.
“I’ve been aware of Mike for years and I was familiar with some of his playing,” said Johnson. “But I wasn’t as deeply familiar with his songwriting. As we began working together, I started going through all his songs and I was just blown away by some of the ballads. His tunes Wishing Well and Sometimes are beautiful. And his tune Wherever You Go is one of my favourites on the record.”
Stern said the album has a spontaneous element to it.
“This whole record, even though we did it in the studio, was really recorded live. A couple of things were fixed but there was that spontaneous quality which is what we were looking for and I definitely think that’s what we got. I really dig the way this record came out. It has a lot of energy and a lot of musicality,” he said.
One of their most buzz worthy songs is a cover of Red House by Jimi Hendrix, which they trade back and forth vocally.
“It was my singing debut,” says Stern. “I sang the first verse and Eric sang the second verse, then he sings the first two lines of the third verse and I sing the last two lines of the third verse.”
Stern said he’s thrilled to play alongside Johnson.
“The way this cat plays! I’m just beginning to figure out what the hell he’s doing. He does these pedal steel kind of licks on guitar and such beautiful orchestration. He picks some notes with his right hand using his fingers and pick together. He plays a lot with his fingers and pick, and some of the runs that he uses…the lines that he plays are very harmonically sophisticated.”
Stern said they’re looking forward to the Capitol show, which is happening in the midst of their west coast tour.
“It’s going to be fun for us to stretch out a lot on the gig, jam. We can’t wait to get to Nelson.”
Tickets are $39.50 plus tax and are available online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca or by phone at (250) 352-6363.