Elton John Guitarist Davey Johnstone Squeezes in Rare Solo Album: Exclusive
Davey Johnstone's boss isn't the only one who made new music during the pandemic pause. The longtime Elton John guitarist and musical director is preparing to release Deeper Than My Roots as they resume the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour tonight in New Orleans.
Due on Feb. 4, Deeper Than My Roots is only Johnstone's second solo set, following 1973's Smiling Face. John's star-studded The Lockdown Sessions became a U.K. chart-topper last October, while also hitting the Top 10 in the U.S. Both albums were created during the tour's unexpected 22-months off.
"It was suddenly like, 'Well, I have a chance to sit around and create some of my own music again,' which I haven't done for many, many years," Johnstone tells UCR. "It was a real gift to be given this time, because when you're doing the kind of high-profile job I have with Elton – getting his band together, keeping the set list flowing and just playing the shows and traveling – I never had time to devote myself to my own thing. So, it's really been enjoyable."
Longtime John band cohort Nigel Olsson plays on "Melting Snow," while Wings alumnus Denny Seiwell performs on three tracks. Otherwise, the sessions became a family affair for Johnston, who's been with John for more than 50 years.
His youngest child Elliot is the album's primary lead vocalist, while Charlie Johnstone plays keyboards and Jesse Johnstone plays drums on most of the 12 tracks. Johnstone's daughter Juliet also designed the album's artwork, and eldest son Tam Johnstone co-wrote and co-produced the two oldest tracks: "Black Scotland" and "Walt Dizney" are instrumentals that also feature the late John band bassist Bob Birch, before his death in 2012.
"It's very much a family thing, and I love that," Johnstone says. "All my kids, all through their lives they always heard a lot of music at home. There's always music playing, whether it's me playing guitar or sitar or albums playing or whatever. I think that music's a very strong gene that you pass from family member to family member. As a result, all my kids are crazily talented and they love music, and my daughter's a wonderful artist. Having them involved, it's been really a cool project to do."
Listen to Davey Johnston's 'Melting Snow'
Johnstone doesn't envision much in the way of touring on his own to support Deeper Than My Roots, but he doesn’t rule out "some specific other types of shows around the songs and around the Davey Johnstone Band, as it were." He says the lineup will involve his children.
Meanwhile, Johnstone is ready to get back on the proverbial yellow brick road. Their reconfigured schedule has dates in North America and Europe this year – including stadiums come summer. John hits Oceania and Europe in 2023, and will currently wrap up on July 8 in Stockholm.
"It's been a great tour," says Johnstone, who anticipates some set list changes but adds that "it's essentially the same kind of show. ... So people will get the familiar [songs] and the videos and various flashbacks to the different decades of us working. It's just going to be classic Elton songs."
But, Johnstone quickly adds, "I never say never with Elton, because you really never know. He might at the 11th hour decide, 'I want to do this' out of nowhere, so we're always ready for surprises."
Johnstone remains confident, however, that the "farewell" part of the tour remains John's intention. "We're too bloody old!" he says with a laugh. "I just turned 70. Elton's 74. It's like, come on. ... When we finally get finished with this farewell tour, there's no way we're gonna do any more, now way.
"But again, I never say never with him," Johnstone adds. "All I know is this is a farewell to touring. Who knows what might happen after that. [John] might do something else, revue wise, maybe a one-man show somewhere. I have no idea, but anything's possible."
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