Thursday, September 23, 2021

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The Sound

Jonny Lang and the power of inspiration


Jonny Lang took to music with the kind of effortlessness that few of us mere mortals will ever experience. After picking up a guitar at age 12, he independently released an album two years later and was signed to a label a year after that.

Jonny Lang plays Hoyt Sherman Place on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Jonny Lang plays Hoyt Sherman Place on Sunday, Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

“My memory of everything, since I can remember, I’ve just wanted to be a singer,” Lang said in a phone interview. “I loved music, and I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do with my life. Along the way, I’ve met a lot of people who certainly seem like they were meant to do what they were doing. It seemed like, ‘Wow, this person is definitely predisposed to do this thing.’ I guess I just felt like music was my thing.”

But perhaps the bigger indicator of just how naturally good Lang is at his craft can be seen not in how quickly he adopted it, or in how early success started to find him, but in how many people appreciate what he does. Lang’s music has found success on the blues, mainstream, top 40 and Christian charts, all in equal measure. That is something Lang takes particular pride in.

“I never set out to be recognized in any particular style of music,” he agreed. “To be recognized in those areas is really, really awesome. It’s funny because I’ve always looked at music like, ‘What’s the difference between BB King or James Taylor?’ It’s all been music to me. But I get it. You’re always going to be classified in some way or another. So the fact that people like to listen to the music and enjoy it and feel like it fits whatever way they want to classify it, that’s special to me.”

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It is that side of his musical relationship with fans — the appreciation for how the same song can be accepted differently by different people — that spurs him on now as a songwriter. What started as just the desire to play the music he had in his head has grown into a more sublime interaction between artist and audience.

“I think my motivation in life has changed from when I first started,” he said. “From, ‘This is something that’s exciting and fun’ to something that, in addition, is also something for other people. I think the excitement of anything will wear out over time. You can get burned out on different parts of the industry. The one thing that continues to be a never-ending source of fuel for me is just to see what the music I do can be for someone else. Just to hear stories about how this song helped someone out in their life, or how someone was able to relate to a certain song, that’s incredible to me. I never thought I’d get to be a part of something that powerful.

“Really, that’s what it’s all about at this point for me — to be able to inspire someone. It’s an incredible feeling to know that it’s possible. It continues to be amazing to me. I know what music has done for me. I can think of a few songs right now that have changed my view on certain things or helped me out almost like medicine would.”

In that sense, Lang’s music has become wonderfully symbiotic: The experience of each fan — a visceral feeling that is at once both unique and shared — inspires Lang to write from a place of deeper appreciation, which in turn only draws us as fans ever closer to the flame. CV

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