Courtesy of Dave Hoffenberg
There is a new music spot in Killington where you can feast on good food and good tunes. Capriccio Ristorante has live music on Friday and Saturday nights. This Saturday, don’t miss Jared Johnson who is performing from 6-10 p.m. Johnson plays a wide variety of good listening and jamming tunes.
Johnson was born and raised in Rutland. He moved to Mendon once, then back to Rutland and his zip code never changed. His brother Chris is an accomplished musician. When Jared was eight and Chris was 16, Chris brought home an electric guitar, and Jared got the itch. “Getting to hold that and feeling the weight of it, it was really wild. A lot of it was influenced by Chris and following what he was doing and where he was going and watching his jamming with other guys,” Jared says.
Johnson plays the guitar and the drums but the bass is his true love. “I was always attracted to the bass. When I was really young, my two older brothers and I would pretend to be the Rolling Stones, with tennis racquets. We had this one weird Adidas tennis racquet that had a really long handle on it for some reason and that one was always the bass. Everyone always wanted to be the guitar player so even when I was young I was forced into the position of pretending to be a bass player. I got that in my mind that’s what I wanted to do.”
In 1986 Jared begged his parents long enough to get them to buy him one for Christmas and he hasn’t put it down since. Chris taught him beginner stuff with hard rock tunes from the Scorpions and Black Sabbath.
Jared wasn’t into sports, so in high school he just played music all the time. He also took a few lessons, but basically taught himself. “Unfortunately, when I was younger I didn’t make a connection between music and education. Being the little rebel that I was, I wasn’t interested in connecting the two. I just wanted to rock and roll. The idea of going to school for music turned off my idea of wanting to play music. Looking back I wish it had not been that way necessarily. Primarily I was self-taught and I would read books and watch instructional videos.”
Johnson worked at Be Music and gained great knowledge there. “If you’re around it and around people who play well, that’s how you learn. My approach to music is I have a basic knowledge of music. I’m not going to pretend to know all the ins and outs of written music and understanding it. You learn enough to be a certain level of good. If you can stay on time and stay in key on whatever instrument you’re on, you’re going to sound ok. As long as you don’t play beyond your skill level, you’ll sound good.”
When Johnson was younger he was influenced by hard rock. Music that his older brothers listened to trickled down to him. “In the early days I listened to a lot of Kiss and rock ‘n’ roll. From there I moved to the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead. As I grew older I started to listen to more of the purity of the music. It started out kind of heavy but then I worked my way into more organic stuff. I loved to listen to any type of music, pick it apart and see what’s going on. These days I don’t pay attention to what I’m listening to. I just turn the radio on and listen to whatever is happening.”
Johnson started a band in high school with his good friend Jeff Poremski and a few others. They were 18 at the time, playing in bars that you had to be 21 to drink in. Everyone assumed they were older so all their early earnings went to beer. The band was called Liquid Mountain Groove which I think is a great name! They played jammy type music, fittingly for the name. “We were as jammy as jammy could get,” says Johnson. “We were just a bunch of guys having fun. We played a few original tunes but were really just young dumb kids drinking beer and jamming,” Johnson says, laughing.
After LMG, there were a bunch of short-lived bands in which Johnson was kind of the ring leader. Then, along with Poremski and others, they all became side men for personalities. When Rick Redington formed Rick Redington and the Luv Machine, Johnson switched over to drums for that band because his brother Chris was on bass. He played with them for a few years until he got a phone call that changed his life.
It was the winter/spring of 2003. “I got a random phone call one day if I wanted to go out on the road with the Samples. I asked if I should audition and they said ‘no.’ They sent me a bunch of tunes to learn and that was it and I said ‘okay.’ Next thing I know a tour bus is picking me up at my house. It was real fast and easy.”
Redington had recommended him for the bassist job with the Samples. That was his first national tour and it took him all over the country. Johnson says the pinnacle of gigs with the Samples was playing Red Rocks in Colorado. “Still this much time after and it feels like an out-of-body experience; still doesn’t seem possible. To be a part of something like that is just crazy.”
Johnson played a lot of cool places with the Samples, like the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. “Getting to play in places of artists that I looked up to was awesome. Playing in places the Grateful Dead played, the Rolling Stones played, sharing the space that your influences played, is just crazy.”
It was a pretty regular schedule of touring with the Samples until 2010. The next few years, he played various gigs with them here and there. “The Samples are kind of a tribe. You never know who Sean is going to have on a gig. There are a lot of people in the Samples’ family.” The family came calling again and there is a summer tour in the works that might see Johnson play a hometown gig with the Samples at the Paramount Theatre in June. He also has a new project called “Concierge.” It’s an all-original act with himself, Poremski, Aaron Normand, Jeremiah Bindrum and Chazz Canney. They are in the process of making a record. Stay tuned.
Johnson has a great approach to playing music. He’ll always take a gig that is offered to him no matter what the instrument is. He plays guitar, bass and drums and has even taken a keyboard gig. He says, “I just play well enough to be asked back.”
Johnson sometimes surprises himself, having a lot of fun along the way. He says, “It’s just fun. I’ve played in rooms to just four people but it was a blast. I’m playing in the corner of a room and it’s fun, I can dig that. I’ve also played gigs to 50 thousand people. In 2004, we [The Samples] played at the World’s Fair and there were so many people it was unimaginable. That’s really fun, too. That’s two different kinds of fun and it’s just the energy that makes it amazing. I kind of consider myself a shy person but there is that thing that changes when you do go on stage and you’re in a different mindset. The whole process of performing and playing, I don’t understand it but there must be something about it that keeps people like myself doing it.”