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Eric Johanson: A Distinctive Blues Musician with an Intoxicating Sound

Bud Gambrell

Jan 30, 2024

NOLA blues musician Eric Johanson takes his distinctive, intoxicating sound on the road, kicking off his “Don’t Hold Back” tour in North Alabama.

New Orleans blues musician Eric Johanson recently embarked on his maiden headlining tour, kicking off his first show in Decatur, Alabama. Eric’s style of music cannot be classified into one category, as he is about more than traditional blues. His songs are steeped in the blues, but he also includes the influence of rock, funk, soul, and a little bit of Louisiana style. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Eric now calls New Orleans home and uses his travels abroad to gather the many influences that give him a distinctive and intoxicating sound. With the release of his new album, “The Deep and The Dirty,” the power trio sets out to make a name for themselves.

Opening Night of the 2024 “Don’t Hold Back Tour” kicked off this past Saturday, January 27, at The Princess Theatre in Decatur. The power trio gave all that they had to please the undersized crowd. Led by guitar slinger Eric Johanson, the band laid into two sets running just over two hours. Eric hit the road in support of his 2023 release “The Deep and The Dirty”. While playing plenty of tracks from the new album, the evening had a generous helping of tracks from Eric’s previous releases.

While Eric was in town, Mixed Alternative had the chance to sit down and have a chat with this brilliant guitar wizard. Read our conversation below!

MaM: Your current tour, “Don’t Hold Back”, starts tonight in Decatur, Alabama. How do you feel about your upcoming tour which is your first headlining tour?

EJ: We've certainly had headline dates out there, but this is the first time we're hitting a lot of these venues in a row to headline, so it's exciting! It's really good to be getting back out there and playing for the people. It's always nice when you headline the shows. You can play more material and stretch out.

Credit: Bud Gambrell

MaM: Since this is your debut headlining tour, is there anything that you are out to accomplish?

EJ: We're just wanting to get out there and see folks that maybe heard us online and haven't gotten a chance to see us yet. The live show is really what it's all about for me. It's where the music takes on a life of its own. And you know we never play things the same way twice. There's always improvisation involved and we try to change up the set so we're hoping to see some familiar faces and also turn on some new folks to the to the live experience.

Credit: Bud Gambrell

MaM: Is there anything that you can tell a newcomer, like myself, on what to expect from an Eric Johanson show?

EJ: Well, my music is heavily [influenced by the blues], but it kind of is a little broader than that. It has elements of rock and funk and has that Louisiana influence, and also a little bit of the jam band-like The Allman Brothers-type vibe in there. I don't like to keep it in a box but basically, it's a power trio and we perform mostly all original material from the albums that I've released.

Credit: Bud Gambrell

MaM: What can we expect to hear on the setlist?

EJ: I'll play stuff from all three of the studio releases. I play a couple of things that came out on the ‘Covered Tracks’ releases sometimes, but honestly, these days, a lot of times, I don't write out a set list and we just kind of go with the feeling. I've found that it keeps it more on the edge of our toes to just come up with the next song based on what the moment feels like and the energy that we're getting from the crowd. So a lot of the time I'm really coming up with the set on the spot, but it's always a mix of the original tunes from my three records and you know occasionally we'll throw an old blues tune in there or an old New Orleans tune.

MaM: This is a return trip for you to The Princess Theater. I understand the last stop had an interesting mishap.

EJ: Yeah, the last time I was there something happened with a breaker or something and the PA went out for a little bit, and I actually ended up just sitting on the edge of the stage and singing acoustically to the room for a couple of songs while they got the PA back up. (laughs) And it actually was a cool moment and a testament to the sound of the room itself. It is a great-sounding theater.

Credit: Bud Gambrell

MaM: 2024 is looking to be a bright year for you: You just released the tour dates for Europe, as well as a new music video for “Just Like New”, and you are kicking off a tour tonight in support of the new album “The Deep and The Dirty”. In 2023, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues chart. How did you feel when you received the phone call giving you the news that it debuted at #1?

EJ: It feels good! I mean you don't want to get too hung up on things like that, but it definitely is a nice feeling. When you're working on a record you just want to make the best thing that you can make. I want to make something like the music that I want to hear but I can't find or, you know, just something I would want to listen to. You really don't know how people are going to respond to it. So, when you get the news that it's not only sold well but that it's debuting at the top of the genre, it kind of gives you some … feeling like [you’re] onto something. You know what I mean? You just don't know. All you can do is what you think sounds good and it's been great to see other people getting into it.

The album is not traditional blues, it's experimental. But I like to think that it's organic, it's raw, it's honest. And if people will respond to that it’s everything. It's great to see it charting and it's been great to hear peoples feedback and reactions to it. We're still excited, man! It's been out for about half a year now and so a lot of people these days get turned onto music through word of mouth. People are still discovering it all the time and it's just cool to see it kind of having legs.

MaM: You've been in the music business for several years now, and obviously the music business is evolving. What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry today, especially with the invention of digital music. Where do you stand on all that?

EJ: Well, it's kind of a mixed blessing because you don't really make any money from the streaming. I mean, some people will make the argument that you can, but it's such an enormous amount. Millions of people have to be streaming the music for you to make minimum wage. It's basically just a way for people to discover music, but it's not really a money maker for most of us. But that said, you know it really allows for a whole lot more people to find music that they might be interested in. … Back in the day, if you weren't on the radio, if you weren't on MTV, then only your buddies that passed on a tape were going know about your music.

I think it's good that there's so much diversity of music out there and that there is a way to put your art out there no matter what. It kind of is what it is. Thankfully, there are still people that are buying physical copies of music, whether it's with vinyl coming back or whether it's people that are buying CDs. Some people buy CDs, and I don't even know if they're playing them in a CD player or if it's just something to sign. But thankfully there are still people that do that because the merchandise table on tour is really how it all works. Without that, it's pretty hard to tour.

I would prefer that there was a way to still encourage people to buy records. These days it's hard to even figure out how to buy a record on iTunes. It's all just streaming now, but you know there's not a whole lot that you can do to turn back the clock on that. I just try to look at it as it's a way that people can discover new music and hopefully, they'll come to a show and … buy a T-shirt or vinyl or a CD or something.


For more on Eric Johanson or to catch a show on his “Don’t Hold Back” tour, visit the power trio online at, where you can find tour dates, news, and shop the online store.

*All photos by Bud Gambrell with Dragonfly Imagery

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