Jonny Lang: Cool rockin' daddy

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2013 - 3:44 PM

After being sidetracked by his four young kids, guitar star Jonny Lang comes home to Minneapolis to celebrate his first album in seven years.

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Fargo-born, Twin Cities-launched, Grammy-winning Jonny Lang will perform Wednesday at the State Theatre.

Photo: Piper Ferguson,

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The unplugged electric guitar didn’t leave Jonny Lang’s hands for about eight hours — unless he was making a phone call or eating lunch. At every idle moment, he was either strumming a tune, picking a solo or possibly creating a new idea.

That was 10 years ago in Los Angeles on a long day filled with interviews and photo shoots.

Now, Lang keeps a couple of beat-up acoustics in the garage of his L.A. home. But all his good guitars are with his band’s gear, “marinating” in a Minneapolis warehouse.

“There are no guitars in the house whatsoever,” Lang said on a recent morning.

That’s because Kid Jonny, the guitar wunderkind who came out of Minneapolis in the 1990s and played with B.B. King, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith, is now Daddy John Langseth, father of four children under the age of 6.

“The kids are very music-oriented; they bang on any instrument we put in front of them,” said Lang, who will return to Minneapolis at the State Theatre on Wednesday. “They’ll find the guitars — they’ll seek and destroy.”

Not that Lang is complaining. In fact, he calls the kids a blessing.

“Fatherhood has made me a more balanced person. At first, having children was almost this train-wreck experience where psychologically it took me by surprise,” he said in a long conversation from his L.A. home. “The kids were great. But the change of lifestyle was crazy. Now, the more the merrier. I love it. It’s finally made me feel like a grown-up.”

The kids — twins (a boy and girl) about to turn 6 in November and daughters who are 3 years old and 3½ months old — are the reason it has been seven years between studio albums, from 2006’s Grammy-winning “Turn Around” to this week’s “Fight for My Soul.”

Seven years is nearly one-fourth of his life.

“I didn’t think of it in those terms. Now I’m really depressed,” Lang, 32, said with a chuckle. “I wanted to wait until we had some time where I could both be at home and work on the record. It took a while to find the right places to record. I didn’t want to be the dad who’s gone all the time.”

No label interference

After recording four studio albums for A&M/Interscope, Lang finally got to make the kind of album he has long wanted to make.

“In albums past, I was afraid a little bit to completely let go,” he admitted. “I would steer the songs in the way people would expect them. This time I wasn’t worried if this was blues-rock enough for people or, ‘Is this guitar-centric enough?’ I was conscious to just let it be what it is.”

“Fight for My Soul” embraces different styles — blues, rock, soul, pop, gospel — with Lang adding some new Santana-evoking guitar licks and even some flamenco passages and using some fuller, almost Broadway-like arrangements. Under the direction of producer Tommy Sims, he even sometimes sings with a new, softer voice.

“That voice was always there,” he said. “Not hearing it in the past was me trying to stay away from that and me being more the rough-voice guy. In this one, I didn’t care about that. The songs are more dramatic on this record and call for that deliberate quiet.”

“Fight for My Soul” is clearly a spiritual album, although Lang never mentions the Lord or Jesus by name. His previous album, “Turn Around,” was more overtly religious and earned a Grammy for best rock gospel album.

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  • jonny lang

    Opening: Honor by August.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.

    Where: State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $43.50-$53.50, www.ticketmaster.com.

    Website: www.jonnylang.com.

    Twitter: @jonnylangband.

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