“Where would we be without music?!” That was a question that musician Johnsmith recently pondered during an interview for WPR’s Simply Folk. “Sometimes you’re driving down the road and Simply Folk comes on or some song comes on and you didn’t even think that some issue was up in your heart or like you were stuck about something ... and all of a sudden you got a tear in your eye or you’re really laughing. You’re really thinking about some little thing and it just kind of opens you up.”
Johnsmith is from Trempeleau County in Wisconsin’s Driftless region, and for over 20 years, he’s been performing around the United States and internationally, sharing music from his eight albums, the latest of which is the 2018 disc Gingko. He was recently in WPR’s Buck Studio for an interview and performance with Dan Robinson, host of Simply Folk.
Songwriting has been at the heart of his music, with themes of family, nature, and a general sense of optimism. “I’ve gone through life seeing the cup more half full than half empty... Not to say that I don’t have dark times, but usually how I get out of them is kind of remembering to clean up my attitude... Look at what you do have in your life and what you’re thankful for and try to let go of stuff.”
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For a good bit of the year, John is on the road, not only performing in concert but also leading trips for others and incorporating music into the travels, including Alaskan cruises, rafting trips in Idaho, and especially the trips he leads to Ireland. It’s in Ireland where he has a special connection.
“Six of my eight great grandparents are Irish, and so when I first went over (to Ireland), I just felt something that just really felt strongly like home. Whatever natural part of being a musician that I have and singing, I really feel this is where I’m coming from.”
For the full interview, click on the link and hear five songs performed by John, along with his stories of family, songwriting, and how he got started with music when a car thief literally tossed John’s first guitar at him while the thief was trying to get away!