Part virtuoso and part storyteller, you might say that Jacob Johnson does with a guitar what Gene Kelly did with dance. Although his songwriting has won awards and his guitar-playing has put him on stage with Tommy Emmanuel and Phil Keaggy, his ability as an entertainer is what has won fans throughout the southeast. He refers to himself as "a ham that just wants to be on stage" but he's much more than that. Jacob is an amazingly talented guitarist and songwriter which, combined with a bit of a personality, makes for a wildly impressive stage performance.
Johnson began playing when he was 10 years old, thanks primarily to his grandmother. "She played with pickup bands back in the '40s," he says. "When country acts would tour, they would just book a band in whatever city they were playing in. So she played with Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow and a lot of people like that. She taught me the first three or four chords I ever learned and said, 'Jacob, if all you ever learn on the guitar is these three or four chords, you will always be able to pick up a guitar and play songs for people.'"
"He was one of the first players who got into two-handed tapping, alternate tuning, that kind of stuff. At a certain point I decided to focus on the acoustic guitar because there was just something about it. It seemed like this was the instrument that was going to give me my voice; that would allow me to develop my singing and songwriting in a way that my electric playing didn't."
Since dropping out of college in 2007, Jacob has traveled the country in (so far) six mini-vans, honing his craft, and making friends and fans along the way. Most of these were friendly now-forgotten faces that offered a warm meal and a couch to sleep on, but some were able to offer more. Such was the case with Grammy-nominated Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel. Emmanuel put Jacob, as his opening act, on such notable stages as The Birchmere in Virginia, The State Theater in Maine, and The Newberry Opera House in South Carolina.
The songs and performances that developed in those touring years became the basis for Jacob's most recent album, "One-Take Jake". "One-Take Jake" features 11 of Jacob's most requested songs recorded live in-studio with no-overdubs. The songs range from his own award-winning "The Ferryboat Waltz", to his unique take on the Disney classic "Chim-Chim Cheree" by the Sherman Brothers. Few mistakes slip through the raw, understated production, but they underscore an important truth. While his talent may seem otherworldly, it's not magic. It's real, which is even better.
What those in the know are saying about Jacob Johnson:
"Johnson sounds like Norman Rockwell paintings and the open road. He is a virtuoso, expressing a working comprehension of dozens of techniques and styles. He has blended and blurred the lines of genres to craft a sound he calls 'Neo-Acoustic Folk/Funk'."
- The Florence Morning News (Florence, SC)
"Jacob is a great performer who has a way with words that will cause even the most curmudgeonly person to grin. The world needs more talent like this."
- Mossip Music Blog
"He surrenders to the passion that drives his guitar playing... Very entertaining and inspiring."
- Maine Music Blog
"Part of the new breed of folk musicians who make their own rules"
-The Savannah Morning News (Savannah, GA