Just a few minutes after bars closed on early New Year’s morning, I was willing to go to any lengths to get my interview subject.
That included approaching him in the men’s room at Long Shot Sports Bar and Grill in Rock Falls, introducing myself, and asking whether he’d be willing to chat.
Eddie Johnston obliged. Of course he did. As intimidating as I might be, and as bizarre as being approached about an interview in the bathroom has got to be, that was likely the easiest part of his night.
For almost 2 hours, Johnston had gleefully bounced around the stage while laying down delicious grooves on bass as a member of Small Town Hymnal, the headlining band for New Year’s Eve at Long Shot.
So a little interview must have been child’s play. But then I told him our chat also would be presented as a podcast (listen at saukvalley.com), and he got a little spooked. He stayed the course – even after we got 3 minutes in and it became brutally evident that the nearby patrons were inadvertently interview-bombing the bejesus out of our audio.
For about 15 minutes, we talked shop. About how he refused to not be a trouper for the band’s VERY FIRST SHOW, FOLKS. We talked about his New Year’s resolutions. And we discussed the healing power of music.
Johnston did a number of things for me that fateful morning. He pulled my head out of a lurch, for one. I’d set up an interview with D&L Cab Service owner Dial Gutierrez for the podcast and column. What better angle for a story than a cab driver on New Year’s, right?
But Gutierrez stood me up. The lone D&L employee who answered the phone (when my call didn’t go to voicemail as it did the first two times I rang) broke the news to me that the owner was “unavailable for the night.”
I was frustrated. Sometimes, it seems like no matter how much you plan, the best-laid scheme can get blown up.
But as the cab door closed, another door opened. My cubemate, Lucas Pauley, the band’s frontman, had told me before the show that its bassist had a 102-degree fever.
I think we had a good chat. I’ve gone back and re-listened and still feel that way. But in addition to giving me a quality second podcast, Johnston inspired me. He moved me, the next time I feel weak, to dig deep and pin my ears back. It’s actually a mantra I’m taking into 2014: Suck it up, cupcake. The team needs you.
And in a more music-specific sense, he inspired me to make sure I get out my guitar. And soon. I’ve been journaling my twin girls’ lives since they arrived Aug. 10, but I feel like I’d be remiss if I don’t express in song the way they make me feel.
So, thanks, Eddie, for saying the show must go on. As for you – yes, you, the person reading this column – be sure to check out Small Town Hymnal when they return to Long Shot on Feb. 22. Within a few weeks, I hope to be able to give you a preview. I’m going to enlist the guys to record the intro to the podcast episodes.
I just hope they like free publicity.