At 39, Jonathan Wilson has already accomplished more than many people twice his age. As a musician, he has worked with everyone from Jackson Browne to Dallas' own Erykah Badu. Wilson has also produced recording sessions for the likes of Glen Campbell, Dawes and Father John Misty. And as a solo performer, Wilson has released four albums that creatively combine folk, country and psychedelic rock.
Speaking from a tour stop in Nashville and in anticipation of tonight's show at Dada, Wilson spoke with DC9 about his intriguing past and why he thinks his music has been better appreciated in Europe than in his home country.
You are originally from North Carolina. How long have you lived in Los Angeles?
I went out there when I was 19. I lived in the southeast for a while and then New York before I came back for good, to Laurel Canyon in 2005.
When was the last time you played Dallas?
It's been a long, long time. I was probably through there, but it was when I was playing in someone else's band. Last time I was playing there, I was playing with Jackson Browne.
How did you end up in his band?
It was a thing where he got a copy of my album, Gentle Spirit. The first time we crossed path, he knew that I was the guy that had did that album. We got together and did some shows. We have become good buddies.
What is your favorite Jackson Browne song?
I'd have to say "For a Dancer."
Your music is often listed as folk, psychedelic rock, country or R&B.
I don't know about the R&B part. That may be in there somewhere. I am definitely the first two. I am definitely not a country singer. I can sing some bluegrass if I have to.
You have had quite a bit of success in Europe. Are you more popular there than in the states?
Oh, for sure. I will get ten times the crowd over there. Part of that is that I go over there all of the time. I hit it hard in Europe. I've made inroads over there. That is where the band has been concentrating.
Do Europeans generally have better taste than Americans?
I don't know about better tastes, but are certainly more interested in my music. Music seems to be bigger priorities for people of all ages. They love good American rock and roll.
What will it take for your music to break in America?
That I don't know. One thing is that we just have to circle the wagon a couple of times. We have not done that before. On this tour, we have been gaining a lot of fans. That combined with a couple of songs on the radio and suddenly the tables turn.What are your favorite countries to perform in?
This band does best in France, Italy and England. The most exciting audiences were probably in Italy. We just played a great gig in Lucca, which is close to Florence. It was a great Tuscan town. That was when we were touring with Tom Petty and that was a great gig.
Were the audiences accepting of your music?
Sometimes, it can be tough. When we opened for Wilco, it was easy because that's pretty much the same audience. The Petty dates, the fans were very excited to see Tom. He had not been to Europe for 23 years. Those audiences were still extremely gracious.
In 2007, you recorded an album called Frankie Ray. Will that ever be released?
It probably will at some point. That album has sort of become a mystery. Bootleg CDs of that material sell for $200 on Ebay. I guess that's a good thing.
You cover George Harrison's "Isn't It a Pity." That's a fairly obscure cover choice.
I am a huge George fan. I used to do that song with Benmont Tench from Petty's band. I was singing at a No Nukes concert with Gram Nash. He and I got to talking. He was in town for a couple of days and he was looking for something to sing in the studio. Mojo magazine had asked me to do a George cover and I decided to do that song. I asked Gram about it and he thought it would be great. He had known George since 1957, even before the Hollies. Gram came to the studio and sang his ass off on that song. I did all of the guitar, bass and drum on that.
How did you end up collaborating with Erykah Badu?
She came to Los Angeles and somebody told her that I was a guy she needed to hook up with. She was at my studio. I just texted her and was bummed that she is finally out to L.A. when I will be in Dallas. She will be out of town. We collaborated on a couple songs. I love that girl. She sang on one of my songs. I've done some gigs in her band, including Coachella.