Brit Award winning producer Ethan Johns is respected worldwide for his musical touch and has a repertoire that includes Kings of Leon, Laura Marling and Ray LaMontagne. Always a key catalyst to a band or artist's success, this year sees Johns become an artist in his own right, putting his face on the cover of his debut solo record 'If Not Now Then When?'.
We meet Johns for an acoustic session in the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre, the final venue of his first tour to promote the album. He is clearly excited to be sat amongst the empty seats of an auditorium that, in just a few weeks time, will contain an audience ready to hear him perform:
"I feel so lucky to be able to book a room like this. I love playing live I love to perform songs for an audience it really brings them to life. I think that's probably one of the reasons why I wanted to see this project through, I felt like the songs just weren't real and the only way to make them real is by sharing them with people."
With music in his blood, Johns' love for the craft began at a very young age. It's no surprise that his earliest musical memory dates back to when he was a toddler, nor is it a surprise that the memory is an elegant one, much more so than blowing mindlessly into a recorder or banging a pan with a wooden spoon. As he recalls that day, Johns likens it to a spiritual revelation, quite a feat considering he was only three at the time:
"We moved into a house just outside of Epsom when I was about three years old. There was a downstairs playroom next to the kitchen and in there was a Mountain Dulcimer that someone had given to my Father. I rested this thing on the arms of the chair and would sit for what seemed like forever, mesmerized by the sound that this thing was making.
"And I never looked back."
Following in the footsteps of his father Glyn, producer of records for Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Who, Johns went on to mix records for other artists but has been writing his own music since the age of eleven. So why wait so long to share his songs?
Along with being deterred by a bad experience fronting a band, Johns says his work as a producer kept him creatively fulfilled:
"I've been working with some incredible artists over the years, great writers great singers. I've been very happy to occupy that role and collaborate with them. I'm very hands-on as a producer. In the trenches I play a lot on the records I make. It's not like I sit at the back of the room on the phone and organize."
You might think that Johns would be apprehensive about stepping into the spotlight. He freely admits that he doesn't really like to be the centre of attention. But it's the songs that compel him, the songs that are pushing to be performed:
"You have to serve them somehow."
Text by Leila De Vito for Crane.tv