Songwriter Johnny Dango's music is a confluence of country and rock, psychedelic riffs, folky roots and gospel touches replete with social critiques, intellectual musings, melancholy meditations, and humor. On his new album Dear Everybody, I Love You, he is introspective, battling the concept of time, and questioning his efficacy as a songwriter - all captured with energy and ennui. In advance of the album's release on January 19th, Dango answered his Essential 8 and talked the interesting story behind his album's title, the tunes on his phone, and much more.
What’s the story behind your album’s title?
It came from a dream. I was getting a Lyft ride and when the car arrived and I got in, the driver was Father John Misty. In my dream, I didn’t think much about it. Hard times for a lot of folks these days, right? So he’s driving and just going on and on, like lecturing me about social constructs and the need for an entirely new system, and it’s hilarious and interesting but I can’t get a word in. And he’s driving really fast. I’m pretty sure we were in Austin, but it was a dream, so it wasn’t exactly Austin, but I guess we were on MoPac or 360, one of those roads here that pass themselves off as quasi-highways, and Father John Misty kept driving faster and faster, and we were going downhill, into a big curve, him still talking about the patriarchy and me getting more and more nervous. We hit this curve and instead of riding the curve we shoot out straight into the air, Thelma and Louise style, and we’re flying thru the air for a few seconds before the nose of the car starts to dip and we see below us there’s another road and we’re gonna nosedive and crash. We’re about to die. Father John Misty says “oh man, I’m sorry!” and I say “it’s ok,” and then I close my eyes and say a little prayer, “Dear Everybody, I Love You.” Then I opened my eyes right at impact and woke up. The working title up to that point had been “Fun Hurts.”
Favorite (or first) concert you have ever attended?
Favorite would probably by Bob Dylan and His Band with Phil Lesh and Friends. Zoo Ampitheater, Oklahoma City. I don’t remember the exact year right now but it was before I moved to Austin in 2001, during the period when Bob still had Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell on guitar. I’ve seen Bob a bunch of times, good and bad, but that show was magical. They were playing straight up rock and roll. Bob hadn’t gone into his keyboard phase yet. The playing, the singing, and the setlist were all superb. And then Phil and Friends played afterwards. It was almost too much fun. Like being at an old Dylan/Dead show, but where everyone was actually pretty much together.
Which song of yours gets the best crowd response?
Probably “Boomerang,” from the first Memphis Strange record. It’s upbeat and bouncy. I got the idea for the drumbeat from a busted, wobbly ceiling fan. I think that beat gets people going, and a lot of times the crowd will sing along in the chorus, probably because there aren’t any actual words. It’s just a bunch of “woo-hoos.” That’s easy enough to remember, and you don’t even really have to sing in tune.
What are your “must have” albums for the road?
I don’t know if I have “must haves” but these are the records I have stored on my phone right now: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison; Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones; Wildflowers by Tom Petty; In Rainbows by Radiohead; Animals by Pink Floyd; Europe ’72 by The Grateful Dead; Desire by Bob Dylan; On The Beach by Neil Young; Shotgun WIllie by Willie Nelson; Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys; Five Guys Walk Into a Room by The Faces; Okie by J.J. Cale; Muswell Hillbillies by The Kinks; Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin; Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan; Rearview Mirror by Townes Van Zandt; Dirt by Alice In Chains; the entire Beatles discography from Rubber Soul on; Groovers Paradise by Doug Sahm; Salad Days by Mac DeMarco; Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins; Still Dangerous by Thin Lizzy; and the self-titled records from Warren Zevon and Willis Alan Ramsey.
What’s the most frustrating thing about being on the road?
Missing out on important or fun things with friends and family back home would be number one, followed by not being able to cook for myself.
What has been your biggest success?
I’m gonna have to say not getting eaten by a bear.
Do you have any touring tips?
Since I book most of the tours myself, we go to places that I want to go. And mostly those will be places where I want to go fishing. I’m not going to pretend that this is great career advice. But it certainly helps keep me sane in an insane business, in an insane country, in insane times.
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
It’s borrowed directly from Charles Bukowski: “find what you love and let it kill you.” If what you love is music, well, you’ve got it made.
Dear Everybody, I Love You is out January 19, 2018