(Ghost Hounds band photo: Jay Arcansalin)
Ghost Hounds guitarist Johnny Baab recently chatted with MRM ahead of the Ghost Hounds’ tour supporting the Rolling Stones. In this exclusive interview, Baab will speak about his upbringing all the way to opening for the biggest band in the world!
MRM: Could you speak about your greatest musical influence?
Baab: I grew up in Brooklyn, New York in New York City. My father, on the side was a drummer. So he brought me to all of these – I kind of grew up in blues clubs in New York City. They really don’t exist anymore. We’re talking like 1993 or 1994. So I got to meet Bo Diddley before he passed. I think it was 1994 or 1995 my father brought me and my older sister, who is a year older than me, to a Bo Diddley show at this old school blues club that doesn’t exist anymore called Chicago Blues. And so we went to that show, and I was maybe five years old. We’re talking about the midnight range to 1am range, I fell asleep, front row with my head kicked back over the back of my chair. And Bo Diddley stopped his show, and he was like “oh man, I must be getting too old, I’m putting the kids to sleep” kind of thing. But obviously it’s just a matter of like kids not being accustomed to that hour. Now I saw him about maybe six years later at BB King’s club in Time Square. And he actually remembered me falling asleep at his show. So I got to meet him after that show as well. And what ended up happening is then he ended up passing away. You know, I have pictures with him and his autographs from him from when I was a kid. It was such a tremendous honor and such a huge influence on me to have been able to experience both shows. And also like carry on the torch and sort of pass the torch along and like keep going. Just a wonderful experience and also a really influential experience with me.
MRM: How did you end up joining the Ghost Hounds?
Baab: So I got introduced to Thomas (Tull) by a mutual friend. Me and Thomas are both guitar players. We kind of linked up. Not under the premise of like starting a band or anything like that. We got together and hit it off immediately. And then what happened was, we are asking each other “what did you listen to growing up.” We realized that we had a very parallel musical experience. And at a certain point, maybe like a couple months in from us meeting each other and playing together, we said “hey man, should we do something?” Because our big thing is we want to make music we want to hear. For our lineage, especially as guitar players, it’s kind of outdated in terms of what you hear on the radio today. We said, “you know what, F this – we’re going to make music that we want to hear.” So that’s how the whole band really happened. I do want to make a note that Ghost Hounds existed in maybe like 2005 or 2006. It took a hiatus and everybody kind of separated. And when I met Thomas, he wanted to restart it. So when we had the opportunity to really do it in a way, you know what, if we are going to do this, because we don’t have to, we could just hang out and jam as musicians, if we’re going to do this, let’s make sure that we’re making music that we want to hear on the radio. Because in the music industry, I feel like there is a 30 year cycle.
MRM: Could you tell us about the Ghost Hounds’ new album “A Little Calamity”?
Baab: It’s really interesting. The first album we did (“Roses Are Black”), I’m super proud of. But we were very fresh as a collaborative group. And then we got to hit the road and by the time we did “A Little Calamity,” we had a lot more miles and a lot more hours together to naturally and organically evolve the musical conversation. When we recorded “A Little Calamity,” which we actually finished before the pandemic happened, I think we finished it on March 5th of 2020. So we had just been sitting on it. The funny thing is we recorded that record just like we’re playing a show. We did it all live – we tracked everything live. It was beautiful, it was organic, it was raw. For me, that’s the most real thing you can get. When you record an album, especially in today’s world, with all of the pop music and everything like that, for me when you record an album, all you’re trying to do is capture what’s happens live. When you’re in the room, there is magic happening. To record a record, to me, as long as your goal is just to capture that, that’s what’s beautiful and that’s exactly what “A Little Calamity” is. Thomas is an incredible songwriter. Man, I’m so proud to be a part of his visions and what he’s been doing. We came in and laid it down based upon the songs he wrote.
MRM: The Ghost Hounds are supporting the Rolling Stones on their 2021 No Filter Tour in Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Inglewood and Tampa. Are you all honored?
Baab: Here’s what I will say, we fully understand that we have the honor and privilege of being able to warm up the stage for the band that has been the best rock and roll band for the last six decades. What I also know is this, I’m very confident in what we do, and I think we really make it a point to extend the honor that we have and make that known. Whether we are playing for nobody or for everybody we are still going to go do the same show. So opening up for the Rolling Stones is an immense honor. And I will say that, obviously Charlie Watts just passed. We not only feel extremely honored to give him a nod and respect the legend that he is. We also understand that opening up for them in a time like this – the first time where they don’t have Charlie and they have Steve Jordan, which is one of the best drummers that you could ever ask to replace Charlie. We always just go out and just play like we always play. Whether we are in the rehearsal show or in soundcheck or a stadium show or a small club show – we always bring the same energy. My whole thing is with with this tour, it is a little bit more significant. We definitely want to pay respects to the recently lost legendary Charlie Watts. And you know we did a tour with ZZ Top and Dusty Hill just passed away. We want to do justice and pay tribute. That being said, we always try to go out and play the same way. Because our thing is, we’re out here to make music and make people feel good. For me, it’s an extreme honor to be able to go out and play guitar for a living. So if we can connect with however many people it is, we just want to make sure they know that we’re not acting any different than we do when were in a rehearsal room by ourselves. We are playing the same way on the stage that we do when we’re alone and no one is watching.
For more information on the Ghost Hounds, please visit ghosthounds.com
Read our concert review of the Ghost Hounds’ Charlotte show HERE