Jonny Lang is a veteran in the music business – at age 34. But, that’s what happens when your major-label debut comes out at age 15 and you earn a Grammy nomination a year before you can vote.
Lang’s mix of rock, R&B and blues music will return to the area with a Feb. 13 show at MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa.
Born in Fargo, N.D., Lang started playing in blues-rock bands there until he and his band at the time moved to Minneapolis. He released an independent record called “Smokin’” at age 14.
A&M Records signed Lang in 1996 and his debut, “Lie to Me,” came out the next year. His next two albums, the Grammy-nominated “Wander This World” in 1998 and “Long Time Coming” in 2003, both made the Billboard top 30 album charts. His best known songs include “Red Light,” “Breakin’ Me,” “Still Rainin’” and “Lie to Me.”
Lang recently told the Fairfax County Times in northern Virginia that he used to dream of making records himself when he went through his parents’ collection of music as a child.
“The first memories I have, I remember knowing what I was going to do,” Lang said. “I was going to be a singer. I always knew I wanted to be a singer, and that’s just the way it was, and the way it’s always been. I didn’t know I would play an instrument necessarily, I didn’t see myself doing that, but I always just wanted to sing and be a part of music.”
Lang’s latest album is “Fight for My Soul” from 2013. It was his first album in seven years, and he told the Fairfax County Times that it feels quite different from some of his earlier work.
“I think mostly because it seems like with every record, I kind of find my own personal style a little bit more,” Lang said. “I try to become a little bit better songwriter as time goes on. It’s hard to say exactly what kind of style or genre it’s evolved into. I think there are a lot of different styles in there. I like basically every type of music there is, and have influences that range throughout all of those styles. It’s all just music to me, I guess.”
That one-for-all style translates to the live show, as Lang said he and his band switch things up every night instead of opt for the same set for each town.
“Lately, we’ve been working in a lot more songs from some of the past records,” Lang told the Fairfax County Times. “We’ll throw in a couple of those, to draw from the old catalog a little bit, but from show to show, it’s different songs, just to keep it fun.
“For me, it’s less about the actual songs, and more about how the dynamic plays out during the set. We’ll have a nice ebb and flow, and you have energetic moments and intimate, kind of quiet, moments, put together in the right way. I feel like you’re on a journey. You make it emotional and sometimes people can kind go on this train with you.”
As for new material, that may be just around the corner.
“We’re working on it right now. It’s coming along really well; I’m really happy with it so far,” he told the Times. “I’m working with this guy Josh Kelly—he’s a really great songwriter and artist in his own right. We just tried writing together for a little while and it worked out really well, so we’re kind of producing the songs that we’ve written together now. We’ll see how those turn out, and if those turn out well, we’ll probably continue to make an entire record out of it.”
It’s possible the new songs might have a Christian tone to them, which has been true of part of Lang’s last two albums. He told the Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record in a recent interview he became a Christian in 2000 after years of drug and alcohol use. On the way to get high with a friend, he got terrible news from his wife, Haylie: her father had just died. He lost the urge to drink or do drugs in the aftermath.
“The first time I really felt God’s presence and really believed, there were some things about me that changed kinda instantly,” Lang said.
He added he has no problem playing music from his past because of his conversion. “As far as I’m concerned, it all belongs to God anyway,” he told the News and Record. “I don’t have a conflict with it.”
The change in his personal life also led to a new audience for Lang. His 2006 album, “Turn Around,” and “Fight for My Soul” were both top 2 albums on the Billboard Christian charts.
“I wasn’t intending to seek out a new genre or make a statement of any kind,” he told the News and Record. “I was just writing songs about my life, stuff I had experienced.”
Lang added his goal as a writer and performer is to try to relate to people, write songs that make others feel better and be a blessing to them at some kind of level.
“Whether it’s just a small thing that makes them happy or really helps them out in their life,” Lang added in his interview with the News and Record. “If I could do that for somebody else, that’d be amazing.”