Tony Bristol of WSRS spoke with Johnny Mathis before his June 16 concert. Listen to the full interview below, or read on for highlights. Then visit TheHanoverTheatre.org for tickets!
Johnny: Oh my gosh, no! There was always somebody that I looked up to. People like Tony Bennett, Billy Eckstein and Frank Sinatra. To be mentioned in the same breath is quite flattering. My dad was the one that I really listened to. He sang too. He’s the reason that I sing today. Of course, nobody ever heard him except us kids.
Tony: Do you think of him when you sing these great songs?
Tony: Did you ever try to write lyrics or melody yourself?
Johnny: I can’t tell you how much respect I have for people who write and perform. No. It all comes from a higher power.
Tony: Tell me about your band for the songs for the “Great New American Songbook.”
Johnny: I have my core musicians. My guitar player and I have been together for 45 years. I have a wonderful drummer and bass player that have been with me for 20 to 30 years. We’re a team. They know a lot about my music.
Tony: How do you choose 11 songs for the New American Songbook?
Johnny: I have a pal, Clive Davis, and he was a big fan of mine. He called me a few years ago and he was the genesis of that album. He suggested the songs. I’m very grateful to him.
Tony: So many great songs. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” “Hello” … all great songs. Do you get to do them all in your show?
Johnny: We’re working on it. I love those songs. I love the new techniques in recording.
Tony: But nothing ever gets in the way of your voice. It’s so pure.
Johnny: I had a lot of good voice teachers early on.
Tony: You really had to be a good singer. Now there are all these fancy electronic technology things that can make someone sound good.
Johnny: Eventually you have to go on stage and repeat it. So when I choose to sing some of my recordings, it takes me a little time to figure out how to reproduce it. I’ve been working on it.
Tony: You had a lot of practice with 68 Albums! We’re so happy that you’re coming to Worcester. You’re such an icon. I bought a ticket for my mom. We’re in the second row!
Johnny: Hot dog! I love it!