Sunday at the Rose: John Hiatt joins forces with Buddy Guy on tour

John Hiatt performs with blues legend Buddy Guy at the Rose Music Center at The Heights on Sunday, July 31.

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John Hiatt performs with blues legend Buddy Guy at the Rose Music Center at The Heights on Sunday, July 31.

In the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, John Hiatt’s tour schedule was reduced to about 50 dates annually. The Indiana native, performing with blues legend Buddy Guy at Rose Music Center at The Heights on Sunday, July 31, has increased the number of shows since returning to the road in late 2021.

Last year, Hiatt toured with the Jerry Douglas Band, his collaborators on his most recent album, “Leftover Feelings” (2021). The Americana artist has more than 80 concerts in 2022. Hiatt is touring with his band the Goners, including these dates with Guy. After that, he has a solo tour with Lyle Lovett.

Hiatt, who turns 70 on August 20, recently answered some questions by phone during a six-day break from touring.

Q: Why did you increase the number of shows in 2022?

A: I wanted to make this a year of touring. My 70th birthday present to myself was to go out and commune with the audience. To me, that’s the ultimate reason we make music. For the last five or six years, I’ve slowed down to maybe 50 dates a year as opposed to 150 to 200. Then, of course, the pandemic stopped us all and left us in a sudden lurch. I went back out last year and did 45 shows with the Jerry Douglas Band. We were touring behind our record “Leftover Feelings.” This year, I called my manager and said, “How about we get the Goners back together and do a little rock ‘n’ roll tour?” I haven’t played with them in four years, so we decided to book these shows. All together, it’s about 40 shows. I’m going out for another 35 with Lyle Lovett in the fall so it’s a busy year.

Q: What makes Buddy Guy and John Hiatt a good concert pairing?

A: Buddy is pretty unbelievable. I like to think I try to deliver as much as he delivers when he plays live. I’m not the guitar whiz he is because, man, he’s amazing. The last time we played with Buddy was on a BB King tour back in the mid-2000s and it was amazing. He’s amazing. We had a blast. He’s a lovely guy and such a great musician, songwriter and singer. It’s an honor to be on this tour with him. He’s unbelievable. I saw him at the tail end of last year. We got together in the studio and recorded a song of mine together. I don’t know when or how it’s going to come out but, hopefully, eventually, that will see the light of day.

Q: What was your introduction to Buddy Guy’s music?

A: I discovered Buddy when I was about 20. Like a lot of guys my age, it was the album Buddy did with Junior Wells over in the UK. It’s amazing. I still listen to it today, it’s so good. I had heard of Buddy before that. I knew he was in Eric Clapton’s little book of great blues guitar players. I had heard a song here and a song there but that record he did with Junior was the one me and all my buddies brought home at the same time.

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Q: You mentioned ‘Leftover Feelings.’ What appealed to you about that project?

A: I loved making that record. Jerry has a young band and, of course, they’re all consummate musicians. It was a different world for me. They’re trained players and I’m very primitive in my approach. Three chords and an axe to grind is pretty much my milieu. Touring with them was great. Audiences really seemed to appreciate what we were doing. I love Jerry and I have no doubt we’ll play together again.

Q: What’s the plan for your next album?

A: I don’t know what’s next. For me, it’s fun to try different stuff with each record. That’s the exciting thing. It’s what I like to do. That was sort of my mindset from early on just because I like so many different kinds of music. I’ve always admired artists willing to try on something new. David Bowie springs to mind as someone who never let his previous successes be a burden to his creative adventurousness. To me, the excitement of making records is hearing what a particular group of musicians can do with the songs. I’ve got about enough songs to put to some musicians and a producer. When we’re off in the wintertime, we’ll try to record them. I’m looking forward to that but right now we’re focused on performing. I can’t wait to go fill the cup with that wonderful sense you get when you make music with an audience. It’s kind of a communion and that was missing in my life when we couldn’t perform. The audiences have been great. People are excited to hear music.

Q: What are you doing to manage the increased number of dates?

A: You develop this life of coming and going that involves certain protective measures when you’re on the road to take care of yourself, mentally, physically and spiritually. When you’ve toured as much as I used to, when you’re home, a good deal of that time is dedicated to restoring the burn out nerve ends, basically. That’s a hard cycle to break and I’m sure most touring musicians would agree with me. They finally started doing some studies on just how much wear-and-tear there is on touring musicians and how much you pay for what you do, in terms of your physical and mental health. It still seems a glamorous life, but people are finally admitting it does take a toll on you.

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Q: Why keep doing something so grueling?

A: The fact is, we love the music we make. The other 22 hours can be challenging but we get to be kids for two hours. That’s the wonderfulness of the job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. It’s still the greatest job in the world.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

Who: John Hiatt & the Goners and Buddy Guy featuring Sonny Landreth

Where: Rose Music Center at The Heights, 6800 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 31. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Cost: $23-$74

More info: 513-232-6220 or www.rosemusiccenter.com

Artist info: www.johnhiatt.com

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