Legend Jimmy Herring returns to home state for festival

by Jonathan Dermid – [email protected] – Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Mason Jar Media – Jimmy Herring will be playing two full sets at the Jomeokee Festival this weekend.

“Songs come to you sometimes, and you just start writing. I guess it’s the things in your subconscious that you love influencing you that you don’t notice until you start writing.”
Jimmy Herring, a North Carolina native who throughout his almost 25 year career has played guitar for Aquarium Rescue Unit, the Allman Brothers and most recently, Widespread Panic, is embarking on his own once again with his second solo album, Subject To Change Without Notice.
“In the past 10 or 12 years, I’ve been around a lot of singer-songwriters, what with all the people I’ve been graced to play with, and I guess it’s rubbed off.  One thing I noticed when we started recording is that there are a lot of simple songs on the record, which I’ve been really attracted to for a while now.”
This is a contrast with his past work, which was typically very jam-oriented and more free flowing. He said he still uses those techniques in recording his own material.
“I still like to play open types of music, but honestly at this point in my life, I’m very attracted to writing simple melodies. A simple melody over a simple set of chords inspires me, and being around such great singers in the past inspires me. These kinds of things are bound to rub off on you, and I guess I never expected it to manifest itself in this way.”
Herring is not flying solo in the strictest sense of the word though; he composed his own band to accompany him in the recording process and on stage. However, he does not consider himself to be a “leader” as much as he considers the band as another outlet for his music.
“I don’t consider myself a conductor or band leader in the sense that some would think. Of course, I put together the songs and I guess I’m technically the leader, the band still has room to be free live and play what they feel fits the songs, as long as it comes back to the original melody at hand. I’ve been playing with some of these guys for 20 years, so no one really tells anyone else what to play.”
One of his bandmates is John Keane, renowned producer and musician from Athens, Ga., who has worked with bands like R.E.M., the Indigo Girls and Widespread Panic. Herring described him as “indispensable and a huge help” during the time when Herring first joined Widespread Panic and tried to learn the songs.
“He was tremendous back then, both in the studio and on the road, and I knew that one day, I wanted to make a record with this guy.”
This live ensemble will kick off the fall leg of their tour with a headlining performance at the Jomeokee Festival, which is simply “great,” according to Herring.
“I love North Carolina and always have. I’ve been living in Georgia, and my wife and I were joking that we’ve lived in Georgia longer than we have in North Carolina, but we’re North Carolinians at heart. We grew up there, went to the same school, still have family there, things like that, so it’s always great to get to go back.”
Playing his home state is not the only thing that has Herring excited, though. He is sharing the bill and the stage with the legendary Del McCoury.
“I’m terrified honestly. The amount of respect I have for him, you can’t describe it. He’s a legend. You look at a guy like Del, and you look at a guy like me playing an electric guitar, and there’s definitely a difference. Sure, I play an acoustic guitar, but these guys are playing instruments that can actually break your hand. They’re true bluegrass musicians, and I’m excited about it for sure.”
He is also very excited about the tour itself, because, as he said, “Something funny or interesting happens every day when you’re on tour. For instance, the last leg of the tour we were on, the bus driver got us pretty good. He had our drummer take over the wheel while the bus was still moving, and came to the rest of the band at the back of the bus. The people in the back didn’t know the drummer had taken over, and they all sat their with their mouths open, one guy started crying, and the bus driver said, ‘Oh my God, the bus!’ It’s things like that that make touring interesting, and also, the people who support live music allow us to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’re always really appreciative of that.”
The Jimmy Herring Band will play the Head Jamz stage on the first night of the festival, and Herring will accompany the Everyone Orchestra the following night. For more information on the schedule, go to www.jomeokeefest.com, and for more information on Herring’s album, tour dates and  background, check out www.jimmyherring.net.