Johnny Outlaw Interview – Brandy Lee Dixon

For those of you that have yet to witness the amazing talent of Johnny Outlaw and The Johnson Creek Stranglers…here is a bit of info on one hell of a band and a man. I am not only proud to call myself a fan but also a friend. Johnny plays and writes straight from the heart. What you see is what you get. A rough and rowdy group of guys that love what they do. Read on and get turned on to some damn fine music and get out to one of their upcoming shows. Tell ’em BLD sent ya.

BLD: At what age did you decide to become a songwriter and musician?  

JOHNNY: Well, I don’t know if I ever really decided to become a songwriter and a singer. I think it just happened that a lot of my family members were in Country Music bands when I was younger and alot of ’em just played guitar and sang. I did know at a very young age that I related to songs by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams more than I did cartoons. I couldn’t ride anywhere in the car with my folks without having that music playing  and I’d throw a fit until it happened. I guess now that I think about it, my grandpa took me to the State Fair at about age six to see Johnny Cash and I remember being dumbfounded by his thundering voice and booming bass sound.  It must have been what made me want to start singing and playing, because that Christmas I got a guitar for a present.

BLD: What kind of guitar did you get? What do you play now?

JOHNNY:   It was a Fender Acoustic. Right now I am playing a Recording King.

BLD: It’s obvious listening to your music that you are a fan of traditional Country, tell me more about your family and their music history.

JOHNNY: My mother’s side of the family all came from Tennessee and Oklahoma. I was born in Weiset, Idaho, the home of the World Fiddle Festival. I was raised on it. The music my immediate family was listening to was Dolly Parton,  John Conlee, Eddie Rabbit, Waylon, Willie, Hank Jr., Ronnie Milsap and other 80s Country stars and then we would go to grandpa and grandmas and they were listening to George Jones, Lefty Frizzel and Hank and all the greats.  I seen Johnny Cash and Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens, Roy Clark and others live in concert before I even turned ten. It’s just been instilled in my blood and I have always had a major respect and attachment to Real Country music and have never ever liked any of the corporate polished stuff.

BLD:  Speaking of corporate polished music, Dale Watson has broken away from the term “Country” and uses “Ameripolitan”  to describe his music. Recently, Ameripolitan Outlaw Digital Sampler was released with songs by numerous artists by Outlaw Magazine and you have a song on there.

JOHNNY:  I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this. I really respect Dale so it makes me feel good to be accepted into something he is doing. I believe corporate Nashville has tarnished the name “country”, yes, but that’s what I am and will always be. Those folks stole the name from all of us and started calling those bad Rock ‘n Rollers with a fiddle, Country. Well, we all know they ain’t. But, I hear where Dale is coming from and I am glad to be a part of it.

BLD: Who are some of your biggest influences?  

JOHNNY: Well, there sure are a lot of influences but if I had to say the main ones that really inspired me would have to be Johnny Cash, Hank Jr (older stuff), Keith Whitley, George Strait, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Hank Sr of course, Lefty Frizzel, Johnny Paycheck and a lot more.

BLD: As your name suggests, you have had some trouble with the law. How did that effect your music?  

JOHNNY:  Yes, I have had a pretty lengthy arrest record and even had to spend a few years in a Federal Prison. Although that life is in my past, I still deal with it on certain things like passports, gun rights, etc. Before I got sentenced to prison, I was just running and gunning. Inside those walls is where I got to spend time with who I really was. The one I was at had a music program- a really nice one, actually. They had a battle of the bands and rehearsal rooms, drums and more.  I dove in and I played all day every day, writing songs and singing,  reading about my idols and studying their songs and writing my own.  I put together a prison band and we became a big hit with the convicts since we sang ol’ Haggard and cash songs about our life. I suffered a lot of loss from my past but what I gained is what comes out in my songs, a Truth.

BLD: What was the name of your band in prison?

JOHNNY: The name was Guilty By Association (laughs).  I was going to keep that name but found out someone was already using it. Bastards!

BLD: The name of your band is The johnson Creek Stranglers. What’s the story behind that?  

JOHNNY: Well, I was an iron worker when I first was released from the joint and I was trying to rebuild my life. I was living in a old run down tiny trailer right on Johnson Creek in Portland and a friend I made at work had joked around saying something to the effect of  “you live back in that old trailer like some old strangler.” The name was born (laughs), nothing too special but the folks that live in the Johnson Creek area are one of a kind and as close as you can get to the backwoods of Arkansas without going there, I suppose.

BLD: How long have you had the band?

JOHNNY:  I started this band three years ago this past February.  It took awhile to come together so we have only been rolling professionally for the last two years but we play and tour very hard. It’s our whole life.

BLD: Who all is in the current line-up?

JOHNNY:  Well my current line-up at this time is:

Johnny Outlaw – Rhythm/ Lead Vocals

Aaron Lowrange – Banjo/Dobro

Robert Ellison – Bass/Harmony Vox

Dusty Rust – Lead Guitar/Lapsteel/Harmony Vox

Ron Brett – Drums/Harmony Vox

I have been through a lot of players in the last three years, always searching for the right fit and until now it’s been a long road. You see,  I guess the road ain’t cut out for everyone.  I have seen grown men crumble out there, I’ve seen the highways eat ’em alive. To me,  it’s the only way I can stay sane and it’s the only way I can release emotion. Yes, it can be rough but I guess I like it rough. My mind functions best in chaos and the road can absolutely create chaos.

BLD:  So far you have released two albums, the latest is Honky Tonker, which is some of the best music I have heard in a while. Do you write all the lyrics or is it a band effort?

JOHNNY: Thank you. Yes, I write all the lyrics and chord progressions and compose all the songs. Almost all of my songs are true stories of events that happened to me or from me or to someone I used to run with.  I believe that shows in our live shows, people always are telling me how honest and real we sound and they can feel the passion in my songs and hear it in my voice and that means a lot to me.

BLD: Where can people buy it as well as other Merch?

JOHNNY: Right now, you can get our music almost anywhere at Online retailers and, of course, at Live shows. Right now, I am only selling Merch at shows.  I have sold a few shirts online but that’s a lot of work for me to handle at this time on top of booking tours, writing songs and playing every night. Maybe in the future we will add a Online store.

BLD:  Ya’ll are fixin’ to hit the road for tour? Where can a schedule be found?

JOHNNY: You can find tour dates on our page at Reverbnation and our Official Website.  


~ Brandy Lee Dixon

Brandy Lee Dixon is from Nashville, Tennessee by way of Somerset, Kentucky. She’s a writer as well as a songwriter, passionate music lover, and a self-proclaimed Country Music Snob. She likes to drink, smoke, and fight the bastards of the Universe with the help of her faithful four-legged companion, Leafy The Wonder Dog.

Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.