Jonny Lang Recalls Debilitating Demons on ‘Fight For My Soul’
Photo: Stephen J. Cohen
Photo: Stephen J. Cohen
If it seems like Jonny Lang has been off the radar for a while, it's because his last studio album, the Grammy Award-winning Turn Around, came out back in 2006. Since then, the acclaimed blues and rock guitarist/singer has made the rounds on the tour circuit, but hasn't had the time or inspiration to finish a new record.
He tried six years ago in Nashville, but the sessions didn't yield enough material and he put the project on hold. In part, fatherhood was responsible for Lang's lapse in creative output. Whenever he was home he helped his wife Haylie Johnson raise their four kids – their 5-year-old fraternal twins, daughter Raimy Lee and son Saylor Monroe, 3-year-old daughter Rennix Belle, and 5-month-old daughter Lilou Jaymes.
"We had twins to start with, so we just jumped in the fire and kept going," Lang told Yahoo Music. "It was very challenging for me, physically and mentally as well. The change in lifestyle was dramatic. I was on the road so much and going out so often that if I had come home from tour and just made a record, I would never be home to see my family. I wouldn't want to do that."
Although Lang wasn't in the studio, he was still coming up with song ideas, and over the last year he finally got the opportunity to finish recording the album that had been swimming around in his head for six years. On September 17, the follow-up to Turn Around, Fight For My Soul, came out and Lang's fans were there to receive it like wafers at communion.
In its first week of release, it topped the Billboard Blues Album Chart, hit No. 2 on the Billboard Christian Album chart, and reached #50 on the Billboard Hot 200. "I feel like most of the songs on this record are pretty autobiographical, whether they're literal or not," Lang said. "They're about things I've been through over the last 10 years, and at times I felt like I was hanging on for dear life. A lot of that is in this record and I think my fans can sense that honesty in the songs."
The intensely honest subject matter of Fight For My Soul was part of what delayed the record's completion. On songs like the title track and "Blew Up (The House)," which features the lines "Now they check your pulse just to see if you can still breathe/I was barely alive apparently for no good reason," Lang addresses the battle with alcohol and substance abuse that nearly derailed his career. It was a tough subject to come to revisit, but he felt it was important to address that aspect of his career to show how far he's grown since he was a little kid jamming out in Fargo, North Dakota.
"I definitely grew up too quickly," Lang admitted. "I was 14 years old when I started, and almost from the get-go, I started drinking. And then when I was 17 or 18, I started getting into drugs. The thing is, I was having a great time and I didn't have any intention of stopping."
Although he wasn't legally old enough to drink, Lang handled his liquor like a pro and remained a functional alcoholic and drug abuser for a half-decade. His second solo disc, 1998’s Wander This World, was nominated for a Grammy and hit #28 on Billboard. The 17-year-old played like a veteran, summoning the modern electric blues burn of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the heart-aching string bends of Eric Clapton one minute; and whipping up a blend of upbeat southern soul, funk, and mainstream rock the next. And all the while, Lang kept the partying rolling.