Guitarist Eric Johnson, who is known mostly for his technical electrical-instrumental prowess, has always been involved with the acoustic side of music.
"Most of my electric-guitar works were composed on acoustic piano first," Johnson said by phone from a stop in Boise, Idaho. "I compose there and then move everything to the guitar. As for my acoustic-guitar pieces, they usually start on acoustic guitar and finish there."
Johnson is, fittingly, on a solo acoustic tour, which will feature him on both guitar and piano. "I have always had one or two acoustic-guitar works on my albums in the past. And I've done a few acoustic-guitar sets in the past. So I thought to myself, why not try an acoustic solo tour?"
He also decided that there is no time like the present for such a tour. "I had just finished recording an electric album, which will be released in January. It's called 'Bloom' and I'm pretty happy with it. But while I wait for it to be released, I felt doing an acoustic tour was the best thing.
"I had tossed around the idea of recording an acoustic album. So I sat down and wrote a few songs for it and decided to put them in my set. My plan is to record these after the tour is finished and, instead of putting one or two acoustic songs on an electric album, put them all together in one place."
Johnson said he grew up with music. His dad loved everything. "He'd put on everything from the Gershwins to Elvis to Hank (Williams) Sr. I found myself loving all those people."
When Johnson decided to tackle the life of a musician, he had a lot of expectations. "I think most musicians think it's going to be better than it becomes," he said with a laugh. "I wanted to make albums and tour. You know, do what I'm doing now. But my reality is the fact that I don't release albums as often as I should. I find myself releasing them every five or six years or seven years.
"So I should go back to square one and rethink that. But releasing albums in that schedule helps me regroup myself and remember why I got into this livelihood in the first place."
Johnson, who has played with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai during the G3 sessions and tours, said he doesn't consider himself a musical pioneer , as his fans and other guitarists have said. "I think the potential is there, but if you really look at what I do, you will see many of my different influences. Nothing is really my own, until I put all the puzzle pieces together. And since I had so many different influences, the whole picture sounds original, when it's really just a myriad of other influences."
Still, there was a time in Johnson's life when he started to believe what his fans and peers were saying. "I got to a point where I would stop practicing, because I felt like I could just up and play anytime I wanted. When that happens, you become inside-out. And that's what happened to me. And at that time I wasn't doing anything new."
These days, Johnson is on a constant search for the perfect song. "I think I came close to doing that only a few times. But I listen to past records and become critical of myself. The irony is, I'm critical of myself for being too critical of myself. Some of my albums have that organic sound and some don't. And the ones that do are the ones where I was trying too hard to make everything perfect. I was looking too close when I should have stepped back.
"Now, I'm stepping back and trying to make the best music I can. And I'm still trying and will keep trying."
If you go . . .
What: Eric Johnson
Where: Club Suede, Park City
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
How much: $18
Phone: 467-8499 or 1-800-888-8499