Who is in the mood for a good, ol’ Jersey style, Atlantic City Memorial Day weekend? A little BBQ food, some gambling, the sun and sand of the Atlantic City beach and boardwalk…sound good?! Well, we have one more way to add a little more “Jersey shore” to your itinerary and we’re NOT talking about the TV show. We’re talking about Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, one of the first bands to come out of the Jersey Shore (Asbury Park, duh) in the ’70s. This is the same place and time that birthed Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Needless to say, Southside and Bruce know each other pretty well. The Boss even has writing credits and vocals on some of his albums.
Anyway, these guys have a great following in the Northeast as well as Europe (go figure) and will be playing the House Of Blues Atlantic City at Showboat on Friday. Learn more about the band and check out an interview we did with Southside earlier last week, below.
TAC: This band seems very hard working and has had ups and downs, but always seems to emerge with small victories. What about this band makes you the most proud?
Southside Johnny: I think it’s the consistency. You’re on the road and you get to that 38th day, and you start to be really tired and a lot of the guys have kids, and they want to be home. You can get to that point where you don’t know if you want to continue, but you get up on stage and have a great show, and you realize that’s what you do it for. We never dog it on stage. We always find some way to have fun, find something new and enjoy the audience’s reaction.
TAC: Bruce Springsteen has writing credits on a bunch of your songs. Tell us something about him that we wouldn’t know.
Southside Johnny: Well obviously, he’s a very generous guy. He’s given me some great songs; songs that really could have been hits for him. He’s a very generous man. I shouldn’t say this because he doesn’t like to talk about it, but he does a lot of charity things. He always calls me up and says ‘Southside! We’re gonna do a thing!’. And we go and do charity shows with Bobby Bandiera in the band, and we do Chuck Berry and Wilson Pickett and we have a great time. He really believes in doing things for other people.
TAC: Oh, Bruce. Now let’s flip it! What’s something about Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes that many people don’t know but should?!
Southside Johnny: I can tell you something about me, I’m a bird watcher! I love watching birds and going into the woods with binoculars, a camera and a bird book, and just being lost in there for hours. I’ve gone all around the world looking at birds: Costa Rica, the South of France, Spain, Mexico, a lot of places. All across the United States too.
TAC: No way! Songs From The Barn was released in January 2013. What’s special about this album?
Southside Johnny: This is a side project of mine that is semi-acoustic. We play a lot of acoustic guitars. We have some electric instruments too, but it’s just a chance to do different material. It started out with me wanting to do some folk-ish things and a little country; and I started writing songs for it and thought well, we might as well record it if we’re going to put that much work into it. But really it’s not Jukes. There’s not a horn section, it’s not R&B, although there is R&B on it. It’s just more acoustic oriented. Nothing I do fits in any category.
TAC: You change your set lists nightly. What’s the process like of deciding what fits for what crowd?
Southside Johnny: Usually it happens within the show. I usually pick a song with how I feel that night. If I feel like doing something hard and fast, or something soulful, whatever it is I feel like doing. When I walk on stage, I’ve been known to change the very first song if I feel like the audience wants something different than what I want. But during the show, if I want to do the song, I’ll just do the song. I’ll call it out or I’ll just start singing it and we’re very flexible. The band is great that way. They can handle every curveball I throw at them which gives you a lot of freedom on stage. It makes you feel emotionally involved in the show because you’re not locked into anything. If I had to do the same show night after night, I might as well work in a cubicle in an office. I just can’t do the same thing over and over again that’s one of the reasons why I got into the music business.
TAC: Many of your followers hail from the Northeast and the UK and Europe. How are they similar? What is a Southside Johnny fan like?
Southside Johnny: Well usually, they sing along. A lot of times, they come up and sing, too. It’s just the enthusiasm. We’re not trying to prove anything. We’re not trying to convince anybody that we’re great. All we’re trying to do is play music and enjoy it and hope that the audience enjoys it, and it bounces back and forth between the audience and the band. You break down the barriers and it just becomes a night of fun, emotion and music. The Europeans understand that instinctively. The difference is that when I tell a joke on stage in America, people don’t laugh. But when I tell a joke in Europe, they don’t laugh because they’re translating it!
TAC: What can fans expect from your hometown show at HOB on 5/24?
Southside Johnny: It’s pretty much spontaneous. We don’t have routines or anything like that. We just let fly on stage! Hopefully there will be some humor too. Like I say, it is not a night of deep, philosophical seeking. It is a night of fun and enjoyment. If there’s an emotional moment in there, that’s great too. We want to have two hours-worth of music instead of worries of the day or any of that. Just come, get excited, and enjoy yourself.
TAC: We’re sure you have some memorable stories from Atlantic City over the years! What sticks out in your mind?
Southside Johnny: I have one from the last time we played in Atlantic City. Our road manager dragged me over to the $5 machine and I subsequently put $500 into the damn machine and watched it disappear! So he owes me $500! I’m gonna get him for that!
TAC: Well, you’re coming to the right place to get him back! Does performing live still give you those same feelings you felt while doing it in the mid ‘70s?
Southside Johnny: It’s different. It’s changed a lot more now, but I still get a thrill out of doing it and when it really connects with the audience, and you’re lost in it, it’s the same thing. It’s just the greatest feeling in the world. It’s better than sex! But not much!
TAC: LOLz. What do you still hope to achieve with this band and your career?
Southside Johnny: I just want to keep making music. There’s always things to do; there’s always styles to explore. The last studio album The Jukes made came out of a lot of anger from the recession with people losing their houses and losing their jobs. You write about what’s happening to you at the moment or in the last few moments of your life. And I’m in a pretty good place now, so I think that the next album will be R&B, love song, upbeat stuff. But, we’ll see! It’s an adventure all the time.
Sounds like it! Just keep doing what you’re doing, Southside Johnny!
Isn’t this man a hoot, though? And a damn good musician! Jersey’s finest for sure! Come see Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes in action on Friday at House Of Blues at Showboat Atlantic City at 8:45 p.m. Get your last minute tickets here!