Real Americana: The Ol’ Dusty Trail Brings Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats to So-O
Southern Oregon is rural, and it likes its country music accordingly. But let’s call a spade a spade. Strumming a banjo out in the Applegate carries with it the strong chance you’re actually on a winery tour, aka, being a bit of a poser. Jonathan Warren is the real thing. He’s a flannel-clad straight-strumming acoustic player with a voice equal parts gravel and twang that was raised in the south, before moving to Idaho to make it with his band, The Billy Goats. It don’t get much less cosmopolitan than that. The band is coming through the Rogue Valley for a pair of shows at The Bamboo Room and Oberon’s, and took the time to answer a few questions for a hint of what to expect.
Rogue Valley Messenger: Generally, when bands tour, they seek out upscale clubs in metro areas. You tend to perform off the beaten path a bit. Why is that?
Jonathan Warren: We will play anywhere and aren’t afraid to stray off the beaten path. The goal is to share our music and that is what we are doing.
RVM: Idaho is something of a dark spot on the map. How do audiences in the world at large react to you as an Idaho band?
JW: Surprise and elation. Many people guess we are from Colorado or Portland. Festivals like Treefort have helped to put Boise on the map for many touring bands and brought more recognition to Idaho musicians.
RVM: What drew you to your Americana sound. Was it a deliberate choice or something that arose naturally from the combined musicianship?
JW: I started performing music while I was living in East Tennessee and was saturated with the sounds of the Southern Appalachians. I first played upright in a bluegrass band and then moved to performing solo with an acoustic guitar. It is a deliberate choice, my music is the conversation I am having with the world around me and I wouldn’t know how else to write it.
RVM: Are there unique challenges that come with the genre?
JW: Our challenge is to stay authentic in a society where authenticity often gets lost in digital presentation. So often we see bands striving for an image rather than a sound going for what will sell and forgetting to play honest heartfelt music.
RVM: Where do you feel a sound like yours fits into the contemporary music world? Or does it?
JW: Our sound fits in contemporary music because it is timeless, we are retelling stories we all know but have forgotten. Our music appeals to a wide audience to old and young, and I feel it’s the honesty in the music people can hold on to.
RVM: Do you feel the string band format transfers to a large stage or is it best experienced in an acoustic format?
JW: We can entertain thousands in a large stage or cater to a small saloon. The energy we bring as a band is comparable to any rock band out there.
Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats
8 pm Tue., March 7
Oberon’s, 45 N. Main St., Ashland
Wednesday, March 8
9:45 pm, The Bamboo Room at King Wah’s, 1182 Court St., Medford