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Channel: ASGN '09 Summer
Video: Johnny Hiland Band 1
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JOHNNY HILAND - If you tried, you couldn't make up a story this good: legally blind kid grows up in a trailer home in rural Maine. A guitar prodigy, he tours with the family band starting at age 8, wins local and regional competitions, moves to Nashville, ends up dropping jaws all over town, doing sessions with Ricky Skaggs, Toby Keith, Randy Travis, Janie Fricke and many more, and gets signed by Steve Vai when his manager leaves a demo snippet on Steve's voicemail box. But indeed, this is true the story of Johnny Hiland. He made his solo debut on August 10th 2004 with his self-titled album on Vai's Favored Nations label, and now (November 2007) releases his second album “Loud and Proud," featuring his road band. While talent ran in his family from past generations, he felt a ferocious devotion to his instrument, often practicing long hours into the night before being ordered into bed. By the time he was seven years old, he had already performed on local tv, and formed a family band, with his brother and sister, called “The Three J's”. As youngsters, they toured extensively throughout New England winning the “Talent America” compation and joining the “Downeast Country Music Association”. They won numerous awards and had alot of fun as Johnny flourished into a young entertainer and multi-instrumentalist.

After attending a Ricky Skaggs concert in Bangor; the experience stimulated him to start exploring beyond bluegrass into mainstream country music. Seeing Ricky Skaggs that night was the turning point in determining Hilands future. He started listening to an ever widening range of players: Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner, Chet Atkins, Brent Mason, Albert Lee, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson and Eddie Van Halen. After three years in college at the University of Southern Maine, Johnny realized his heart was somewhere else -- specifically, his heart was set on persuing a career in Nashville, TN as a instrumental guitar artist, session player, and instructor. He then decided to follow his dream and move to Nashville.

On his first night in Nashville, Johnny made his way to Lower Broadway, where a cluster of honky-tonks booked some of the hottest players in town. Wandering into the World-Famous Turf, told he'd have to wait until midnight to sit in with the band, Johnny sat patiently, and then took to the stage. It took only a few seconds for the bartender to pick up the phone and start spreading the word that a tornado, with a Telecaster in his hands, had just blown into town. Following this, Johnny began pickin' all over Nashville and dropping jaws every place he played. A few years later, he started playing lead guitar for the Don Kelley Band at Robert's Western World and had a blast cutting his teeth on some traditional country music with a new age sound. From Robert's stage, Johnny's reputation grew. He played the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, with Gary Chapman, received a standing ovation, and found himself on TNNs "Prime Time Country" with Gary Chapman, and then on the stage of "The Grand Ole Opry!"

Johnny also gained proper management with Mac Wilson, of Harmony Hollow Entertainment. Wilson worked with Johnny to build a strong foundation for his career. He placed Johnny with Fender Musical Instruments as the first unsigned artist to ever receive a full endorsement without a record, placed him in all the major guitar magazines, got Johnny teaching Master Classes all over the world, helped to establish a huge fan base for Johnny and his career, placed Johnny on stage with high profile opportunities, and made the phone call to Steve Vai, while Johnny was jamming with his band, that got him signed to his record deal with Steve's label, Favored Nations.

Johnny then moved on from his lower Broadway days in the honky tonks and began to expand his artistry as a solo guitarist in today's music world by working on his first album. The next two years exposed Johnny to a different pace, one that involved working on his songwriting, sending ideas back to Vai, getting feedback that was consistently positive yet kept pushing Johnny further toward finding a writing style that was as personal as his playing had been for years. While working on his album, Johnny met Peter Collins, whose production credits include Rush, Bon Jovi, the Indigo Girls, Queensryche, Jewel, and LeAnn Rimes. Collins just happened to hear Johnny tear it up one night, and made it known at once that he wanted to produce the young guitarist's debut. Their collaboration would be volatile, but more often it was a matter of each finding inspiration from the other. Combined with a killer band that kept up with light-speed picking, moved with him through Western swing, screaming, razor-toned rock, and introspective ballads, and illuminated his soaring melodies on ballads. Johnny Hiland achieved something few new artists achieve in their first outing: a blend of taste and flash, in which emotional, solid composition and hair-raising performance complement rather than compete with each other.

Life for Hiland then, in a sense, was like the accelerando he unleashes in his cover of "Orange Blossom Special." He's playing bigger sessions than ever, has appeared on two tribute albums, shared the stage with Living Colour's Vernon Reed, funk master George Clinton, and Vai, Satriani, and Yngwie Malmsteen on their G3 tour, Les Paul, and Sammy Hagar!!! He cut "Blues Newburg" and "Red Label," two devilishly difficult Danny Gatton songs, both of which he learned note-for-note in eight hours. Nashville Predators hockey games now feature the team theme song, "Stick It To 'Em Boys," with Johnny on guitar. He's even scored and played on the soundtrack for a proposed cartoon show. Kids can and will figure in Johnny's ambitions beyond music. He is a talented amateur artist and has written and illustrated a book called, "Tuff and Friends," that is designed to give hope to disabled children. As an instructor, Johnny continues to give private lessons, has released two Hot Licks videos (where you can purchase thru, and has 11 books/cds with Mel Bay that features Johnny's wide range of guitar knowledge.

Today, Johnny has matured both personally and musically. He is now married to his lovely wife, Kim. He has a new band, new sound, new management, and a different view on life. Johnny lost his father, Tom Hiland(57), in a boating accident in 2005. In December 2007, he faced the loss of his mother, Grace Hiland(50), as well. He now realizes and shares that he will live his life in a free and fun manner. "You just never know when you'll be called and so you better enjoy it while you can. Get rid of all the negative in your life and you will find a peace within yourself." he explains. Johnny now has a new JH signature model PRS and is proud to be part of the PRS family. He also has a new Signature distortion pedal with Wampler Pedals called the JH Bad Dog Overdrive/Distorion. He also is proud to bring you his new second album which features his hot new road band, some special guests, and 13 new studio cuts. The album is titled, "The Johnny Hiland Band--Loud and Proud." You can purchase the cd via or click on the link via the Music & Merch section of this site.

Johnny's goal is to continue making guitar records with his PRS and touring the world with the JHB!!! He will always continue to teach via private lessons, Master Classes at all the major universities, video and audio lessons, and clinics. You will also see his name pop up on other artists records as Johnny still loves doing sessions. Finally, Johnny will always find the time to help inspire our young kids today. He feels that we need to keep live music alive in our next generation of pickers! He will show all children, handicapped or not, that you CAN follow your dreams, and through the grace of God, watch them come true in many ways through His blessings!!!

Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night benefits the Music For Life Alliance