Jonny Lang: 'Fame Is an Illusion'
The virtuoso blues guitarist talks about the 'supernatural moment' he had with God.
BY: Interview by Dena Ross
Jonny Lang started playing guitar at the age of twelve. By 14, he was known as "Kid Jonny Lang" and released an album, "Smokin," along with a group called "The Big Bang." The following year, Lang released his debut solo album, "Lie to Me," producing the hit single of the same name. Soon Lang was playing with blues greats like B.B. King, Stevie Wonder,
and Eric Claptan.
He grew up fast--playing in clubs, drinking, smoking, and using drugs at a young age. But that's all behind him now. A devout Christian, married to actress Haylie Johnson, Lang, 25, recently spoke to us about his latest album, "Turn Around," his struggle with addiction, and the moment he became a believer.
You've been quoted as saying that when you were younger you were turned off to Christianity because of the hypocrisy involved in it. What did you feel was the most hypocritical thing about Christianity?
When you're young and you see people doing one thing and saying another, it's really obvious to you--or seeing people who are claiming to be [one] way and then doing the exact opposite thing later on somewhere outside of church. And then seeing that that wasn't being confronted by anybody, it seemed to me that that was acceptable behavior to God. I just used that as an excuse, I think, to not serve God and to say, "Well, I don't want to serve a God who is okay with that kind of stuff." That that was basically it. Nothing ultra traumatic or anything happened to me in church.
Do you still feel that way?
No, I don't. I see it, and I see it in me. I will do or say one thing, and do another from time to time. It's that battle, and I understand that now. I understand that there are people who genuinely want to serve God and try to do their best for him, and slip and fall along the way—fall into self-seeking and all those sorts of things.
In your song "Only A Man," you sing, "I grew up singing songs in church with questions in my mind, then turned my back and ran away from God who gave me life...." What questions did you have back then?
That line is more saying I was questioning the whole thing, like -I'm sitting here singing a praise and worship song but I'm really not [there]. That's not what's going on in my heart. I grew up singing songs in church [and] questioning the things I was singing about because of things [that] that were going on around me.
When you sing those same songs now, how do you feel?
Oh, great. I try to feel inspired by them. I love to sing those songs and to worship God at church. I love it. It's awesome. I feel like it's one of the things that's the least I can do for him.
When you were younger, you say you were involved with witchcraft. What kind of experiences did you have?
I ran across this person—a massage therapist—backstage at this one venue where we were playing. These masseuses would give you a 30-second shoulder rub. But then she kind of leaned in and started telling me stuff about [myself]. This was probably when I was like 16 years old. She started telling me stuff that nobody could have known. She basically told me, "I'm a psychic."
At that point in my life, I was searching for something and I thought, "Well, she's got it. This must be the way to go." Everything was so accurate. It wasn't until later [that] I understood that accurate doesn’t mean right.
I fell into a lot of that stuff, and I started trying to practice some of the same stuff myself. I was successful at it to a point. I let a whole lot of things into my life by doing that. And I really feel like operating in that stuff just strengthened the addictions that I already had and sent me down some other dark pathways. But when Jesus delivered me from that stuff, he showed me what it was really like to operate in his spirit and, how that's supposed to be. So I'm really grateful that he set me free of that stuff. I had the wool pulled over my eyes and didn't know it.