Jonny Two Bags Interview
It was a breezy Thursday night in Cleveland Heights as Jonny Two Bags (Jonny Wickersham) finished his set at the Grog Shop.
Wickersham is the long-time guitarist of American punk band Social Distortion, and has recently released his debut solo album, ‘Salvation Town.’
The album — which dropped on April 1 — is a calm contrast to the punk-rock demeanor of Social Distortion. The country folk, root rock songs all have a different way of making you want to dance. His debut single, “One foot in the Gutter” has an irresistible catchiness that won’t make you want to mosh — but is sure to make your toes tap and hips swing.
Produced by David Kalish, the album features guest work from Jackson Browne, Joel Guzman, David Hidalgo and David Hidalgo Jr., Pete Thomas, and fellow Social D bandmates Brent Harding and Danny McGough — just to name a few. The collaborations make it one-of-a-kind and an absolute must have for anyone’s music collection.
After packing up his equipment, Wickersham accompanied me outside the venue to chat about his debut solo album and current tour with Chuck Ragan and The Camaraderie.
Wickersham — who has always been a guitarist — said being a singer has proven to be a fresh experience for him.
“The whole thing’s different,” he said. “I’ve never been the lead singer and so it’s been an interesting experience, for sure. I think I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gained some new perspectives on things.”
About midway through his set —which came after opening band, Meridian and before headliner Chuck Ragan and The Camaraderie — Wickersham told the crowd he has been sick as a dog the past few days and apologized if it was reflected in his voice.
“I’ve always been the guitar player in a band,” he told CleveRock. “So I’ve watched singers in my bands have their voice go out and see how frustrating it is, but I’ve never really experienced it. It’s very frustrating because you’re powerless over it.”
Wickersham said he expected people to think ‘Salvation Town’ sounded wimpy because it’s not aggressive — but has been pleasantly surprised at the press and reviews.
“I didn’t want to do a Social D sounding record with a different singer, or anything like that,” he said. “People have been very kind about it and they seem to be understanding where I’m coming from on this record.”
While touring with Social Distortion for the past 14 years, Wickersham is used to performing at larger venues — something the Grog Shop is not.
“That’s one thing I miss. Playing with Mike [Ness], it’s always a big place, and there’s always that barricade,” he said. “I miss playing punk rock shows in places like this where it’s right there and the energy is just reciprocated all the way around.”
The current tour kicked off on April 3 in San Francisco and I asked Wickersham what his favorite tour date had been so far.
“You know, tonight…” he laughed. “And I’m not just saying this because we’re here — it really was a great show. Everybody came early and normally the bill is White Buffalo in between Chuck and I, so we’ve been playing for good crowds every night and I think the place was pretty full when we started.”
During our conversation, a random man approached Jonny and I and started telling us jokes. Seven minutes and $1.80 later, he left, and the interview finished with talks of upcoming shows and a new Social D album being released later this year.
Jonny’s official site