The Johnny Cash Roadshow: An Interview with Clive John

After sell-out shows in 2015 and 2016, award-winning singer/songwriter Clive John returns to the Corn Exchange with The Johnny Cash Roadshow. We talked to him about the show and his return to Newbury:

You performed on the Corn Exchange stage in 2015 and 2016; are you looking forward to coming back?

Yes, absolutely! Such a lovely venue with very welcoming staff - it will be nice to be back after two years.

How would you say the show has evolved since your last visit?

So much has happened since our last visit, and the show has grown too. We now have a full time brass section - James and Steve are great as they also add vocals, keyboards, guitar and harmonica, making a much richer, more rounded sound.  We have a new drummer who started with us earlier this year -Graham was with The Foundations for 28 years so with his background he has also added a more upbeat tempo.  

Since our last visit I have also been personally gifted two of Johnny Cash’s original harmonicas which I play in the show, and I have had a new Gibson J200 replica guitar made so the show is as authentic as we can make it. 

How did The Johnny Cash Roadshow come about? Did you ever anticipate it becoming such a successful and enduring show?

After watching the film Walk the Line I decided to put a basic band together and do an evening of just Johnny Cash songs. The excitement in the room that night was far too invigorating to not do it again. So I did it again, and again, and again...it naturally just evolved into a bigger and better show and it is still going 13 years on. We now tour all over the UK, Ireland and pretty much all European countries. I never dreamed it would turn out the way it has.

Tell us about the show - what makes it stand out from other tribute shows?

As I often say - my show is not an absolute copycat of Johnny Cash. I have created a celebration of him and have surrounded myself with musicians who share the same goal to create a show with the upmost respect for Johnny Cash, but do it in our own unique way.

To what extent is the show a celebration, not only of Cash's music, but his life?

We have added moving video footage and images of Cash. We try to bring in all genres and cover all decades of his music. We have added some narrative to the show and try to pay tribute to both June Carter Cash and the Statler Brothers. 

What are the hardest traits of Johnny Cash's performance to master? Are there any songs that are particularly difficult to nail live?

Johnny Cash combined singing and talking in one on a lot of songs and this is more difficult to do properly than it sounds. I have heard other guys impersonating Johnny Cash and they usually over emphasise the American talking accent and end up sounding more like John Wayne! I would say Hurt is one of the most tricky songs to nail live as it needs to be performed with real emotion and fragility otherwise it's just wrong.

Tell us about your experiences meeting members of the Cash family. They have often been glowing in their praise about the show.

I met Johnny Cash's granddaughter (Caitlin Crowell) at a show in Altrincham a good few years back and we had a good chat in the interval and after the show.  The venue manager came down to the dressing room before the show and said there was a lady in her early thirties at the box office claiming to be Johnny Cash's granddaughter and she wanted some complimentary tickets. I thought it was someone pulling my leg but said yes anyway and sure it turned out to be true. My sound man brought her round to the dressing room area in the interval and the first thing she said was 'Oh my God - he's just like my grandpa!'. 

In a nutshell, what makes The Johnny Cash Roadshow unmissable?

Our enthusiasm, energy, love and musical accuracy for what we do. It is an evening of flowing songs and good humour. It's never the same talking about it third hand - you need to come find out for yourself.

Clive John will be taking to our stage on Saturday 9 June, 7.45pm. 

Find out more and watch the full trailer here.