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Elton's Guitarist Shares Thoughts About Touring And Recording

Thursday 22 April 2010 @ 16:54 - GMT

''It's always amazing to go to these smaller markets and play these areas we've never played before," said Davey Johnstone, longtime guitarist and music director for Elton's band.

Mlive.com says Davey credited the pianist for coming up with the idea of a Lost States Tour, playing out-of-the-way places and cities.

"That's what we've been doing the past couple of years whenever possible, and it's really gratifying. The crowds are amazing. It can be a bit of a drag for the crew or the band to get to some of these areas, but once we do get there, the people welcome us and the crowds are just phenomenal."

He admits that they have been ''to more places in the last few years than most bands go in a whole career.''

The 58-year-old, who began working with Elton in 1971, observes:

''At the end of the day, it is about taking music to the people. Some artists lose sight of why they got into the business: It's for the love of playing for people."

Although truly a rock star's rock star -- from the private jet he uses on tour to his celebrity-laden charity balls -- Elton has never forgotten that, Davey insisted.

"He's just incredible. He's an inspiration," said the guitarist, who calls Elton the "most consistent" performer he's ever seen on stage.

He also conceded Elton may be the busiest man in show business, from touring the globe to composing soundtracks and musicals to raising money for his AIDS foundation.

"This fantasy is not real life, unless you're Elton John. Then, you're Elton John 24/7. And he thinks it's important that you have a project. He sets a target and says he's going to do it, and he goes out and does it. He has special gifts."

Davey warns concertgoers not to expect a polite lounge act.

"This is a rock 'n' roll show. It's extremely loud. ... We still rock. There's nothing safe about our show."

And Elton gives Davey "free rein" to stretch out on guitar, on stage and in the studio.

"Elton is a huge guitar fan," he said. "He'd love to be a guitar player. He's said, 'I wish I could do a windmill like Pete Townshend or turn up the volume like Jimi Hendrix.'

"But he's never said to me, 'I want you to play this or that.' He has great suggestions, and being a guitar fan, he can tell me roughly what he wants. I usually know what he's after."

Johnstone, who's married and has seven children, also credited Elton for being "unbelievably supportive" as a friend over the past 39 years.

"I couldn't ask for more from what I've gotten from this career. The chance to continue bringing music to people is great," he said. "It's kind of scary to think I'm in my late 50s and there's still more that I'd like to do."

He strongly endorses Elton's ongoing recording project with Leon Russell, one of rock's most influential pianists, even though the guitar player hasn't taken part in the T Bone Burnett-produced album.

"I've just been giving my support to it. Elton played me all the stuff recently. It's admirable to do a project like this because it's given Leon a new lease on life," Johnstone said of the 68-year-old, who's suffered health problems and recently underwent brain surgery. Cameron Crowe, he said, has been filming some studio sessions.

"I think it's revived him, just the interest they've shown Leon," he said, calling the project ''beautiful.''