JoJo Hermann is a busy man. Best known for his work with Widespread Panic, who recently made waves with their headlining set LOCKN’ Festival featuring a collaboration with Margo Price, the keyboardist is a staple of the live music scene. In addition to performing with Widespread, Hermann keeps himself occupied with a number of side projects, including leading his New Orleans-style solo band JoJo’s Slim Wednesday and hosting his recently announced online radio program, Key’d In With JoJo Hermann, on Acme Radio Live.
Key’d In With JoJo Hermann is a lifestyle online radio show, which premiered on Monday, August 20th. Each episode, JoJo talks highlights some of the best keyboardists of all time, with the show taking on a variety of formats from interviews with Grammy-winning artists to countdowns of the best keyboard solos of all time and more. (New episodes of Key’d In come out every Monday, and fans can tune in via AcmeRadioLive.com, the TuneIn platform, or Acme Radio Live’s app.)
Live For Live Music contributor Tory Pittarelli got the chance to speak with Widespread Panic’s JoJo Hermann. You can read the interview below, which spans Widespread Panic’s LOCKN’ appearance, JoJo’s new radio show, the influence of New Orleans, and more. Enjoy!
Tory Pittarelli: That LOCKN’ set last weekend blew me away. I can’t stop listening to it. How was it collaborating with Miss Margo Price?
JoJo Hermann: Oh, [Margo Price] was just wonderful! She’s fantastic. What a voice. That “Rock Steady” was definitely something I’ll never forget. It was really, really great, and I’m so glad we did it. People in Nashville have been following her music for a long time, so I knew her music, and I was very excited to play with her.
TP: That excitement definitely translated into a show I’ll be listening to for a long time. I’ve also been listening to your Slim Wednesday album Reptile Show quite a bit more since we scheduled this chat.
JH: Ah, well, thank you so much! My friend Bill Elder, I’ve gotta give him so much credit. He sings most of those songs and wrote most of them. Not to mention he produced the record. He’s got a band The Dynamites with Charles Walker here in Nashville. He just kinda brought that funky Dynamites vibe. That music is just so much fun to play.
Tory Pittarelli: The sound, the mood, the lyrics, all remind me of New Orleans, and I know that’s what inspired a lot of that music. I’d love to hear about how that city specifically inspires your music.
JoJo Hermann: Well, so Bill Elder is actually from New Orleans and is a real New Orleans guy. So that is definitely the main part of it. For me, personally, I was growing up in New York City, and I was playing in a rock band. I was really into The Doors, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, and playing all that stuff. This was in 10th grade—around then. Then, I think when I was in 11th grade, somebody said, “Hey, you should check out this guy, Professor Longhair.” He gave me a record, Crawfish Fiesta, and I went home, listened to it, and just got hooked, and I started learning how to play off that record.
It was such a different style than what I was used to. I almost had to unlearn everything and relearn this whole rumba, boogie style. So that’s how my love for New Orleans came about, specifically through Professor Longhair records. Then, as I got deeper into it, I discovered the music of Dr. John and then The Meters, Allen Toussaint. There’s just something about the music, the city, the food—it’s just all that together that’s just heaven on earth.
TP: Any plans to get down there soon?
JH: When crawfish come back in season, I tend to drift down there…
TP: How convenient that crawfish seasons coincides with Jazz Fest season. So, I’m excited to talk with you about your new Acme radio show, Key’d In. Is it a Slim Wednesday thing, or is this a separate entity?
JH: Well Acme Feed & Seed is an event complex, bar, restaurant, radio station, sushi restaurant, everything. So they have a radio station, Acme Radio Live, and Tom Morales and Carl Gatti asked me about doing a radio show. We came up with the idea of a tribute to keyboard players since that’s what I know. Do what you know, right? It’s paying tribute to keyboard players, ones I’ve always listened to—all that good stuff. So we started off with a countdown of 21 top keyboard performances in rock ‘n’ roll. I think we’ll do about 13 episodes and see what we get out of it. It’s a lot of fun for me, and the people working over there are just great people.
TP: Is there a live audience for the radio show?
JH: No, no. It’s something we record in a little studio with Justin Hammel, who’s got several shows. He’s a great DJ. He guides me through it, because I don’t know what I’m doing. [laughs] So there’s no live audience, but they do a live broadcast of the show. I’d like to add that on Saturday night, September 1st, Widespread Panic is playing at the Ascend Amphitheater. After that, directly across the street, there’s a free Slim Wednesday show at Acme Feed & Seed. That should be quite a party—there’s a party in there every night. They’re going to do a live broadcast of that, I believe. I mean they really do everything.
TP: If you could bring in any living musician from your wish list to interview on Key’d In, who would it be?
JH: Wow, what a question! Let’s see, there are several. Chuck Leavell comes to mind. If he were in Nashville and he came by, that would be quite a great thing for Key’d In. What I’m really working on is Johnny Neel. He played with the Allman Brothers for a while, and he lives here in Nashville. I would really love to get him on the show, and I want to ask him about singing on “Jessica”. I heard he did some vocals for that song, and I want to hopefully get him to perform it.
TP: Seems like it’s not far out of reach!
JH: Yeah! He lives here in town, so you know, we’ll hopefully hook that up. We taped a Dr. John tribute, and he did an interview—a wonderful interview—so that’s going to be a good show too. It’s a great tribute.
TP: I would absolutely love to listen to that. Fortunately, people can still listen to these shows even if they don’t catch the live broadcast.
JH: Absolutely, they have an Acme Radio app where you can hear the live broadcasts as they’re on air. If you get on their website, acmeradiolive.com, you can get all their archival programming, so you can go back and listen to past shows. Steve Crawford has a great show on Acme Radio, so I tune into that. I think they have 30 or 40 programs, and they’re all really cool, as is everything they’re doing over there.
TP: Nashville is the best in so many ways, right? There’s so much going on.
JH: There’s so much. Nashville really has a lot going on. I’m kind of out in the country, the outskirts, but I think my new favorite thing to do is go to Rudi’s. That, in my opinion, is the best thing going on right now: Rudi’s Jazz Club.
TP: I haven’t been, or even heard of it until now. Is it downtown?
JH: It’s kind of new. I think it’s been around about a year. It reminds me of the Village Vanguard—it’s just so cool.
TP: Looking forward to checking it out. And of course looking forward to tuning into Key’d In. It has to be so fun to come up with content like that.
JH: Thank you. It’s really something I’ve always wanted to do—pay tribute to old piano players—and they’re letting me do it. Gets me out of the house, the hours are good, they have the best fish sandwich in Nashville, so definitely go there and get that. But yeah, tune into that app for the live broadcast, and check their website for the shows you miss!
TP: I’m on it, thank you so much!