Originally created 01/26/01

Nomadic life of a singer is fine with Johnny Irion



Like so many artists, singer/songwriter Johnny Irion always seems to have one eye on the horizon.

Blessed with a high, clear tenor voice that recalls Gram Parsons or a Harvest-era Neil Young and an elegant six-string style, Mr. Irion's songs gravitate toward themes of travel and movement and searching for those truths that can only be found on the open road, someplace between nowhere and anyplace at all.

"That's really how I am," he explained. "If I'm not moving, it hurts. It's like a bug you get, and I've been bitten. I love being on the road."

Mr. Irion brings his tuneful travelogues to the Metro A Coffeehouse Songwriters Series with a concert Monday at the club, 1054 Broad St.

Mr. Irion started his music career at 15, forming the modestly successful Queen Sarah Saturday with neighborhood buddies and signing to Sony Music imprint Thirsty Ear. Later, he joined rock acts Dillon Fence and Freight Train before striking out on his own to make the folk-flavored music he loves.

While Mr. Irion willingly owns up to the nods toward Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Pete Seeger and Mr. Parsons in his music, he said the references come out of being a fan, not a conscious effort to emulate those who have come before.

"I love all those artists," he said. "They are the world. I love music and write the music I love. But I don't consciously try to tip my hat toward someone like Gram Parsons or anything like that. If I did, I would probably have more material."

Mr. Irion also performs with his band RIG, which includes his wife, Sarah Lee Guthrie - daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody - and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, folk legend Pete Seeger's grandson. His close ties with the first families of folk have allowed him the opportunity to play with both Mr. Seeger and his famous father-in-law.

"That's pretty amazing. I mean, they are really sewn into the American soul," he said. "But to be honest, I get so much more when I play with Sarah. Looking over and seeing her on stage with me, that's what is far out to me. I really love playing with her."

The husband and wife team recently moved from the bustle of Los Angeles to the relative quiet of Columbia. Mr. Irion said the migration has allowed him to craft his music in the best possible manner, performing in front of audiences.

"Really working on singing is against the rules," he said with a laugh. "The South is much more conducive to playing. I've played more in the past year than I ever did in California."

On stage

What: Johnny Irion

When: 9:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Metro A Coffeehouse, 1054 Broad St.

Admission: Free

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.