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Catching Up With JoJo Hermann Of Widespread Panic April 12, 2017 11:16

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen 

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Just last weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with one of our longtime musical heroes, John "JoJo" Hermann of Widespread Panic.  Shortly after JoJo and his band, JoJo's Slim Wednesday, arrived at Zydeco in Birmingham (AL), we had the pleasure of hanging out backstage and getting the latest scoop on a different but certainly exciting year for the famed musician. JoJo's Slim Wednesday was preparing for the second of a seven-night run, which kicked off in Oxford (MS) and concludes this Thursday night in Augusta (GA).  

Let's start off by talking a little bit about Slim Wednesday. How did this project come together, and how does it differ from the 'Mardi Gras band'?
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JoJo: Well, this is basically a reformation of the Mardi Gras Band, but about a year ago, Bill Elder, who is handling the guitar duties, and frankly, a lot of the lead vocals, he woke up after Fat Tuesday and said, "Man, I guess it's Slim Wednesday."  That name just kind of stuck I guess.
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So, this is essentially the same lineup, just playing under a different name?
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JoJo: It is. It is basically the same lineup. Ben Clark (trumpet) is new to us.  He plays a lot around Nashville, and then Jovan Quallo (sax), who is just a great, great sax player, is also new.  But yes, it's essentially the same lineup. Greg Bryant on bass, Kevin Mabin on drums, who has been with us from the get-go.
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Very cool. So I wanted to talk about the material you guys are playing on this tour. What type of song rotation can fans expect from Slim Wednesday?  
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JoJo:  Well, when we first started, the Mardi Gras Band was essentially a Professor Long Hair tribute band.  All we did was "Fess," as he is affectionately known.  Then, we added some Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, The Meters...so it's very New Orleans.  We all have a shared love of New Orleans music, food, and the whole vibe.  So, it really came out of that.  We've added about 8 or 10 originals, so we're kind of breaking those in on this run. There's a little wood shedding going on right now. It's a lot of fun though.
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I would imagine so. And I know you guys kind of kicked off the year out on Jam Cruise. You always hear people talk about how that it's the greatest party in the world. I haven't been lucky enough to attend yet, but it's definitely on the bucket list. Tell me a little bit about that experience this year. 
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JoJo:  Oh yeah...I think everyone was just so blown away by the music, you know? You get on that boat, and you're thinking about this island, or that resort, and just the vacation part of it. But when you get on the boat, it's just the music that blows you away. The Meters were the headliner, and that was so special, but the musicians on that boat are really the best on the planet, you know?  They're all there in the same place, playing all of the time. It's a really amazing event.
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Absolutely. Did you have a chance to play with many other bands this year?
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JoJo: Oh yeah. I got to sit in with BIG Something, and I played with George Porter Jr. several times. Who else? Ivan Neville...quite a few of my old friends.
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I'm sure that was great to have several familiar faces around...several guys that you've been playing with and around for decades now.
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JoJo: Definitely. It's a great time to get together in such an amazing setting.
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Well...changing gears just a bit, I'd love to talk a little Widespread Panic. You guys are obviously cutting back on the long, extensive tours this year, but you've already announced quite a few festival dates, as well as the special events like Red Rocks and Halloween. Is this the type of schedule that you see moving forward?
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JoJo: Yeah, we're still playing a bunch. We're just not on the bus as much. That's really the only difference...at least for this year. I know that. At some point, we'll all get together and talk about next year, but we really haven't gotten there yet. We're just enjoying our time and taking it year by year, you know?
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As you should...so what opportunities have you been able to take advantage of with a lighter touring schedule? Is Slim Wednesday something that would've happened without all this newfound free time?
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JoJo:  There's no way we would've had the time to do a lot of this extra stuff, like the crawfish boils on this run. I get to eat more crawfish...no doubt.  It's a pretty narrow window, the crawfish season, and it's hard to get good crawfish. That's definitely one result. I recently got to attend my daughter's soccer tournament in Gatlinburg. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do that. So, those kinds of things, you know? (laughs)
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You can't put a price on those types of experiences, especially spending that type of time with your family. I'm sure it's tough to miss those events.
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JoJo:  Exactly. When you miss stuff with your kids, you don't get that back. It's gone forever. So yeah, there is a little more sense of urgency with family then there is with touring (laughs).
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I can imagine. So, you guys are about a year and a half removed from the release of the most recent album, Street Dogs. How would you say that the songwriting process evolved for you and the band over the years? Will the lighter year equate to more writing?  
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JoJo:  I'm definitely spending a lot of time at home on my piano...writing plenty of music. Where it lands? I don't really know. It might land with Slim Wednesday. It might land with Widespread. You know, when you write, it's not necessarily for anything specific.  I just take time and write new music, usually while I'm at home. I really don't know where it will land though.  We've been writing for Slim Wednesday though. We have a new song called "The Reptile Show." We've got a bunch of new songs, actually. I'm really excited about playing these new ones. It's really fun to bring out new songs and play them to a new audience. That never gets old.  There is no better feeling that writing a new song, playing it for the first time in front of a crowd, and watching people dancing to it. It never gets old.
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That's amazing. One other thing I wanted to ask you about is the whole setlist process. Obviously, so much attention is paid to this from the Panic fan base. People have high expectations for how things are going to play out each night.  Can you share a little insight on what goes into the selection process? 
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JoJo: It's pretty random, honestly. There is a color system. I know that. If we played a song four nights ago, it's red. Three nights is green. Two nights is purple. Something like that. So, the songs are kind of kept track of that way. Every night is different though. People do throw in their own ideas as well. "What about this? What about that?" It just ends up coming together.
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Do you see the change in schedule effecting this process at all?  Does that play into effect when you guys haven't necessarily been playing for a straight week or two?
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JoJo: Oh yeah...there is still a consciousness about making sure we don't play the same set as we did say a month ago. That's still in there. There are people looking after those things, thankfully. If we repeat a song, believe me, someone will let us know. (laughs) 
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That's for sure. People are always paying attention to the details. So, before we wrap things up, let's circle back to Slim Wednesday. Tonight is just night two of a seven night run for this band. What is it that makes playing these types of shows so unique and special, as opposed to the major arenas and amphitheaters that you're accustomed to?
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JoJo: You know...this is a wood shedding tour, which means that we're getting together, writing, and it's a very creative process. I'm really, really into that. And it's not just one song, but it's like ten songs. So, it's really, really fun. I'm enjoying that process, and it's something that I think everyone is really enjoying.  Last night at Proud Larry's (Oxford), we just had a blast. I think we debuted like six new songs that we had never played. It's fun. That's all I can say. It's a lot of fun.
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I'm guessing that it's somewhat of a refreshing, different feel than what has become the norm...
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JoJo: For sure. Like I said, it never gets old. And with Widespread, we do that everyday. We get in the rehearsal room and come up with something that we haven't done before. That's basically what we're trying to do every night. We try to do something that people aren't expecting...something different. That's what keeps it fun. That's what keeps us engaged.
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That's obviously been a successful formula over the years (laughs).
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JoJo: (laughs) Yeah...I hope so. We're still here. I'm just thankful for everyday right now.  
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Well, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat for a few. I can't wait to see what Slim Wednesday is all about tonight.
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JoJo: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Jordan. 
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JoJo Hermann's 'Slim Wednesday' Is Hitting The Road This Spring February 08, 2017 12:29

While we won't be seeing quite as many shows from Widespread Panic in 2017, keyboardist JoJo Hermann shows no signs of slowing down.  Earlier this morning, Hermann announced a handful of spring tour dates with his latest side project, JoJo's Slim Wednesday.  This New Orleans style jazz funk group features the cast of JoJo Herman (keys), Greg Bryant (bass), Kevin Mabin (drums), Jonathan Jackson (saxophone), Ben Clark (trumpet), and Bill Elder (guitar).  See below for the band's official bio, as well as a complete list of tour dates.

JoJo's Slim Wednesday creates a sound that keeps listeners dancing all night. The band focuses on the sound of New Orleans that was pioneered by artists like Professor Longhair, Dr. John, and The Funky Meters, all of which were a huge part of JoJo's musical background. John “JoJo” Hermann is known for his lead vocals on many New Orleans style jazz and blues covers and originals along with gospel-style organ playing. In capturing the quintessential sound of New Orleans, The Slim Wednesday Band will be sure to provide a night of dancing, partying, and great entertainment.

John "Jojo" Hermann Slim Wednesday Tour Dates:

Feb. 23: City Winery | Nashville, TN
Apr. 6: Proud Larry's | Oxford, MS
Apr. 7: Zydeco | Birmingham, AL
Apr. 8: Duling Hall | Jackson, MS
Apr. 9: SouthSounds Festival | Mobile, AL
Apr. 11: City Winery Atlanta | Atlanta, GA
Apr. 12: Charleston Pour House | Charleston, SC
Apr. 13: Sky City | Augusta, GA

Watch JoJo's Slim Wednesday perform "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" via ShowLoveMedia here: