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Everybody Needs Help

·3 mins

Yesterday, a story Eric Johnson shared in an interview with Joe Bonamassa struck me as I listened to Eric share it. While I’d heard stories of Eric’s arduous recording processes, I hadn’t heard this particular detail. “When did you know [your album] A Via Musicom was done?” asked Joe.

Here’s Eric’s reply, edited for reading:

Well—to be really honest with you—the very last couple weeks of that record, I got so sick, and I was so stressed out, that I couldn’t even come into the studio anymore. I had done demos of the whole record, and then we did the record. I was so burnt out, I would go into the studio for 30 minutes and just say to Richard [Mullen, my engineer and co-producer], “Richard, I gotta leave. I can’t even be here!” There’s literally several lines in “Forty Mile Town” and several lines from “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” that he actually grafted the vocals from the demo and put it on the original, because I couldn’t even come in to finish the record.

You can watch the full interview below:

Eric acknowledged his reputation as a perfectionist in the studio, which I’d previously heard third-hand:

That was one [album] that I had a real exact vision of what I wanted to do on it, and I just pushed myself until I got what I heard in my head. But, it was done a few weeks before it was done because I just—I was done.

Up until this interview, however, I hadn’t heard Eric describe the full toll recording that album took on him. More importantly, I had never heard that story of how Richard Mullen saved that album.

Through that act of supporting Eric by finishing out his album, I believe Richard Mullen saved Eric Johnson’s career. Ah Via Musicom went on to become Platinum Certified, and remains Eric’s best-selling, most popular album. The singles released by Capitol Records—all instrumentals, including none of his vocal tracks—got widespread radio play, and in particular, “Cliffs of Dover” has reached the ears of hundreds of thousands of fans and inspired thousands of guitarists worldwide. “Forty Mile Town” remains one of my favorite songs in his catalog, and I feel richer for having it—and much of EJ’s music—in my life.

I recognize Eric put in the 99% to his work, but in my experience, so many outcomes depend on getting to 100%. Richard Mullen got Ah Via Musicom “across the line”, and I sincerely appreciate Eric opening up about needing help at a critical time in his career and life, and outwardly appreciating the support of his friend and collaborator. Many more people know about Eric Johnson than Richard Mullen, but without Richard, far fewer people would have heard Eric.

This serves as another reminder that everyone needs help sometimes—even the greats.