Conversations with Friends: A Chat with Jonny Campos of Lost Bayou Ramblers
We’re now two months into social distancing practices here in the United States, and one thing is certain: music is saving us. For both work and personal satisfaction, I’ve been making playlists to stay inspired and to keep my spirits up. Last week, I had the idea that it might be a fun experiment to invite guest curators onto the platform as a way to connect socially, as well as musically, with friends. My friend, Jonny Campos — of Lost Bayou Ramblers, Carbon Poppies, Brass Bed, and several other musical outfits of which he moves between pedal steel, bass, and guitar — came to mind as the perfect person to reach out to about making a playlist for UpJaunt.
While some cities are slowly emerging from strict restrictions, life as we know it will not return to its previous state for some time. As a travel app, we’re looking for ways to connect with people who may be feeling a little bit antsy and longing to move more freely around the globe again. For many of us, that may not be happening for some time…but UpJaunt hopes to offer a space for people to share what they love about their hometowns, or life on the road, or where they plan to go first when it’s safe to travel again.
We call this “space for travelers” jaunts, short itineraries with a few stops that can be visited within a couple of hours.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Jonny has two New Orleans jaunts in the app: Lost in the Quarter and Escape to Poboys & Cocktails. Check them out in the UpJaunt app to get ideas for your own jaunts — share your past travels with others now to inspire future trips…we can always dream!
Longway Tavern, Lost in the Quarter Jaunt
It was great to chat with Jonny about life pre, during, and post quarantine. This is what he had to say…
First question, when’s the last time you set a morning alarm?
Wow, easily has to be March to make a 5am flight for the last Lost Bayou/Poguetry weekend run of the northeast right before the big shut down. That said lately I’m up everyday at about 7 or 8 am because we have a diabetic cat, Romeo, that starts crying the minute he’s hungry and his blood sugar is on the floor. Plus he gets insulin twice a day so I usually can’t go back to sleep because I have to wait for him to finish eating then give him his medicine. Shout out to my girlfriend who usually takes care of him the most, especially when I was out on the road.
What music have you been listening to since we’ve all been staying home?
Neil Young’s “American Stars ‘N Bars” keeps creeping back into rotation. I’m a huge Neil fan and every time I think I’ve figured out my favorite record, something changes about how I feel another one of his records. For a long time I thought “Time Fades Away” was my favorite but ol “American Stars ‘N Bars” is making a comeback. I also started handwriting letters to family and friends and I’ll tell you Jeffery Silverstein’s “You Become The Mountain” makes a great soundtrack for that. I guess the last record that blew me away is Charlie Megira’s “Tomorrow’s Gone.” It starts out just simple throw back guitar instrumental rock, then he starts singing mid way through and it ends in this incredible goth rock that I didn’t see coming. It has to be a compilation but it’s so enigmatic and raw.
What cocktails are you crafting at home now that bars are closed in New Orleans?
Well every shift I’d work at Cure, here in New Orleans, at about 9:30p I would usually get a mid service gin martini. It’s a hard one to beat but I moved it up to 7p cause I don’t stay up as late. Other than that definitely fresh margaritas for taco or nacho night. I recently got enchiladas from Barracuda, which were incredible, and had to make margaritas that night.
I know to pass the time, you’ve been pretty dedicated to a running routine. Where do you like to run and what are you listening to on your headphones?
I live about a mile from City Park so I usually run through there but because the weather has been so great, it’s been harder and harder to avoid crowds. I think I figured out a route that has the least chance of coming into contact with someone. When I go on a run, I like to listen to a record that I’ve never heard before. There’s so many records out there that I don’t think I’ll ever run out plus it’s such an education. I’ve always been a fan of digging deeper and trying to find the records that inspired my musical heroes. I guess this is just an extension of that.
I also happen to know that your girlfriend is a nurse. What are you doing to support her when she’s at home?
Besides being cat dad to our two cats, Romeo and Checkbook (yes she is on instagram), I do a lot more cleaning and meal planning. She’s on her feet for 14 or 15 hours every shift so I like to make sure her lunch is delicious and nutritious, plus a good snack. So when she’s home there’s a lot of foot rubs and back rubs. She’s on the frontline every time she walks into work so I’m just trying to make sure I do what I can to help.
How much do you miss playing and touring? What was the last tour you were on?
The first show back is going to be both exhilarating and nerve wracking for sure. It’s been nice to slow down and practice technique but I definitely miss the rush of playing live. The last show I played before the shut down was at Rough Trade in NYC with Lost Bayou/Poguetry in early March. It’s eerie to think that was our last show of 2020 so far. We played Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., and NYC on that last run. We were supposed to play Atlanta, Nashville and St. Louis the weekend after but that’s when everything came to a halt. I remember the ambiguous fear we all had the day before we were supposed to fly out because no one knew what was going to happen. Crazy.
Are you reading any good books right now?
Bryan Webre (of Lost Bayou and in my solo project Jonny Campos & Today’s Hunks) and I just traded Kurt Vonnegut books. I had never read Cat’s Cradle and he had never read Sirens of Titan so we traded. I just started it but what’s not to love about Kurt Vonnegut. I also have been reading Kurt Anderson’s Fantasyland that I had to buy from the library because Romeo threw up a little on it. He didn’t ruin it because I was able to clean it in time but I couldn’t with good conscience return the book. The book really shines a light on the fact that individuals coming to and born in America time and time again believe whatever they feel is their personal truth despite facts and laws of science and nature.
If you could sum up the past two months in a word, what would it be?
Hmmm, I guess I would have to say explore. I’ve just been trying my best to fill my days with creative endeavors so I don’t go stir crazy. I’ve been recording songs that friends post on their social media on to my 4 track cassette recorder and layering on pedal steel, bass, etc. Maybe something will come of that? I guess time will tell. I made tortillas and chocolate cookies from scratch for the first time. My freezer is full of chicken stock and shrimp stock. Maybe I should change my answer to create? Nah, explore feels better.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when life returns a little more to normal?
Most probably I’ll just belly up to a bar and just visit with friends that I haven’t been able to hang out with. That’s been the hardest part, besides the gnawing anxiety that comes with a pandemic. I miss the casual dinner parties or getting together at the bar for a chat. I’ve got some ideas for a video for the next Weeks Island release but nothing solid yet. I definitely will rehearse with the Hunks to get the new songs I’ve been writing off the ground. Stay tuned because there is going to be a lot of content to come. We’ve all had time to create new releases.
Jonny Campos and Allison Bohl Dehart of Carbon Poppies
Tip: Jonny made a running playlist for folks who love running, Jonny’s Runnin Records, and it’s great! You can also share your playlists with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what you’re listening to this summer. Be sure to check out UpJaunt on Spotify for an ongoing summer playlist series.
Recommendation: Jonny also has a new solo project called Weeks Island. In fact, Matador Records just recommended Weeks Island EP, Droste, as one of this month’s must listen playlists on Spotify. Take a listen!