News Column

Creative artists hope to take their act overseas

June 6, 2013

YellowBrix

June 06--Social media has opened the windows of the world to creative duo Nikki Jaeger and Justin Johnson.

Facebook has allowed the couple to not only communicate with other musicians and performers throughout the United States, but come October, Justin and Nikki (as they are known on Facebook) will embark on a European tour. Justin, an award-winning guitarist who makes and plays cigar-box guitars, is working on a new album and hopes to gain sponsorship through Kickstarter.com.

The couple, formerly of Snow Camp, bought an RV seven months ago with hopes of traveling the country and performing. During a recent phone interview, they were on their way to a festival north of Charleston, S.C.

"We hit the road and put everything on the line," he said. "We just had faith in one another and confidence in what the other person brings to the table."

The couple has traveled throughout Alabama, Mississippi, New Orleans, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Florida so far.

"We have traveled over 20,000 miles in our Gypsy Van home and have played hundreds of shows from Chicago to New Orleans and everywhere in between," Nikki said. "We've lined up our first-ever European tour that will begin with headlining a festival in Paris on Oct. 5 and end with headlining a festival in London on Oct. 26. When Justin was asked to headline the two roots music festivals, it was an incredible opportunity that we couldn't pass up. But the Gypsy Van doesn't fly or float, so we need your help to get there."

The couple is also in need of a professional recording for a full-length album release and that's where Kickstarter.com comes in.

"Our primary goal is to fund the album. Having the album recorded, duplicated, packaged and available for sale will allow us to make the European tour a reality," she said.

Justin's debut double studio album, "Smoke & Mirrors: Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of American Roots Instruments," will feature instruments created by such builders as Cigtone CBGs, J Nickel & Co. Luthiers, Madurobob's Luthiery, CapnRon's Lobos, Homegrown Strings, MadCap Instruments, Mojobone Works custom slides and more.

As an online presence, Justin said his recordings are No. 4 for blues musicians nationally and No. 8 for world blues musicians and No. 1 for North Carolina blues musicians on Reverb Nation.

"It just keeps changing day by day," he said. "I actually have received some airplay over there (in Europe), too."

Nikki has organized and promoted events for musicians in the Triad and Triangle, including the Company Shops Market Music Series in downtown Burlington.

"She is well-spoken, eloquent and professional," Justin said.

Justin is originally from California and that's where he first discovered cigar-box guitars.

"As a teenager, it was the first instrument that really spoke to me," he said.

Creation of cigar-box guitars dates back to the 1800s. Thanks to the Internet, Johnson has connected with Bill Jehle of Decatur, Ala., who has a cigar box guitar museum. He is currently looking for other studios throughout the United States to tour and perform, if possible, such as Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn.

"We've been planning out spots on our tour and really immersing ourselves in the culture," he said.

The old soul music circuits have inspired Johnson to create more music and embrace different cultures. "It's been the greatest experience of my life -- exploring the country and history with the person I love most," he said. "I want people to get hooked on the music and the history, like I have."

For more information, visit Kickstarter.com and type in Justin Johnson.

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(c)2013 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.)

Visit Times-News (Burlington, N.C.) at www.thetimesnews.com

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