Johnny Janiga finds himself in the middle of Podunk Nowhere
By Jody Wood
Johnny Janiga is one of those long-haired, cigarette smoking, beer drinking guitar players that doesn’t really care that he’s thirty-something years old and not famous yet. He’s happy writing and performing original rock, country, and folk music, with a heavy jazz influence at times. You can tell he’s studied up on Jimmy Hendrix and Jimmy Page.
Born and raised in upstate New York, he found his way out to San Diego about ten years ago. He played in a few rock bands here and there, before meeting his better half and songwriting partner, Heather. Together they formed Podunk Nowhere, a cool, two-piece outfit that keeps a busy schedule performing around San Diego, and occasionally in Los Angeles.
Johnny works in the administrative office at South Coast Surf Shops and handles accounts payable, and “paper shredding”. He started out in the warehouse and quickly moved upstairs. He’s been on the team now for about four years and has his position dialed in.
Here is a little question and answer session with Johnny Janiga.
How has working at South Coast been good for you as a working musician?
South Coast has a very relaxed way about it. As long as I get my work done right and on time, there’s not much of a problem with a flexible schedule. They are very supportive when it comes to time off and so forth.
How long has Podunk Nowhere been around?
We’ve been together a little over four years now.
Where did the name come from?
The name is a play on small towns in the middle of nowhere. Heather came up with it one night and she is from Indiana. I liked it because, at the time, it was a kind of metaphor for where our music was being heard and could easily stay.
What are some of the major influences on your sound?
We keep everything minimal based on the song. Influences would be anything from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings to Radiohead. The range of influences is pretty wide. I used some effects on my acoustic, which is tricky, but it seems to work and gives us a bit of an edge.
Your wife, Heather, makes up the other half of Podunk Nowhere. How did you two decide to start creating music and working together?
We met on the streets of OB, during one of the many walks between bars. I was working three jobs and still drinking full-time. I decided to let one job go on the spur of the moment and that’s when I met Heather Marie. We played music at my apartment that night and wrote “Hanging on the Wind” the next day. We knew it was good and we were both in projects that either just started or were about to end. So, we banded together and that brought us here.
What are some of your favorite places to play?
Our favorite place to play is anywhere people will listen. It’s really about the audience for us, but two of our favorite places to play are Winston’s and Vindblah’s CafÃ©.
Podunk Nowhere recorded its first CD in 2006. How was the recording process?
We recorded it at StudioB in Ocean Beach, and did it around work schedules and planes flying over. The process was smooth and relaxed. You know, like playing in your backyard when you’re a kid. I had a lot of fun doing it.
Your wife is pretty.
She is stunning. That’s the word I use. Pretty just doesn’t cut it.
If you had to pick your three favorite songs from the CD, what would they be?
“Rain”, “Hanging on the Wind”, and “Embroidery Queen”.
What is your favorite song to play live and why?
It is the new one we just penned. It’s called “If I’m Drinking”. It’s our set closer and it’s my first vocal performance with Heather. I just sing a bit, but it’s still my favorite part. You know, everybody wants to be a singer.
Where do you hope to see Podunk Nowhere in 2008?
To be honest, probably right where we are now. We have a good life, great friends, and each other, so this is a dream come true.
How long have you been playing guitar and writing your own music?
I’ve been playing the guitar since I was eight years old. So, about 28 years now, I’m old. I started writing more seriously when I was around 18 and it was time to pick a career.
Podunk Nowhere has played a ton of shows in San Diego and some in L.A. as well. Any plans to venture out of Southern California any time soon?
We are heading out in August on self-booked independent tour. We’re calling it “The Po Tour”. We’re going from San Diego to Seattle. Check www.myspace.com/podunknowhere for more details.
You guys are also working with a full band. How does that differ from the Podunk Nowhere sound and feel?
Well, for one, it’s entirely different music, with one Podunk song thrown in there. It’s electric, which I love doing. People say it sounds like Band of Gypsies, but with a female front. It’s a way full sound, and Heather is amazing. No kidding, she kills me every time we play with the band. He voice goes off, you must see it. We go by the name Breaking Up Over Texas.
Who is your favorite guitar player of all time and why?
Well, that’s a tough one. It’s always been the Jimmie’s for me. Hendrix and Page, but my all time favorite is Hendrix. No one comes close to his originality and innovativeness. I’m still blown away when I hear “Axis: Bold as Love”.
Is there anyone you’d like to say hello or thanks to?
I would like to thank determination and detox for always being there for me.
For music samples and more photos check out Podunk Nowhere’s myspace page