Jackson Browne far from running on empty

From his beginnings as a songwriter through his success as a musician in his own right, there isn’t a whole lot of teaching new tricks to acclaimed musician Jackson Browne.

He is anything but an old dog, however. He is currently in the midst of an extensive Canadian tour, and performances are set in an acoustic format, allowing his storied catalogue of songs including hits like “Running On Empty” to be heard in a potentially new light.

From a tour stop in Ottawa, Jackson says that performing his material in an acoustic context is not necessarily new to him but that the format allows certain nuances in his songs to shine through.

“I found out a little while ago that it is always a difficult thing to arrange your songs in a manner that you are not obscuring the songs,” he says. “I have found that when almost any song is played acoustically, the song is much more potent. You can hear everything in the song.

“I was playing music acoustically when my first record came out. It was two or three years after that before I started performing with a band so playing acoustically is something I have always done. Even when I was playing stadiums, I had an acoustic set in the middle of the show.”

Jackson says that his show at Casino New Brunswick tonight will be a fairly casual affair. Though he admits he keeps a checklist of certain songs that he should play during the course of a concert, he does not necessarily have a set-list on stage with him that guides him through his performance.

“It is pretty much a given that certain songs are going to be called out. I found that when I had a set-list, people would call out for some of my songs right away.

“I have preferences about where some of the songs are performed in the show, though. There are some songs that I don’t play back-to-back for instance but, for the most part, I’m in league with those shouting out their song requests,” he laughs. “I like doing that because it gives people the feeling that they have something to do with what is going on. I think it has been a well-established aspect of my Canadian shows to date; someone shouts out a request and I play it right then and there. It adds a lot of fun to the show plus the recognition you get from the audience is terrific.”

He admits that at his recent Massey Hall show in Toronto, he got so caught up in accommodating audience requests that some of his set-list “staples” were left out.

“That is part of the charm of the live show for me though,” he says. “No matter what happens at the end of the night, it is not like it is a tortuous process in deciding what tracks to perform.”

While Jackson is a celebrated performer in his own right, he got his start as a songwriter, having others perform the songs he wrote. These “others” include Tom Rush and Nico (of Velvet Undergound fame) while perhaps one of his biggest songwriting credits is co-writing The Eagles massive hit, “Take It Easy.”

“As a songwriter, you always hoped that other people would pick up your songs,” he says. “That was the case for me, especially around the time that rock’n’roll and the folk music revival intersected. It seemed like as I became better known as a performer, the less people would pick my songs to perform.”

Article published in April 11, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript