Key to the Highway: Johnny Nicholas

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Photo by Audrey Billups 

Americana Highways’ ​Key to the Highway​ series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Johnny Nicholas. 

Americana Highways: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Johnny Nicholas: Dark roast Kona coffee with Blackstrap Molasses and half and half. Since that only happens when I’m at home or on tour in Hawaii then a good locally owned coffee shop on the road fits the bill, and if that ain’t happening then I’m loving me some Dunk’n Donuts!

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

JN: The upstairs room at Tipitina’s in New Orleans was the most interesting or should I say some very interesting stuff happened there. The Mansion on O Street in Washington, DC was the strangest. The Truckee Motel on the Truckee River just outside of Reno was my favorite. The old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in LA before it got renovated and yuppified was all of the above !!

AH:  If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

JN: Howlin Wolf: “Moanin in the Moonlight.”  If you have to ask, I can’t explain it.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

JN: A journal book with writing utensils

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

JN: My relationship with food is a very healthy one. I love good food of all kinds-especially Madame Slow Drag’s homemade breads. I like to fish and hunt and try not to eat fake shit or any food that has not been prepared with love! Hence, I’m pretty well screwed on the road unless I can find a little Mom and Pop place, post up in a place where I can cook for myself or find a good Thai restaurant that knows how to fix crispy duck! If that ain’t possible (which it usually ain’t) then some vegetable egg foo young will suffice or a BLT, a good omelette or some corned beef hash and eggs with pancakes will stick to your ribs.

My favorite all around food on the road is peanuts-can’t go wrong with a big bag of salted nuts fried in peanut oil.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

JN: Traveling from the central valley of Greece northwest to the alpine city of Ioannina will take you on a twisting, turning, treacherous mountain road. Somewhere between the towns of Metsovo and Egnatia in the heart of the mountains is a tiny village that clings to the mountainside. This is where I would like to rest for a spell.

Why? It is as primitive, isolated and soulful as it gets. In the summer the Rembetika musicians come up from the cities to the cool of the mountains to play in the town square. There is a cheese shop sparsely decorated with a stuffed wolf’s head on one wall, and a large photo of a long table with five shallow pans containing the blood-dripping heads of five notorious bandits who finally had met their demise on the other. There are a group of stern looking men with rifles and long knives standing behind the table. Where else would you want to be?

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

JN:  “If a woman approaches you and wants to talk to you right after you come off stage, keep on walkin’ and don’t look back. It’s a pretty safe bet she’s bat shit crazy and is interested in you for all the wrong reasons.”

Find all things Johnny Nicholas, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Bruce Cockburn Jimbo Mathus Charlie Musselwhite Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

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