He may sound a tad unsteady, but Wayward Johnson is the fella who brought his alias, Phil Barry, back out into the musical world and its stages.
“The name Wayward Johnson was happened upon after a few pints of Guinness with my old band, The Tricks,” Phil says. “I liked the way I could be introduced as a kind of character that had a tongue firmly planted in cheek, as a solo artist that may occasionally play in a full band mode, aptly named The Adjustment.
A self-described £10 London-born lad, Phil grew up on the sounds of the swinging ‘60s British band scene, evolving as his own tastes refined, but always somewhere near the altars of The Rolling Stones and The Faces. He fulfilled his destiny in picking up guitar and harmonica and eventually harnessed a sound for himself. This led to the formation of his first original outfit, The Headcutters, a band he says felt as akin to The Black Crowes as much as Robert Johnson. His songwriting, however, was still evolving and embracing other influences.
“As my songwriting began to take a shape, I wanted to align myself with other like-minded souls,” he says. “People who were also lending an ear to Wilco, Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons and The Replacements… and so, The Tricks were born.”
The Tricks made an immediate impression on the Perth music scene, sharing bills with many of the top local bands of the time (Kill Devil Hills, Capital City, The Volcanics, The Jayco Brothers and The Stems) and releasing a well-received EP, Lick Your Lips, which gained numerous spins on RTRFM (local feature) and triple j, plus airplay worldwide. The band’s EP launch at the Rosemount Hotel was performed to a well-deserved full house.
At that point, the evolution of Phil Barry dictated another change in his life, both musical and otherwise.
“I was soon to be a dad for the first time,” he says, “so it was decided to call quits on The Tricks. I ventured into the unknown world of stay-at-home fatherhood for the next few years.”
As life experiences increased within the comforts of home, Phil continued to hone his songwriting chops. As the years went on and his children headed to school, he could resist the allure of live performance no more. This time, a birth was the catalyst for Phil’s return to the stage, that of Wayward Johnson.
“Taking Wayward Johnson to the live stage represents a mix of heartfelt country and loose rock’n’roll,” Phil explains, “with a nod toward influences such as Jeff Tweedy and Paul Westerberg. It’s at times raucous, other times melodic and tender.”
To take Wayward to the stage, Phil gathered an impressive and well-respected group of musicians to flesh out the songs. Grant Ferstat (The Jayco Brothers), Matt Geary (Team Jedi, The Nordeens, Ruby Boots, Ghost Hotel), all ‘round keyboard maestro Kim Siragusa, Chris Reimer (The Tricks, The Leap Year, Tokyo 5, Caterpillar Now), Jon Pratt and Clare Hennessy are The Adjustment.
The band’s debut ep ‘State We’re In’ released in 2018 received airplay nationally and globally and resulted in making the Top Ten on the Australian National Regional charts. The beautifully keyboard-laden State We’re In recalls Band Of Horses before evoking Gram Parsons and Keith Richards exchanging notes, separated only by their guitars and a bottle. Tragedy & Disaster swaggers along, all weary-with-the-world but with a heart that still sounds like it can be broke- all-over-gain. Long time friend Ben Franz (The Waifs) was called in for pedal steel duties.
On the back of the ‘State We’re In’ ep the band played Nannup Music Festival and WAMFEST 2018. The title track was nominated for WAM Song of the Year in 2019.
The band returned the recording studio to make their follow up ep ‘The Triphammer’s Crash’ in early 2020 and were invited back to Nannup Music Festival in March 2020 just before the year took its strange trip.
‘The Triphammer’s Crash’ is a four-track ep with a diverse range of subjects and sounds. The title track recalls Jeff Tweedy’s lyrical lilt and melodic twists before venturing to a Rawlings/Welch chorus with bluegrass-inspired harmonies, and sweeping pedal steel guitar contributed by Shane Reilly of Lost Ragas.
Wayward Johnson and The Adjustment are looking forward to playing gigs again in support of the latest release and building a broader audience through the festival circuit.
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