RICK BROWN, Yard Light Media
KEARNEY – The members of the Tri-City Trio want to keep their sound simple but with a wide range of music.
“We’re organized like an acoustic street band,” said Mick Johnson. “I have a setup, but at the same time we always sound big with what we do.”
The band features Johnson on percussion, guitar and vocals, along with Greg Sales on guitar and Terry Sinnard on bass. The members started with a concept of playing mostly acoustic music.
“There were so many things we wanted to do that we expanded the concept a bit,” Johnson said. “A lot of what we play is classic rock, but we also play modern country and instrumental jazz combos. We cover a lot of bases; not that we are pointed in any particular direction. We try to play songs that we all enjoy, regardless of genre.
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Musicians use hybrid guitars with both acoustic and electric capabilities.
“We’re not really an acoustic band even though we kind of are,” Johnson laughed. “I guess it’s an acoustic/electric band.”
Tri-City Trio will perform in concert at 7 p.m. Sunday at Harmon Park Sonotorium as part of Kearney Arts Council’s Concerts in the Park series. Burgos Queen will provide food and YMCA Creative Arts will provide activities for children at 6:15 a.m. Admission to all events is free.
Johnson is a triple threat in his role in Tri-City Trio. He plays drums with his feet, guitar with his hands and sings.
“Terry uses his standard bass,” Johnson said. “And Greg has both his standard electric guitars and his hybrid acoustic guitars. It can cover just about any type of tone we need. We can get completely naked acoustic sounds on heavily affected stuff that we need for the classic rock songs we make.
Johnson said the band tries to stay true to the music but also hopes to find common ground where musicians can creatively add elements to the sound.
“We believe songs should be represented as they were written,” he said. “At the same time, we take some liberties with the arrangements to make the songs more our own. There are a lot of bands in this town that play the same songs over and over. This is one of the things we try to avoid. We try to find good songs that nobody else does. If we do common songs, we try to do them in our own way to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.
Hearing a familiar song performed in a new way can breathe new life into music, Johnson believes.
“We all wanted to push our limits,” Johnson said of the band’s approach to music. “Greg and I have a common background in classic 80s and 90s rock. Terry hasn’t done a lot of that, which takes him out of his comfort zone. Greg played in a cover band for so long that he didn’t have much room for improvisation. We give him some space to take off and play with his heart.
The opportunities to play in this way allow musicians to grow.
“Me, I just try to keep it all together in the middle by doing three things at once,” Johnson said. “We all push our limits in this group. It makes us grow as players.
Playing drums, guitar and singing at the same time demands a lot from Johnson. He sees it as a kind of meditation.
“It doesn’t leave room for anything else,” he said. “To play guitar, drums and sing, I can’t concentrate on one thing in particular. It’s almost like a meditation. You are totally involved in this moment, in what you are trying to do. Every song like this is like a vacation in miniature because you’re just “finding out.” That leaves the door open to mess, that’s for sure.
For Johnson, the risk of being wrong reinforces the sense of performance.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s a thrill ride. I’m not exceptional in a single thing I do for the band, but putting all three together is a challenge.
When he left popular band Fear of Flying, Johnson said he stopped playing, thinking and even listening to music for years.
“I thought it would suit me, but it just brought me back inside,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that musicians have to do. It’s not about the money and it’s not about the publicity – it’s just one of those things in your heart that you have to do because you feel it. It’s a horrible curse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Johnson, Sinnard and Sales started playing together over a year ago, although they’ve talked about forming the band for much longer than that. Members hope to focus their energies on concerts and corporate events.