Johnny Hiland
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Johnny Hiland

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | INDIE
Band Country Rock




"Johnny Hiland "Mr. Versatality""

Johnny Hiland
Mr. Versatility
By Ann Wickstrom | Published: March 8, 2010

Photo: Rusty Russell.
Nashville monster picker Johnny Hiland has been a wonder to guitar nuts ever since a ’96 Nor’easter blew him into the Music City from his home state of Maine. Hiland has more endorsement deals than he can keep track of, and more importantly, the admiration of a number of bona fide guitar icons, and a slew of pickers of varying abilities who count themselves as fans. Most of these go one of two ways after seeing him perform – back to the woodshed with an unprecedented vengeance, or off into a corner muttering about burning their own guitars.

A performance by Hiland is something every true axe devotee deserves to see at least once, but his second CD, Loud and Proud, gives a well-rounded display of what he can do, which is to say everything. It’s got driving rock instrumentals, an acoustic fingerstyle tune, country chops to die for, and chicken pickin’ that’s downright hazardous to your health.

What guitars did you use on the record?
The only electric I used is my new signature model PRS, which is the most unbelievable guitar I’ve ever played. It’s essentially a PRS Tele with a 24-fret maple neck, and you can bend behind the nut on it, which is kind of neat. It has custom humbuckers and you can split them; the bridge pickup sounds exactly like on old, overwound Tele pickup – it’ll just bite your head off. And the neck pick-up is nice and warm and smooth. It has a flame maple top and mahogany back and sides, and a stock PRS vibrato.

I wanted to have something with a Tele sound, but a really cool vibrato. So many people have asked me why I’m not playing a Telecaster anymore, and really, I just needed a guitar that could do it all. You can play any genre of music with this guitar or jump on any stage in any environment and feel totally comfortable. I’m wicked proud of it and I feel really blessed to be with PRS.

The only other guitar I used on the record is the ’68 Martin D-35 I played on the acoustic tune I wrote for my wife, “My Sweet Kimmie Girl,” and a resonator on part of “Chicken Pickin’ Heroes.”

How about amps and effects?
I mainly used two Peavey ValveKing half-stacks with Celestion G12 Centuries. Speaking of that, I’m working with Peavey to design a Johnny Hiland amp. There may even be something visible at Summer NAMM. I’m totally stoked about it! But the ValveKing is really like a Twin and a heavy metal monster with reverb and a bass dampening section all rolled into one, with a knob in the back where you can split between class A and class A/B. It gave me the best of all worlds in matching my PRS and for playing multiple genres of music.

For effects, I’m still using the Visual Sound pedals: the Route 66, the Jeckyl and Hyde, and the H20. And I’ve recently added a couple of pedals – the Hendrix Wah from Dunlop, and the gig-FX. I’m also using the Digitech Whammy II. It’s so fun and cool… it just makes me giggle! You can get different harmony tones and octaves.

You close out this record by bringing in some very special guests on “Chicken Pickin’ Heroes.” How did that come together?
I really wanted to pay tribute to some of my heroes. So I wrote that song with the intention of Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, and Vince Gill playing on it with me. But then I thought, “Okay, now what am I going to do?” I needed to find out if they’d actually do it (laughs)! I played on Ricky Skaggs’ Brand New Strings album, so I thought I’d give it a shot by starting with him. I was bowled over when he said yes. Then I was able to get in touch with Steve, and he said, “Count me in!” Then I called Vince, and he just said, “Sure!” I lost my breath for about 30 seconds. Ricky asked if he could play either acoustic guitar or mandolin for his solo. I told him he could stand on his head and spit the “Star Spangled Banner” if he wanted to, as long as he was on the record! So he played acoustic. Anyway, to have that kind of time with those guys was just unbelievable. I had been hoping for it forever. That’s why the last line of the song is, “Yeah folks, dreams do come true.”

- Vintage Guitar Magazine

"Guitar Player Magazine Interview with Matt Blackett"

Matt Blackett: In the Studio with Johnny Hiland

I was psyched to get an email from legendary talent scout, producer, and shred historian Mike Varney informing me that Johnny Hiland is making a record for Shrapnel. Not only that, but he’s cutting tracks in the Bay Area and I was cordially invited to swing by Prairie Sun studios, chat with Mike and Johnny, and listen to some tracks. So that’s what I did yesterday, one of those days that reminds me that I have a cool job. I drove up to Prairie Sun, pulled into the driveway that is bordered by a big lawn full of chickens scampering about, and walked into the studio to hear some chicken pickin’.
Varney said that they were mixing one of the album’s heavier tunes, but that the record contained a wide variety of countrified playing. I settled in and they rolled the track, which started with a spooky, Sonny Landreth-style quivering slide chord. Just as I was getting used to that, a monstrous low-string gliss heralded the arrival of the full band, with Hiland, bassist Stu Hamm, and drummer Jeremy Colson absolutely crushing the dropped-D main riff. Over the course of the next few minutes I was treated to Hiland’s slippery slide work, spot-on bends, clangy open strings, and insane chops. The tune itself was full of memorable and hummable hooks and the two solos—one with slide one without—were super tasty, even with the mind-blowing technique. At one point Varney, the guy who discovered Yngwie Freaking Malmsteen, said, “Can this guy play, or what?”
A real treat was when they called up another mix, muted the lead guitar, and had Johnny play over the tracks. I don’t want to shock anyone, but it was really, really good. They not only allowed but encouraged me to shoot video of it all, so stay tuned for that. After, Hiland was cool enough to demonstrate some of his picking, double-stops, and what might have been the most impressive playing of the day: his multi-string bends. Once again, I got it on video but I don’t know if I have the wherewithal to transcribe these licks and get them into the print mag so no promises there. When I post the video I’ll invite any fearless guitar teacher to take a stab at them.
Varney says the record should hit in August, with a tour to follow. My prediction is this album will turn your head around. This blog is just a tease. Look for video and a full interview as we get closer to release time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the question I asked Johnny Hiland: “Damn. Why don’t you try playing something good?”

- Guitar Player Magazine

"Johnny Hiland is All Fired Up"
- Guitar Player Magazine November 2011


2004 "Johnny Hiland" Favored Nations
2008 "Loud and Proud" Independent Release
2011 "All Fired Up" Shrapnel Records

Session Credits for Other Artist:
Toby Keith
Ricky Skaggs
Randy Travis
Hank III
Trick Pony
Janie Fricke
Lynn Anderson



"I think Johnny Hiland is the most versatile guitar player I've ever heard. From Bill Monroe to Eddie Van Halen, he can play it all." - RICKY SKAGGS

Johnny Hiland grew up in the small town of Baileyville, Maine. He was born legally blind with an eye disease known as nystagmus, which did not allow him to grow up like most children. He started playing guitar at age 2, and went on to perform his first tv show at age 7. His career took off when Johnny won the "Talent America Contest," at age 10, in New York City. His father had taken him to see Ricky Skaggs perform, and Johnny immediately went from pickin' bluegrass to wanting a telecaster. As a teen, Johnny spent countless hours learning and developing his own blend of chicken pickin,' rock, blues, and swing; while pickin' in a number of different bands around the state of Maine.. After finishing high school, and 3 years of college, he moved to Nashville in 1996. Since then, he performed with The Don Kelley Band down at Robert's Western World, which led him to perform on TNN's "Prime Time Country," and then as a headline artist at the legendary Grand Ole Opry. Johnny has played on a number of records for artists like Toby Keith, Trick Pony, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, Janie Fricke, Lynn Anderson, and Hank 3. He later signed a record deal with Steve Vai and his guitar based record company, Favored Nations. He released his first debut, self titled album, in 2004 and later released a 2nd independent album called "Loud and Proud. Johnny went on to open his own studio and has been producing other artist. He went on tour with Grand Ole Opry star Hal Ketchum in 2010 and then signed on with Shrapnel Records at the end of that year. In 2011 he recorded and released his 3rd studio/guitar album called "All Fired Up" and is currently touring to support it. He has also performed on stage with super artists like Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, George Clinton and P-Funk, Les Paul, Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, G3, and many others. He loves to teach, and has his own line of guitar instructional material as well; 2 Hot Licks videos, and a number of books/cds with Mel Bay. He has had his own signature model PRS, and now has found his proper guitar home with Ernie Ball Music Man. Johnny loves children always will reach out to show the young people of today that live music is really cool, and that guitar is awesome!!!! He has written a children's book called, "Tuff and Friends," to inspire handicapped children to follow their dreams. He feels, and shows every single day, that he has been very blessed, by God, for the gift of music/guitar, and to be able to continue to earn a living doing what he loves to do. For tour dates, and other information on Johnny, please check out

Johnny is endorsed by:
Ernie Ball Music Man Guitars
Bolt Amps
David Allen Pickups
Godin Acoustic Guitars
Analysis Plus Cables
Levy's Leathers
Dava Picks
Elixir Strings
PedalTrain Pedal Boards
Vodoo Lab
Hardwire Pedals
Wampler Pedals
DLS Pedals
Gig-FX Pedals
Scratch Pads
ISP Technologies
Xotic Pedals
Signature Products include:
Johnny Hiland Gig-FX Wah
Johnny Hiland Dual Blade & Humbucker Pickups by David Allen Pickups
Johnny Hiland Signature Cable with Analysis Plus

**Note for show info**
Johnny normally rocks as a 3 piece band. On bigger shows, he adds a steel player/rythm guitar player. In a 3 piece situation, Johnny moves, with the same set up, over to the right where the steel would be. Also note that on the stage plot the steel guitar player will need a steel amp and a guitar amp, not two guitar amps as indicated in the stage plot set up. Proper microphones for amps and drums will be required by the sound company at each venue...not specified in stage plot.