It’s a Thursday afternoon in August and Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann is outside enjoying the summer sunshine near his Franklin, Tennessee home. His children are playing in the background as he speaks with Jambands.com. After a light summer festival tour with Panic, Hermann is now hitting the road again with the band and fellow Southern rockers The Allman Brothers, as well as embarking on a tour with old friend Sherman Ewing as part of their new side project, Missing Cats.
The all-acoustic duo will play five southeast dates this Fall: Carrboro, N.C. (9/15), Wilmington, N.C. (9/16), Charleston, S.C. (9/17), Athens, Ga. (9/18) and Asheville, N.C. (9/18).
AJ: You have a new project with Sherman Ewing and are about to begin touring as Missing Cats. How did you and Sherman first meet?
JH: We met back in college, like 20 years ago, and we played together in Sherman and the Bureaucrats. I was the drummer for that band. So we’ve known each other for many years. We’ve always stayed in contact and jammed together a little bit. We went on the road, and did some shows with me on an acoustic piano and him on an acoustic guitar. We’ve got enough songs that we’ve written together—and some of the Smiling Assassins stuff—and finally had enough to play a show or a set together. So I said, “Let’s think of a name or something.” There are signs all around the neighborhood, saying “Missing Cats”—[because] the coyotes eat the cats—and I was like, “Well, that’s a good name. Let’s go with that.” Sherman said “Yeah, that’s cool.” So we thought that would be fun—I mean not for the cats though… [Laughs.]
AJ: And the instrumentation will be the same as in past shows you’ve done with Sherman?
JH: Yeah, I just play an acoustic upright piano, play a lot of the Professor Longhair stuff, and Pete Johnson, Lux Lewis—Dr. John of course—and play those styles, that New Orleans stuff. It’s a lot of fun, something I’ve always dreamt of doing.
AJ: Will you also be including songs from the Widespread Panic catalog and songs from your Mardi Gras Band as well?
JH: This is sort of the solo version of the Mardi Gras Band. There is this one boogie-woogie version of “Tall Boy” that’s really the only Panic song in there. If there’s anybody coming to hear that stuff, I guess they will have to come to a Panic show.
AJ: Do you see this project as an outgrowth of the Mardi Gras Band, or is it something different?
JH: It’s a lot different altogether, because we do a lot of songs from Smiling Assassins. Also Sherman and I have written a lot of songs for this. But then we like to open up the Missing Cats—I do some piano solo stuff, which is a lot of Professor Longhair. So we do both where it’s a solo version of Mardi Gras Band, and then another set that’s Sherman and I, and what we are getting into songwriting-wise. And those will definitely still make their way into the Missing Cats repertoire.
AJ: So you are doing a little bit of solo writing and collaborating on song writing as well?
JH: Yeah, we just had a session in Nashville. And Sherman has been recording with Tony Garnier and George [Recile]—who play with Bob Dylan—and he has been recording with them up in New York City. We just got together and wrote some songs. We are gonna tour—maybe this year, maybe next year—and then record an album to come out probably in a year and a half or so. It’s gonna be a little while before we actually release our first album. Right now we are kind of barnstorming and woodshedding—just hitting the road and getting it together, and having a good time at it.
AJ: And you and Sherman are just playing five cities in the southeast for this leg of the tour, right?
JH: Yeah [we are playing] some of my favorite clubs in the Carolinas like the Pour House in Charleston. And of course Asheville, Wilmington and the Melting Point in Athens—where I have probably been a hundred times—and we are doing an arts center in Carrboro which is in the Raleigh/Durham area.
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