Fiction or fact? The threat of war – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

We live in such a volatile world. Unprovoked violence on the streets of most towns and cities and it seems the constant threat of a cold war.

On Sunday I watched an excellent episode of the well written TV show, Madam Secretary. The story line was about a Russian nuclear submarine that had entered US waters. Matters escalated and depth charges were released by the US Navy and the submarine fired a torpedo, which hit the US destroyer. It turned out there submarine was in trouble, and most of the crew died. It showed just how close we still are to a war, but it’s all fiction of course – but it’s not.

Last year there was the incident off the Norway/Swedish coast of a Russian submarine seen very close to the mainland, and there was an incident a few years ago when another Russian sub also got into trouble and the crew died.

Yesterday British fighter jets had to ‘escort’ two Russian bombers from entering UK airspace. This is the latest in a long line of such acts by the Russians, their bombers and jet fighters seemingly about to enter UK airspace, and it has been the same on the US coast.

It seems to be a game to Putin and military leaders, but this posturing has to stop, but it won’t. God forbid but one day someone will go too far and the retaliation will be catastrophic.

Today the Russians have announced that they are resuming sales of missiles to Iran, putting peace with Israel in jeopardy for example, and there is growing tension in South Asia.

We can only hope that sense and humanity prevails.


Posted April 14, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

You Gotta Have Faith – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

One thing that visitors to the area soon comment about are the number of churches.


Religion is big business here, and that is exactly what it is, a business.

Yesterday, one of the very first television preachers or evangelists I saw over here, Robert Schuller, passed away. His famous church, the Crystal Cathedral, is in Southern California, and for years he was on every Sunday morning with his sermons and service. I never once saw him ask for money or donations. Unfortunately a few years ago it all went bankrupt and the wonderful church was sold to a nearby Roman Catholic church.

I believe there are more churches in Tennessee per head than anywhere else in the US. Even where our land is there is, in the middle of the countryside, there is a church, The Rocky Creek Baptist church, within walking distance.


One of the most ‘successful’ churches in the Nashville area is led by a convicted murderer. Yesterday I saw a commercial on television for this church, with its new restaurant, free wi-fi and very beautiful, new spacious building. A local paper has had this pastor in its sights for a number of years, as it appears he has never shown remorse over the death of the woman he murdered. Now, I’ve never met him, but a couple of my family have. He is the least Godly person – arrogant, rude and cold. I even wrote a song about him, Jailhouse Jesus and the Preacher, which was on the Country Tales and Hobo Trails album. He claims, like many other prisoners, to have found God, in prison. Of course this helps with their parole.

I am also aware that members of his congregation actually donate a percentage of their earnings to his church, on a regular basis, no matter how little they earn, or how much.

Faith is such a personal thing, and I feel that respecting other people’s faiths and beliefs is paramount to a safe world. I have a friend who was born Jewish, has tried most faiths through his life and is now a devoted Christian, saying that Jesus spoke to him one day from the television, and told him to stop smoking weed! His social media page is full of rants against Palestine, updates throughout every day. It is a dangerous obsession. I did try to steal his soapbox one day but he caught me. I also made sure not to be stuck in a car with him for anytime amount of time, the few occasions I did I seriously thought of jumping out of the moving car, or pushing him out. He is one of the sweetest humans I’ve met, but has this dark side to him, fuelled by religion. His extremism is as dangerous in some ways, (not all ways, of course) as extremists from other religions.

To kill, in any religion, is a sin, it is as simple as that, no matter how people may try to twist or reword the Bible or the Karan or any other religious book, and take words out of context, to suit personal fanatical views.

Financial gain should never be allowed either. In England, the Church of England are the largest land owners in the country, yet they invest their profits in companies that make loans to desperate people, with extortionate interest rates. Why not invest it back into the community? The Vatican of course is another incredibly wealthy institution.

Personal beliefs should never be imposed on others; other faiths and views should be respected, surely? I have learnt never to start a conversation about religion, or politics! They are the two no goes!

Here in Middle Tennessee you can’t buy wine or liquor on a Sunday. A new bill is being passed that allows supermarkets to sell wine; they already sell beer, but that’s it.

Now the Jesus I believe in liked wine, was always drinking it. The Jesus I believe in though didn’t like churches, called them ‘a den of thieves’, (which I used in the Christmas Jackson Woods story). That’s why He spoke on hillsides and beaches and other open spaces.

Going back to the church in the commercial last night, there is simply no excuse for restaurants in churches, or free wifi. Go to church to pray, go to talk with God, but that’s it – the profit is paying for a private helicopter (which this pastor has), and a huge mansion (which this pastor has). He found that not only was God his possible way out of prison early, but he discovered that God means money to many people, makes money for so many. This pastor is now making millions, far more than if he had kept to his life or murder and crime.

The irony though is that his church is packed every Sunday, as indeed many are here. There is a weekly television broadcast of the services. There are church sections in the local papers where churches advertise but in many cases I feel their faith is being abused. History shows many so-called men (and women) of God end up in prison for abusing their positions, either financially or sexually, or both!

I think they have lost sight of the faith, blinded by greed and the green dollar signs.

When I was looking to join a royalty collection company I went to PRS offices in London. They are lovely, very lavish, with original paintings, sculptures, all paid for by songwriters. I went then to the ASCAP offices and they were in a small, working suite of offices. I joined them. Maybe it should be that way with churches. There is a new church that has just opened down the road. They have to have the sheriff’s department at their services to organise the traffic there are so many people.

I remember going to church, in Cardiff, the Albany Road Baptist church. It was always crowded, which was nice, and I went to Sunday school, as did my kids. Learning the teachings of any faith is wonderful and I can understand and respect why so many people go to church but there are some people who will seek to abuse these people’s trust, just like in any industry = look at the entertainment industry! I saw yesterday another new church being opened, this one called The Music City Baptist Church!

Today is Good Friday, so this seems pretty apt. Someone doesn’t have to go to church to be a good Christian, far from it. To me, Christianity is more a way of life, helping and loving each other, just being kind – do unto others …..

There does also seem to be a belief here that someone can sin and just go to church the next Sunday and God will forgive them, so it’s okay that they killed someone. It is not okay, but they can make serious amends. If you’re in prison and you find your cellmate is Jesus, great, but don’t use that to make money and abuse people’s need to believe in something, or someone.

Finally, remember Matthew 19:24 “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Happy Easter or Passover.

Posted April 3, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Working the land! Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment


After years of talking and dreaming about it, moving on to the land is fast becoming a reality – and it’s scary to say the least.

It was actually ten years ago when I bought the land and waiting for the time to be right has taken this long.

house site

Now though, the process has well and truly started. It’s now all about obtaining permits and surveying and already we have come across a few things we were unaware of but hopefully with the right advice everything will be okay. Planning exactly where to place the house has been fun but at the same time there is always the thought that once it is placed that’s it, so you really only get one shot, so it had better be right. The problem is that with six acres you are spoilt for choice, but the main factor has been the sun; where it rises and where it sets.

view kitchen

The house site has now more or less been decided now and flagged. The views from the front look out on fields, whilst the back looks down towards where the lake is going to be, and the woods. Deer come out most nights, and from the many bones we’ve found, there’s obviously a coyote or two who enjoy the deer, turkey buzzards finishing their left overs.

On the ‘things to do’ list are checking out the electric, which is already at the land, and hopefully we can use an existing pole so we should only need one smaller pole by the house.

view living room

Water is also already at the land but it will be getting it to the house that might be hard, but they deal with this everyday so I’m sure it will be okay, and there’s a house further away from the road already so they might be able to take the source from there.

The big cost is the septic tank, no city sewage out here. The land has to be perked, which it was ten years ago but just has to be checked again, but that should be straightforward, fingers crossed. Researching different septic systems is fun – not!

There used to be no signal for the cell phones on the land but now with a new service provider there is a great signal. I’ve already checked and our current internet, landline and TV provider does cover out here so that’s good.

We’ve been checking out sheds and outbuildings. On the covered porch we’re planning on having a jukebox and an old coke chest cooler. We’ve been looking at containers and coincidentally on a show last night on one of the DIY channels they made a very cool bar from a 20 foot shipping container, so that’s what we’re going to do, down by the lake.


I also in my head placed the studio yesterday too, on the small hill that is on the land, and close enough to the house, but at the same time, far enough away. There’s a deck in front of the studio so that will be another place to sit and watch the sun go down, will a little moonshine or bourbon or wine or …….. I call it the moonshine deck anyhow.

I just hate it when things are out of my control, guess I’m a control freak. It’s just that that way you can make sure everything is right – if you want a job done properly, right? But some obvious things are out of my control such as the soil testing, which due to the bad weather, with the snow and ice, and now rain, the surveyor is three weeks behind, but he lives right by the land so he has said he will hopefully do the test before then on his way home if he finishes early one night.

So, I’m taking a deep breath, not panicking, enjoying it, hopefully led by the very small light that seems to be at the end of a very long tunnel.



Clearing the driveway.

Posted March 10, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Sounds, hobo, tin roofs – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment


What is it about sounds and noises that can conjure up feelings, emotions and memories. Songs are an obvious example – they remind us of a time in our lives, or people, but what about freight train horns, or a ship’s fog horn? They represent the gypsy in many of us, journeys, adventures even.

I bought my first house when I was eighteen, and it had a wonderful skylight and if you stood on a chair you could see docks down at Cardiff Bay, but netter still, on a foggy night, you could here the ship’s horns, as they left or arrived at, the docks. My grandfather was dock master there during the Second World War and my other grandfather was a Captain in the Swedish Merchant Navy, so perhaps my wanderlust was, and is, unavoidable.

The sound of a freight train’s horn was apparently Johnny Cash’s favorite sound, and is one of mine. I love the stories of the men, hobos, who ride the train across the country. It seems romantic but in reality it is a hard and brutal life, as they fight to survive, moving from area to area in the hope of jobs. This was one of the reason I called the first album, Country Tales and Hobo Trails. I see the trains leave Nashville, some seem to go on for ever, they have so many carriages.


It’s the same with truck drivers; I pass them on the interstate and wonder where they are heading for? Sleeping in their cabs most nights, driving along the highways of this wonderful country.

Planes just don’t seem to have the same romance do they? They are more functional and as much as I don’t mind flying at all, I never look forward to a twelve hour flight, but with trains or trucks, ships or even cars. I’ve done a number of ‘road trips’, here in the States, east to West, (Fort Lauderdale to LA); south to north (Florida to Canada), and in Europe (Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and French, all in one go, and numerous trips from Wales to the south of France).

Another favorite sound for me, and many others, is the sound of rain on an old tin roof, very Southern. At the back of my bedroom there’s an old tin shed and the sound of the rain on there is wonderful. It’s actually very relaxing, and it’s free! Thank you, Mother Nature.

tin roof

Here are some links:

link to train horns –
link to sound of rain – ten hours long!

link to country tales –

Posted March 5, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Hartsville Early Morning – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

hartsville sign

They start so early here. It’s a shock to the system, getting up and out by 7 or so. This morning drove to Hartsville for the septic permit, and then breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lebanon, where their headquarters are based.

The warmest day in a while, going to be in the 60’s later, and then – snow tomorrow! Crazy weather. Cathy told me a saying – Mother Nature is having hot flushes!

Traffic is heavy early on. More is made of each day here, with the early starts. This also explains why ‘lunch’ starts at 11:30/12:00 for many people. Four o’clock is drive home time and best to be avoided if possible.

The local television and radio coverage of the traffic is excellent and can save you being stuck in a jam for hours. There was obviously an accident on the i40 this morning going into Nashville, traffic at a standstill but luckily we were going the other way.

Listening to the radio there are currently two tracks that possible indicate a way ahead for country music – Sam Hunt’s ‘Take Your Time’ and Chase Rice’s ‘Ride’. I’m sure these will annoy purists, both having such an R & B feel, but country music has to move forward. I personally love both tracks, a lot.

Here are the links if you’re interested.

Sam Hunt –

Chase Rice –

Posted March 3, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Music, moods and emotions – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

This week’s Grammy’s once again served to show the diversity of music and how it can reflect and change mood and emotion.

I don’t understand people who only listen to one genre of music. We should all be musical sponges, soaking up the vibe or the pain or the passion of a track, whatever kind of music it is – rock, pop, R & B, jazz, classical, blues, hip hop, country – and these are in no particular order.

I have always encouraged artists I’ve worked with to trace back the artists that they like to see who influenced them – surely every female singer should know who Billie Holiday is for example, as they should of course be aware of Sinatra. Trace music back to the delta, Robert Johnson, or the folk songs of Woody Guthrie; you can go back further – the commercial melodies of Sergei Rachmaninoff (my personal favorite) and before him Bach or Mozart; it is in the arrangements that also pull a song out of itself.

A great production can save a mediocre song; a bad production can kill a great song.

Nelson Riddle was talking about arranging songs for Sinatra and he said that he would build up to the part when Sinatra would start singing and “get the hell out of there!”

Whatever time of day it is, or whatever mood you are feeling, there is a song out there for you, I hope you find it.

Posted February 12, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Acting, actors, methods – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

Weekend Break
Me on stage for my play, Weekend Break, trying to remember my lines! Photo courtesy of The Stage

I’ve started to consider actresses for the lead female role in the new play/film for later this year and the difference in acting methods between UK and US actors interests me.

In the UK acting is, or certainly was, all about the stage. When I studied acting it was very much aimed at the stage – projection, etc. Here in the US it is primarily for television and film, the camera.

If you polled UK actors, I would suggest all have performed on stage; if you polled US actors, I would suggest that less than half have ever appeared professionally on a stage. In the past, a lot of US actors have gone to the UK to act on stage, taking minimum fees too, just to do it. Lindsey Lohan is doing it right now.

It’s very noticeable whether an actor has been trained for the stage or for the camera.

On stage of course you have to project, so that the audience can see you. Gielgud, Burton, Olivier were all stage actors and are of course some of the greatest actors of all time. When you started out as acting as I did as a kid, it was all about the stage really. Film was almost a dirty word. The one thing with stage acting was that you had to learn all your lines! I learnt this to my cost when we did my play as above, Weekend Break, at the Gilded Balloon at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Even though I had written it I dropped several pages, totally forgetting them, ill prepared. A lesson I will never forget.

I would never work with a prompter though, an actor’s safety net, the person who sits in the wings ready just in case you do forget your lines. When I had the theatre I witnessed a local amateur dramatic company stage a play, complete with prompter. One elderly actor duly forgot his lines and waited for a prompt. Unfortunately the man, who was such a sweet soul, was also deaf and couldn’t hear the prompt so had to go off stage and read the script. The audience though could see him and started laughing; it was quite sad.

Props and sound effects can also be nightmares for stage actors. I’ve seen a stage wall, a ‘flat’, fall down; actors miss their cues and come in at the wrong time or on the wrong line, but it some ways, it’s part of it.

But when it goes right ………. there is a reason why acting on stage has been around for six centuries or more. If you have never been to see a play, I encourage you to do so – not an adaptation of a film musical, although they can be great, not a pantomime as in Britain, which is the only live theatre most people in the UK regrettably see, although they too are great fun; no, I mean a proper play. It doesn’t need to be Shakespeare, actually far from it, look for something new, a contemporary play, something at least from the last century at least – Williams, Osborne, Orton, Steinbeck, Naughton, Barstow, Sillitoe, go back further to Wilde and Coward – these are just my personal favorite writers.

Nowadays of course it’s all about television and film – the camera. One of the best actors in this genre is John Travolta who knows that the camera will pick up the slightest movement, expression, the raise of an eyebrow. Learning to work the camera is like learning to work an audience.

The difference has been highlighted for me this week in beginning to consider and find an actress for the new play later this year, trying to find an actress who is able to take on the demanding role, and on stage first. It will be out of a lot of actor’s comfort zone, which is nearly always a good thing and produces their best work. We will see, time will tell.

Posted February 6, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized