"I wasn't expecting all that." - Jonny Lang
"He can play man!" - Coco Montoya
"A bunch of young guys who can really play." - Albert Lee
"Man, [he's] killing it!" - Shawn Jones
Drawing his influence from the likes of blues greats such as Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as rock acts from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden and Rival Sons and everything in between, Johnny Oskam fuses together elements of rock and blues from all over the spectrum to form an altogether original sound. The most notable feature of this young, undiscovered talent is his songwriting ability, which easily competes with the top writers of today's industry. His songs can be hard-hitting and heavy, yet dynamic and soulful at the same time. His influences can be heard in all of his songs, but he is by no means just a derivative. Oskam adds his own creative soul to everything he does. His music also contains a spiritual element that is undeniable. Some young guys write songs to get chicks, but this young man has a truly honest and real soul. "I'm not trying to be anyone else but myself," Oskam says. "Why would I want to copy somebody else when nobody else can be me but me?"
When audiences see Johnny Oskam and his band live for the first time, their reaction is usually surprise. It just does not make sense that a band so young can be that good. Since the beginning, Johnny and his band have been dedicated to bringing the best out of each other at live performances. They are constantly challenging each other to give everything they have inside, leaving it all out on the stage. Well rehearsed, but with lots of room for improvisation, live performances give off a feel of unexpected turns and organic energy, yet they remain tight and powerful all the way through the set. "I want people to go on a journey when they see us live. I want it to be as much of a spiritual experience for the audience as it is for me," says Oskam. Long interludes, seamless transitions, exotic scales, feel good rhythms, loud, soft, spiritual, yet fun and interactive too. It is all there. "I like to get lost in the music and see where it takes me," says Oskam. Watching him perform is to watch a man go through the pains and joys of life in a very real way, and the audience is along for the ride.
Raised in Orange County, CA, Johnny Oskam has been a musical person his whole life. Following in his older brother's footsteps, he began singing in elementary school and quickly fell in love with it. Later on in middle school, his beloved choir teacher would let him play piano between classes, which is where his passion for songwriting began. Not knowing how to read music, Oskam began playing what sounded good to him, creating his own songs and riffs. During this time, a family friend offered to give the Oskam family a keyboard, which Johnny wore out by playing for hours and hours after school. In high school, Johnny became one of the youngest male singers to sing in the top choir. Johnny became very passionate about choral music, listening to composer Eric Whitacre. He even wrote his own choral piece, which his high school choir sang at a rehearsal. It was not uncommon for Johnny to spend his lunch hour in the choir room playing away at the grand piano, attracting other students to listen.
At age 17, Johnny attended a backyard party, at which various high school bands performed. It was here that his focus shifted from choral and classical music to guitar and contemporary music. Originally influenced by singer songwriters like John Mayer, Oskam learned the value of creative songwriting early. He has always said that "great guitar players are a dime a dozen, but great songwriters are a rare bird." His first songs on guitar had a bit of a pop style, but his musical influence took a turn when he saw Jonny Lang front row at age 18. "I had never been moved by music like that before. It was powerful for me in more ways than just music. It was a spiritual experience." It was after that show that Johnny decided he wanted to study and play blues music. "Something about the blues was soulful, spiritual and real, in the same way that choral music was." He began listening to artists such as Son House, B.B. King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as the latest generation of artists such as Derek Trucks, Tab Benoit, Matt Schofield, Philip Sayce, Doyle Bramhall II, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and of course, Jonny Lang. Over the years, the spectrum of influence has broadened to include all sorts of other artists and musical styles, from Grunge to Jazzy Electronic Grooves. All of these influences culminate in Johnny to form his own unique sound.
For the last few years, Johnny Oskam has been performing in numerous venues across southern California. While he has headlined at many shows, Oskam and his band also have opened for artists such as Walter Trout, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Robin Trower, John Mayall, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tab Benoit, Coco Montoya, The Yardbirds, Matt Schofield, Eric Sardinas, Eric Burdon, Albert Lee, Kim Wilson, Eric Gales, Pat Travers, Orianthi, Shawn Jones and Dennis Jones. As time moves on, Johnny Oskam and his band continue to gain attention from audiences and artists all over southern California.
Photographer: Bill Furnish