During one of the high-profile sessions that guitarist Kevin Breit often gets called to do, he was asked if he could replace a smooth passage with something edgier. For Breit, no further instruction was necessary and, as he prepared his first take, he wondered aloud, “Imagine this played by a guy with a gold tooth.”
Although the producer and artist ultimately decided to take the safe route, the experience sparked something within Breit—a new persona, Johnny Goldtooth.
This character takes the lead in Breit’s new instrumental album. On Stony Plain Records, Johnny Goldtooth and the Chevy Casanovas allows Breit and his all-star band – Vincent Henry (Amy Winehouse, Tom Waits), Michael Ward Bergeman (YoYo Ma), Davide DiRenzo (Cassandra Wilson) and Gary Diggins (R Murray Schaffer) – to explore new musical avenues, and have fun at the same time.
Breit has always written in character, but Johnny Goldtooth embodies the more eccentric, raw and wild side of his playing, which has left an indelible mark on songs by Norah Jones, k.d. lang, Rosanne Cash, and even actor Hugh Laurie’s forays into music. Still, Breit remains one of Canada’s humblest musical treasures, with an impressive trove of Junos, National Jazz Awards and Maple Blues Awards as testimony.
Breit officially launches Johnny Goldtooth and The Chevy Casanovas on Nov. 26 at Lula Lounge in Toronto. For more info, go to kevinbreit.com
Who is Johnny Goldtooth and what’s his backstory?
Johnny Goldtooth is the ragged son of a ragged son. He was born in the land of the dreamer outside the city of El Paso, Texas. He has no memory of not being a musician and can count his dearest friends on the one hand. He moved for love to Canada in the mid-seventies and enjoyed a colourful musical existence with his band, the Chevy Casanovas. A man of many hats, Johnny was able to compile and record a handful of new songs for the Stony Plain Recording label.
What kinds of things did you allow yourself to do on this record, compared to your previous work?
Johnny Goldtooth and the Chevy Casanovas was born from a desire to create an alt-twang recording, which was a new concept for me.
What are the most significant challenges in making an all-instrumental album?
The biggest challenge is always continuity. All the songs need to have arrived and departed from the same terminal; this is much easier than it sounds.
What are your fondest musical memories growing up?
It would be tuning into WBLK Detroit when I was a child. I grew up in a completely different world than what was being magically beamed down from the Motor City. Northern Ontario was not for the faint of heart in those days or maybe even these days. Bobby Caldwell sang, “Some people go around the world for love, but they may never find what they dream of.” You better believe that.
What do you recall about the first time you performed in public?
The first performance I remember was playing with my brothers in the basement of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Espanola, Ontario. We were paid in pizza. I am sketchy on how the show was received, what we played, what we wore, but I do remember the pizza was the best thing I had ever tasted.