Over the last few years I’ve fallen back into a pretty deep and savage affair with trail running. I used to run and race a lot as a kid, fell away from it as a teenager, lost time for it in college, rediscovered it in my twenties, and had on again/off again goes with it through my thirties. I’m not running as fast as I used to, but I’m more disciplined about it now, logging more monthly and yearly miles than before. I make up for this by eating a lot of Mexican food, barbecue, and drinking gallons of beer. I’ve found some helpful training plans here and there, and have drawn from them. I’ve also found some that I don’t believe a working, family person could have time for. You’ll see a lot of Off Days in mine, where more serious, proper runners would be training. I may get to the finer elements of a training plan one day, but probably not. I don’t do timed sprint drills or track work. I have not experimented with the Fraioli circuit or worked with a personal trainer. I looked up the definition of “fartlek”, but did not work it into my routine. Instead I played the audio sample a few times and giggled like a clove-buzzed fifteen-year old. Do that. I don’t do time on a stationary bike, and I don’t cross train. I’m also not winning trophies, but that’s not why I run.

Getting back to some sort of routine, I fast found that the therapy of trail running was both physical and mental. The simple act of running in the woods came to feel as needed as oxygen or music to me, particularly during the time of my mother’s illness and her eventual passing. Our band had also broken up around that time, and I found myself filling the void that was once the physical release of a rock show with trail running. It’s church in its way; a welcome break from anything with a screen, steering wheel or volume knob, and it’s become a way that’s helped me cope with phases of depression.

I spent most of 2012 through 2014 running three to five times a week with no specific goals in mind. I ran when I wanted to, and didn’t run when I didn’t want to. I still live by that rule, but at the start of 2015 I figured I’d aim for my first race in about twenty years. I’d piled up a lot of miles and wanted to see how I measured up against other folks in a formal setting. I wanted to see if I could at least finish respectably, and I needed something new to get nervous about. At the end of February I signed up a 25K trail race just outside of Smithville, TX. I had about five weeks more to train. I was logging 8-10 mile long runs, and was on schedule to be ready for the 15.5 miles of trails the race offered.

I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, but still placed 16th overall out of 79. The whole experience was enough to seduce me into thinking about more. I liked the camaraderie out there. I liked the simple, primitive movement of running loose through the woods for hours with a bunch of likeminded folks I’d never met. Like a living room show, there was a quiet sense of community amongst strangers. The communication and support amongst the runners was something positive to me.

I took a break, went on tour, fell out of my routine, then got back to it once summer came around. I wasn’t logging huge miles, but was getting somewhere between 85-120 per month. I put a record out, went on tour, and pretty well lost my grip again come Fall. Once all the holidays had cleared, I set my sights on logging my first 50K. I figured I’d document the lead up to it.

To some folks I know, running a 50K is about as tough as making a pot of coffee. Others of us have gotta work at it. I admire anyone that’s getting after it, whether they’re running their 7th 100-miler or their first 5K. We’ve all got our life shit to deal with, and respect is key. People do this at very different rates and paces, at all different ages, for many different reasons. I remember learning that quickly during the time of my first races.

I looked over a few training plans. I didn’t stick to them religiously, but used the distances and times and dates as a rough guideline. I took the weekly long run mileages the most seriously.

Touring, work, and life’s general inertia can naturally derail holding to a training plan. There’s gonna be times when you have to shuffle the routine or miss a long run. You can’t hold yourself to the fire about it. Touring is about 90% of my social life, and I like to hang out and throw down every once in a while. I like to eat a bunch of eggs in the morning with old friends I haven’t seen in years. “Yeah.. sorry to interrupt this great hang. Can you excuse me so I can go get a two-hour run in in white out blizzard conditions?”.

Shit no.

So, more power to the one that can wake up in the middle of a tour and get psyched about a long run day in Milwaukee when it’s 8 degrees out.

There will also be inevitable aches and pains, particularly in the beginning weeks. Trust your body and know that not all aches and pains are serious.

A good foundation to start with here would be at least being able to run a 10K comfortably. I started this plan after almost two months off, a lot of comfort food freak outs, and traditional Bowl Season laziness. I did a couple runs in early January just to get back in the motion of things, then got down to the ramp up.

Here’s the way it unfurled. It may not be the thing, but it’s something. If it helps just one person out toward a first-time 50K goal, then that’s cool with me.

1/11 – Long Run Day. 10 miles trail, meditative/slow pace.
1/12 – Off.
1/13 – 6.2 miles trail, moderate pace.
1/14 – Off.
1/15 – 8.0 miles trail, moderate pace.
1/16 – 6.2 miles road, moderate pace.
1/17 – 7.0 miles road, meditative/slow pace.
1/18 – Off.
1/19 – Long Run Day. 13.1 miles trail, moderate pace.
1/20 – Off.
1/21 – 10.0 miles trail, moderate pace.
1/22 – 6.2 miles trail, meditative/slow pace.
1/23 – Off/Cross Train (Short hike)
1/24 – Off.
1/25 – Long Run Day. 15.5 miles trail w/ hills, moderate pace.
1/26 – Off.
1/27 – 8.0 miles road, moderate pace.
1/28 – 10.0 miles trail, moderate pace.
1/29 – 2/4: Off/Studio.
2/5 – 10.0 miles trail, moderate pace.
2/6 – Off.
2/7 – Hike 3 miles.
2/8 – Long Run Day. 20.0 miles trail, moderate pace.
2/9 – Off.
2/10 – 6.2 miles treadmill.
2/11 – 14: Off/Tour
2/15 – 10 miles trail moderate pace.
2/16 – 21: Off/Tour.
2/22 – 14 miles trail/road moderate pace.
2/23 – Off.
2/24 – Off.
2/25 – Off.
2/26 – 10 miles trail meditative/slow pace.
2/27 – Off. (This is about the time I find out the 50K race I’ve been
training for and have made time for, will not be held this year. I
fail to find another Spring time 50K nearby that I can participate in,
mostly due to calendar conflicts. Bummed out, but I’m six weeks in
and decide to stick with the plan anyway.)
2/28 – Off.
2/29 – Long run day. 22 miles trail meditative/slow pace.
3/1 – Off.
3/2 – Off.
3/3 – 6.0 miles road moderate pace.
3/4 – 10.0 miles trail meditative/slow pace.
3/5 – Off.
3/6 – Off.
3/7 – Long run day. 20 miles trail, slow and painful. Easily the most uninspiring of the ramp-up. Right foot swollen, in pain.
Limp to car.
3/8 – 14: Off/Stretches every day to try and rehab feet and legs.
3/15 – Long Run Day. 13.75 miles trail slow/cautious pace.
3/16 – Off.
3/17 – Off.
3/18 – 10 miles trail race pace.
3/19 – Off.
3/20 – Off.
3/21 – Off.
3/22 – Long Run Day. 16 miles trail race pace (PR 13.1).
3/23 – Off.
3/24 – Off.
3/25 – 6.2 miles trail moderate pace.
3/26 – Off.
3/27 – 10.5 miles road moderate pace.
3/28 – 30: Off/Studio.
3/31 – Off.
4/1 – Off.
4/2 – 10.0 miles trail moderate pace.
4/3 – Off.
4/4 – 4/8: Off/Studio.
4/9 – Off.
4/10 – Off.
4/11 – 10.0 miles trail meditative/slow pace.
4/12 – Off.
4/13 – 8.0 miles trail meditative/slow pace.
4/14 – Off.
4/15 – Long Run Day. 18.0 miles. The wall is real. I hit it,
particularly from mile 14 onward.
4/16 – Off.
4/17 – Off.
4/18 – Off.
4/19 – Off.
4/20 – Long Run Day. Run 50K/31 miles trail. 5:04:34.

I didn’t plan to do this distance on this day, especially after such a shitty and uninspiring outing a few days ago. But the weather was right, I had time, and I felt good. Around mile 22 I reasoned that there’d never be a better time or situation in which to see this 50K goal through. The first 25 miles of this run were for the most part joyous. The last 6 miles were not joyous. I used the car as an aid station, and my routing allowed me to stop there at the end of every ten miles, refuel on food and hydration, then tack on an extra mile at the end.

I still can’t accurately figure out what to expect from long run to long run. With this experience there have been shorter runs that feel like work, then longer runs that feel pretty effortless. I think it’s more about having the furniture in one’s head arranged in a good way. I tend to believe this type of endeavor is mostly a mental thing, and that’s part of the mystery that keeps me coming back. Just grateful for some time on the trails, ultimately.

Happy running (before the heat swallows us all..).
-Will Johnson, May 2016



Tickets on sale now for the Midwest Living Room Tour! These shows are hosted in private spaces and each one is limited to 40-60 people. No stage, no sound system… just Will playing songs and telling stories. All tickets must be purchased in advance. The zip code is listed on the ticket page so you know the general location of the show happening in your town. You’ll get the full address to the secret location when your purchase is complete. These shows always sell out quickly… don’t delay!

5/15 : Tulsa OK
5/16 : Springfield MO
5/17 : Omaha NE
5/18 : Sioux Falls SD
5/19 : Charles City IA
5/20 : Minneapolis MN
5/21 : Madison WI
5/22 : Milwaukee WI @ Club Giranldi’s
5/23 : Chicago IL
5/24 : St Louis MO
5/25 : Champaign IL
5/26 : Bloomington IN
5/27 : Lexington KY
5/28 : Louisville KY

As always, thanks for your continued support for these shows. It’s an honor to get to play music this way and your attendance is much appreciated.

Homegrown Festival 2016

February 11, 2016


Join the Facebook Event, Invite friends!
Like the Facebook Page! 
Twitter:  @HomegrownDFW
Instagram:  @HomegrownFest
Hashtag: #HG7


Will Johnson & Justin Kinkel-Schuster (of the Waterliars) will be on tour together in February. It’ll be a mix of all acoustic Living Room Shows and a couple of small venues along the way.

2/11 : Huntsville AL @ Tangled String Studios – BUY TICKETS
2/14 : Waverly AL – BUY TICKETS
2/15 : Birmingham AL – BUY TICKETS
2/16 : Atlanta GA – SOLD OUT
2/17 : Nashville TN – BUY TICKETS
2/18 : Memphis TN – BUY TICKETS
2/19 : Little Rock AR – BUY TICKETS
2/20 : Oxford MS – SOLD OUT
2/21 : New Orleans LA – BUY TICKETS
2/23 : San Antonio – BUY TICKETS


Come out and say hello!

Dec 03 : Berlin, Germany – Badehaus Szimpla
Dec 05 : Brugge, Belgium – Autumn Falls – Cactus at Biekorf
Dec 06 : Antwerpen, Belgium – Autumn Falls – Trix 
Dec 08 : Manchester, UK – Gulliver’s
Dec 09 : Leeds, UK – Headrow House
Dec 11 : London, UK – St Pancras Church
Dec 13 : Amersfoort, Netherlands – Fluor
Dec 15 : Sevilla, Spain – CICU
Dec 16 : Zaragoza, Spain – La Lata de Bombillas
Dec 17 : Madrid, Spain – El Sol
Dec 18 : Barcelona, Spain – Heliogabal
Dec 19 : San Sebastián, Spain – Bukowski
Dec 20 : Orense, Spain – Café Pop Torgal 

Ticket links to all shows can be found at


Will Johnson & Justin Kinkel-Schuster (of the Waterliars) will be on tour together in February. It’ll be a mix of all acoustic Living Room Shows and a couple of small venues along the way. We’ll make this as easy as possible for the hosts. All you have to do is let us borrow your living room for about 3 hours, check names off the list at the door… in return you’ll get 5 additional free tickets for friends and our eternal gratitude.

If you are located in or near any of these cities and interested in hosting please read everything below and get in touch! Contact info at the end of this post.


2/11 : Huntsville AL – Confirmed
2/14 : Waverly AL – Confirmed
2/15 : Birmingham AL – Confirmed
2/16 : Atlanta GA – Confirmed
2/17 : Nashville TN – Confirmed
2/18 : Memphis TN – Confirmed
2/19 : Little Rock AR – Confirmed
2/20 : Oxford MS – Confirmed
2/21 : New Orleans or Lafayette LA – HOST NEEDED
2/22 : Houston – HOST NEEDED
2/23 : San Antonio – Confirmed

Here’s how it works.

1. You have a house, loft, small gallery, studio or other private space that can comfortably and safely host 40-50 people. A place with a big living room, finished basement or other interior space would be ideal. There needs to be street parking, parking garage or public transportation nearby and your neighbors should be cool. It would be a huge bummer if someone called the cops because of all the extra cars and people coming to your house. You probably shouldn’t do this if you live in a small apartment with a bunch of uptight neighbors or a cranky landlord. Be realistic on how many people your place can hold. We need to know how many tickets we can sell in advance. Sorry, we can’t do these shows outside.

2. Ticket price will be $20. Everyone must buy tickets in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door. There will be no reselling or third-party tickets sales. All tickets sales are direct to fans from Undertow. Limit 4 tickets per person. We want everyone to have the same chance of getting tickets.

3. We’ll provide the host with a list of everyone coming to the show. The host won’t have to deal with any money and will only need to check people off the list as they arrive. We ask guests to arrive between 7:00-7:45pm. The shows start at 8pm and we ask everyone to be out of your space by 10pm.

4. The host gets 5 additional free tickets for the show. If you have other friends beyond your 5 guests who want to come to the show you should direct them buy tickets on-line.

5. Your home address will not be published on the web and will only be given to people who purchase tickets.

6. The shows will promoted on our websites, Facebook and Twitter and word-of-mouth.

7. We’ll need your help to spread the word on your Facebook and Twitter too. We’ll create a Facebook event for each show and make you a host of the event so you can easily invite your friends (Thank you!). Remember, please don’t post your address. The address only goes to people after they buy tickets. We need to keep the location private so random people don’t try to show up and pay at the door.

8. You don’t need any sort of sound system. We’ll need to bottle a couple of armless chairs on and couple of glasses or bottles of water near where Will and Justin will be playing. It’s nice if you have some kind of ambient lighting like a lamp on coffee table, floor lamp, or overhead lights with a dimmer to help create a cozy mood.

9. You don’t need seating for everyone. If you have a bunch of chairs, great! But most shows are floor seating and we let guests know they should bring a cushion or pillow to sit on during the show.

10. There will be no opening acts on the living room shows.

11. We love dogs and cats… we really do! But an excitable pet running around during the show can be distracting for the guests and performers. If you have curious and friendly 4-legged family members, would you be ok with putting them in another part of the house or sending them to a friend’s house during the show?

After reading all of this, if interested please follow these steps:

You read everything above and it’s all cool?

1. send an email to with this info:
– a. Your address.
– b. A few photos of the space where the show will happen.
– c. Please put “Will & Justin Living Room Show” and the name of your city in the subject line.

2. Sit tight and we’ll get back to as soon as possible if we can book the show at your house.

Thanks for your help!


Pioneer House Gallery
413 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

Opening Reception:
Friday November 13, 2015 6-9pm

In October of 1978, my dad (a University of Tennessee alum) took me to my first Tennessee Volunteers football game at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis; a frustrating loss to Mississippi State. A bitter cold swept in as the sun set, and I got sick on the way home. I thought it was the Wendy’s, but years later I considered the plausible scenario that it might have been my first true taste of internalized, spectator heartbreak. The mood was somber, and the car savage and foul, all the way home. Memphis was the closest town of any significant culture for those of us from across the river in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, so I made it there a good bit as a kid. In the coming years my dad continued to turn me on to the magnitude of Tennessee football, kindly taking me back to the Liberty Bowl when the Vols would come west for the occasional home-away-from-home game. Thanks to him I got to see Reggie White, Willie Gault, and Bill Bates play at the height of their college careers. While most of the other kids in our neighborhood wore Staubach, Swann, or Bradshaw jerseys in our sandlot, full tackle games, I was the kid in the orange #6 Jimmy Streater jersey and homemade Power-T helmet, both gifts from my dad. I wore that jersey so thin that he chose to replace it a couple years later. Even as life took me southwest, I’ve been proud to follow along and watch the Vols from afar. Through good years and bad, it’s given my dad and I even more conversation to chew on, and I’ve long been grateful for that.

I get to travel a lot, but I’ve never gotten to spend much time in Knoxville. Next Saturday I’ll finally make it to Neyland Stadium for a game. It’s been both educational and nostalgic to assemble this show, and a chance to pay tribute to some of my favorite Vols football players. It’s also a good excuse to take an overdue road trip with my dad. There are some legends missing here and there, and I accepted that possibility from the start. There are many, and I figure that’s a good problem for a football program to have. I didn’t sweat a strict to-do list, but instead went with whatever player happened to inspire or intrigue me at the time the paints were out.

Thanks to my friends Bill Bayne and Julie Belcher for encouraging and enabling this show.

This one’s dedicated to my dad.

-Will Johnson, November 2015

Tour Dates with Toadies!

October 19, 2015


Will is playing a few shows with Toadies in November as part of their Heretics acoustic tour.

Nov 19 : San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s – TICKETS
Nov 20 : Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Café (early show) – TICKETS
Nov 20 : Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Café (late show) – TICKETS
Nov 21 : San Juan Capistrano, CA @ Coach House – TICKETS
Nov 22 : Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom – TICKETS

Come out and say hello.


“Swan City Vampires is a masterpiece of folk, Americana, and punk rock.”

[ read article ]

Will Johnson “Call, Call, Call”
From the LP Swan City Vampires, available via Undertow.
Shot by Edmund LeStrange and Jessie Johnson.
Edited by Boomer Galassi