Born into a family of musicians who play jazz, tejano, oldies and funk, it was only a matter of time before Johnny Love got the itch to pick up an instrument. Despite growing up in Santa Ana, steeped in his Mexican heritage, his musical tastes were ultimately influenced by the island of Jamaica.
"I was 13 when I first picked up a guitar, but ever since I was a kid, I was always the one singing, dancing and putting on a show," says Love. "As a rebel in my early teens, I was into hardcore ska and metal, but I got rooted in reggae some years after."
Love began touring as a solo act in 2009. "I chose reggae music to help spread the message of love and the importance of family, respect and unity. I wanted to create a positive vibe that's unique and special to give back to the people in need," he says. Widely known for his powerful energy and passion while performing onstage, his band's musical style is something he refers to as barrio roots reggae. "It's a fusion of Latin, rocksteady roots, reggae, ska and cumbia. We bring high-energy, conscious vibes and a taste of street-culture music."
Since forming in 2013, the Johnny Love Band have relentlessly played shows up and down the California coast, with occasional appearances in Texas. With Love on lead guitar and vocals, Kelly Caballero on backup vocals and percussion, Yesre Rodas on bass, and a solid group of guest drummers in rotation, the band recently embarked on their first national tour. "It was awesome having fans in places I've never been to," Love says. "The whole journey was unreal, but nothing beat chilling on Padre Island in Texas with my family and the entire band enjoying the island vibes for the first time."
While living on Padre Island in 2010, Love dropped an independent EP of his first recordings, Cool Down. Nearly five years later, the Johnny Love Band will release their first full-length, Mi Mexicana. The album was produced in San Diego at Imperial Sound Recording Studio by E.N. Young, a fellow solo reggae artist and member of the nationally touring Tribal Seeds. "We are very grateful to have such an amazing producer working with us and having Roots Musician Records supporting us," says Love." "It's a dream come true to be working with such an esteemed label."
Love describes the album as artistic, intellectual, beautiful, cultured, strong and independent. "Mi Mexicana is a whole new sound paralleling with the evolution of my spirit and my knowledge," he says. "This album is definitely more rooted and grounded. The sound and quality is night and day with the last independent release. I can't wait for people to hear it." Although no official release date has been set, the band are aiming for late August or early September.
The Johnny Love Band expect to embark on a nationwide tour this September, with a West Coast run in December. But first there are some upcoming local shows. "It's time to get down and give back to the barrio who helped get us here," Love says. "It's a celebration; we're giving thanks and praise to all those who believe in us and motivated us to get out there and spread the love!"
The Johnny Love Band perform with Rebel Shakedown and Casa De Calacas at the Copper Door, 225 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 543-3813; thecopperdoorbar.com. Thurs., Aug. 13, 8:30 p.m. Free. 21+.