Stanton Stands Tall
Stout grad continues to leave mark in Nashville
As a young man Johnny Stanton hoped to make a living someday playing music.
Stanton cut his musical teeth in middle school garage bands in Eau Claire with classmate Justin Vernon, eventually of Bon Iver and Drew Christopherson of Poliça. By high school, Stanton was playing three to four nights a week. He recorded his first song at 16.
He enrolled at UW-Stout as an art student and played in 715 and his blues band, Florez-Stanton-Vaughn. Stanton had a blast playing live music at places like the Den on Thursday nights in Menomonie, and the gigs helped pay for his tuition. He graduated in 2004 debt-free.
“This band does have a lot more potential to do some cool things. It’s my kind of music, a blend of everything I like. It’s been exciting to play music I like with people I like.” – Johnny Stanton, on his new Nashville-based band The Steel Woods
Thirteen years later, the bass guitarist known as “T-Bone” lives in Nashville and is realizing his dream as a full-time musician. He’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry several times, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and on the Academy of Country Music awards show with Heidi Newfield. He also has a long and distinguished list of recording credentials.
His best years may be yet to come. Early in 2017, he landed in fledgling country / southern rock band The Steel Woods, which released its debut album Straw in the Wind in May. The band, with blues and rock influences, received strong reviews from Rolling Stone and The Washington Post, among others.
“This band does have a lot more potential to do some cool things,” Stanton said. “It’s my kind of music, a blend of everything I like. It’s been exciting to play music I like with people I like.”
The Steel Woods are touring throughout the U.S. this fall. The closest shows on their tour are at The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee on Dec. 14 and at Cabooze in Minneapolis on Dec. 15.
Although his vocation grew from his avocation, Stanton still puts part of his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to use. He specialized in photography at UW-Stout and began his career as a New York fashion photographer. In Nashville, he has developed an extensive portfolio of CD cover photos and promotional materials for fellow musicians.
When he’s not performing with The Steel Woods, he works as a session player recording in studios and playing gigs on Nashville’s historic Lower Broadway. From time to time, he also returns to the Menomonie area as a session musician at the Drum Farm recording studio.
“It’s been great to do what I want for a living. I feel like the luckiest man alive,” he said.