Published on May 28th, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
“Hamilton” Guitarist John Kengla On Favorite Spots In Columbus, Upcoming Projects & More
New York-based guitarist, bassist, and songwriter John Kengla grew up and started his career in the fervent Ohio music scene. Kengla toured with the indie rock band Red Wanting Blue for a few years before making the jump to New York. Since then he has played and/or recorded withthe likes of Aaron Lee Tasjan, Ana Egge, Serena Ryder, Jason Derulo, Jon Batiste of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tim Easton, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Ben Kweller, Jamie McLean, Mary McBride, The Madison Square Gardeners, Leslie Mendelson, Serena Ryder, Enemies!, Keith Christopher of The Georgia Satellites, Kelly Jones, Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin, The Last Royals, and Zosia Mamet.
Beyond those earlier-mentioned credits, John Kengla has also been part of some major Broadway productions as a musician. His theater résumé includes Hamilton, Rock Of Ages, American Idiot, Spider-Man, Kinky Boots, and the David Byrne-penned Joan Of Arc at the Public Theater in New York.
On the heels of my recent trip to wonderful Columbus, Ohio, I had the opportunity to do Q&A with John Kengla about his former hometown of Columbus. Music from Kengla can of course be found on Spotify, iTunes and all your favorite outlets for new music.
How much of your life did you spend in and around Columbus?
John Kengla: About 20 years. We moved there when I was a little guy and I was there through college and stuck around after for few years playing in bands before I moved to Brooklyn.
Do you still have family there? Get back often?
John Kengla: I do, my folks are there still teaching at Otterbein University and my brother lives there as well. I try to get back a few times a year to see them and every once in a while I’ll pass through on a tour, although it’s been a few years since I played a show there.
When back in town, what are some of your favorite spots to check out?
John Kengla: Last time I was there I saw a great jazz band—The Bobby Floyd Trio with my friend and former teacher, Derek DiCenzo, at Natalie’s Pizza. Other than that I’ll sometimes go to Dick’s Den or Rhumba Cafe, other great music venues.
Do you often run into people from Columbus as a musician?
John Kengla: Yes, definitely. Some of my closest friends and colleagues here in New York have lived there at one point or grew up there, and sometimes I get to see musicians that live there still if they pass through New York to play a show.
Is there a city anywhere else that you find to be similar to Columbus? Or is it totally its own animal?
John Kengla: I think it has similarities to other cities its size, for sure. The thing that makes it cool is that for whatever reason it’s a city where there are a lot of people who wanna make something cool and a lot of people who wanna appreciate something cool, so it’s a great community to be and learn how to be a creative person.
Columbus aside, what are you currently working on?
John Kengla: Lately I’ve been playing at Hamilton quite a bit here on Broadway and also occasionally with the touring production. For a lot of the winter/early spring I was on tour with a singer Mary McBride who works with the U.S Department of State, so we were in Eastern Europe playing education and cultural exchange-based shows and then in Louisiana playing at some hospitals and correctional facilities. Mark Stepro, another Ohio native, plays in that band as well. Then I had a few shows with an R&B artist named Deva Mahal. Now I’m home for a bit so I’m trying to do some songwriting and recording on my own.
Is there a career accomplishment that you are most proud of?
John Kengla: I’m just happy that people give me money to play the guitar.
Finally, John, any last words for the kids?
John Kengla: Nope — I’ve probably said too many already.