Cincy funk band set to bless Trolley Stop

By Joey Ferber

Photo: Ernie Johnson from Detroit’s (l-r) Collin Thompson, Wayne Kilgard, Drew Loftspring, Nathan Lewis, Eric Osmanoglu, and Dusty Bryant take on Trolley Stop March 17; photo: Kristoph Klein

All we knew about the Cincinnati band was that whomever Ernie Johnson is, he—or rather they are a group of musical men, who produce sounds of soulful horns, guitar licks, and percussion that made us want to move.

Ernie Johnson is preparing for their show this Friday at Trolley Stop, featuring music from their last two projects.

Dayton City Paper had the chance to speak with several members of the band to find out more about their funky mix of genres and to ask for ourselves, who truly is/are Ernie Johnson from Detroit?


How would you describe the music you make?

Wayne Kilgard (saxophone): It’s a mix of funk afro-beat and jazz. It’s one of those things where we all have played together on various projects in the past, so one of the common links has been the funk and jazz aspect. But given all of our unique influences, when people hear us they don’t automatically try to fit us [into a genre].

Eric Osmanoglu (bass): We came together and decided to shoot for the sound we all feel. It’s a funk and afro-beat thing with open space for improvisation and a twinge of jazz.


How did you all first come together?

EO: We were making music in my basement to [create] our own music. So we weren’t just hired musicians; it was our band. And we were all taking an active role in creating the music and arranging it. So as we started making music together, we realized it was something special. I think we all had a rough outline of what our sound was going to be, but it really developed organically on its own. Over the last few years, we kind of came into each other’s lives, and we kind of inject each one of our influences into the group.


What is it like managing a large group of busy, working musicians?

Collin Thompson (trombone):
We’re all professionals. We all communicate really well with dates and practices. And I think everyone wants to be a part of this group, so everyone’s willing to put in the time. We kind of all have a sense that we’re working towards something.

Dusty Bryant (keys): And we all support each other’s projects.


What is Ernie Johnson’s role in the Cincinnati music community?

EO: We’re forging our own path. There is a lot of room for a band like us and the sound we’re going for.

CT: I think we’re carving out our own little niche. We’re becoming one of those “Cincinnati bands” when people talk about the Cincinnati music scene.

EO: We’ve played festivals on the jam band scenes, but we cross over the aisle. Our sound appeals to anyone. We have 18 year olds in the audience, and we can have middle-age people bobbin’ their heads.

DB: People can move to this music. The squarest person who’s never danced… will be tapping ta foot by the end of the show. We have such a diverse crowd; it is incredible.


How do you keep your sound moving forward?

EO: It’s setting goals, man. Because we’re so busy and have so many people, we have to keep our eyes on the next thing coming. Our next thing we want to do is put out a full-length vinyl and we want to do analog. The main thing is setting goals and sticking to them, and doing the things that get us to the next spot. And a lot of that comes from being around the block. We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and staying true. Making the right investments, staying on track, and writing new music.

DB: Nobody is writing executive orders. We’re like a little democracy. Everybody has a vote when there’s a decision to be made.

EO: We’re constantly trying to move forward and make sure we’re doing that correctly. In the last year alone, we’ve put out an album’s worth of material—so constantly making the next new song.


What is your writing process like?

Drew Loftspring (guitar): A lot of it comes from jamming together. We’ll have 70 percent of a song from having a couple sessions on it, without even talking much about it. There have been other times where it’s taken weeks.

CO: No one song is completely written by one single person. It’s a group effort, always.


So, who is Ernie Johnson from Detroit?

EO: That’s an interesting question, one that each one of us receives quite a bit. Realistically, Ernie Johnson is the story of a guy who fell on hard times and is forced to reinvent himself. It’s a story of redemption. Each one of us has a different version of telling the story. It’s sort of inside. It’s kind of our whole collective—of how we came together. It’s more of a “choose your own adventure” kind of thing. Really, you got to see us perform, and each time you see us it makes a bit more sense.

Ernie Johnson From Detroit plays Friday, March 17 at Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. For more information, please visit or

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Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at

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