pull out this great Fender Tremolux amp I’ve
got, and plug my Telecaster in and get the
perfect country sound. Then the producer
says, “Ya’ know, I think it’s a little too country.
Can we rock out?” So I say, “Yeah.” So I get
a Strat and play through a THD head that has
some crunch to it. So the artist says he wants
to go more acoustic and he wants to take it
up a step. So now we’re in a different key and
we’re thinking bluegrass or folk-rock.
If you’re the hat-wearing, boot-wearing, country picker guy, once they start changing it
you’re sent home. That day is over. They need
different guys because that country guy can
only play one thing. Anybody who wants to
be successful in the world of producers and
songwriters really needs to have all that versatility. It’s even more important than reading,
unless of course you get into movies.
You seem to embody those styles a lot more
than what I hear from people coming out of
academia. You sound like the real deal.
You’ve got to separate your artistic career
from your sideman career. Your sideman
career is about you being a well-listened
craftsman. I was called into a session once
where they said, “I need that ZZ Top thing.”
That’s Billy Gibbons playing a Les Paul, probably through a little tweed Fender amp. Pinch
harmonics… a Texas shuffle is very different
than a Chicago shuffle so the sound adjusts,
the feel adjusts and here’s my impersonation
of Billy Gibbons. That is being a well-listened
craftsman, as opposed to an artist. I separate
the two in order to make a living. When you
are a sideman you’ve got somebody else’s
musical vision that you’re trying to bring out.
When I’m making my own records it’s my
The styles come through in your solo work.
I hear all that country stuff in my own playing, the jazz stuff as well as the fusion of rock
and blues. It’s all part of the expression of
the whole. With the well-listened craftsman,
you’re kind of like a plumber who looks under
the sink and says he needs a 5/8” wrench.
Knowing your guitar tone history is just as
important as knowing the fret board.
Every real serious student of the guitar is also
a musical historian. You think back to those
old records and you know what they played.
Seymour Duncan can name every guitar from
every track from the fifties, sixties and seventies. He knows every pickup. He knows it all.
What do you do to further your craft in
terms of practicing?
I’m a serious practicer. To me, practicing is
where I find my center as a person. If I go a
day without practicing, I feel useless. I don’t
feel like I’m doing what I’m here to do. I don’t
feel like I’m on the level of where I want to
be. To practice, I’ve always kept a lick book.
It’s an ongoing musical diary that’s always on
my music stand.
EB@AMP:O> LRLM>FL <HF