On the Power of Inspiration
you belong.” When asked why he plays and
tours so much, he responds, “I have calling.
I need to play; I’m driven to play. And when
I play, something good happens to all who
listen to it. I don’t know what it is… I haven’t
a clue, but I do know that it’s the most important thing in my life…. and of course, like
every other player on the planet, I’m trying
to get good. But at the same time, it’s much
deeper than all that.”
When did you start playing the guitar?
How old were you?
How did that come about?
country music, that’s what we listened to
as well—Hank Williams, Marty Robbins,
Jim Reeves, Jimmy Rogers, and people like
that. That’s the music we grew up listening
to. And typical Australian music… stories
about Australia, poems that had been put to
music, things like that.
This guitar your mother got you when you
were four, was it small like a ukulele, or was
it more like a normal guitar?
We did have a uke for a while, but it was…
like a three-quarter size guitar. On my website, there are some photos of us when we
were kids. There’s a band, and you’ll see
we’ve got electric guitars. Those guitars were
fairly small size, and they weren’t quite as
long as a Strat or something like that. Those
were Australian-made guitars, which is the
brand Maton that I use still. Same brand.
I notice when you’re playing percussion on the
guitar, that comes through the same pickup.
That comes through the mic and the pickup.
It’s a lot of mic… I mean, I drive my equipment. I know how I like to run the Maton, and
I run the pickup on 10, flat out. And I run the
microphone flat out too. But it varies, I can
change it around, like if I play a real soft song
where I need to get the melody out through
the reverb (I’m using reverb on stage as well),
I bring the high and midrange up a bit more,
I turn the mic down a tiny bit and spike the
treble on the pickup… and I play really gently,
so with the right EQ you can hear everything
just perfectly, and I do it all on the guitar. You
don’t need to touch anything. If I want to play
like a Merle Travis tune, I just spike the bass,
put the microphone flat out and the pickup
flat out and there I go—trouser-flapping bottom end. Boom! Boom! Boom!
Well, I was already into music. My mother
said that when I was a baby, she couldn’t get
me to sleep unless she put music on near
me. In those days, it was probably the record
player. So, that was my destiny, I believe,
and music did something to me, and it still
does… it moves me in such a deep way. It’s
not just a sound, or any one thing—it’s a
deep experience for me.
By the time I was three and four years old, I was
listening to music and wanting to play… and
we attracted musicians to us, the whole family,
By the time I was three and four years old,
I was listening to music and wanting to
play… and we attracted musicians to us,
the whole family, because we were all mad
about music, all of us. The good thing was
that we had parents that encouraged that.
So my mother bought me a little guitar, and
she showed me how to play D and G and A7
and E and C… and my brother was already
doing pretty well playing music—listening
to records and working out how to play the
melody. It was my job to be the rhythm player. That’s how I started in music, but the first
person I played with was my mother.
because we were all mad about music, all of us.
How would you describe their sound?
Oh, it’s bell-like and real, and it has a character to it… it has enough depth but it’s not
too deep, and it has enough high and mid-range so that it’s not too nasally. It’s right in
the middle; it’s really nice. When I plug my
guitar in, it’s another world.
What sort of a pickup do you use?
In those days, we were into Hawaiian music.
Back then there was just as much instrumental music around as there was vocal music.
Living in Australia, we got to hear Hawaiian
music on the radio. We got to hear a band
called The Shadows… a great band, and
similar to The Ventures in America. So we
had powerful, powerful, beautiful music.
That was our first influence. And of course
The pickup comes with the guitar; it’s a
Maton-designed pickup. The system is six
individual piezos under the saddle, not just
one bar, and a little microphone. That’s
all connected to a preamp, and you just
plug in with a normal cable—there’s no
stereo out, no outside effects or EQ. It’s all
onboard the guitar. You just plug in and go.
And it’s the best system I know.
I use a feedback buster. There’s a rubber
plaque over the hole in the guitar, because
nobody in the hall hears what comes out of
your guitar. They hear what comes out of
the PA. It’s common sense. I know the world
is full of purists who want to try and mic up
their precious acoustic guitar, but nobody
hears it…. unless you’ve got the world’s best
sound man, the world’s best PA and the
world’s best microphones. In my line of work,
I plug into an amp, I plug the amp into a PA,
and every single person in the room from the
front to the back hears me perfectly. That’s
what I need. It’s perfectly simple.
Of course, when I’m in the studio recording,
if you listen to my CD, it sounds like I’m sitting right in front of you playing, and that’s
the sound I’m looking for when I make a
CD. However, it’s not always a reality live.
But I have certain guitars that I don’t have