FEATURE > BRIAN SETZER
books, which I still think are great and would recommend to any
budding guitarist. And then the teacher basically said, “I can’t
teach you anymore.” So I had to get on two busses and walk a
mile carrying my Gibson ES- 175 to the studio of a more advanced
guitar teacher, who taught me chords, scales, and theory, how to
play all kinds of inversions and extensions, and how to play over
chord changes. He showed me his conception of the guitar, which
was a fancy jazz sort of thing—something that has been part of my
playing ever since.
Which did you get into first, jazz or rockabilly?
I learned both styles around the same time. Things were much
different when I was coming up. You couldn’t just listen to any
style of music on the internet with the click of a button. You
had to make a bit of an effort to find and listen to music. In
New York, we had some of the best jazz players around, so I
was exposed to plenty of jazz. We didn’t have much in the way
of country and rockabilly players, but my dad came back from
Korea with records by musicians like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee
Lewis—he got these from some of his army buddies who were
from the South—and I really got into the music and copped
some of the licks on the guitar. It all sounded good to me, and it
just seemed like a natural thing to mix everything up.
Bluegrass is also part of the mix on the new album—you play
songs by the likes of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs.
122 PREMIER GUITAR MAY 2011
After all these years, I
don’t think a day goes
by when I don’t pick
up the guitar. Even if
I’m playing something I
learned when I was 15
years old, it’s really still
a thrill just to sit down
and play the thing.
Yeah. A little bit of country and bluegrass sneaks its way into my
playing, too. Basically, all of the stuff that my ear likes—rockabilly,
swing, jazz, rock ’n’ roll—finds its way to my fingers. It just all
comes out. The bluegrass influence goes way back to when I was
a kid and my grandfather gave me a banjo. I taught myself how
to pick in the bluegrass style, because I thought it was the coolest
thing with all those speedy runs. All these years later, I’m playing
things like “Lonesome Road” and “Earl’s Breakdown.”
What was your writing and arranging process like for the record?
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