Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
When I was six I got my first nylon string guitar and shortly thereafter a cassette tape of Segovia’s classics, which included the Chaconne. I listened to that tape thousands of times as a kid and had always gravitated to that piece. I vividly remember listening to that song back then and thinking there was no way I would be able to ever play something like that. Throughout my life that song had always been my favourite because of its wide spectrum of emotion and expression when played well, whether that meant hauntingly like Paul Galbraith plays (man that dude crushes that song on his eight string and at a tempo far slower than most others) or more articulated like David Russell.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Becoming completely independent from the sound production and engineering aspect without sounding like an amateur home studio guy recording in his bedroom. I spent a lot of time on room acoustics and signal paths in my studio to get the right sound, or at least the one I’m looking for on my Ramirez 1A. I still lean quite heavily on the ears of a local music industry veteran when I’m mixing (he is also my studio drummer, mastering engineer, and overall consulting resource).There is also the aspect of balancing the time spent on the engineering side vice time spent playing and writing.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
My latest classical CD, ‘Guitarrista’. The entire motivation of that CD was to get my version of those pieces memorialized and I’m happy with how it turned out, the primary one being the Chaconne and my version of Chopin’s Nocturne. We had a piano in the house growing up and I would routinely hear my mom play that Nocturne as a kid, its comforting. I also decided, somewhat unconventionally, to include an original piece of my own alongside some of the timeless guitar pieces, “Barolo,” which I’m quite happy with.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
The need to create, whether it’s getting my version of a difficult classical piece locked in my head/fingers or plucking nice, simple but elegant notes against a grand piano and a picking guitar. I’m currently working on an easy listening album that goes down exactly that path. I play and write in many different musical styles. Ironically some of the stuff I gravitate to is exactly the opposite of what the older classical audience would likely listen to, but for me it all falls into thes ame creative space. I know a lot of former classical guitar performance graduate students who turned into electric guitar shredders. You would be surprised how small the gap is between classical “Bach-esque” scales and progressions and those of some very tuneful and harmonic sounds of metal soloists (think 90’s and Yngwie). I have thought quite often of taking the Chaconne and belting it out on a pair of harmonied, shredding Les Pauls. How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? At any given time I usually have three or so different flavours of music in my hopper. Right now I have the foundation of an original guitar concerto I’m writing, a song with a clean electric against an EDM like backdrop, most of the Variations on a Theme of Mozart all developed and at various stages of tracking and in latter stages of production. I have several years worth of draft music that I’ve written that needs to be productionized and that library is all over the map. I don’t believe in making “commercially consumable” music as much as making my own sound, on my terms.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
No, especially in the era in which we are living. I haven’t done much large venue performances and most of the music that I write involves me layering multiple guitar tracks on top of each other. I’m a one-man quartet most of the time, at least as far as my original works go. That is one of the reasons why my artist website has the title ”All things Six Strings. ”http://Guitarmusica.com.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
Two things: 1.Expand the base of classical repertoire to include works that have different musical elements applied to them in a more modern flavour. I don’t mean slap a bass and drum track to a transcribed piano nocturne, but put a fresh look on classic pieces. 2.Similar to above, write original works that embody the styles of old school pieces.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Achieving the sound that’s in my head when I sit down and put my foot on the stool (I do that even when I’m tracking electric guitar). I have spent many nights practicing until 3am, playing a song over and over until I get goose bumps and that feeling of musical accomplishment in solitude is a drug. I did that with the last minor section of the Chaconne for weeks, many years ago. The expression of that passage is like a train thundering through your emotions, but done so with a delicate balance of notes and harmonies that build to a movie sized ending (or at least that’s the way I tried to play it). The bigger drug for me is when I’m collaborating with other musicians and everything just clicks. The detailed performance aspect of every player becomes effortless because the mix of players and how they’re interacting define those details on their own. The way the rest of the story of music for me plays out is in the vein of “it is what it is” – I hope for people to enjoy my music and capture an emotion of their own (may not be the same as mine was making it). Today’s digital age and the staggering number artists means my signature in the commercial music world hovers somewhere around negative eleventy billion dB. If someone digs my stuff then I feel accomplishment but the music itself for me and the creation of it and its sound are the food that feeds it.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
It’s the same thing with life – there comes a point where you understand yourself, who you are and how you fit (or sometimes don’t fit) into the world you’ve chosen to put around you. Music is analogous to that. Find your spot of where it fits right for you. I love the Spanish classical guitar repertoire that mostly Segovia put forth a century ago through transcription and motivation to the composers of the time. Bach, Sors, Albeniz, Tarrega, Barrios-Mangore, Villa-Lobos, Granados are just a small list of some of the music that fundamentally drives me as a guitarist. However, I am NOT that guy who wants to sit down and track every song in those subsets of music. I don’t want record just the Bach preludes — I love the Bach partitas, the set of Villa Lobos Choros, but I don’t want to sit down and dissect what every note should sound like to conform to the traditional view of how “exactly” that song should be played and then go and record an entire album of nothing but that composer’s set of pieces. A perfect example of this: I actually learned two transcriptions of the Chaconne – one by Segovia (which ended up being the one I recorded) and one by Carlevaros. Carlevaros’ published version went into very fine detail of performance options of various sections in advance of the actual music, but in there he had a quote which said something to the effect of “you must play this piece at such and such tempo and not fall prey to too much rubato as that is poor taste.” I’m probably crossing a lot of folks in the classical world by saying this but music should be musical to you as a performer. Not a subscription to a recipe of how it should be played. Of course there must be elements of similarity in its totality when the final work is conceived but if you play something in the classical genre and put YOUR own spin on it and it sounds good to you then it’s a valid piece of music. I love the romantic and expressive nature of rubato in trying to speak your voice in a piece. Of course if you get too far off track then you’re probably not in a classical genre anymore (a shredding version of the Chaconne….) but who cares, make your mark. If it fits you and your sensibilities then go with it. That is what will drive you long term, not doing what someone else says you should or must by way of being “proper.” Most head bangers who love Yngwie are likely blithely unaware that one of his songs from many years ago uses a melody that tracks almost note for note to a very famous classical Adagio, and it sounds awesome! That’s classical music reborn into a different genre and look where his playing ability combined with his originality took him in guitar lore? That’s where he found his niche and that’s a perfect example of how an aspiring artist can find their own path in music.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Several albums under my belt,a few of which are like ‘Guitarrista’ but with a greater proportion of my own work included and a weekly Spotify artist report that is more than double digits.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Making music that speaks to me.
What is your most treasured possession?
My family first then my own health. After that it is the infrastructure I have built for myself to make music and put it out to the world.