This new album I am doing has gotten me thinking more about my role and your role as an instrumentalist in this world of many players! As guitarists, we have to wear many hats in this life, but when you are a true instrumentalist, which is one major way of how I think of myself, the guitar playing and what you are “saying” with it becomes ever so more important.
I find that as time goes on, I am always honing my craft, and learning that the old cliché of “less is more” becomes truer and truer. I mean after all, there comes a time when we can certainly feel as if we’ve “peaked” at a certain skill level for ourselves, but in my opinion the artistic side seems to always grow. You have to come to a realization point in your playing where you understand that what it is you want to say creatively really is what matters, and what will eventually set you apart from the pack.
In the case of my new album, I have discovered so many new tones and levels of expression that I never, ever considered for recording, yet they are just so right. Recording has a funny way of sometimes “boxing” you in, and it certainly can do that for me too, but this time, perhaps more than ever, it’s been a “freeing” experience. It certainly started by having just about the finest bass and drum combination one could ever hope for. My usual drummer, Shannon Ford, had to do an 11-month tour with his wife, Alice Ripley, the actress. They were taking her hit Broadway show, “Next to Normal” on the road, and knowing I had a new album to make, it was making me “next to insane” to think about who would replace him on drums! I had always missed and longed to play again with my old friend, the great drummer Mike Braun, but simply thought he was too far away, and too bust to get. My friend told me, “hey, why don’t you just look him up?!”, and lo and behold, there he was on Facebook, living in Oregon, and just done from a 20-year stint with Hall and Oates. He was available! That changed everything, as I could now have my all-time favorite drummer, matched with my wonderful, “in the pocket” bass player, Eddie Denise! What a section they made! We cut 11 kicking tracks in just 3 days, and I couldn’t have been more satisfied! Add to that 2 terrific tracks I did with Shannon before he left, along with the great bassist John Previti, plus one more solo acoustic piece I did, and it’s done!
The interesting thing about this project is how diverse I go to play, while somehow keeping it all together as a true work that exists in this place and time. I think it will stand the test of time for sure, and as an instrumentalist, it is one of the most satisfying moments when you realize you’re truly happy with something that will speak for you long after you’re gone! This is what we all, as guitarists, should strive for!