Interview: Guitar Talk with James Maddock
Britain’s James Maddock is considered one of the most original songwriters of the moment. Maddock’s music is multi-dimensional, gallivanting from traditional folk to pop to rootsy Americana.
Maddock’s guitars of choice, of course, are Gibsons. We caught up with the British-turned-New York City-based musician to talk about his new album, Another Life, and why Gibson guitars are “the sound of the music that moves us all every day.”
For more on Maddock, visit www.jamesmaddock.net.
What was your first experience with the guitar?
My first experience with the guitar was at the store. I had just gotten an advance from Columbia Records and wanted a great guitar that I planned on using on the record and for live. I went to Rose Morris on Denmark Street in London. There on the wall were a few Gibson guitars, and I pulled off the Advanced Jumbo . I had never played one and sat down and strummed an open E chord on the 7th fret and thought, “Wow!” I fell in love right there! The guy that worked there came in and said, “That’s a man’s guitar!” I strummed it for a few minutes and bought it right there. It was the first professional acoustic guitar I ever owned.
Are you a self-taught player, or did you take lessons?
I am self-taught. I did have some lessons for a while, but I really learned by listening to records and watching other players in my home town.
What was it like moving from England to New York City in 2003 to pursue music?
Moving to New York was tough at the beginning. I didn't know anyone and it took a while to find my feet and find musicians to play with. But it’s a friendly town and full of musicians, so eventually I started to make connections.
Is it true that you’ve performed with Bruce Springsteen? What was that experience like?
I shared a stage with Bruce at the Light of Day Parkinson’s Charity event in Asbury Park. He performed there, and I was, too. Willie Nile invited me up to sing his song “One Guitar,” and suddenly, there I was next to Bruce on the stage. It was a bit surreal, actually, and then later we all got on stage and sang some songs with him in his set. Fantastic really. My favorite memory of that night was at the bar later when Bruce came over with some shots of tequila for Willie and me. Doing shots with the Boss was a thing I’ll never forget.
Let’s talk about your new album, Another Life. What approach did you take to the songwriting of this album?
With Another Life, I wanted to make a stripped-down, acoustic album, with minimum instrumentation. The songs were a collection of new and old songs. They all sounded good to me played in that style as opposed to songs that might need a more pop or fuller approach.
I had the great Larry Campbell to help me along. Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wallason on drums and vibes.
Switching gears to guitars, what Gibsons are in your collection?
I have a Gibson LG-1 from 1958/9 the Advanced Jumbo and a 1979 Gold Top Les Paul.
What make Gibson guitars a good fit for what you do?
I love the woody-sounding bottom end they have. I can feel the history and the tradition when I play a Gibson. I want to stand in that tradition myself. I’m proud to own and play the same guitar as my heroes.
What’s your dream Gibson guitar?
A dream Gibson for me would be an original Advanced Jumbo from the mid 1930s or a classic sunburst Les Paul from1959. A man has gotta have a dream!
What’s next for you?
Next for me is to keep writing and strumming my guitars and trying to write songs I’m proud of. Thank you to Gibson for making such classic beautiful instruments that are the sound of the music that moves us all every day.