So an Aussie with a guitar walks into a bar off the street in New York and says, “I’m here to play with Les Paul, let me in!”… And they do, and he does! Might sound like the start of some kind of jazz-crowd joke, and it may not have quite happened that way, but it’s not far off, either! Read more about this mountain biking, bass-loving, club-crashing guitarist and composer below.
Every musician needs a hobby away from music – tell us about mountain biking!
Ha, yes! I was quite serious as a teenager in the 90s – I was even ranked #1 in downhill in Australia for a little while as a junior. In many ways, I think that my success in racing gave me the confidence to perform on the guitar. Now it’s just an amazing opportunity to get away from music, and more importantly the computer/phone. We have incredible trails in Newcastle (Australia) that overlook the beach. Nothing as crazy as Colorado though! It is a little bizarre how many guitarists seem to be into cycling!
You have a new album available; what did you feel you captured this time that you hadn’t in the past?
My new album, UNIFY, is perhaps the most cohesive from both a writing and tonal point of view. I think it does document the crazy year of my life that 2019 was, pretty well. The songs cover quite a range of my musical directions, but flow in a story. I think I’ve finally become comfortable with the fact I’m a composer as much as a guitar player. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, and so the first album I haven’t recorded in Australia. That was a pretty daunting, but exhilarating exercise. I was in Australia for Christmas, but last minute decided to fly to LA for a week to record in December 2019. I only had 3 days with my trio to not only record, but also rehearse and arrange the songs. It gives the album a spontaneity I don’t think I’ve had before, and sort of helped capture my experience of the bustle of LA last year.
What’s most important to you in an amplifier?
I think the ‘feel’ and bass response are key for me. I really like an amp to be the acoustic extension of the guitar, whether it’s an acoustic or electric instrument. Almost akin to how the soundboard responds on an acoustic guitar. Finding the Bud was a miracle for me. I love the way it projects when playing an acoustic or archtop guitar – I’ve not heard anything else like it. Compared to most ‘jazz’ guitarists, a lot of the venues I perform require that I play much louder and the BUD has delivered in situations I never thought it would cope with. And the bottom end is huge, which I need for getting the bass lines of my guitar across when playing solo.
What kind of music would your listeners be surprised to hear you like to listen to, and/or play?
I don’t think people would be too surprised with anything really. I played a lot of Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Living End when I was younger and have been listening to it a lot of the past few months again. I’d love to do an instrumental riff rock album in the future. I get lost in the tonality of great acoustic guitars, so often search out great classical and archtop recordings. I’ve also been playing a lot of classical guitar the past few months (the instrument – not so much the repertoire). I do also really love classic jazz, but I rarely got to actually perform it growing up in Australia. It always seemed to work out that I ended up being the band leader and that performances were better suited to my original material than playing standards. It’s another thing that would be great to really dive into in the future.
Tell us about a particularly crazy/unexpected, but very memorable, moment from a live performance.
I traveled to the USA by myself for the first time in 2007, sort of checking everything out and seeing if there was any way I could make a career for myself. Basically, just a holiday. When I got to NYC towards the end of my trip, I tried to catch the Les Paul show on Mondays at the Iridium. I was staying at a hostel, and so carried my guitar everywhere with me for fear of it being stolen. I got to the front door of the club and they informed me that the show was sold out for the evening. I don’t know what came over me, but I simply said “oh, I’m one of the guest artists tonight……” – they took me into the club and backstage to Les! He said “who are you?”, I told him my name and that I’d toured with Tommy Emmanuel a couple of times in Australia, to which he replied “so what songs are we going to play tonight?!” And so that’s how I walked off the street to play my first show in NYC, on Broadway, with Les Paul!!
What’s your signal chain typically like when you record, with regard to how your guitar tone is captured?
Acoustic guitar is pure microphones. My favorite setups are my Beesneez Arabella (sort of a U47) with a pair of pencil condensers in XY directly above, or a side by side mismatch pair with the Beesneez Mic and a Ribbon mic – it’s not as true sounding but very vibey. I then usually do the same Beesneez/Ribbon combo when recording electric guitar. I usually place them about 1 foot back from the speaker to have just a bit of air. Let’s face it, who listens to a guitar amp with their ear next to the speaker??? When recording an archtop, I use a blend of the acoustic sound and amp sound. A condenser or ribbon mic in front of the sound hole, and a ribbon mic in front of the amp. I love the sound that is the magical ‘somewhere’ between acoustic & electric. That’s one of the great things about the Bud – I can recreate that sound in almost any environment.
2020 has sidelined so many of us; what plans are in the works for 2021 and beyond that fans should watch out for?
Oh man, I don’t know!! We were moving back to LA from Australia a week after the world got locked down, so my plans have changed drastically! Because we’d packed up our lives here, we’re just starting to think about setting up our lives here again after lockdown has ended. Things like getting a place to live and work! I could still be into 2022 before the Australian borders are open again. In the meantime, I’m working hard on my video and streaming skills to help make online concerts better. I’ve been practicing solo a lot obviously, so it might be time to dive into a new solo album. There are also the more random recording ideas I’ve had (already mentioned), but never had the time to execute.
Ultimately, I am super thankful to be in Australia at this time, being close to family, and am taking full advantage of having a bike and incredible trails nearby! That time is always inspiring and I’m looking forward to the music it might draw out!