How long have you been playing?
I started playing guitar & bass 25 years ago, at 13 years old. I also took piano lessons when I was a kid.
What are some bands and singers that you've played with?
Kelly Clarkson, Mandisa, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, Danny Gokey, Laura Story, Sara Groves, Nicole C. Mullen, Janice Gaines, Superchick, Stars Go Dim, Tim Hughes, B.Reith, Anthony Skinner and the Immersion Family Band, Lindsay McCaul, Sidewalk Prophets, and many many others in studio including Michael W. Smith. Also, through a couple random connections, I was (and currently have been) commissioned for the scoring and production for a half dozen or more tv commercials and documentaries in the last few years.
Coffee or Tea?
What's your rig look like these days?
This fall I'm out playing shows with Kelly Clarkson, and the production team really prefers the use of digital rigs; so my rig is mainly the Kemper Profiler. I have a few presets per song saved on it. I spent quite a long profiling one particular amp of mine into the Kemper, and, as much as sort of hate to admit it, it did a great job. I'm also playing some secondary keyboard parts for her.For the rest of my gigs, I've used my Browne amplification amps exclusively the last decade (primary gigging live with a variant of the Dumble ODS he built me). Recently, I added a very special amp J Chester Amps built me that has a 6sL7 Octal tube preamp and KT66 power tubes. All these hand-wired amps are outrageously good. I have several other amps I use on recording sessions. I play Ricardo Sanchez Guitars (Nashville) almost exclusively. His talent as a luthier really has allowed me to build a few "dream" guitars. I do use an analog pedal board with Kelly as well; compression, boost pedals and various other stuff. I use as little pedals as I can get away with. I like a great compressor. Two drive pedals I've held on to for quite some time now were made by Lumpy's Tone Shop (now discontinued), and I've held onto a Keeley Aurora reverb for awhile now too. About 10 years ago I started running my compressors and drives at 18v (only pedals that have that capability). The tonal and dynamic benefit of that change made the daily use of pedals on the job much more enjoyable for me. I'm currently using the Truetone RT66 as my compressor. It's extremely versatile, quiet, has a clean blend feature and can run at 18v. They redesigned it from the ground up, and they nailed it. Sounds really great on bass as well, plus it's a double pedal, with a very useful overdrive circuit. I very rarely change or buy new analog pedals for my pedalboard, but I do end up switching out the digital based pedals often. In the live, gigging environment, my ear fatigues quickly of the sounds digital pedals make, gets boring quick. Funny thing, it doesn't matter how expensive or cheap the digital pedals are, I have the same experience every time. In the recording studio, I have an easier time with digital effects, and the sounds they produce.
Do you have a set rig or are do you switch things out a lot?
I've always switched things out a lot as far as effects, and probably always will! Not so much with amps and guitars though.
Having toured so much, what is one of your favorite memories so far from the road?
Well, for me it's the off stage stuff I will probably remember most, because I've had the great honor of touring with some of my closest friends in life. But, I suppose if I had to pick favorite full-production scale concerts, I'd say: playing Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado; playing in the middle Times Square nyc; playing Central Park nyc, Madison Square Garden, Chicago Theater is a fav, network TV morning shows; a massive soccer stadium in Rwanda; the Ryman auditorium is also really fantastic to play on stage at. I got to play my 8 string console steel guitar on a couple songs at the Ryman, that was kind of surreal. Also really enjoyed playing the Sprint Center in my hometown of Kansas City. It's been a fun ride so far, been on the road a lot more than I thought I would in my career, as I always had more of a passion for the studio.
Have you had any disasters happen on stage?
Nothing truly disastrous, but, one story: I was working for a friend of mine (a lead singer); and we (the band) were starting the show with an "intro" piece while they made their way to stage. Now we knew that this dear friend had not been feeling well, and had taken some DayQuil before the show. Turns they had taken NyQuil by accident, and was quite disoriented as they came on for the first song; to the point where we realized our friend and lead singer had put their shoes on the wrong feet! There they were, singing their guts out (idk how they remembered the words) and the rest of us are dying laughing. And, our fearless, loopy lead singer kept turning around between songs and asking what was so funny!! One of my all time favorite moments on stage.
What are some good practice habits to develop?
Practice everything & anything you can get your hands on. Learn to read music if you don't know how. Listen to as much of and as many styles as you can; and try to imagine yourself loving that music as much as you love the music you grew up on. Listening is the key to being a great musician. Transcribing other musician's playing is good, but, is only truly beneficial to you in the long run if you are able to analyze accurately what is being played and why the player or composer arrived at the notes they arrived at. Learn piano if that is not your instrument; learn drums if you are a pianist. Etc.... When you practice scales, practice the chords that belong to each note in the scale. (i.e. C major scale = note C gets a maj chord assigned to it, D gets a minor chord, E gets a minor...so on and so forth) All scales (even the more dissonant and strange sounding ones) have chords assigned to each note in the scale. This is called practicing harmonized scales, as opposed to only practicing scales as single notes. If you play a monophonic instrument (like trumpet....or human voice!) you should play the note and chord combo of the scale as arpeggios. That goes for chordal instruments as well, practice the chords as "blocks" and "arpeggiated."
Is there anything special you do to prepare for gigs?
I chart out and notate, on paper, the songs I'm supposed to play. Then practice to the point where hand/eye coordination has memorized the arrangement and placement on the instrument itself for the songs. Photographic and muscle memory working together. For many years before I toured on big stages; most of the music I played was sight, or chart reading, so I've always reserved the memorization part of my brain for performances that have more stage production, or a band vibe. Always be prepared to play every song in any key if possible.
What advice would you give to the teenage-version of yourself?
Determine if music is your true passion and move a music industry town. You cannot know what effort it will take for you to be a professional and excel in the business side of music, until you witness the folks that are doing it for real. Don't wait too long to be assessed and given feedback by a professional on where they think your abilities are at in the bigger picture of being hired. Be sure to have an outlet for the music inside of you, that is unique to you. Open your mind to music that you don't think you like.
Any advice for our readers on becoming a better player?
Learn from other instruments that you don't play. Piano players like Herbie Hancock have changed my idea of what is possible in music, and I find ways to apply it to the instrument I'm playing. As you are unlocking the puzzle and blueprint of your particular instrument, remember that that's only half the picture. If you truly want to enjoy music as a life long passion, go beyond your instrument and learn how great music is made, and what was she/he/they thinking when they wrote that music. For that matter, ask yourself when you hear yourself play or write something that caught your own ear.
This has been great, man! Thanks for your time! Now it's time for me to go practice...