About half way through Guthrie’s new record you get the distinct feeling that he can play anything, and he’s having a ball doing it. We remember when Guthrie first arrived in Nashville, and his attitude hasn’t really changed. He just wants to play guitar. That’s what he does, and he’s very, very good at it. A natural, doing what he was born to do, and it shows in every song he plays. Enjoy …
TQR: Hey, Guthrie. We’ve got some catchin’ up to do.
For sure, man.
TQR: What have you been doing since I last saw you?
Well, I was playing with Don Kelley, and did that for four years. About two years into Don’s gig, I started playing with Patty Loveless. I played with her for six or seven years and got to play on a few of her records. Then I got a call from Jerry Douglas. I was actually down at Todd Sharp’s amp shop when Jerry called and he said, “Hey man, would you be interested in playing some guitar with me?” Of course, I had been listening to him since I was born. I worked with him for about six years, and I played on a couple of his records also. Then that gig ended, and I decided I wanted to stay in town, and off the road for a while. I got involved with some educational things around this time as well. ArtistWorks gave me the opportunity to develop a guitar curriculum with them, and I’ve been doing that for a few years now. I have about 800 students all around the world. I’ve also been working with John Oates a lot. I met him out in Telluride with Jerry, and John has since moved to town and we’ve become good friends. We did a record last year and I’m going out on tour with that in the next couple of months. I just finished up another solo record that was recorded about a year ago. We wrapped it up about a month ago and now I’m trying to get the artwork finished and then I’ll start promoting it. I’m gonna work with this girl out in California, Erin Cook at Jensen Communications who works with Santana, Joe Bonamassa, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Tommy Emmanuel … very guitar-centric folks. I’ve never had a publicist before so I’m looking forward to working with her and getting some traction on this record. I had some vocal guests on this one and we got back to doing some songs I used to listen to as a kid. There are 13 songs, half original and half covers. Jimmy Hall is on a few songs, Vince Gill, Danny Flowers, and Bekka Bramlett.
I’ve got some other educational things happening as well. It’s become another iron in the fire for sure. A college in North Carolina started a post graduate music school that I’m working close with. They rent my studio and office space in Berry Hill and it’s called Segue 61. It’s a boutique post graduate program for kids that have a future in the music business. We teach them all the stuff you don’t learn in college. It’s a mentor based program. Our slogan is basically, “taught by professionals, not professors.” We working pros come in and do sessions and teach about publishing, touring and all the music business aspects as well. We’ve been doing that for about two years. The education thing just fell out of nowhere and it’s been a really good income stream and also something cool to do to give back to the community.
TQR: Let’s talk about your recording. What gear did you use?
I’ve got a ‘69 Gibson 335 that I really like that I got at Gruhn’s. It used to belong to Viktor Krauss who is a really good guitar player and he loves Jimmy Page. We were on a session one day talking, and Viktor had traded his 335 for a Les Paul. I told him that I had never been able to find a really good 335 and he said, “Man, I just traded one in for a Les Paul and you ought to go down and check it out.” So I did, and I ended up buying it. It’s just been a great guitar. It’s a ‘69 with the trapeze tail piece, and I love playing that guitar. People of course associate me with playing a Telecaster, but lately I’ve been playing so much R&B, blues, and funk stuff that I don’t play that much country unless it’s on a session or with a couple of songwriters we work with in town. I still love doing it, and I actually got to play with Ben Haggard, who is Merle’s son. He just recently moved here from California and he’s a great Telecaster player. We got to play together for a couple of hours and man, he’s the shit. Maybe you could talk to him some time. I think he’s going to do very well here. Other than that I’ve been playing this 335 a lot. I’ve got a Tele that Russ Pahl built who is an amazing steel player and guitar player here. He started building guitars and they are really great. A bunch of guys have started playing them in town. It has pickups that he hand wound, and it’s gold with binding on the rosewood neck. It’s got a Firebird pickup in the front and a really twangy Tele pickup in the back. It’s a good combination. It has a concentric tone knob so you have tone controls for the front and back pickups. Then I’ve got my old
Teiscos that I use for slide and I pull those out once in a while. I’ve used my ‘33 Gibson L-00 on a couple things, I used my Sim Daley F5 style mandolin, and my 1955 Gibson J-50 acoustic on a couple of things. It records really well. I used a Collings OM prototype.
TQR: Where did you find the J-50?
I found that at Gruhn’s also. They had a few there and that was the best one. That’s a good guitar. It’s kind of like having a J-45 on a budget. They record so good. With the Gibsons I can go in the studio and record when the strings are a little bit dead and they sound great. With a Martin, dead strings don’t sound so great to me. With the Gibsons even if the strings are dead they have that nice warm midrange and they are just nice and punchy. I used a Bogner Goldfinger head on a lot of stuff. It’s got 6V6’s and 6L6’s so you can use either power tubes or both. It’s got really great reverb and a 2×12 open back cabinet. I think most people view Bogner as a super high gain amp, but the Goldfinger is very vintage based. Then I have a ‘66 Vibrolux Reverb that I really like, and I still have my old Pro Reverb that you saw me playing with at Roberts. Then I’ve got a Blackface ‘66 Princeton Reverb and a ‘65 Deluxe Reverb. I still love playing through the old Fenders the most, but the Bogner has a sweet tone in the studio. I think that’s it with amps. Then with pedals I have my go-to pedal board and a big pedal board for sessions.
TQR: What’s on your small board that you rely on?
I go into a Boss TU2 tuner, then an RC Booster, then a vintage Nobels ODR-1 overdrive, then I go into this custom fuzz pedal that I got from a guy at Exact Tone Solutions based on a Big Muff, then into my signature model overdrive the GTO (Guthrie Trapp Overdrive) by J. Rockett Audio. It’s a real good sounding overdrive and a lot of people are really liking it.
TQR: Where can you get the GTO?
You can get them at J. Rockett Audio, Carter Vintage here in Nashville, or you can get them online. From there I go into a Strymon Flint, which is reverb and tremolo but I hardly ever use the reverb. I use the tremolo all the time. Then I go into a Boss DD-7 digital delay, but the only thing I use on that is the reverse sound. I’ll use that in conjunction with the Strymon EL Capistan, (last in the chain) which is their tape delay. Sometimes I’ll back off on the wet signal of the reverse sound of the DD7 and I’ll add just a little bit of the reverse delay with a little bit of the tape delay and it creates a cool ambient sound. And then sometimes I’ll use the Hendrix-style full-on reverse delay. I don’t really use any other crazy sounds other than Vox wah sometimes.
TQR: How much of your record is electric versus acoustic?
I did two acoustic songs, one I wrote and the other I covered. I used to play with Gove Scrivenor who is a pretty famous songwriter and auto harp player and he used to do this song called Leipers Fork. I stayed pretty much faithful to his original arrangement. I played mandolin and acoustic guitar on that. On the other acoustic track I played acoustic guitar and got Sam Bush to play mandolin and Stuart Duncan played fiddle. Those are the only acoustic tracks on that record. I did a version of Buckdancer’s Choice by Taj Mahal. I did a couple of Paul Butterfield songs off that Better Days record that I used to listen to as a kid. I got Jimmy Hall to come in and sing on those. I did a couple of classic country songs— You’re Still on My Mind that George Jones and the Byrds covered, Vince Gill and Paul Franklin are on that, and then I got Charlie Worsham to come in and sing on Oh Lonesome Me by Don Gibson, with Jeff Taylor from The Time Jumpers to play accordion. Michael Rhodes, Kevin McKendree, Jon Randall and Greg Morrow are on those tracks. I did a version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with Bekka Bramlett and I played slide on the Teisco for that track. That was a one take performance. I did an African inspired instrumental called “Serengeti Spaghetti,” and another one called “On the Run” with Michael Rhodes, Pete Abbott and Matt Rollings. What happened with this record was I thought about what I wanted to do after doing a guitar instrumental record, and I thought, man, why not record some of these songs you enjoyed as a kid, dial up some of my influences, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, but it felt right and it’s really what I wanted to do. And I wanted to use some different players and friends I’ve made since the last solo recording. It’s as much about the hang as it is the music with me. It’s very important to have that vibe and relaxation. The music is better for it I believe.
TQR: Well, Guthrie, you pretty much know everybody now…
Yeah that’s kind of true. I’ve been here long enough now, 16 years and I’ve gotten to work with and know a lot of great people. That just happens when you live here. I started playing at Robert’s in 2002. So I know pretty much everybody who has been here awhile, but now there is a shitload of new ones that I don’t know! Man, you wouldn’t believe what it’s like here now. You wouldn’t recognize it. I still love living here and I believe Nashville is truly the greatest music city in the world. I know it can get a bad rap sometimes, but magic happens here. The talent pool is extremely deep and wide. It’s an amazing place to hone your craft with no real ceiling in this industry. The bar is set very high.
TQR: In what way?
Well, the skyline has changed for one. Ha. There have been so many buildings built in the past couple of years. And it’s not slowing down one bit. It’s unbelievable. They’re saying about 80 people a day are moving here and that’s been going on for years. There are a ton of music people moving here from New York and L.A. because there is not much really happening there anymore. There are people opening restaurants like crazy. It’s good. I was in Memphis last week just hanging out eating barbecue and there really isn’t much going on there anymore. It’s bitter sweet for sure. There’s a lot of new here. Memphis and New Orleans still have grit and character that we are afraid Nashville will lose completely if we’re not careful. That part is sad to me.
TQR: Well, you’re in the right spot for what you do.
Absolutely. I still wake up here and am inspired by different things for the most part. Like I said earlier, the talent and professionalism here are unparalleled. It’s also much more than a country town these days. Tons of diversity musically here now. I love it and it’s been good to me. Let the adventure continue! Thanks, David. TQ