That’s great because your playing is really organic and rootsy; it doesn’t ever sound like “name the riff” – it never sounds derivative at all. You seem to adjust from one type – or one style – of music to another fairly easily, which leads to kind of an odd question: is there anything you don’t like to play?
That’s an interesting question. You know, there are lots of things that I can’t play, that I just don’t have an awareness of. For example, jazz. I got as far as getting into fusion, like Al DiMeola, maybe the Dregs, which are not quite jazz, but they were a mixture of almost classical and chicken-pickin’. I can’t sit down and share even several measures of any jazz standards or anything. But having said that, I think if I really loved jazz music, more contemporary jazz, then I probably would have tried harder to play it. But I don’t play classical, you know? I don’t do anything in those sorts of environments. That’s not to say I don’t love to listen to it, for example, Grant Greene, Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, or old B3 trios, like Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith. Any of the playing from the mid-‘60s up to the early ‘70s soul-jazz era.
I don’t think I’m so much genre-specific; I’m really song-centric. I like to play really good, well-written songs – and that’s a big part of moving to Nashville; wanting to play with great, nice people – hopefully – and then playing within the context of a great song.
What kinds of jobs have you been doing lately: recording, live, soundtracks, or a little bit of everything?
Not so much any soundtrack work. I haven’t been exposed to that here so far. I think those jobs might be more Los Angeles or New York based since so much of the film industry is based in those areas. I’ve been doing more live playing, and session work as well, and a big help for me has been a couple of Nashville A-list musicians here – Kenny Greenberg and Tom Bukovac. They are two of the top tier guitar players here. I put out a solo record Tailgate Troubadour a couple years ago that they were kind enough to give me some feedback on, and they both had called me and said, “Hey, you should move to Nashville.” They were really a turning point for me being able to move here and to be able to meet people and quickly start to get opportunities and gigs. Through Kenny and Tom both, I ended up doing several weeks with Wynonna Judd within a couple of months of arriving here, which was fantastic. That’s kind of a freak opportunity that can sometimes take years and years to get.
|“The trick is finding your voice on the instrument, whatever it is, and figuring out a way to maximize it so hopefully you can make a living with it.”
And I’m incredibly grateful; I don’t take it as, “Oh that’s normal, that’s how it works.” I’ve been very fortunate that these guys have taken an interest in me and have been very supportive. They’ve become great friends. Tom Bukovac got me to play on a bonus track for the new Keith Urban record, and I’d just been here a month-and-ahalf. I was able to play on a Keith Urban session with Dan Huff and Bukovac – all the A-list guys playing – and it was a surreal moment.
What was your first Nashville session like? Were you freaking out, or was that it?
That was it! That was my first Nashville session.
Wow! You don’t mess around.
Honestly, it was daunting. I mean, you move to Nashville, and the move is traumatic enough, just as you get older, you know? You have a wife involved, and buying a home; it’s not as easy as when I was 18 years old moving to San Francisco.
But then to be walking into the studio and you’re seeing these musicians who are like Mothra and Godzilla and Ultra Man, you know? These unbelievable players, top of their game – the highest caliber musicians in the world, and they’re saying, “Hey, Greg, we need you to play acoustic guitar on this. You and Dan are going to play the chunky rhythm part like one big guitar.” It was pretty surreal. One of the most difficult things, and I’m still learning to adjust to it, is the Nashville Number System [see sidebar for more about this notation system].
When we talked before, you had mentioned doing some live playing. How does the live scene in Nashville currently compare to some of the other places you’ve lived, like L.A. and Austin?
Well, it’s kind of sad, actually. There’s a tremendous amount of musical talent here, and there’s a reasonable amount of live venues, but unfortunately, musicians are not getting the support from people to come out and see them play, or from club owners being able to pay them a reasonable amount of money. So what happens is a lot of musicians play in Nashville not so much to make money, but to have the emotional release from performing live on stage – especially a lot of the session musicians. They’re doing sessions all day long and they sometimes go by so quickly, and they can be very high-pressure situations. If you’re doing somebody’s record, they might want to get three, four, five songs done in a day, but if you’re doing demo sessions for a publisher, they might be getting ten songs done within a three hour period, and it’s unbelievable.
When you’re in that compressed environment in the studio, sometimes it goes by so quickly that you want to get out and play something where you can just do whatever you want, and that’s where the live gigs come in wonderfully. They give you a chance to just blow off some steam and exist in a looser environment. Having said that, there are many musicians who make a lot more money playing outside of Nashville; they’ll drive to Memphis, Atlanta and so forth because they’re able to make a better living in terms of the live environment.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of live music in Nashville, it’s just that it can be quite difficult unless you’re playing covers, or doing showcases, which happens a lot here, where great musicians will play for artists who are trying to get record deals. You can do quite well with those type of things.