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Had you ever worked with Eric Krasno before this?
No, but we knew each other. It felt like a perfect fit from the beginning.
Was it a conscious decision to have a guitarist produce the album?
Yes. I wanted this album to push guitar music forward and challenge some other guitarists to come into my world.
Speaking of other guitarists, you have a few guests joining you. How did you decide on whom to invite?
My manager put a list of possible guest guitarists together that I approved. Then Krasno invited them and they said yes right away—it was that simple. What an honor it was to play with these great musicians. I have enormous respect for John [Scofield]. Though we only played together for a short time, he showed me a kind of patience on the guitar that I really appreciate and I will carry with me from now on.
What did Dave Matthews bring to “All the Same”?
He brought his own soul to the song. He understood what I was expressing in it and he developed that idea into something that larger audiences can understand and appreciate. He is a huge talent and I am so thankful that he has blessed this song.
You have a great fuzzy tone on “Borei.” How did you record that in the studio?
I played around with the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus and my Boss SD-1 [Super OverDrive] until I got just the right sound. I think they made it a bit brighter when they mixed the album.
Touré employs his unique two-finger picking style on his Godin Summit CT.
Note the plastic fingerpick worn on his index finger. Photo by Derek Beres
What gear did you use for the sessions?
For the sessions in Mali, I used my Godin Summit CT through the JC-120. Other than the SD-1, the only other effect I used was a Boss CH-1 [Super Chorus]. During the New York sessions, the studio had a great Mexican-made Strat that had Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups. I plugged that into a vintage ’68 Fender Super Reverb.
What was the biggest surprise during the sessions?
I think hearing Dave Matthews’ verse was the most surprising. I knew he was a big star and would do something nice on the song, but I had no idea he would capture the spirit of the song and launch it into the stars the way he did. I was blown away.
How does improvisation factor into your performances?
My style is based in improvisation. New songs usually come to me as I improvise. Live, the songs never sound the same as they did the last time. It’s about creating a base for soloing and improvising, so for me it’s very important to allow space for things to change and for new things to come into the music. For example, “Lakkal (Watch Out)” was completely improvised in the studio with Krasno, Tim Keiper, and Eric Herman—my manager and occasional bass player. We just sat down and started jamming on some ideas, and before we knew it we had this new song. On the album, that song is right next to others that took years to evolve.