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John Prestia: Behind the Scenes in Nashville

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When we do a show, we are not dinking around jamming – it''s a show. It''s a pretty tightly coordinated deal with the lights, video, sound, and guitar changes all coordinated. I''ve had to do as many as three guitar changes in a song. Denny goes from steel to electric, Darren switches out, and I''m running around with an armload of guitars. I like to be stealthy when I do it, so sometimes the guitar just appears. Like, where did that come from? I remember going and seeing shows as a kid, and it was like magic, all of the gear and the guitars.

As the guitar guy, is it your responsibility to get the gear where it needs to be?

Yes, we have a couple of great companies that we work with that keep the backlines straight, like when we do Today in New York or The Tonight Show in L.A., they make sure that everything is there for the shows. The company is Center Staging; their gear is always in good shape and is what we ask for.

For the main touring rigs in Tim''s World, we’ve used stereo paired Peavey Classic 50s with 4x10s as long as I''ve been here. I never had any experience with these before I joined Tim, but they''re just a great EL84-type amp. Peavey is a great company for us to work with; if I have a problem, I just call them up and they’ll overnight us whatever we need, and it will be at the arena office when we get there. G&L Guitars has been great with us also – great guitars and great support. We also work with Taylor guitars; Bob Borbonus (Artist Relations) is great to work with.

We work with a lot of the different guitar companies; if we need a Les Paul, we go to Gibson and get one and make sure that it gets some visibility. We are responsible to our endorsers to play the gear, and we love it. We don''t take stuff just to have free gear – we already have 22 trucks of stuff! But it''s a valuable thing to get a product seen with a high-profile artist like Tim. I remember as a kid, I got my old Firebird because Johnny Winter and Dave Mason were playing them. I had to have one! I don''t forget that it''s a valuable thing for artists to influence sales, if they can afford to do so.

What about other backline stuff? Do you use leslie cabs for guitar?

Not live; we do use them for the keys, and in the studio if we want a leslie for the guitar we use one, but out on the road the pedalboards are set up to simulate and create any special needs that we may have.

Let’s look at one of the pedalboards.

You can see that we have the wires all routed from underneath the metal and the power supply is under there also. I build the board with the specific pedals any of the players want. For mine, I love the fat boost, and the Keeley compressor – those two are on all the time. Then there’s the Line 6 echo and modulation pedals, a Fulltone Fulldrive II, a Tubescreamer TS-9, a Keeley compressor, a wah pedal, a volume pedal, and the most important part, a tuner. I have a couple of outlets to side-car the expression pedals for the Line 6 pedals, and a send and receive circuit in case I want to add anything on-the-fly; it’s pretty simple over all. I''ll use the two drive pedals with each other – I set the drives kind of low so I can build the tones. I like the midrange thing with the TS-9 and the full body of the Fulltone II. I built a custom board for Denny and a second studio board for him that has the new OCD on it also.

So this is the board I played when I sat in with you a couple of weeks ago. When you''re in town it seems like you gig a lot, and with great players.

Oh, the players are there when they can be, and I use others when they can''t. One night it might be Rick Brothers (Gretchen Wilson) on drums, and Chris Tuttle on keys, Anthony Joyner (Shania Twain) on bass, maybe Bart Pike (Danny Gatton) the next night or Bruce Brown (Charlie Daniel''s Band) on guitar. There are a whole lot of great players here in Nashville and I love having them all as friends, and sometimes bandmates. Living here, the bar is raised up pretty high and it makes me become a better player and musician.

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