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more... ArtistsBill HullettMarch 2009

Bill Hullett: Music City Session Man

When you’re called to do a session, do you have any idea going in what you’ll be doing?

We almost never do we know what we’ll be doing… I’ve left the house and played Bluegrass acoustic in the morning, country Tele twangin’ style in the afternoon, and then Memphis style R&B in the evening—and gotten up the next day and done even weirder combinations of stuff! We usually get to the session… someone will give us an idea of where to set up, and generally what instruments you might want to bring in from your car (I usually carry about a dozen different guitars with me). Then after everyone gets sounds—this might take twenty minutes—we listen to the work tape and either write a number chart or follow along with one that would have been written by the session leader the night before in some cases. Then we talk about it for about three minutes and go run it down, talk about five more minutes, and cut it for real. If it’s not exactly right, we may cut it one more time, but generally speaking, it never goes too much further than that. Then the session guys will ask the engineer to punch a section or two if need be, and that will be a track. From the first listen of the work tape to a finished track might take 45 minutes to an hour… then it’s “next please.”

How many sessions do you do on a typical day?

Nashville sessions ninety percent of the time are run very orderly. The first session of the day is 10 am to 1 pm, the second session runs 2 to 5 pm, and the third session runs 6 to 9 pm. Very rarely these days, although quite frequently twenty years ago, is an evening session that runs from 10 pm to 1 am… a throw back to the beginning of Nashville, when there were just a few session guys and there always had to be order applied so that one session would never overlap with another—so that everyone could use the “A” Team during any given day. The town has always stuck to that schedule ever since. It’s a great way to do it… just becomes habit after so long.

As far as typical… there is not a typical. I’ve done days when I’ve been back home after one session, and I’ve done weeks where I’ve had four sessions a day, every day! And basically felt like I was out on the road living in my van. I’ve done months where I had 50 or 60 sessions in a month, and slow months where I’ve had only a dozen or so… you never know what’s ahead. You’re always one phone call away from racing through traffic trying to get to the next studio on time.

How much of the tonality of a particular guitar do you think is in the player’s hands and touch?

The longer I play, the more I’m inclined to believe that most of the tone that an instrument makes is a by-product of the hands and ears of the person playing it—cause I can’t find any new tone! Seriously, I think you can just about “will” a guitar to do things. There’s a guy I know from California that makes his Strat sound exactly like a big hollowbody Gibson with P-90s, like a switchmaster! It’s the most uncanny thing I’ve ever seen… it’s definitely in his ears and touch.

Are you planning to record a follow-up of your solo project Two-Lane Blacktop?

Yes, I am. I actually already have a good portion of it done. I’m working on a scheme for an unusual way to release it, so keep your eyes peeled... if I pull off my idea for distribution, I’ll be sure to check back and let you know. Thanks for asking!

Bill’s Gearbox
Electric Guitars:
2 custom-made Teles (Brian Poe ash body, Allparts TMO Fat neck, Alan Hamel Broadcaster pickups, and Glendale bridge hardware)

1 custom-made Strat (USACustom body, Allparts Fat Strat neck, Alan Hamelpickups, Glendale three-piece strat bridge)

Acoustic Guitars:
1961 D-21 Martin
1964 Epiphone Texan
(a twin to Paul McCartney’s)
1970 Guild 12 string
1917 A-3 Gibson Mandolin
4x10 Hullett Tweed Bassman (handwired replica of a 1959 Bassman made by Clay Hullett)
1x12 Hullett Tweed Deluxe
Egnater Rebel 20
1961 Gibson Ranger

Analogman Bi-Comp compressor

Bill's Websites:
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