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Would you be able to share a funny story from the studio or the road with our readers?
When I played with the Highwaymen, we started back up after a longer break with a gig in New York City’s Central Park. During the show, everyone is on stage and during Johnny Cash’s part I had a total blackout. Normally Johnny walked to the mike and said “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” and that was the sign for me to start with the intro from “Folsom Prison Blues.” This evening, Johnny walked over to the mike, stood there and said nothing and I waited and waited. After some time, Johnny turned in my direction and nodded at me as a sign to start the intro. I was so confused about the situation that I forgot the intro! I just remembered that the intro was on the deep strings and I played something totally different there just to get the show started. Luckily, the drummer joined me somewhere in this crazy intro and Johnny started singing. After the song, Waylon Jennings walked over to me and made some jokes about my freestyle intro and started to laugh like I never heard someone laugh before. After a while, I thought he might fall off of the stage from laughing so hard.
What’s your reaction when you hear yourself playing on the radio?
I think, like all session musicians, I’m my own worst critic. I often think, “Oh my God, they will never hire you again.” Recently, I was listening to the radio in my kitchen, and there was a song with an extended guitar solo in the middle. While listening I thought, “Not bad, but I could play it better.” Then I realized that I had recorded the solo myself some years ago.
When you book a studio session, do you know what you are going to play beforehand?
Not really, sometimes I have a rough draft, but no details. That’s the main reason why I always have to carry all my equipment to any session – you never know what the artist or the producer wants. When you play for someone regularly it’s a lot easier; normally there is a demo tape and a kind of “timetable” for the song, and the rest develops by itself during the session.
How many sessions do you play in a typical week?
It varies. Earlier in my career, I played up to 20 sessions a week, for months without a break. Now, I like it a little more relaxed, though I am still working a lot. I remember the days when I didn’t know that there was a Nashville outside of the studios, but I leave that for the younger guys now.
Do you think that the Nashville studio scene has changed during the last few years?
Yes, absolutely. Before, it was much easier for a newcomer to enter the scene, but today only a handful of players are doing most of the session jobs in Nashville.
What’s your take on the younger session players?
A lot of them are incredibly talented guitar players – Brent Mason and Brad Paisley are really geniuses for example.
“today only a handful of players are doing most of the session jobs in Nashville.”
For most of them you are a personal hero – how do you feel about this?
It’s really a big compliment for me, and I’m really happy that I could encourage some of them to start playing music.
What do you think is the key to your enormous success?
That’s a good question that I can’t answer! I never planned to become famous – I just walked to the studios each day to do the work they paid me for, and I did it with a smile on my face because I really love my work. Maybe I was in the right place at the right time, or I just knew the right people. Maybe a little bit of talent played a role as well.
Reggie, I noticed that you used a very minimal setup tonight. Why is that?
Well, sometimes less is more. I don’t need much on stage for a good sound, so I said goodbye to all this rack stuff some time ago. Normally I use a normal Fender ’52 vintage reissue Telecaster with an added middle pickup, a Fender silverface Twin Reverb and my pedalboard with some standard stompboxes, nothing fancy. All of this is connected with some good George L’s cables and that’s it.
“When I come home from the studio and want to relax, I play guitar.”