Riding the frets with a well-worn steel whiskey flask, Broadbent flogs his open-D-tuned Hofner Senator. About his choice of slide, Broadbent says, “Playing on the cold streets of England, it’s nice to have some good company in your pocket.” Photo by Justin Brown
What are those distinctive-looking guitars you’re using?
They are both 1965 Hofners. One is a Congress model, the other’s a Senator. The Senator is the one I use for slide guitar. I found them to be very robust. I like the sound and look of them. I’m currently endorsed by Hofner, but I choose to play the older instruments for their tone.
What gauge strings do you use?
I use heavy strings, like .013s on the Senator for slide guitar, and .012s on the Congress. I usually go for D’Addario.
Do you use the same tunings for lap and standard playing?
Generally, I like to play in D, because it suits where my voice sits, but when you’re using open tunings, the simple application of a capo means you’ve got quite a lot of freedom to play in other keys.
Is it full open D—with the 3rd string tuned to F#—or some variation on that?
Open-D [D–A–D–F#–A–D] is the staple, yeah, but I’ve got a couple of hybrids for a few tunes. I like to keep those a little closer to my chest.
What amp do you use when playing on the street?
I haven’t played on the street for about six years now, but when I did I always used a Roland Cube Street. I still do. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sometimes, say for recording, I’ll flirt with other things, but because I’ve managed to get a sound together like that, I try not to steer too far away from it. I like that scratchy sound.
Are you using that now at festivals and clubs?
Still using the shanty busking equipment, yeah. I generally DI the amplifier, so I’m using it as a glorified distortion pedal and reverb unit.
In one video, it looked like you were sitting on your amp.
I still do that as homage to where it all kicked off from. It keeps me subconsciously grounded. I run the amp off six AA batteries, which is pretty crazy. When I was opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Peter Frampton, and Ronnie Wood, the sound engineers were always going, “You’re going to use batteries?” I’m like, “Yep.” Sometimes you get a little extra saturation and thickness of tone when the batteries start to run down a little.
On Moonshine Blue, is that just you or are you playing with other musicians?
The new record was a little different. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s current piano player, Peter Keys, is playing keys on it. I recorded it at his studio in Nashville. My father plays bass, and it’s me playing percussion. Bruce Cameron, who produced it with me, plays some keyboards as well, and a guy called Mickey Gutierrez plays a saxophone solo on one of the songs.
A lot of times when people usually play solo, it can be hard for them to sync with other musicians.
I played live in the room with my father, and then added the percussion afterwards. All the other pieces came in around that.
The album sounds very intimate.
We close-miked the vocal and the guitars, particularly on the softer material, to get that proximity.
Were you using the Roland amp in the studio?
I definitely used it for the slide guitar parts. This time I wanted the slide guitar to be more an accompanying instrument, rather than always the lead part, so I recorded the bones of the songs on acoustic guitar. I then added the slide around it in the same way I was adding keyboards, just to support the material.
Were you using the Hofner Congress for the acoustic parts?
For some songs I used my Hofner. For others, I used a Gibson L-00, which is like a reissue of the LG-2. I now actually have a 1949 Gibson LG-2 that I just picked up, which will be definitely featured on the next record. It has such a beautiful, clean acoustic tone.
How was the high sustained note at the end of “Moonshine Blue” produced?
I used an EBow and slide.
It sounds like different guitars were used for the rhythm and slide parts.
It was the Hofner Congress, my acoustic guitar for the rhythm part, and then the slide solo was the Senator with amplification.
How did you get the distortion on the slide guitar on “The Lucky Ones”?
That is from the Cube.
There’s a filtered background sound on the intro to “Wishing Well.” Is that a keyboard?
That is a reverse guitar. I took a section of the guitar and stuck it in backwards … just classic messing-around studio stuff.
There’s also a distorted guitar behind the acoustic, and a solo that sounds like multiple guitars at the same time.
I used acoustic guitar as the basis, and then used a Gibson Melody Maker to double up the rhythm part and for the solos. I tried to weave the solos off each other. I split them left and right, and let them fight. I wanted them to go off like fireworks. I was recording with a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, so there was definitely an element of sneaking in that double-threat guitar solo thing.
“The Other Side” has an interesting chord progression—E minor to C minor. What inspired that?
I was experimenting with tunings. That song’s played in a drop-C tuning—essentially open-G but with a low C in the bass. There was something about being able to anchor back to that C that felt nice.
Tunes like “Tonight” and “The Lucky Ones” have a pop feel. Where do those sorts of influences come from?
I love bands like Steely Dan, Little Feat, and the Doobie Brothers. I was listening to all that stuff when I was about 16, so I suppose any hint of a popular music aspect was coming from my love of bands like that. I’ve never been shy of a hook.
There is a very ’70s Laurel Canyon sound to some of the songs on the album.
That comes from my love of the Band, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Joni Mitchell. All the good stuff.
Was the sparse production influenced by the fact that you knew you’d be going out and playing it solo?
Yeah. I can play the whole record solo acoustic, because all the songs were written solo acoustic. In the studio, it’s more about color and to be able to hear the potential of extra parts.
What’s the plan from here?
I just came off tour all over the States, from Alaska to Florida, from Seattle to L.A., and back up to Chicago. Now, I’m in [coronavirus-mandated] isolation. The next record is written. I was supposed to be going into the studio in the next couple of weeks. Obviously, due to the current situation, that’s having to be pushed forward. It means I’ve got more time now to refine what I was already working on.
Where are you going to record the new album?
I like to record at home studios in nice locations, where I have freedom to not worry too much about how much time I have. The idea was to go and do it in the South of France at my friend’s place. Me and my producer, Bruce Cameron, were going to take some gear down somewhere vibey, old-Rolling-Stones-style. I like to work at night and not a lot of professional studios like you staying up until 5 in the morning.
Not anymore, anyway.
Well, exactly, and you can’t even have a spliff while you’re working.