concerning influence

everybody has their influences. for instance, i think that author dave eggers (a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, you shall know our velocity, what is the what) hung the moon. when i write i wish it woud come out like something he wrote. he’s funny, thoughtful, paranoid, beautiful, outrageous, and humble all at the same time. anyways. i get asked a lot who my favorite guitar players are. I usually can’t think of who they are. I never was the kind of person that sat and tried to learn jimi hendrix albums note for note. i wish i had.

that’s not to say i don’t have favorite guitar players. i do. i have plenty. usually they are the people i play with or am friends with. like john mark mcmillan. he’s a great guitar player. i love his sense of rhythm. or leonard jones. he has the ability to completely blow your mind. and there are plenty of younger (than me) guitar players around town that really have something special. i learn from all of them. there are also the big dogs. the ones on the radio, television and the magazines. i used to study guitar player magazine when i was a kid. i knew every piece of gear everybody used. dreaming of being on the cover. that would be cool. probably won’t ever happen. just sayin’.

here’s a small list of who made me want to play. who made me keep playing. who made me push harder and who made me dig deeper. some are obvious. some aren’t.

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Jimmy Page.

I got a good education, musically anyways, from my brother josh. And when I was in 5th and 6th grade it was all about Led Zeppelin. He drove us to school and every day we listened to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. We got the Led out. Every day.  i love his solos. they have such great melody, but they were usually really loose. In a good way. Like they are off the cuff (which is awesome), and he doesn’t care about technique. He cares about heart. Where is that in music today?  He was the perfect fit for Robert Plant.  Every guitar player dreams about that kind of relationship.

Jimmy page was in my head before a guitar was in my hands.

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Buddy Miller.

About ten years ago I was backstage at an Emmylou Harris show. Not because I was cool, but because I was guitar teching for the opener. And I was walking around and saw these amazing looking guitars. They looked like they should have been on the jetsons.  Glittery finishes, weird push buttons, basket woven screens over the non-typical f holes. The man unpacking them was a quiet gray haired man that just looked at me, smiled, and said “hey”.  I figured he was the guitar tech or something, until I saw him on stage playing next to Emmylou. That was Buddy Miller, and those were his Wandre guitars. I never heard anything else from him until a couple years ago and I was introduced to his solo music.  He and his wife play really great americana music. His guitar sound is unbelievable.  His whole approach was like nothing I’d heard before.  He can go from a straight, dry, country sound to a huge, washed out, ambient  sound and everything in between. His guitars on Fire and Water changed my thinking. His playing on Don’t Wait made me mad. He’s a beautiful guitar player.

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Kevin Cadogan.

The original guitar player for Third Eye Blind.  Say what you want about them, their first record was a guitar masterpiece.  He had some of the best guitar tones, melodies, and noise of the nineties. He recorded the guitars in the scoring room of George Lucas’ SkyWalker Ranch.  That’s  boss.  Anyways, he introduced something completely new for pop music.  His alternate tunings are mind blowing and his rhythm guitar work was groundbreaking. I’m not talking about Semi Charmed life. I’m talking about Losing a Whole Year, Thanks A Lot, God of Wine, and Motorcycle Drive By.  Seriously, Kevin Cadogan is an amazing guitar player. Larry Mullen Jr. called him a  “Top Guitarist”. Whatever that means, but, we all know who Larry plays with…

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The Edge.

Well.  What can I say.  The Edge is my guitar hero.  The Edge is my how-to book. The Edge is my dropped jaw, my how’d he do that, my oh my god, my did you just hear that, my rewind that, and my wish I’d done that first.  The Edge is my Eddie Van Halen.  He writes the melodies that live in my heart. He’s the most simple, but he’s the most technical. He can whisper and he can shout.  He can cry and he can scream.   You know the intro to Where the Streets Have No Name? He wrote that. He made that up. And he played it. You know the Solo on Love is Blindness? Played it.  Pride? That’s The Edge. I could go on forever.  He has created some of the most unique guitar sounds ever. Chimey Dotted Delay aside, go listen to Mysterious Ways, or the whole Achung Baby, Zooropa, And Pop albums.  Seriously, it’s unbelievable.   His rhythm guitar playing is way underrated.  Even the way he pounds on an acoustic is totally unique.  He really shines live.  His solos are often extended. His solo on ONE on the ZOO TV dvd will make you cry.  His solo on Please on the POPMART cd will change your life.  His intro to Where The Streets Have No Name on the Rattle and Hum dvd will add ten years to your life. He’s the best.

 Incidentally, it was riding to school in the 4th grade with my brother Josh where I fell in love with U2. Like I said: quite the education.

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Craig Ross.

He’s probably not that well known to most people, but he’s been backing up Lenny Kravitz for years.  He’s the skinny white boy with the big afro.  He’s a great guitar player.  His solos are raw, rough and totally rock and roll. He is a big influence on my lead playing. I don’t really play that kind of music, unfortunately, but it’s there. Big time. He’s got a great look too.

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Ryan Adams.

I know right.  Most people wouldn’t think, “oh man, he’s a killer guitar player”. Ryan Adams is a killer guitar player.  His acoustic playing is a huge influence on my electric playing.  The way he accompanies his vocal melody is beautiful.  It’s his signature. I also love his electric playing.  it’s nasty.

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Stu G.

I think this man is really responsible for the Delirious sound.  Since day one he has always pushed to find new sounds for their music.  He’s always experimenting.  The guitars on Glo are unbelievable. The guitar sounds were seriously outrageous.  Mezzamorphis was another benchmark.   His guitar playing influenced the worship movement more than most people realize.  Nobody had Ebow’s before “Find Me in the River” or “Obsession”.  Nobody used Zvex pedals on worship music.  There wouldn’t be Hillsong United if there wasn’t a Delirious. Yes, I realize there would be no Delirious if there was no Radiohead or U2.  Whatever. He’s the Christian guitar hero. Christians need their rock stars too…

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4 comments

  1. Stu G is really a great guitarist, I love the introduction and the last solo of the song “Investigate”…

    but as you said:..

    The Edge is the best!

  2. i agree, ryan adams is definitely underrated as a guitarist. no one can deny his songwriting abilities, but im completely blown away when i hear his guitar playing, and how his parts and neal casals would fit together so perfectly for the songs. idk if you’ve seen the avatar sessions they did where they just jam on songs. goodnight rose gives me chills…..

  3. Guitar Heroes?

    The Edge (U2), Stu G (Delirious?), Ryan Smith (Christian City Church, Australia),
    James Duke, Ian Hutton (Paperadio), Michael Guy Chisllet, Joe Perry (Aerosmith) and Slash.

    Thank’s for your influence James, keep rocking this world!

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