Have guitar, will travel: Maverick Wings axeman Laurence Juber steps out
Laurence Juber knows a thing or two about self-motivation. With music coursing through his veins, the innovative fingerstyle guitarist acquired his first instrument at age 11. Beatlemania soon came crashing into every suburban home in London, taking no prisoners. Indeed, the aspiring musician began taking guitar lessons one week before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” dropped.
But the Beatles were only one microcosm influencing Juber’s musical palette. He deconstructed what he heard on the radio, whether Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Eric Clapton, or Django Reinhardt. One day he would focus on a guitar solo, another time it might be a drum pattern.
Very eclectic in his musical tastes, Juber became an in-demand session cat in England, eventually finding worldwide fame after rhythm guitarist Denny Laine recommended he audition to be Paul McCartney’s lead axeman in Wings just before the commencement of the Back to the Egg sessions. The frenzied flamenco solo on the catchy “Goodnight Tonight” stand-alone single may well have been Juber’s shining hour.
His Wings tenure lasted three years and really shouldn’t have ended so soon if not for the inexplicable complications of the former cute Beatle’s marijuana bust — which led to a lucrative tour of Japan being cancelled — and then the senseless murder of John Lennon. A distraught and musically adrift McCartney decided to dissolve the band in early 1981.
Juber made the crucial decision to pack his bags and depart London for the Big Apple. After a serendipitous courtship with Hope Schwartz, the daughter of Gilligan’s Island / Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz, the guitarist decided to shift locales and move to sunny Los Angeles.
Raising a family became his top priority, and Juber was content to remain fully immersed incognito in the studio, contributing lead guitar to George Harrison’s dire Shanghai Surprise soundtrack, the reformed Monkees trio’s comeback hit “That Was Then, This Is Now,” and such ’80s staples as Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” and Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley’s kitschy Dirty Dancing duet, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
Advertising jingles for Coca-Cola and an assortment of incidental background music on popular television shows also kept Juber quite engaged. If you stumble upon Tim Allen’s perpetually syndicated sitcom Home Improvement, that’s Juber noodling the distinctive guitar interludes. The songwriter was finally convinced to unleash his debut proper solo album, the appropriately titled Solo Flight, in 1990.
Now a bona fide U.S. citizen who has resided in L.A. for 40 years, the intense Scorpio’s creativity is at its zenith. He releases new instrumental albums on an annual basis — 24 thus far including LJ Can’t Stop Playing The Beatles! — and can be seen dazzling American audiences in his one-man show. The adjustment to performing entirely solo was initially quite a challenge. Studying the delivery of stand-up comedians fortunately helped Juber fine tune his stage technique.
Journalist Marshall Terrill, who co-authored Juber’s 2014 photographic coffee table memoir Guitar with Wings, considers the guitarist to be “a virtuoso who can play any style — pop, rock, jazz, folk, country, noir, anything. When I saw him perform live, he was the greatest guitarist I have ever seen. When you see him live as opposed to on television or video, it doesn’t truly convey his talent.
“He is perhaps the hardest working musician I know. He does about 100 concerts a year, soundtrack work, recording sessions, teaches workshops, plays cruises and conventions and records his own solo work. He has a talent and has never betrayed that talent or has taken it for granted. He truly lives up to his full potential.”
With such accolades, it seemed a perfect opportunity to catch up with the talented Martin guitar-endorsing musician and shoot the breeze about his fascinating career in the conclusion of a comprehensive profile debuting exclusively below. In case you missed Part One, entitled “Having a ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ with Passionate Wings Guitarist Laurence Juber,” it’s available by clicking on the link.
The Laurence Juber Interview, Part Two
Who were your musical influences growing up, and where did the Beatles fit into that grand scheme?
You know, the Beatles weren’t really the first. The Shadows were probably the first. They were an English band similar to the Ventures in America. They played Fender Stratocasters and had this great twangy instrumental thing. And they influenced the Beatles. The first official Beatle composition was an instrumental tune called “Cry for a Shadow”, written by John Lennon and George Harrison. It was their tribute to the Shadows.
There were all kinds of other music I enjoyed. I heard Elvis, I heard Buddy Holly. What happened was — in 1963 the Beatles really started coming into people’s consciousness in England. During the course of that year, there was just a buildup in intensity to the point that when I got my first guitar at age 11 in November 1963, a week or so later With the Beatles was released.
And I started guitar lessons that week. Then the following week “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” dropped. When I got the guitar, I realized I loved the sound of it, and it was just so much fun to play. That became the focus of my creative attention and fairly quickly, my career attention.
The Beatles certainly were a part of that, but it wasn’t just the Beatles. In fact, just the other day I found a picture of my bedroom when I was 14 or 15. I zoomed in and I realized all the pictures on the wall were the Rolling Stones [laughs]. I didn’t put up pictures of the Beatles — I put up pictures of the Stones, the Animals…
My influences were very much along the lines of the guitar players. Beyond George Harrison, most especially was Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck. But also jazz guitar players like Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, and Howard Roberts. Folk guitarists including early Bob Dylan and early Paul Simon.
I got into ragtime guitar through Stefan Grossman. English folk guitar players such as Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Django Reinhardt was a big influence, too. Whatever kind of guitar, it didn’t matter.
But you see, there were many levels to this. On one hand, I was taking whatever I could from all the different guitar players I was hearing. In the classical world — Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, and John Williams.
Also, I was listening to pop records and deconstructing them. I would listen to records on the radio and listen to what the bass was doing, or what the drums were doing. Trying to understand how music was put together.
In England we had a lot of folky pop bands. We had a group called the Springfields, which was Dusty Springfield and her brothers. Then there was the Seekers, just a lot of melodic pop folk artists. I was just very eclectic in my musical tastes. I’d listen to anything.
Actually, that paid off, because I had to be able to play almost anything as a studio musician. I think that was really part of what got me into Wings. My versatility was something that I think appealed to Paul and Denny Laine. Paul himself is very versatile. I can play lots of different styles but also strap on the Gibson SG and play rock and roll lead guitar, too. It all kind of just worked for me.
Which Elvis Presley musical era do you prefer?
The early Elvis stuff — I love the Sun Sessions. Not so much the later stuff. I had a cousin who played me “Jailhouse Rock.” I loved the fact that what Elvis was doing was just so cool and hip. The fact is, when Elvis first started putting out records in 1955, I was three years old. I was a little too young to be kind of catching the first wave of it.
Of course, later Linda McCartney purchased Bill Black’s original stand-up bass — a Kay Maestro M-1 — used on “Mystery Train,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “All Shook Up,” and many more Elvis classics. I got to admire and play it a bit, and it’s featured in the “Baby’s Request” music video from Wings’ Back to the Egg.
The only Elvis song I’ve played at my live shows is “Suspicious Minds,” but only once or twice [a Juber studio version appears on the 2010 compilation, A Guitar for Elvis]. For me, outside of the Beatle realm — and that’s a special case — it’s really about songs.
I’ll choose songs, not necessarily because of the artist, but because I really like the song. It’s challenging for me as a musical exercise and as a guitaristic exercise. I won’t perform a song unless it appeals to the audience in a productive way.
Do you recall the first time you got up on a stage and performed?
I don’t remember it very well, but I was six or seven years old. I sang Leiber and Stoller’s “Charlie Brown,” a popular hit for the Coasters, at a talent contest near my grandmother’s house. I think I won a little matchbox car. I also recall, probably at age 11, playing at some kind of event at my junior high school in England.
You have to understand, I never wanted to necessarily be in the spotlight. I just loved playing guitar. My first paid gig was playing at a wedding when I was 13. I was thrilled to be on a stage with a bunch of great, older musicians. They put the music in front of me, which I could just about read. The bass player would lean over and give me tips on figuring out the harmonies.
Of course, I was in bands as a teenager. I played all kinds of live shows in various capacities before Wings. But most were on and off jazz gigs with English artists; I didn’t do much in the way of rock and roll.
I performed with Mike Smith from the Dave Clark Five, who had a duo with Mike d’Abo from Manfred Mann — both artists were the lead singers-keyboardists in their respective bands.
I also played guitar with Pete Brown, who wrote many classic Cream lyrics with Jack Bruce like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.” He had a band called Back to the Front around 1976. Landscape, a fusion-type band that later had UK hits in 1981 with “Einstein a Go-Go” and “Norman Bates”, was another.
But my goal was to master the guitar. As soon as I learned that one could make a living being a studio musician, that really became my ambition. And I accomplished that. What plucked me out of it was playing for Wings. That took me into a different world.
Until I joined Wings, I had been working consistently as a studio musician throughout the mid-‘70s. It wasn’t until I started getting out and playing solo that I really started to enjoy the process of being a live performer.
Have you ever sung onstage?
Oh yeah; I sang backing vocals in Wings. In my solo shows, once in awhile I might burst into song. When I teach at guitar camp workshops, typically they’ll have sing-alongs in the evening. I’ll happily join in and sing a few Wings’ songs.
At Beatlefests, I’ve been known to sing one of my favorites — ”Johnny B. Goode.” It’s interesting — there’s an example of a song I associate with the Beatles since I used to hear them perform it on the BBC. It was never on one of their original albums. I associate it with the Beatles just as much as I do with Chuck Berry.
One time I remember somebody in the audience asked me about the Gilligan’s Island musical, so I sang one of the songs from it. As a trained musician, it’s not necessarily that difficult to sing and play; it’s just a different skill set. It’s so important to me that my voice be the guitar. That’s my main objective.
Remember, I never set out to be a singer; I set out to be a guitarist. I made a decision that I was not going to compromise my guitar playing by spending too much time also developing my vocal skills. I had voice lessons in college, but that wasn’t my primary motivation.
There’s this kind of river of music inside me. Most of the time I choose to express it on the guitar, but sometimes I get to express it in other ways. I might be doing a movie score, video game, or writing for an orchestra. It’s simply being able to draw on this inner well-spring of music.
What’s a facet of your career that might surprise readers?
Not many people may realize that I’ve worked on various occasions with Muppets. On the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie , I played some of Kermit’s banjo parts. When you see Kermit onscreen, I’m the one who’s playing the banjo. But not always — there are various people who contributed parts. Having not seen the movie, I’m not even sure how my stuff got used there. I also discovered I played on The Muppet Christmas Carol soundtrack .
However, my favorite Muppet experience wasn’t with Kermit. I did a DVD session with composer Paul Williams, and the Muppet in question was the Great Gonzo. It was Paul Williams, the Great Gonzo, and Willie Nelson doing “Rainbow Connection” [available on 2003’s Paul Williams: I’m Going Back There Someday]. I was the tallest guy there. Paul’s not very tall, and Willie’s not very tall. You kind of forgot that the Great Gonzo was a puppet.
It’s so well done. You interact with these puppets as though they are real people. You stop paying attention to the puppeteer and get into the personality of the puppet. You accept the reality. Plus, it’s fun.
It’s like being on a theatre stage — you accept the reality of the character. If they’re convincing, then you go with that. You don’t turn around and say, “Well, you’re just a puppet. I’m not talking to you. I’m gonna talk to the puppeteer” [Author’s Note: Spotlighting a rare lead vocal, Chet “Mister Guitar” Atkins notched a Top 40 country hit with the comical “Frog Kissin’” in August 1976]
How would you classify the six-song album Standard Time? Released in 1982, wouldn’t that have been your first solo album?
Standard Time is kind of a separate, albeit interesting thing. Not really part of what I’ve done as a true kind of artist. I almost approach that album a little more coming from it like a studio musician in a sense. It’s a very eclectic collection of stuff.
Solo Flight was my first album where I really put the focus on being a solo acoustic guitar player. Standard Time came about when Paul McCartney asked me to record various tunes out of his music publishing catalogue, MPL Communications, in the summer of 1979.
It was produced by Richard Niles, a very talented individual. His work is particularly evident on the track “Stormy Weather.” Even before Wings, Richard and I used to do a lot of session work together.
If you’ve paid attention to the Wings’ CD reissues, you’ll see his name. For example, there was an arrangement of the long-unreleased “Blue Sway” on the reissue of McCartney II, featuring Richard’s orchestration. When I played at the Soho Pizza Express Jazz Club in 2011, Richard opened for me at that show.
“Maisie” was my songwriting contribution to the album. It was really my first finger-style guitar piece. It was recorded with Paul, Steve Holley [drums], and Denny Laine [rhythm guitarist] — he’s playing harmonica on the track — so it’s essentially a Wings song.
The Standard Time stuff was really well recorded, mostly at Air Studios in London. It was actually used to demonstrate expensive Hi-Fi equipment at trade shows in 1980–1981! Which is interesting, because many years later I did a DVD called Guitar Noir .
It won a ‘Demmy’ Award from the Consumer Electronics Association for being something that was really good at demonstrating expensive equipment! So I seem to have an affinity for high-end Hi-Fi. Once in awhile I make records that are just really sonically cool and make expensive equipment sound even better [laughs].
The version of Standard Time that came out was not everything that I recorded. I really didn’t want to release an entire record at that time. The four unreleased tracks were “Four Brothers,” “After You’ve Gone,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Autumn Leaves.” I did the latter with a string sextet. “Autumn Leaves” has a really kind of interesting, dark, near classical vibe about it.
After I recorded Standard Time, I sat on it for nearly three years. I was just too busy during the interim, touring with Wings and doing various session work. Things later got complicated during 1980 when Paul was busted, John Lennon was murdered, and the band’s future became uncertain.
I was offered an opportunity to release it in England, but I wasn’t happy with the deal that was being offered. By the time I had even a thought to do anything about it, it was coming up on 1982. That was just the nature of it.
When I got to L.A. and started doing Beatlefests, people were asking me about it — some word had gotten around. I thought, I need something that I can sign besides photographs. So we only manufactured 1,000 copies of it on our own label, Breaking Records, just a one-time thing that I made up. It became something of a collector’s item, only available on vinyl via eBay and inferior sounding bootleg MP3’s.
However, in 2014 I was able to get a high resolution digital transfer of Standard Time — along with the four unreleased tunes — released on CD as part of the special edition package of my Guitar with Wings coffee table photo memoir written with Marshall Terrill. Now that I have my label — HoLoGram Recordings — I can more readily organize a stand-alone digital release of Standard Time for folks who do not own the special edition of Guitar with Wings.
I was basically given license to the recordings, but they’re actually owned by Paul’s company MPL. I do have my publishing on “Maisie.” I got in touch with MPL, and they graciously helped me obtain the masters.
What was the first song that you composed?
The first song I composed and recorded was most likely “Maisie.” There’s another early one called “Fireleaves” which ended up on Naked Guitar  that I re-recorded for Soul of Light.
I remember being in the South of France at Super Bear Studios in July 1980 with Ringo for his Stop and Smell the Roses album. Ringo had invited Paul to produce and contribute some tracks, and Paul asked me to come play with them.
One day Ringo and I were sitting by a poolside, and I distinctly recall playing him an early version of that composition. It was a very cool thing — playing a tune for Ringo Starr.
While we’re on the subject of Beatles, in April 1986 I got to meet George Harrison and play on the quite rare Shanghai Surprise soundtrack. I was only on “Breath Away from Heaven,” which he re-recorded the following year for his comeback record Cloud Nine.
Hope was pregnant with our second child at the time, Ilsey, and she’s written a detailed account of how she got to meet George. We bumped into George again at Harry Nilsson’s funeral in January 1994.
As an East Londoner, was the move to California an easy transition?
Growing up in London I was at home in an urban environment. I had been to L.A. before, so it wasn’t completely foreign to me. Leaving London and going to New York — from one big city to another — was not a radical change. But, living in California was a very different pace.
New York has such an internal energy, and I kind of got swept up in things. People started involving me in projects, and I got calls to play on other people’s recording sessions, so I was very busy. I was there for about six months in 1981.
Not only was I writing music myself, I was playing on a lot of advertising jingles such as American Express and Coca-Cola. Plus, I was getting to meet various musicians and producers. It was an enjoyable, fun experience, being a studio musician in New York.
L.A. is different. Everything you do here tends to be very self-motivated. You really have to put projects ‘out there’, rather than have projects come to you. Hope and I had just got married and started raising a family. So my priorities changed quite radically.
For the duration of the ’80s in particular, I stayed at home and did a lot of studio work for other artists, playing on records like Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You,” Patrick Swayze’s “She’s Like the Wind,” Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley’s duet of “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” — all big hits. TV shows like Roseanne and later, Home Improvement and Seventh Heaven, as well as movies like Pocahontas and Good Will Hunting all contained my work.
Hope and I also started writing some children’s musicals together and developing her comedy rock band the Housewives, which became a stage musical. A Gilligan’s Island musical was another project in the late ’80s, which was prompted by Hope’s father, show creator Sherwood Schwartz. He wanted to see it on stage as a musical version.
So there was a lot of wood-shedding going on when I got to L.A., where I was involved in all kinds of recording and creative projects, but at a different pace than what I’d been used to. You know, having young kids and wanting to be at home for them.
In 1990 I was offered a record deal, and Solo Flight was the result. That gave me the opportunity to hyper-focus on being a solo guitarist. From there kind of developed now in total to 20 albums, with many, many other projects along the way — i.e. various stage musicals, movie scores, television scores, and video game music.
Are you a perfectionist in the recording studio?
I’ve recorded entire albums in a day, including Different Times  and PCH . Both were done at Capitol Studios with ensembles, so budget was an issue. When recording in my home studio, it takes as long as is necessary. It might be one take, it might be two or three.
I try not to labor the process of recording something for too long; otherwise, you lose some of the inspiration. Typically, I’m gonna get the song in no more than four takes. If it doesn’t work that day, I’ll come back to it on another day.
I’m a perfectionist up to the extent that it’s got to be ‘right’, but perfection is not easy to measure. My wife Hope produces my records, and ultimately I need to satisfy her as well as myself.
Of course, there’s a technical component that needs to be right, but there’s also an emotional component, the storytelling part of it, the subtext of it all. It can’t just be some abstract recording, it’s got to have a meaning, a message. It needs to communicate something.
How does Hope help you in the studio?
For my solo records, Hope first started collaborating with me in 1997 on Winter Guitar. We co-produced Mosaic the following year. Pretty much from LJ Plays the Beatles  onward, she’s been my official producer.
She does whatever is necessary to help me get the stuff recorded, whether that’s picking out which guitar sounds best for the recording, making judgments about repertoire or finessing a performance. Part of the producer’s job is to have input into what goes on the album and what doesn’t.
It’s always good to have a second opinion. There’s an old light bulb joke: “How many record producers does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “I don’t know, what do you think?” [laughs].
That’s kind of the nature of doing that kind of creative work. It’s nice to have somebody that you can just bounce ideas off. That’s part of her job to the extent of giving me an objective foil to what I’m doing.
Very often I will record something, and I might be dismissive of it. She’ll interject with, “No, that was really good.” Then I’ll go back and listen and realize that she knows better than I do. It’s a very collaborative thing. Guitaristically, of course, I’m the one who’s doing all the fingerwork. But in terms of being the ultimate listener, she does a great job with that.
Was it your idea to do an entire album devoted to the Beatles?
No, Hope convinced me to tackle LJ Plays the Beatles in 2000. I was not particularly motivated to do an album of Beatle tunes. My priority was establishing myself as a composer on the guitar beyond the broader field of doing instrumental stuff for movies or TV. As time went on, I became more and more intrigued by the process of arranging for solo guitar.
That Beatle album was really the first one I did that was an entire album of other people’s music [two subsequent volumes have followed]. Of course, what a great place to start with the Beatles’ catalogue. That project was very much her motivation, and I willingly gave her the reigns of producing.
I had originally recorded a version of “Rain” on my Mosaic album. So a lot of people started encouraging me to do a whole album of Beatle songs. I kept saying, “No.” But then Hope pointed out to me, “You may not want to do it for anybody else, but I want you to do it for me.”
That was the point where I said, “Okay, I’ll do it, but you’ll have to produce it.” I just played guitar, did the arrangements, and had a lot of fun doing it. Hope did such a good job that we just continued the relationship like that. That way, I don’t have to worry about being objective about myself. I can just focus on the things that are most challenging to me, creatively.
What can you tell us about Soul of Light ?
It’s basically a retrospective. I re-recorded a collection of original tunes and added one new one called “Father Time.” It was a rewarding experience revisiting older compositions. Some had never been recorded as solos before, only ensemble.
What’s interesting is my first proper album was called Solo Flight . Someone came up to Hope at a concert and asked which album had “Soul of Light” on it. Although they were confused, we thought it would make a marvelous title, so that kind of prompted everything. It’s definitely a mood record.
I’m also really proud of my jazz/blues collection Under an Indigo Sky. The working title was originally The Other Side of Midnight. It’s a mixture of originals and cover tunes like “Cry Me a River” — another mood record with a late-night vibe.
What are some of your favorite guitars?
I have this signature series with C.F. Martin & Co. We’ve gone through this incredible process of using different woods — mahogany, rosewood, Brazilian rosewood, maple, koa — to make the bodies of these guitars in order to see how they sound in the same basic configuration. Really rich, visually wonderful woods, but sonically, quite different.
Guitarists are fond of saying that their favorite guitar is the next one. But in fact, I know which guitar I would grab if I was going to be stuck on a desert island — it’s what I call the “Uber Juber.”
Martin built this custom-shop guitar for me at the dawn of the 21st century, and it became kind of the ultimate prototype for this series of guitars that we’ve done. It just happens that this is a particularly nice, maturing guitar.
Although, the most recent incarnation, the koa version pictured on the cover of Soul of Light, is a real challenger for “top dog”. That one seems to have transcended the others — it’s partially the tone of koa itself and partially the vintage-style all hide-glue construction.
The neck is made from Spanish cedar which is more commonly found on classical guitars. It’s very light in weight, with an amazing AAA grade Adirondack spruce top that has great touch-sensitivity.
Guitars are a bit like Scotch. The best single malt whiskeys are at least 10 or 20 years old and there’s a certain aspect of maturity to owning the perfect guitar. I have some guitars I’ve owned going back to the early 1970s. One little classical guitar I purchased while I was in college. It’s very sweet, but it needs to be rebuilt, as things come apart with age.
I have a lot of favorite guitars, so it’s a bit like a harem. If I just had one or two, it would be easier to choose. I have various electric guitars that I really enjoy playing. On electric, I’ve been playing an old cherry red Gibson ES-335 that is very cool. If you’re familiar with Wings’ “Goodnight Tonight” video, that’s the guitar.
I have about 60 guitars, but I’m not exactly a collector. They are very much like ‘tools of the trade’. If I go out on a recording session, I may take a couple dozen guitars with me. You never know what guitar is going to be the right one. It might be a Stratocaster, a Rickenbacker 12-string, or a Silvertone with a slide.
When I’m touring, I typically travel with just one of my Martins. These guitars are versatile instruments — dynamic, comfortable to play and cover all the styles. I use a lot of different altered tunings, which can be a challenge for an instrument. I can change tunings on the sly and people don’t even notice I’m doing it. GHS make me a signature guitar string that really helps with consistency of tone and tuning, too.
Do you still play any electric guitar?
Oh yeah, but mostly in the studio for session work and composing. There’s a very successful cable TV show on ABC Family today called The Secret Life of the American Teenager, now in its fifth season. I’m playing electric guitar on that. In The Muppets movie [co-written by Jason Segel, 2011], I play some electric guitar as well as some of Kermit’s banjo parts.
Guitar is guitar, and music is music. It just depends. Sometimes I’ll write something that I don’t even play on. But my personal expression, the real kind of depth to what I do, is playing solo acoustic guitar. I love the sound of the instrument, and I love the self-sufficiency of it [Author’s Note: Rodney Dillard, lead singer and guitarist for progressive ’60s bluegrass-country rock outfit the Dillards, concurs in an expansive interview with this writer].
It doesn’t mean you couldn’t stick me up in front of a crowd of people to play electric guitar. I played at a tribute to Leonard Cohen. A friend of mine had asked me to play lead electric guitar in the band, and it was fun.
But I’m not going to put a band together and go on tour, because I’m way too busy doing the solo thing. I don’t have to spend my time dealing with the logistics of touring with a full band. I can just get out there and do what I do.
Would you consider recording with a band for one of your studio albums?
It’s possible. I had a meeting in 2011 about some tracks that I was working on with a friend of mine for a music library. It kind of motivated me to think about doing that. My record company, Solid Air Records, has also requested an electric guitar album from me.
But right now at this particular moment in time, my slate is fully loaded with solo shows going through the end of this year. I’m promoting LJ Can’t Stop Playing the Beatles! I always stay busy. That’s one thing about Los Angeles. As long as you are self-motivated, you can stay very busy with some kind of creative project.
I’ve been doing a little bit of college teaching, school outreach, some studio work, and guitar parts for video games like Diablo III. Hope and I have three stage musicals that are in various stages of development. We are working with a producer to get our Gilligan musical to New York.
How would you describe your show to a newbie LJ fan?
I play guitar, and people tell me that I do it well. I certainly seem to be able to entertain people. I describe what I do as borderline everything. I play many different styles, almost like a fusion of folk, jazz, pop, rock, with a little bit of classical thrown in. I do it with something of a sense of humor.
I play Beatle songs, Hendrix, “The Pink Panther Theme”, and original tunes. I talk to the audience — it’s not just a dry recital. There’s some good foot-tappin’ stuff and some romantic stuff. A wide musical spectrum reflecting my versatility.
My goal is to entertain, which is the key. I can always play for guitar players, but it’s playing for non-guitarists and music lovers that really satisfies me. I get a very wide age range — young kids, teenagers, grandmothers, people in their 90s. I seem to have an appeal across the board.
Depending on what environment I’m playing in, I’ll lean one way or another and get a sense of what the audience likes.
For instance, when I play at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City, I’ll play to that environment. Even though I’ll play some Beatles’ tunes, I’ll be feeling it in a little more jazz-cabaret ambience. Whereas, if I’m playing in a rock club, I’ll lean a little more towards the rock end of the spectrum.
I’m very versatile. I have a number of compositions that have become fairly standard guitar repertoire. So people request those, and they’ll request some of my Beatles’ stuff. It all works itself out.
Of course, folks sometimes shout out requests during my gigs. I feel happy to have the request. The problem is — if it’s not anything I can jump straight into, I tend to forget by the time I could be doing it.
I’m happy to have an interaction with the audience — it’s definitely important to me. There’s no fourth wall between me and the crowd in that respect. It’s not like I have a pre-set act that I’m locked into, and I don’t interact.
The fact that it’s just me up there with the guitar is a challenge. I learned a lot of stage technique from watching stand-up comedians. Hope has been very helpful with me in terms of encouraging me to develop performance skills.
Performance is a different kind of art to simply being a guitar player. You can only develop it by being out there and doing it. The more I perform live, the more fun it gets.
Given the fact that it was never something I was originally motivated to do, I’ve gained an appreciation for being a solo performer. It reinforces my goal of self-sufficiency.
Can the constant travel associated with touring become tough for you?
On some levels, traveling gets easier. Whereas on other levels, it gets harder — having to get up really early for early flights, getting to airports, dealing with security, and then sitting on a plane for however many hours. But I have my laptop or I’ve got my iPad, and I can listen to music or work.
I enjoy reading, too. Neal Stephenson’s Reamde, Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner — a history of the development of the American West and its water resources — and books 4–6 of the Charles Stross Merchant Princes series come to mind. A lot of my reading is current affairs, too.
So I can kind of deal with traveling. But having to get up really early for early flights…things don’t always go smoothly. Of course, you have weather to deal with. That’s probably the thing I am most concerned about whenever I’m touring — what’s the weather going to be like?
I’ve been stuck in Dallas for periods of time because of thunderstorms. During the wintertime, sometimes I have to rent a SUV because it might be snowing.
Do you get many opportunities to return to your homeland and tour?
I played in London in April 2011. The last time I did a tour of the UK was with folk rock singer-songwriter Al Stewart when I opened his show and then joined him onstage. His hits in America range from “Year of the Cat”  to “Time Passages” . Incidentally, I produced his last four studio albums. It was fun spending a few weeks back in England. I’ve toured in Europe on my own [i.e. Germany and Italy] as well as Asia. So I get around.
But right now my agent has got me hyper-focusing on the U.S. Certainly, it is a big market that keeps me busy. There’s lot of places I haven’t played in America. And that way, at least I don’t have to get on a transatlantic or transpacific flight. That makes life a little easier.
So, are you a U.S. citizen?
Absolutely; I’ve lived in California for 35 years. I became a U.S. citizen in 1988, largely because I wanted to vote. You know, you pay taxes, and you want to have a say in things. I’ve never regretted doing that. America is my adopted home, and I’ve lived here longer than I lived in England.
What is your perfect day?
Oh my goodness, everyday is a perfect day. Hope and I like to go hiking and to theatre. I like photography, and I’m kind of getting back into it. It was a pretty intense hobby when I was in Wings.
When I’m not traveling, I lead a fairly quiet life. I get up in the morning, have breakfast, walk the dogs, spend a little — or a lot! — of time taking care of business and then I get to play guitar.
But the fact is, I mostly get to do what I always wanted to do. From the time I was 11 years old, I played guitar, and that for me is perfection. I’m happily married and have been since 1982, and that’s perfection too.
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