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no1cowgirl
08-31-2000, 04:45 PM
Bare Essentials From Essential Studio Guitarist Brent Rowan
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<br>If you've ever listened to an album by George Strait, Shania Twain, Sting, Randy Travis, Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton-John, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Alabama, you've likely heard the guitar wizardry of award-winning studio guitarist Brent Rowan. Since his arrival in Nashville in the 1970s, Rowan has played guitar on more that 10,000 recordings, which have sold in excess of 100 million copies.
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<br>Brent Rowan is one of perhaps a dozen musicians who perform on virtually every album recorded in Nashville. In music business lingo, these players are called "A-list guys," and "triple-scale players," meaning the first musicians you call when you begin planning an album and players who can demand three-times the usual session player salary. In music award show speeches they're the "everybody else" that a gushing artist wishes to thank. While those artists at the podium build a career out of trademark sounds, Rowan and his fellow behind-the-scenes musicians are in demand for their ability to sound different in every recording.
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<br>Brent Rowan with son Marlin
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<br>This studio giant recently stepped from behind the scenes with the May release of his Bare Essentials, a collection of 14 instrumental songs that he wrote and performed. While many studio players live perhaps more exciting or extravagant lives, Rowan, who they jokingly call "The Realtor," enjoys the blessings of his family life and frequent vacations to the serene landscapes of Colorado. From this "normal" lifestyle, Brent gleaned the inspiration for Bare Essentials. Many of the meditative and inspirational tunes from the recording were born from improvisational tone poems he played at home for his young son. "Nobody ever hears this part of my music," Rowan says. "Playing in the studio is what I do. This album is who I am."
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<br>CountryCool.com caught up with Brent Rowan to discuss the life of a studio musician, his playing and his album.
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<br>CC: Sometime in the '70s, Waylon Jennings walked into a recording session full of studio players, pulled out a gun and said, "If I see one of y'all looking at those pieces of paper, I'll shoot your fingers off." Waylon felt like the studio musicians of the time were mechanical and uninspired. Do you see a lot of studio players that aren't really into what they're doing or are most of them in there making the best music they can?
<br>You know, there's probably three or four guys on each instrument doing 80 percent of the work. As for my take, those guys are still digging it and still trying with all their might to lay the songs to make it energetic, to make it something that people want to live with for a long time and have to buy. There are still filters above the musician-the artist, the producer and the record company. Sometimes the filter comes down from the record company and forces the producer to make a record that may be more safe, may sound like other records, may sound like his last record or it may sound like another artist that's out there right now. The interesting thing to me is that the musicians get faulted for that. When in reality those guys playing on the record, or at least everybody I'm working with, still feels passionate about the music.
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<br>There's only so much you can do 'cause the ultimate call is not yours. You've got to please somebody else. I've heard this statement, "Okay, that's great, lets do one more for paranoia." What exactly does that mean? I guess that means let's make sure there's no life left in you. This one producer said, "I want to do one more to make sure that you're at the edge, to where I know you'll go over the edge." Then he'll take the one right before that. That's just something a musician can't control but he gets the blame for it.
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<br>One of my favorite reviews was in Music Row and the first review was "Sounds like the same faceless studio musicians playing the same licks." The review under that was for Shania Twain's first big record. That was us, the same guys on both records. How could one sound like the same faceless studio musicians and the next sound fresh and different? It's still the filter. It's not always the producer's fault. It can be a directive from the label or radio, I know you guys are hip to what everybody's fighting-a radio station will call in and say it's too country or it's too rock. What do you do? "We'd play it if the fiddle solo was a guitar solo," they'll say. I've actually gone in and replaced a solo that had been on something else so one radio station would play this record.
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<br>CC: I understand you recently talked with Guitar Player magazine about the Gary Allan record.
<br>They asked me some questions about the new Gary Allan record—I did all his stuff. I'm on [Guitar Player's] board. I've been on there for 10 or 12 years. They did an article on me in 1987 and asked me to be on the board so occasionally I'll contribute to whatever they ask me.
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<br>CC: What were you trying to do on that album?
<br>When I play, I listen to the words. The words are everything to me. My goal is, if they pull the vocals off 50 years from now I still want you to know what that song is about. The tone, the licks, the timbre, whatever…I try to create something unique for each artist if I can and I try to not play that way for another artist. Sometimes the song says you have to, the producer says you have to. But in a perfect world I try not to play any certain way. Mark Chesnutt, I try to play a different way than for Gary Allan.
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<br>CC: Those are dramatically different sounds. The Allan record kind of feels like the desert and it kind of feels coastal. What guitars did you play on that record?
<br>Funny you mentioned the desert thing because that's what I pictured. On "Smoke Rings In The Dark," I painted this picture of a lonely guy in the desert. When the videographer shot the video the video was in the desert. It's like, okay, we're taking people on a journey. I do think you would know what that song was about if you pulled the vocal off. I think the ambient quality of the record speaks for itself. I played most of that on a Gretsch 6120 through a Fender amp. With the original Bigsby tremolo, they made 200 with the prototype that had a big ring on 'em. It's pretty neat. DeArmond pickups ran through an Echoplex and a Victoria Reverb Vibrato. It's very analog sounding. For guitar player I just told them what I used [and] they love that record. It doesn't sound like a typical Nashville record.
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<br>CC: You've inevitably recorded on some of the new teen acts that seem to be coming out of Nashville these days. What is your take on them?
<br>It's hard to understand how a 13-year-old or an 11-year-old can understand hurting. I did the Billy Gillman record, he's a wonderful kid and maybe it's like seeing Wayne Newton on the "Lucy Show" when he was 14. I tell you, Billy is the most composed 11-year-old I've ever seen. You know, you've got Britney Spears and you've got Shawn Colvin, I'll take Shawn every time. Of course, Britney will probably sell ten times as many records and that's fine, we're all at different spots. Now, if Billy reaches 11-year-old country artists and brings them in it's great. And with him, he can sing. He's unbelievable.
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<br>CC: While your CD is so smooth and flowing to the ear, the packaging seems to be geared to guitarists. It includes descriptions of the guitars, strings and even picks you used on each track.
<br>With the exception of the Dobro added on "Steam Boat," the guitar on this album was all done on a Dillon guitar. He's a hand builder who used to be in Taos, N.M., but now he's in Pennsylvania. I've got Martins and Gibson acoustics, but this Dillon, for some reason, seems incredibly rich and very piano-esque. Everything resonates. For a solo instrument, it worked better than anything else. I tried some of the other guitars. I did use a Chet Atkins electric gut string on "Mr. C."
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<br>CC: How did you get involved in music?
<br>My parents said that they were delivering an upright piano to our house and, basically, I had picked out "Jesus Loves Me" before they got it off the truck. I was four or five, something like that. It's engrained from somewhere. There again, it was perhaps a way of having something in common with somebody and getting in touch with the emotional part of myself. Then later on I'd hear other musicians and think, "I love this guy." Then I'd find out who his musical influences were. I identify with, say, this Clapton guy, then I'd see that he listened to Robert Johnson and Albert King, so I'd go listen to these guys. To me, it let me play different than people who only listened to Clapton, Hendrix or Atkins.
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<br>CC: Did everybody in your household play?
<br>Nobody played. They still can't figure out where the love and the interest came from. It's a gift. It's just like how when songs come out, sometimes three songs with the same title will come out within six months and the title has never been written before. It's just a matter of who has their antennae up. It's a gift and it's what you do with the gift.
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<br>We moved around a lot when I was growing up. Probably I went inward and music meant a lot more to me than it did with other kids. It was a way to have something in common with somebody you didn't know. I always played piano or trumpet or harmonica or something from early on.
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<br>CC:How did you end up switching from piano to guitar?
<br>My grandmother had given all my cousins and I harmonicas. And by the end of Christmas day I was playing songs. My parents gave me my first acoustic at 10. It was this $9 Kingston guitar. They said, "If you learn to play we'll get you an electric guitar next Christmas." Well by September I couldn't think of anything else I wanted for Christmas so by shear greed I learned to play so I could get an electric and an amp. It was a Space Master guitar and an Alamo amp. I was in heaven, just playin'. I played at church, we had a rockin' church band. I wasn't very good, but nobody discouraged me. For 11, I was probably pretty good, but compared to guys that had been playing for 30 years I wasn't so good but I got a lot of encouragement.
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<br>CC: Who were some of your musical influences?
<br>You know, the first guitar player I was aware of was Chet Atkins. You know, I was raised in a real strict home so we could only listen to gospel and some country music. I didn't really have a wealth of guitar information to draw on. But what I did have, which later I embraced, was gospel music-I figured, this is where you are, it's up to you to do with what you are given. So I thought of harmonies in much different ways than somebody that grew up listening only to Clapton or Hendrix.
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<br>Growing up like that was the closest a white boy could have ever come to being black. In those kind of services you figured out that people either talked to your head or to your heart. I learned that there's the kind of emotion you can communicate to somebody's soul and the kind of playing that speaks to somebody's head. It's kind of Yngwie Malmsteen compared to B.B. King. Malmsteen walks out and, oh my word, that's science. B.B. comes out and trills one note and your heart melts. I tell everybody, "I can tell you who every one of my music teachers were, but I can't tell you who any of my science teachers were." So the emotional part of music and playing-talking to somebody's heart-meant a lot more to me at an early age than talking to somebody's head and challenging the science part of their brain.
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<br>CC: You've witnessed some dramatic changes in the Nashville music scene over the years. There have been some dramatic shifts in both musical styles and personalities, I presume. My gosh, who would have suspected that Peter Frampton would live here?
<br>That's right, Frampton, Larry Carlton, Mark Knopfler visits here a lot, yeah there are a lot of changes. I met John Fogerty the other day. He came into the studio and we were introduced by the producer. He said, "Man, I've been admiring your playing for a long time now." I went, "You've got to be kidding me!" I have no idea that anybody knows who I am. As a studio musician, you've kind of got blinders on. You're just there to make this record as great as it can possibly be and you don't think about anybody else listening to it that much. And for a guy like Fogerty to say," Oh, I've enjoyed your playing for a number of years." You're kidding me!
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<br>-countrycool.com
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<br>KristaN

Pilgrim
09-01-2000, 01:57 AM
VERY COOL:):):):)
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<br>Thanks a lot for sharing Krista:cool::cool:
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<br>I will print it out and read it later :):):)
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<br>BrianN