What qualities do you look for in a guitarist?
“It’s important to have social skills. Once I’ve got the right character, it’s about being an all-rounder. There are a lot of great guitarists around who are concentrated in one particular genre. It’s essential to have a variety of abilities, be that rock, funk or acoustic.”
How important is it to read music?
“The reading side represents a small percentage. It’s handy, but that’s all. You need the ability to listen to a record and work it out. If you do a tour it’s important you get your sounds together. Strats, Teles and Les Pauls are distinctive. Artists want those sounds. It’s not good enough to come in with one guitar and cover everything.”
What about image?
“It’s not as ageist as it used to be. Your look can be older and that can work. Image is less important than it was five years ago, when everybody was obsessed with musicians looking like boy band members. Just make sure you’ve got a Strat, a Les Paul and a Fender Twin or a Vox AC30.”
Is playing in a function band good preparation for session work?
“Function gigs are great. The disciplines you learn are similar to what you need to go on tour with Girls Aloud: you’re given a set of songs to learn by ear, you can’t use sheet music and you’ve got to get the sounds. People who come from that area fit the bill better than people who come out of a rock band and are stuck in one style.”
How does a young player get a Musical Director’s attention?
“Persistence. I don’t scroll through loads of CVs. I hire people who phone and remind me. If you’re taking it seriously, move to London and get out and about at the gigs where people on the scene are around, like the Bedford [in Balham] and the Cobden Club. Chat to people. They won’t knock on your door.”
What’s your top tip for guitarists wanting to break into the session world?
“I can’t stress how important it is to be a good acoustic guitarist. A lot of the acts I work with are doing radio tours or TV shows with an acoustic guitarist. When you’re accompanying with just an acoustic, you’ve got to know how to make it work. It’s being able to strum and fingerpick properly, both styles. And you need to have a good guitar with a pickup in it.”