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© Massimo Valicchia/Demotix/Corbis
Over the past two years, Steve Vai issued one of his most dazzling albums, The Story of Light, and has toured the world several times. In fact, when MusicRadar spoke with the guitar superstar the other day, he was rounding out an 11-date tour of Russia while eyeing spring and summer treks through Europe and Japan.
Vai filled us in on some of his other summer plans, such as going to camp. No, he's not putting on chaps and heading to a dude ranch, and he's not joining a fantasy baseball league. Better than that: He's launching the Vai Academy Song Evolution Camp, an intimate and comprehensive music experience that runs from June 23rd through the 27th at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. Over the course of four days, Vai will take attendees through the entire song process, from inspiration to creation (including mixing and mastering) to distribution. And for guitarists and guitar fans, there will be plenty to savor, with master classes and jams featuring six-string greats Vernon Reid, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Guthrie Govan.
For more information on the Vai Academy Song Evolution Camp, including registration, click here. In the following interview, Vai talks at length about the various creative and business elements covered in the camp.
Where did the idea for this kind of camp come from? It’s different from other things you’ve done in the past.
“It is. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a camp for some time. Some people approached me to do some things, but they wanted me to do a very conventional-style guitar camp, which I think would be wonderful, but I wanted to do something that was different.
“When I thought back to the conversations I’ve had with young musicians and the lectures I’ve given, and when I think back to myself as a young, independent musician, a couple of things came to the surface; there were a few specific things that people were interested in. When you blow all the smoke away, these kids want to know ‘How do you write a song? Where does the inspiration come from? How do you capture it? How do you record it? How do you mix it and master it? And how do you make it available to the rest of the world and tour on it?’ That’s really what’s it’s about.
“So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to give kids an opportunity to see this process?’ So I created this camp, which as you can imagine is really intensive. There’s various classes through the different days, and I’ll have a band with me. I’ll discuss songwriting and song inspiration, writing music, how it flows and how you communicate musical ideas to a band. They’ll get to see it and participate, to a degree. We de-mystify the songwriting process.
“I also have a professional come in to de-mystify the music publishing thing. Musicians are so intimidated – they don’t understand how publishing works. It is complicated but it’s important. Anybody who writes music or plays a note of music should have their own publishing company. They have to know how to register their music, which is really easy now. We take them through the process of starting a publishing company; in fact, we start a publishing company for the song we write, and we register it. We discuss how to protect your intellectual property, how splits usually go. This is vital information.”