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The world is expecting guitar dynamite – did that put pressure on you?
“No, not at all. We’re not showing that we’re ‘masters’ or any of that stuff. It’s a window looking into the collaboration between two people who just love to play together. A lot of the subtleties in what we do are missed by people who are only looking at technique. That’s a shame, because there’s so much more in there.”
It doesn’t sound like there’s much ego on this record...
“Oh, doesn’t it? What a shame. Guitar players are always trying, not to outdo each other, but to egg each other on. When you get pushed out on a limb and you really give something all you have, it’s a good feeling to know that, well, if I fall off, I can always fall onto him.”
Was it hard to share the spotlight?
“No, absolutely not. Dividing up the parts was easy. We kinda swapped it around. For instance, Jersey Bounce is mostly Martin playing melodies and me playing accompaniment, then you’ve got tunes like A Smooth One, where I’m taking the verses and Martin takes the bridge. It’s like doing a dance with your favourite dancer – you always know where to put your foot.”
I wouldn’t imagine you need many takes...
“No. Martin can get out of bed and nail it. We kinda road-tested the songs at the Chet Atkins convention in Nashville last July, then we went in the studio and two days later we were finished. All of it was improvised; the only thing that wasn’t was Secret Love. I worked that arrangement out, but everything else is a jam. Does improvising take balls? Well, most players, especially if they’ve been around a little while, can just go into the studio and say: ‘Okay, here’s how the song goes; let’s rip, let’s go.’ So, we just jumped in.”
What acoustic guitars did you reach for?
“Well, I mostly used the guitar I’m going to be playing on the tour, which is a 1930 Martin 0-17, which is a little-bodied, all- mahogany guitar. It has a slight Django kind of sound, and I’m using a bar pickup across the hole as well, for a bit of a 30s and 40s jazz tone – kinda like an old Charlie Christian sound. Martin and I both use the AER Compact 60 amp, but we’re mostly mic’ing up. Martin was using his Peerless guitar with a mic on it, and they took a line off the pickup as well, so he was also going into a DI. And then I was using two mics, and that was all.”
The sound is pretty pure...
“No effects at all, although they may have put some reverb on in the mix. On Down At Cocomo’s, Martin made the steel drum sound by putting someone’s business card through the strings and making it vibrate!”