The ex-Black Crowes guitarist now rocks in The Magpie Salute, but how will he handle the 10 questions we ask everyone?
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first guitar was an acoustic – I don’t know if it even had a name. It was bought at a flea market or a swap-meet and it was like a $7 guitar that my mother bought me when I was 10 in ’76. I just listened to the sound of strumming it over and over until someone showed me a D chord and an A chord and then it was Oh My Darling, Clementine.”
2. The building’s burning down – which one guitar from your collection would you save?
“Oh, that’s not fair! If I had to, I guess right now I’d probably grab my Asher Gold Top. It’s the newest and it’s a fantastic guitar and I’m really in love with it right now. I don’t really have guitars of immense value – the only one I ever really had I gave to my son for his wedding gift.”
3. What’s the oldest guitar that you own?
“A ’61 Airliner. Apparently, I owned it at one time and a few years ago someone brought it back to me and said, ‘Here, this is yours…’ and gave it to me. The thing I like about those guitars is that they’re just really lousy in the right way. You can’t reproduce it, y’know?”
4. When was the last time that you practised and what did you play?
“Practise? I don’t really practise guitar and I don’t think I ever really did. I’d just play, I loved it so much. I mean, maybe just to warm up I’ll play a scale or something, but I don’t even know many of those and so… I guess you’d have to define ‘practise’.
"I don’t know, I pick it up almost every day, but I wouldn’t say that I practise. I just pick it up and hold it and sometimes there’s a beautiful accident and I’ll grab the phone and record real quick. You’ve just got to keep checking in.”
5. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
“Let’s see… a couple of days ago and I’m about to do it again. I change them when I need to and I use whatever works at the time. I’m not too picky, but I like nickel.”
6. If you could change one thing about a recording you’ve been on, what would it be and why?
“I can’t say that there’s anything that I’d change. Maybe in the past I would have been hung up about something, but I realise that most of the things that I’d cringe over, if you give it a little bit of time, it really doesn’t matter. Other people liked it and so it doesn’t matter if you do or not.”
7. What’s the worst thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
“Falling off of it. I was young and drunk and showing off, playing behind my head and misjudged the side of the stage and fell off. I wasn’t hurt… well, just my ego, a little bit.”
8. What’s the closest you’ve come to quitting music?
“I quit a long time ago. I quit as soon as I started and I quit all the time – it’s not the easiest life, but I got this far. All I’ve got to do is not quit and I win.
"There was a time when I was extremely low physically, emotionally and spiritually and I blamed music for my addictions and everything else that I had gotten myself into.
"I blamed the guitar, like, ‘You got me here…’. You blame everything else but yourself. But I realised it wasn’t music, it was my decision and music doesn’t care, you know? That was about it.
"I don’t think I was ever going to quit music, I was just mad and didn’t want to blame myself. You can’t quit music. I mean, our heartbeat is music, really. It’s too much a fabric of ourselves.”
9. What aspect of playing guitar would you like to be better at?
“Probably fingerpicking. I neglected my right hand over the years. I mean, Chet Atkins and all of that fun stuff – I’ve tried it and I don’t think I have the patience that it takes to master that. It’s such an incredible style of playing that it takes a lifetime.”
10. What advice would you give your younger self about the guitar if you had the chance?
“Man, I don’t know… Maybe just try to appreciate it, all of it, when it’s there and while it’s happening, be present for it. One day you’re going to turn around and go, ‘I really wish that I’d have paid more attention.’
"And I guess, get to love the struggle if you can. None of it’s an easy life for anyone, but it can be exceptionally trying when, as an artist, you’re sorting yourself out in front of people.
"It can feel very personal when things don’t come through and you try to separate your identity from what you do.”
The Magpie Salute’s self-titled debut album is out now on Eagle Rock Entertainment.