Three of this generation's most exciting instrumental guitar talents in one song? Ambassador you really are spoiling us now! UK acoustic maestro Mike Dawes (opens in new tab) has given us the inside perspective on Push, his new collaborative track with peers / friends Plini (opens in new tab) and Jack Gardiner. And the inspiration was unexpected…
"The song started with some acoustic guitar ideas, notably the main theme which I actually wrote in Kenya just before the pandemic," Mike tells us. "I was over there with various environmental philanthropists and politicians. I'm still not sure how I became so lucky to be there but the riffs were written with literal Giraffes sticking their heads in the window."
"It didn't really have a theme to tie it together but once the lockdown cycle had repeated itself a few times I wanted to finish it with that 'fight' in mind," adds Mike. "Hence the superhero canvases in the video – shoutout to Castle Fine Art (opens in new tab) in Bristol!"
The results flow as we'd hoped they would from three progressive musicians who belong together, Mike and Jack creating complimentary layers before Plini enters proceedings. The talent here is undeniable but we can't help but wonder how much of a musical director Mike had to be to bring it all together.
"With Plini it was open ended," Mike explains. "I wanted to squeeze his solo juices into the bridge, and wanted it to be his expression. It was one take, zero changes. Jack was more complex simply because I wanted to highlight him throughout the whole song, so we needed composed themes. We met on Zoom and within a few hours it was tracked in a very collaborative way. He's amazing."
The trio all have history - and it involves hair fire, friendship and a previous Plini/Dawes collab you can see above. "Jack and I go back to 2015," adds Mike. "He opened for me in Liverpool and I was blown away by this (at the time) kid. After the show I lovingly and drunkenly stated 'We MUST do something together someday dude' and then his hair caught fire. True story. When his debut EP Escapades came out last year I was so inspired, it had to be him really.
"Plini and I have had our adventures. I think we met at NAMM but we've played together in Australia and the USA. He's great. Both these guys are great people first, and great musicians second. Collaborating with good people is just as important, hopefully that doesn't sound too hippytrippy."
Not at all, but at MusicRadar we're also tonehounds and gear fiends. We spied Mike's pedalboard (opens in new tab) in the video and wanted to know what's new and inspiring him lately…
"The main feature on this track would be the Strymon Timeline (opens in new tab). I've used it for a while but I still adore it. It's the most expressive and flexible delay pedal I've found. For Plini and Jack I used the Neural DSP plugins which are fantastic. I'm hoping to actually incorporate the Quad Cortex (opens in new tab) into my acoustic rig although that's not featured in this release."
Mike Dawes has another collaboration track to follow but in the meantime check out his latest album Shows and Distancing: Live in the USA and visit mikedawes.co.uk (opens in new tab) for tour updates and to book video lessons with the man himself.