"I learned to play the bass, the guitar, and as much of the drums as I could by listening to Pearl Jam": See producer and superfan Andrew Watt performing Alive back when he was a little-known solo artist

 Andrew Watt performs during the "Chameleon" New York Premiere Hosted By Mick Rock at The Electric Room on May 29, 2012 in New York Cit
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Even putting aside the fact Andrew Watt went from producing the Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds to helming an album by his favourite band Pearl Jam two days later, his journey has been remarkable. 

From solo artist to California Breed guitarist alongside Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham, then pop session player and super producer for Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and Ozzy Osbourne with Rick Rubin as a mentor.

At his heart Andrew Watt is a fan; and he brings that enthusiasm, passion and deep knowledge of artists to Pearl Jam's Dark Matter.  

I really understand what I love as a fan about their playing

When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of kids that wanted to be in rock bands around me," he told Rolling Stone in a new interview. "So I just kind of learned to play a lot of different instruments, and would record myself. I learned to play the bass, the guitar, and as much of the drums as I could by listening to Pearl Jam. And each one of those band members were so influential to me. 

"I really understand what I love as a fan about their playing. And so when it was time to work with them in a creative way, I just wanted them to be them. I didn’t want to change them."

Watt has been going to see the band live since 2003 (something that has now jumped up in price for fans wanting to attend their Summer dates), but working on Eddie Vedder's Earthling album (and touring it as part of his band) before seeing the Pearl Jam machine's workings up close has given him a new perspective.

"Eddie Vedder is showing up to the venue at 2pm on the day of a show, sometimes earlier, and going through every single song they’ve ever played at the same hall or in the same city," marvelled Watt in the Rolling stone interview. "Nobody works harder on a set list to make sure that his fans feel as though they’re getting something special. No one works harder than him, and the band is ready for anything. They’ll play songs they haven’t played in ten years or even listened to in ten years. They get in the jam room, and they suss it out. They’re fearless, man. They get on that fuckin’ stage and they deliver."

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam performs with Andrew Watt onstage during the 2021 Ohana Music Festival on October 2, 2021 in Dana Point, California.

Eddie Vedder and Andrew Watt performing onstage in 2021 (Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

The first time we jammed together, we wrote a song

Vedder's chemistry with Watt while working on Earthlings felt so strong, he invited his Pearl Jam bandmates in to keep the creative ball rolling.

"The first time we jammed together, we wrote a song," Watt reflects on his first musical sitdown with the singer. "From there, it just has been the most beautiful friendship and creative relationship of my life. It means more than I could ever put into words. It’s the exact example of dreams coming true. You’ve got to understand, I stood in line at Madison Square Garden with a sign that read, 'Let me play the guitar solo to Alive'.'' And then I did get to play the guitar solo."

But he was playing Alive before he ever had access to Pearl Jam in person, as the clip below from 2011 proves. Watt was performing as part of a multi-act bill at the NYC venue of September 23.  

Two years later he'd join California Breed for a two-year run that yielded their self-titled debut album. Their 2015 split probably hit him hardest but his parting statement would prove prophetic: "I put everything I had into this band," Watt said. "All I can say is I was in it for the long haul. This is not the end – it is truly the beginning."

That may also apply to Watt's working relationship with Pearl Jam with guitarist Stone Gossard recently expressing his desire to track with the producer again. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.