I am so proud to have a featured article in the March 2017 edition of Guitar Player Magazine. I can remember being in high school and really getting into playing guitar and learning every song I could from records and reading Guitar Player and Guitar World magazines. I would scour every article for clues on gear, playing techniques, etc.
I think it’s so weird that I am actually in the magazine, and it’s probably fitting that it has nothing to do with my actual guitar playing. Ha! I’m not even sure how I’ve become the Nashville ambassador for digital guitar but it’s kind of been an odd journey.
When we first got our record deal (with Lonestar) in 1995, I think I owned one amp, a red-knob Twin. After recording our first cd with some a-list session guys, I realized how over my head I was and needed to learn quickly. It didn’t happen that quickly, but over the span of 10 years and half a dozen records and loads of worldwide touring, I finally achieved my goal of being a full grown gearhead.
I had a huge road case with 4 amp heads and a Bradshaw amp switcher and lots of rack fx and routing and all that stuff. I was running 2 stereo cabs and a dry cab and it was a maze of cabling and signal loss.
Then as our career arc eased into its gentle slope down, we scaled back from 2 tractor trailers to a bus pulling a trailer and that rig was suddenly too large and unwieldy. I scaled back to 2 amp heads and a pedalboard. After finally getting down to one amp (either a 5153 or 3rd Power Dream Weaver proto) and a pedalboard and the band doing more “fly dates” I came upon the Kemper as a possible solution to tired rented backline amps.
Of course I had gone through stages where I dabbled in digital modelers. I had used a POD Pro for home recording and I even used the Vetta onstage for a year or so around 2000. I was never afraid of tweaking those types of things but I never felt like they felt like real amps when I was onstage.
Technology expanded on every front: floor wedge speakers were replaced by in-ear monitors, big loud square p.a. cabinets were replaced by line arrays with very little blowback, and loud guitar amps onstages were becoming more rare as guitarists began using iso boxes to keep stage volume out of vocal mics. I had used iso boxes too and felt them to sound, well, like a box around my speaker. So, even though I had gone down the dark road of gear snobbery and had a huge stable of boutique amps, and was proud of my guitar tone after years of searching, the Kemper began to make so much sense from a practical standpoint and I’m nothing if not pragmatic.
The biggest selling point of the Kemper, though, was the ability to profile my own amps. I couldn’t go from my Samson era Matchless to someone else’s idea of what a Matchless sounds like. So, I profiled all of my amps. And all of my friends’ amps. And some of their friends’ amps. And so on.
And after some prompting, I started selling my profiles on the off chance that other new Kemper owners might find them useful. And somehow, that is how I ended up in Guitar Player Magazine. All I was trying to do was make good tones for myself so I would not miss my real amps so much in making the switch to digital amps. Do I wish it had something to do with my playing abilities? Maybe. But I’m still a fan of guitar at heart and I know that there are guys on every corner in Nashville that could probably play circles around me.
At some point years ago, I challenged myself to figure out what my style is. I felt like what I was best at wasn’t shredding but finding parts that fit the song and were as memorable as possible. I was more interested in being able to play one note and have it sound interesting than trying to alternate pick at 180bpm (I’m just too slow). I know those things aren’t flashy or sexy but I am proud of all the recorded work I’ve been a part of and I still love traveling and playing on the road. And I am totally ok with my niche role being The Kemper Guy. Thank you to Michael Ross, who interviewed me and wrote the GP article. And thanks to everyone who bought a Kemper pack along the way. I am truly honored to be included in the written history of guitar.