Posted: 17 April 2018
Which artists are you currently working?
Charlie Puth and Jennifer Hudson. I stay busy when I’m not on the road by working on various TV dates and also recording sessions at my own studio for producers in LA and overseas.
How did you get into being a session musician?
It was always a goal of mine to be a busy sideman. That meant jazz training, studying every type of music authentically and developing my gear knowledge so I could achieve any sonic request at speed. I love the versatility of players like Landau, Lukather, Paul Jackson Jr, David Williams and Jay Graydon. After landing my first touring gig, while at college in London, my network expanded fast. Later on, Corinne Bailey Rae brought me to LA where I met the musical directors that would propel my career to the next level.
Which artists have you worked with in the past?
A range of Pop, Rock, R&B and Latin artists including: Shakira, Alejandro Sanz, Charlie Puth, Jennifer Hudson, Frank Ocean, Corinne Bailey Rae, Fantasia, Jessie J, Rihanna, Nicole Scherzinger, Roisin Murphy, Nitin Sawhney... I recently did a telethon for the Houston Hurricane with Stevie Wonder, Tori Kelley and Luis Fonsi. The list goes on.
Which Marshall amps are you using and why?
My main live amp is a JTM45 2245 head. I run two in stereo as the ultimate clean platform for a range of pedals, at a moderate stage volume, taking in-ear monitoring into consideration. They sound incredible and compress perfectly. My 100w 1959HW Plexi came on the road with Frank Ocean and Shakira, but now lives in the studio as my go-to for gain pedals into a 4x12 with G12H30s. I have a further 1959SLP modded for high gain and a good old JCM800. I tend to remove the input bright caps in all my Marshalls just as a personal preference. I like to use Mullard 12ax7 tubes just in the V1 stage. For cabinets on backline, I always use Marshall 1960AX straight front 4x12s with greenbacks.
What is a typical day like for you?
I try to get all my business done by 12 noon so I can get to my studio for recording or writing. My creativity starts to fade by about 8pm so it’s good to catch that window. If I have a local gig I try to get all the learning done by lunchtime.
The road can get a little unpredictable. I make sure to eat well, stay inspired musically and nurse my hangovers. I always like to get in an hour before soundcheck to go through any string changes and warm up the fingers. Soundchecks are all about efficiency and listening to your band mates. After the doors open and the lights go up, that’s when the fun really starts.
What are the most memorable moments you’ve had so far in your career?
I look back very fondly on a DVD recording with Alejandro Sanz in 2010 over two nights at the sold out Palacio de Deportes in Madrid. All the stars were aligned with amazing songs, musicianship and energy. More recently I’d say recording on the No.1 song ‘Attention’ by Charlie Puth. It’s a great feeling when you hear your guitars that you recorded and engineered played repeatedly on the radio and in every store!
How do you prepare for touring and studio work?
Alongside an array of instruments at the studio, I have a duplicate setup for sessions and live work. JTM45s are tubed and ready at all times and stereo pedalboards for electrics and acoustics are flight-cased. My guitar hard cases always contain spare strings, straps, tech gear, custom cables and accessories. I got tired of forgetting things at the studio so now everything is duplicated. I have a Kerry Wright staggered 2x12 closed back cabinet with a G12H30 and V30 for bringing to in-town sessions.
Is it hard to adapt your sound to different artists?
In my case, my voice is incorporated with the ability to achieve a diverse selection of sounds from clean to medium-gain to high-gain. I’ve geeked out with my techs for many years on replicating classic sounds from the history of the guitar, be it Hendrix, Gilmour, Eric Johnson, Andy Summers etc. So my sound is pretty broad minded. If a producer calls me, my job is to pull up the sound he is hearing before he even asks for it.
How do you find work?
The longer you spend in a city as musically rich as Los Angeles, the wider your network becomes. There comes a point when you can’t keep up with the workload, so you have to become selective. If I’m not on the road I make sure to stay active in my studio and present on the live circuit. Being seen keeps you active. I have spent time nurturing relationships with key musical directors and producers who can now rely on me to bring exactly what is needed without any instruction.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to work as a session musician?
When starting out, be fearless but not over eager when it comes to letting people know you are available for work. The aim is to establish personal relationships with musical directors, artists and producers. They need to know you are ready for any scenario. You need to perfect your reading skills, communication skills, theory knowledge and gear knowledge, so that when it comes to the moment of actually playing music, you can focus on the human interaction and most importantly enjoy the process. It sounds cliché but people want to enjoy working with you. Preparation is everything, before those big opportunities arise, which they inevitably will. The aim is to nurture your distinctive voice, one that will be useful to artists and composers, but still be able to sit back and play your part.