Blog

TOMMY EMMANUEL TALKS GUITAR RETREAT & NEW ALBUM

TOMMY EMMANUEL TALKS GUITAR RETREAT & NEW ALBUM

Photo by Jason Rosewarne

It’s testament to the talent, tenacity and work ethic of Tommy Emmanuel that after five decades in the music business, his career trajectory is still on an upward trend. In fact, you could say that it’s at an all-time high. Next year is shaping up to be even bigger for Tommy with the release of a new album, Accomplice One, as well as a trip back to Australia for the Adelaide Guitar Festival and his 4 day guitar retreat in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges.

Accomplice One will be released on January 19, 2018. It’s an album of collaborations with some of Tommy’s favourite guitar players and singers. The artists who stepped forward to join Tommy on this musical journey include Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Suzy Bogguss, Jorma Kaukonen, Jake Shimabukuro, J.D. Simo, Charlie Cushman, Clive Carroll, Pat Bergeson, Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo, and the great Jack Pearson. 

The Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Retreat Australia will take place on 15-19 August 2018 at Country Place, right in the middle of Dandenong Ranges and 40 minutes drive from Melbourne. Surrounded by the beauty of the Mountain Ash trees and the natural wilderness of the area, this luxury retreat is aimed at players of all ages, levels, interests and taste. Whether you are a master player, a beginner, or just an enthusiastic fan, this four-day program offers activities and workshops for all levels of guitarists in a non-competitive environment and strictly about the joy of music.

Ahead of the album release and guitar camp Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Tommy on the phone for a chat.

Photo by Jason Rosewarne

Hi Tommy. Great to chat again. Where are you?
I’m doing great mate. I am holed up in a hotel in Lubbock, Texas. We came in from Lincoln Nebraska. After the show we had a 12 hour trip on the bus.

When you look back at 2017, what are your highlights?
There have been so many great highlights this year. I was just talking to a friend of mine about that. For me personally, probably seeing my youngest daughter a lot more and seeing her growing and changing on a week to week basis. Recording this album that I have done in the last two years. It’s been such a great experience. I also did some touring where the crowds were that much bigger. Everything has moved up and for me it is so exciting. It is like the last 20 years of my life and the work I have put in overseas, is really starting to show some results now.

You have a new album titled Accomplice One, coming out on January 19. What can you tell me about that journey?
Well it took me two years of getting that together. Trying to coordinate my schedule with other artists, that was no mean feat. I do 300 dates a year myself and just trying to fit in with other people has been interesting. It was a great experience because I got recording done in other countries, England, Cuba and some in LA and Nashville. The whole thing came together in a really good way. The idea was to do duets with artists who were well established, well known and that I could collaborate with on a one-on-one basis. That’s how it all came together. There isn’t one recording on this album where somebody emailed in their part, that’s how most people work now. I know, I have played on some people’s records. I played on a Michael Jackson track. I played on a Diana Ross record a few years ago. I was in England and the producer was in LA and I did it in studio there and emailed it to them. That’s pretty normal these days but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be working with each artist as if we were on stage virtually. I think that’s why the album has the feel that it does. It’s all live playing and live singing. You’d be amazed at how many people have written … when they have seen the video … young people saying, did you use autocorrect on the vocals? How did you get it so in tune? The answer is … it’s a real person, really singing into a microphone, that’s all it is.

How did you come up with Accomplice One as the title?
I was looking for the right title for someone you like collaborating with. I had already made an album called Collaboration back in the 90s. I didn’t want to do an album that had the word duets in the title, I wanted it to be something different. By the dictionary definition, an accomplice is someone who helps you commit a crime. I thought that was pretty cool. Although, not that what we are doing is criminal! And it’s a concept I’m taking into the next record. I already have Alison Krauss onboard and I am working on a duet with James Taylor, so a lot of my pipe dreams are coming true for me because I am sticking at it. This whole experience has been really great because it gave me a great feeling that people respect my work and are willing to work with me. Somebody like Mark Knopfler… when I wrote to him, I hadn’t spoken to him since 2002 or something like that. I contacted him out of the blue and asked if he would like to play on a track with me and he wrote back straight away and said, I’d like that and I think I have a song which could be good for us.

“… it’s a concept I’m taking into the next record. I already have Alison Krauss onboard and I am working on a duet with James Taylor, so a lot of my pipe dreams are coming true for me because I am sticking at it.
This whole experience has been really great because it gave me a great feeling that people respect my
work and are willing to work with me.”

Does what you’re listening to at any particular time influence the style of song you write?
Definitely. There’s a track on this new album called Rachel’s Lullaby. Rachel is my baby daughter. I had been listening to some specific Beatles tracks. The day that I wrote that song, I had spent a good week listening to Blackbird and Penny Lane, all those beautiful Beatles songs and listening to a lot of Paul McCartney’s solo work as well and I was in a really good place. I was in Moscow at the time and my wife said, why don’t you write Rachel a lullaby? That’s all she had to say. It was like she switched me on and I wrote that song. When you hear it and now that you know that, you might say you’re tapping into the influence of Paul McCartney somehow. He’s such a great guy too. I met him in person for the first time last year and what an inspiring person to be around.

Did you use many guitars on this album?
Oh yeah. I used my Matons on several tracks. I used a Martin D28 that I picked up in Singapore a couple of years ago. I used that on a couple of tracks, it’s a good recording guitar. I used my Larrivee on one track. I used my Wayne Henderson on a couple as well and I used my old Fender Telecaster on a few of the electric parts.

Something else that is happening for you next year is that you’re coming back to Australia for another guitar camp.
Yes Victoria this time. They are always good. I’m going to bring Richard Smith with me, he’s one of my favourite teachers. He’s not only an amazing guitar player but a great teacher and that’s an important thing. An instructor at one of my camps has to be a good teacher. You know, 120 people over 4 days and everybody gets a chance to play individually and everybody gets a chance to play on stage if they want. There are concerts every night and lessons every day. We start the day off with an hour and a half of me with the whole group and each day is a different topic. It’s all about the roots of music, how to practice, how to learn, how to develop your ear, how to sing songs, how to play in time. It’s all really good meat and potatoes of playing music.

At the end of their time with you, what kind of things do people come up and tell you about their experience?
Most people say that we’ve changed the way they think about their whole life not just music but how they are going to proceed in life from this moment forward. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s also a nice feeling when people say that they don’t feel like they are being judged or they aren’t afraid that they’ve been judged. When you do away with all of that and think we’re all the same here … we are all here to learn and to be better and to help each other. There’s no judge and jury. Everybody does it in a different way. I think it is very important that people lose that fear that they are not as good as someone else. That’s the first thing I try to get rid of in people. We don’t care if you are really great or if you suck or if you are in between. If we see you are loving it, then we’ll do anything to help you and that’s the bottom line.

Also next year you’re playing the Adelaide Guitar Festival. Do you approach a festival like that in a different way that you would a normal gig?
It depends. Sometimes you’ll get on a guitar festival and they’ll say, this is mostly classical. I’d tend to play not as much rock ‘n’ roll as I normally would on a festival if it was like that. Sometimes I’ll play a festival and it will be mostly jazz and then I’d lean a little more toward jazz in my set. Mostly for me, it is a great opportunity for me to be part of something where there are a lot of other interesting players. It’s a good feeling to bring your own thing to it. The Adelaide Guitar Festival is a really good one now. They are going for a variety. They are bringing people in from other countries. I have been kind of a consultant for them on a few things and recommended different players. They are bringing Pedro Javier Gonzales in from Barcelona on my recommendation. He is not only one of the greatest players on the planet but he is versatile, a man of great experience and will bring something great to the festival that will be of benefit to everyone and we’ll get a chance to jam together.

Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Retreat Australia
15-19th August, 2018. CountryPlace, Kalorama in the Dandenong Ranges
Registrations open now
For further information, ticket prices and accommodation, visit: http://tommyemmanuelguitarretreat.com/

Accomplice One tracklisting:
1. Deep River Blues with Jason Isbell
2. Song and Dance Man with Ricky Skaggs
3. Saturday Night Shuffle with Jorma Kaukonen and Pat Bergeson
4. Wheelin’ and Dealin’ with J.D. Simo & Charlie Cushman
5. C-Jam Blues with David Grisman & Bryan Sutton
6. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay wth J.D. Simo
7. Borderline with Amanda Shires
8. You Don’t Want To Get You One Of Those with Mark Knopfler
9. Keepin’ It Reel with Clive Carroll
10. Looking Forward To The Past with Rodney Crowell
11. Purple Haze with Jerry Douglas
12. Rachel’s Lullaby with Jake Shimabukuro
13. Djangology with Frank Vignola & Vinny Raaniolo
14. Watson Blues with David Grisman & Bryan Sutton
15. Tittle Tattle with Jack Pearson
16. The Duke’s Message with Suzy Bogguss

Released January 19, 2018

Tagged