acoustic guitar performance is at once rhythmic and melodic, its
a fantastic art form. One acoustic guitarist continuing on making
waves with guitar fans is John Westmoreland. On his 7th solo album,
the 2009 release of Troubled Times, Westmoreland combines a
rare knack for entertaining instrumental music lovers boldly with
just an acoustic guitar. Westmoreland is shaping up as one of the
top acoustic guitarists who can deftly merge folk, jazz and New Age
music forms so well in the spirit of the great Tommy Emmanuel and
the late great Swedish guitar ace Thomas Almqvist, who unexpectedly
died in December 2008. Embellishing his multi-tracked guitar and bass
with just the slightest hint of electronic tweaking, Westmoreland
comes out a winner with Troubled Times. A gifted guitarist
and composer who gets right to the point, both melodically and musicallyand
to a point diametrically in opposition to the album titleWestmoreland
makes listening to the acoustic guitar a pure joy in and of itself.
presents an interview with JOHN WESTMORELAND
is a way of communicating:
Emotions are universal. It is only in the way in which we express
them that we differ. Music is a way of communicating, and for some,
a way of conveying that which they cannot otherwise express. I've
listened to music of all kinds since childhood, though the study of
music never interested me. I don't like to analyze it, and do not
care to listen to those that do. I was never formally trained in music,
nor am I a technically good guitar player, yet, guitar music has been
an essential part of my life. Early attempts at guitar lessons proved
futile. So, I taught myself what I wanted to know about the guitar
and let life teach me about music. Over time, these and my other recordings
are the result.
John talking about his recordings:
Talking about my recordings, what is most important to me are the
tunes themselves. I am often asked how it is that I am able to write
so many tunes. I am never quite sure of an answer to this question.
To my recollection, I have never sat down with a guitar with the intention
of writing a tune. Yet, somehow it seems to happen. On the other hand,
given my inherent dislike for rote practice, I usually don't sit down
with the intention of playing any particular piece either. Rather,
I simply sit down and play. Whatever thoughts or images happen to
be in mind seem to come out in a series of notes and chords that I
end up linking into some form of melody or coherent tune. It's just
a natural process for my introverted mind.
Not everybody likes the same thing:
I am often puzzled at the number of excellent players out there who
do not write their own material, some of whom claim to have never
written a thing. Maybe it is safer if somebody else wrote the work.
On the other hand, when you do something original, something that
no one has heard before, there is nothing else to compare your rendition
to. To me that is a safer bet. But invariably, you run into people
who do not like or do not understand what you have done. That is their
problem. As the saying goes, "that's why restaurants have menus"
. Not everybody likes the same thing!
Describing his own music:
As for my own music, it is what it is. I know what I feel when I hear
a particular tune, but I don't like to tell others what that is or
what a tune is supposed to be about. I prefer to let the listener
rely upon their own experiences and create their own images and emotions.
I have written music in about 6 different tunings and have experimented
with others. However, the vast majority of my work has been done in
E-B-E-G#-B-E. For me, this one has a natural feel and flow. It also
has a different sound than conventional tuning, and allows me to create
moods that I can't find in other tunings. I have found an almost infinite
array of chords in this tuning which I construct simply by sound and
know only by feel. If you asked me to name them by note I could not
I write and record a lot of material and sometimes I should probably
put more effort into a tune, but all too often I am off to the next
one before I can finish the last. On occasion, I have written and
recorded a tune in one sitting and then gone with that recording despite
it's imperfections just because I liked the feel of it or it's spontaneity.
I can usually live with the little blunders. As I said before, what
is most important to me is the tune itself, not how well I play it.
Style Vs. content:
I think that a lot of players spend huge amounts of time trying to
become the fastest gun in the west. That is okay for them, and I really
admire great playing when I hear it. But that's just not in me. Maybe
I am lazy, but I prefer to think that I use the guitar as a creative
vehicle rather than a piece of exercise equipment. What matters in
the end is whether or not the listener enjoys what they are hearing.
Maybe that is why so many of my listeners are not necessarily guitarists
but simply music lovers. They are not hung up looking for some incredibly
difficult or technically excellent thing.
One thing that I dislike in music is structure, and that is why I
like using alternate tunings. For the same reason I like listening
to 'slack key' guitar, which is the Hawaiian interpretation of acoustic
guitar playing. It is laid-back and flows naturally through melody
rather than relying upon raw power. There is so much positive emotion
instead of anger. And I like the fact that it doesn't need to be overly
difficult to play in order to be enjoyed. It is much more about the
beauty of the sound than fast licks.
Find your own style:
Too many times players get hung up on the fact that they can't sound
like their idols. I think that maybe their strength lies elsewhere.
They need to understand that their playing has it's own merit and
should not be compared to others. That is why I think that it is important
to enjoy listening to others and to learn from them when you can,
but not to try and copy or emulate them. Take what you like about
their playing and combine it with what you like about your own and
develop your own style and sound. There are so many amazing guitarists
that I enjoy listening to but I don't try to do what they do. I only
do what I do. That is all I can do.
Thanks to John Westmoreland