Would you like to witness outstanding guitar playing and a consummate musician at work?
You need to see Tommy Emmanuel in concert.
And it is not all jaw dropping techniques and technicalities, Tommy believes that the song comes first and the musicianship serves a good song.
His philosophy today is all about giving his fans a great show.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be in show business. Now I just want to be in the happiness business – I make music, you get happy. That’s a good job.” Laughs.
Emmanuel started professionally at age six, rising through the ranks as a studio player and member of several Australian rock bands before he set off on a solo career.
One of only five musicians handpicked by his mentor Chet Atkins as a Certified Guitar Player (CGP), he has piled up numerous accolades, including two Grammy nominations, two ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association (the Aussie equivalent of the Recording Academy) and repeated honours in the Guitar Player magazine readers’ poll.
Today, he plays hundreds of sold-out shows every year, from Nashville to Sydney to London.
His recent album of duets and cover versions called ‘Accomplice One’ is a collection of wonderful songs, great playing and a surprising treatment of a classic pop song.
I call on Tommy Emmanuel for a chat as he is making his way in his tour van through California from Santa Cruz, making his way to Los Angeles for three shows.
Tommy has played 250 dates in the last 12 months. And that is less than his usual schedule as he is cutting back a little!
“It’s a little less than I used to do!” he laughs.
Tommy’s family is based in San José, California so last night’s show was an opportunity for the family to see his show.
“I get to see my kids a bit more, which is great.
“My baby daughter is five – the rest are grown up. She came down with her mother last night. We hung out before the show.”
Tommy’s album of collaborations boasts an impressive list including Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, J.D. Simo, David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Suzy Bogguss and many more.
Tommy works fast and recorded his ‘Accomplice One’ album in a series of short sessions while he played on other recordings.
“With Rodney Crowel, I was working on his album and while I was working on his album I told him I was doing duets with other artists.” Rodney had three new songs for Tommy to hear.
“I choose ‘Looking forward To The Past’. The next day after I finished his recordings, I came back over and we recorded that song.”
“With Mark Knopfler, I had no idea what Mark was going to do. I just showed up in the studio and away we went and did it in one take!”
Also on the album is ‘Borderline’, sung by Amanda Shires. It’s an extraordinary treatment of a well worn old pop song.
The duo kicked new life back into Madonna’s 1980s hit, giving it a country music overhaul with great depth.
“You can’t really go wrong when a song has a good message and then you treat it with the right kind of approach.”
“I don’t like Madonna’s version as much as I like Madonna. I pitched it to Amanda and I taught her how to sing it like that and she really loved it.”
The track was recorded with Tommy on guitar and Amanda singing. She played all the piano lines on the fiddle and he added all the other instruments later.
Tommy’s album ‘Accomplice One’ (2018) is available now.
His Irish tour will promote that album and his recent release ‘Heart Songs’ recorded with John Knowles, a collection of their favourite classic songs about love.
The next album will be a set of new original songs from Tommy due to be released later this year. ‘Accomplice Two’ will follow that project in 2021.
No sign of Tommy slowing down too much, in that case.