Saturday, July 7, 2012

''GUITAR GODS: Tommy Emmanuel''

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
Originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Friday, February 14 2003 @ 15:24:55 GMT

Saying Tommy Emmanuel plays guitar is like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger lifts weights.

With 13 studio albums, 2 live concert videos, an instructional video, 19 major awards, a Grammy nomination, multiple world tours, and a featured spot at the 2000 Olympic Games closing ceremonies in Australia (and broadcast around the world to over 2 billion viewers!), Tommy Emmanuel - the Kid from Downunder - has certainly attained the respect and admiration of fans and peers alike.
The late & great Chet Atkins (with whom Tommy shared a Grammy nomination for their work on "The Day Fingerpickers Took Over the World") said Tommy is, " of the greatest players on the planet...". Other giants of music have similar things to say. No wonder, since he has amazed everyone who hears him with his undefinable acoustic guitar style - a style which has led him to working with not only Atkins, but with Jerry Reed, Sir George Martin, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Michael Bolton, Olivia Newton-John, John Denver, Albert Lee, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Leo Kottke, Hank Marvin, Joe Walsh, and countless others.

Tommy's most recent collection of original tunes (not counting his 2002 release "The Very Best Of Tommy Emmanuel") is his 2000 release "Only", which features the soft & enchanting "Those Who Wait", the happy "I've Always Thought of You", a dizzying piece called "Timberlake Road", the electrifying acoustic blues of "Ol' Brother Hubbard", and many more incredible tracks.

For the latest info on Tommy's releases & touring schedule, plus photo and sound galleries, interview clips, discography, on-line shop, free notation & tab, and more, check out his WEB-SITE.

Tommy took a moment out from his hectic schedule last week to answer a few questions for TinFoil readers. Check it out!


1) What are your current projects?

Recently I have been in Germany writing , demo-ing and recording for my next album. Some songs I have been playing on stage for 6 months or so, others I have written and recorded on the day. It's been exciting and fun.

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

My last album - "ONLY" - was just guitar alone, all original songs. This project has some drums and percussion on some tracks, and I've decided to record a couple of songs like "Mona Lisa" which the folks always ask for at shows, so I've mixed it up a little.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

I feel very strongly about everything I've done, however making the "Fingerpickers" album with Chet Atkins was an experience of a lifetime and nothing could top that!

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?

I travel with the minimum I can to deliver my best up there and not kill myself dragging too much equipment all over the planet. I have 3 Maton guitars with me on the road. One is my main 00 sized guitar, which is usually tuned to A446, for less tuning problems on stage and good tight and low action. One is a new Jumbo model , called a "Tommy Emmanuel Custom", it has their new AP5 system with pickup and mic, I have it tuned to DGDGBE for some tunes in that tuning, and I usually have a capo on the 2nd fret, because it suits the tunes I play in that part of my show. The third Maton is a TE-1 serial number 001! It's the guitar I have used on a lot of albums and projects and I tune it down a tone and set it up with 13 to 58's on it. Low, flat, and comfortable action, also I use this baby for my Aboriginal song "INITIATION". It has a Hot-rodded pickup (no mic) and extreme EQ on board so I can get to sounds of thunder, wind rain, etc. from it. I sometimes turn the extreme mids and lows back and get a warm, sweet sound for a ballad - it's nice to play.

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

My earliest influences were Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Snow , Marty Robbins , Grady Martin, The Shadows, The Ventures, Dwayne Eddie.... Then, from 1963 onwards, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, The Beatles, Jerry Reed, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Larry Carlton, James Taylor, Don Maclean, Gordon Lightfoot, Doc Watson, Stevie R V, Eric Clapton, etc., etc..... I love ALL kinds of music and could write a list forever, but I think Chet and Jerry were a big part of my "growth spurt" period as a player back in the early-mid 70's. I have always listened to Don Rich, James Burton, Albert Lee, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Nicols, and My brother Phil was always there influencing the way I played and listened to music as well. He was my guide through the early parts of my life.

6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Remember; "Life is not a rehearsal" so get to work if you have a desire to excel at anything. You MUST be prepared to put into your playing what you want to get out of it. If you stay dedicated, work hard at it, don't look for shortcuts, and play because you LOVE IT, you'll do well! Make repetition your friend: without repetitive practice, your hands won't do things smoothly and with ease when you get on the stage to play. Practice improvising too. My #1 Tip for you....: NEVER practice in front or around your family - they'll hate you for it. Nobody but YOU likes or needs repetition. Record yourself often and listen back. Be aware of TIME and Groove, tone, touch, dynamics, TIME, did I say TIME enough Times!! (it's not a magazine - hahaha!!!)

7) What are your future plans?

My future plans are to get better everyday, show love to the people I meet and play for, and PLAY THE HELL out of it every chance I get!


  1. tommy is definitely one of my heroes and a great influence and inspiration. His compositions are so rich, so authentic. Always does a great job keeping fresh. I'm glad he talked about time and groove. Great notes really can't cut it without the time and groove there!

  2. Another thing that struck me about Tommy (having the honor of chatting with him a coupla times and meeting him face-to-face) is that he is such a genuinely nice guy. HUGE heart...and listen to the story he tells at his 2010 Woodsongs performance with Frank Vignola (show #562: ).

  3. Actually listening to him right now on PBS. WOW OH WOW WHAT A GREAT PERFORMER AND ARTIST.