Artist of the Month for November 2002: Howard Emerson
Name: Howard Michael Emerson
Age: None of your business (51)
Town: Huntington Station, NY
Hometown: I was born in Boston, MA
At what age did you start playing guitar? I got my first guitar for Chanuka in December of 1962
First guitar: Stella by Harmony i.e: 6 slab cheese slicer.
I only got my first real acoustic (Guild F-50) in 1970, so I was an electric player for the most part from 1963.
Early Influences: I owned 13 Ventures albums, and I still regard Nokie Edwards as one of the masters. I've been 'warned' that I'll probably be invited to the CAAS festival next year so I look forward to being able to meet him and see just how he really played the solo in 'Caravan' on the 'Ventures on Stage' album!
First gig: I think it must have been playing 'Girl from Ipanema' with my dad at my Bar Mitzvah back in June 1964 at The Huntington Town House. Wow! No pay, technically speaking, but everyone came and gave money:
"Hey mom, where's the gelt?"
Acoustic Guitars you own: I have a Martin OM-18V (1 of the first 2 made prior to adding it to the Vintage line), 1927 Gibson L-5, 1935 Gibson L-00, 20's Sovereign Parlor guitar, 1970 Guild F-212, and an early 1900's classical made in Valencia, Spain.
A paltry collection compared to Paul Asbell's, but he knows more musical styles than I do, so he needs more outlets for his inspiration:
A great player!
Favorite Guitar: Ouch! That's a really hard question to answer, but I guess if the house was on fire and I could only take one it would be the '27 L-5. It has the sustain of a flattop, and all the punch of an archtop.
Your Style, and how you developed it: In a nuttshell: I grew up as an anti-social kid who played guitar, was a frustrated drummer and loved bass. I needed to have all those things going on with none of the socializing :-]
That's how I came to play the syncopated chord melody style that I'm known for today.
Practice Regimen: I really don't sit down to practice per se. Being a composer I'm constantly trying to finish one song or another, so I'm always playing at some point of the day. I'm also a guitar teacher specializing in open tunings, fingerstyle and bottleneck, so I'm constantly showing a student something and having to play it and dissect it as well. Also, I teach via video tapes, so I often have to sit in front of the camera, talking to someone who's not there to give me any feedback, and then have to explain how to play in open C tuning with a moving bass with double delayed hammer-ons………….it goes a long way to keeping your mind sharp!
Favorite Artist(s): Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Randy Newman, Dr.John, John Hammond, The Stone, etc.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
Well, I'm married to Marcela( since 1979) and we have a 17 year old daughter, Nicole. I have a full woodworking shop in the basement where I build craftsmen-style influenced furniture. I love to garden in the spring and summer.
I've toured and recorded with Eric Andersen( Be true to You) and Billy Joel (Turnstiles) back in the 70's and I currently do clinics for the C.F.Martin Guitar Company.
My style is much different than the majority of fingerstyle players, and that's probably
due to the fact that I didn't come from a classical or country background. I also missed out on the folk movement and the ensuing acoustic guitar mania that spread with it. I figured out how to fingerpick while cutting class at Berklee School of Music where I only went to avoid getting drafted.
On paper, I'd say that I was missing some of the basic fundamentals that would be required to do what I do, but I've persevered. I'm very compulsive and the need to write is something that doesn't seem to wane.
Also, although I enjoy country blues, I never studied or learned any to speak of. However, I've got a strong grounding in its sensibilities and feel.
Ry Cooder learned from all the masters; I learned by listening to Ry.
I feel that if I can't say something original, it's not worth saying………..and oh yeah……one more thing: I always try to write music that has a very clearly defined melody; one that you could walk away humming. I hear way too many newer fingerstyle recordings where the song just sound like an excuse to demonstrate prowess. Luckily for me, I don't have those kind of chops, so I have to be alternatively creative:-]
When performing, my criteria for judging the gig a success is: I see their feet tapping, heads bobbing……..They've hitched their wagon to my pony; we're all-right.
Feel is everything. Slightly behind the beat is the pocket I look to pick. I'd rather play something a little too slowly than too quickly.
The follow-up CD to my 'Crossing Crystal Lake' is way overdue, but the good news is that I keep on writing more and more good songs, so I think the wait will be worth it. There'll be lots of bottleneck and some vocals as well, perhaps even some upright bass and percussion.
I have way too many opinions about way too many things, but thankfully I'm old enough to know when I should keep my mouth shut (the Ritalin helps for sure)……….but of course, if anyone has a question that my website, http://www.howardemerson.com/ doesn't answer, I hope they'll feel absolutely free to get in touch with me, as I really, really don't have any secrets about what I do or how I do it.
Visit Howard's website at www.howardemerson.com