Name: Michael Hewett
Town: Brooklyn, NY
Hometown (if different from current town): Kennett Square, PA
At what age did you start playing guitar? 10
First guitar: $50 Sears and Roebuck electric guitar (white and black strat-style hooked up to an ancient car stereo amplifier, I was in love…)
Early Influences: Eddie Van Halen, John Williams (composer), Joe Satriani
First gig: Outdoor festival at my father's company picnic
Acoustic Guitars you own: Paul McGill Super Acoustic, James Goodall, Takamine electric/acoustic
Favorite Guitar: Hands down, anything Paul McGill has built (steel string & nylon). As far as electric guitars go, Scott Platt's Stonetree guitars are the best. My telecaster prototype he built is like a dream.
Your style, and how you developed it: I grew up listening to many modern, orchestral composers. My father used to wake me up in the morning by playing Gershwin on the piano, and I think that opened my mind to the possibilities of expressing myself without using words. I chose guitar as my principal instrument after hearing Edward Van Halen, and that led to deep study of other guitar heroes like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Steve Morse. I spent every free second learning these guys' songs down to the last pick scrape! Graduating high school early, I attended Berklee College of Music in the early 90's and got a much-needed intellectual understanding of how I hear music. I moved to Manhattan after college and branched out into classical studies, transcribing piano music and orchestral scores for solo guitar. I worked out Tchaikovsky, Chopin, and Bach arrangements using two-hand tapping, and alternate tunings so I didn't have to drop too many notes from the score.
After breaking up the rock band I had been playing with for my first few years in the city, I took a much-needed break from the electric guitar and became inspired by Michael Hedges' music. Shortly after, I began composing exclusively for steel string acoustic and released my first acoustic guitar Cd "Hidden in Plain Sight" in 2000. Two years later, I signed with an indy label and released "Being in Dreaming", an ensemble album where I began mixing the alternate tunings and orchestral style of acoustic playing with electric guitar tools like the ebow, delays, and samplers. My third Cd "Ally", will be released this month, and is a return to the electric guitar, reverently invoking David Gilmour and Jeff Beck.
For my compositions, I am interested in making them as memorable and expressive they can be rather than whether they are hard or impressive to perform. I believe very few listeners remember an artist's technique, but everyone remembers being moved by a well-constructed, emotional composition.
Living in the city, I walk everywhere with headphones on. Listening is a powerful practice of honing in on what kind of musical qualities to emulate, as well as what should be avoided. I perform frequently, and this is the best kind of active practice. At home, I work on classical guitar. It is the ideal guitar for developing tonal control, physical endurance, mental concentration, and the possibilities for beautiful repertoire are so profound. In my dreams, my flamenco chops would be passable one day.
Favorite Artist(s): This is a difficult question to answer briefly because so many artists have had a huge influence on me; and then the lineage of great musicians and composers behind those artists that inspired them in turn. In the last two years, I've been unable to stop listening to Radiohead, Meshell N'degeocello, Jeff Buckley, John Tavener, and Jonatha Brooke. Also, I owe my wife a great debt for introducing me to great flamenco artists like Estrella Morente, Vincente Amigo, and Pedro Cortez.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general? The music I'm most interested in listening to always has a singer involved. Even though my work is instrumental, what I'm really trying to emulate is a sing-able melody over perfectly balanced harmonic structure. I have met so many great guitar players in the progressive acoustic vein, and heard very few that can compose well. Musicians should develop lots of different techniques to a high level, but always remember that the techniques should be transparent to the composition. I think it's a blast to compose something that is technically nearly impossible to play, but to the average listener just sounds like good music.
Michael's second CD, "Being in Dreaming" may be purchased here http://www.nudgie.com/dmBeing.html or downloaded from itunes.com His first Cd "Hidden in Plain Sight" may be purchased here http://cdbaby.com/cd/hewett