Name: Jim Tozier
Town: Solomons, MD
Hometown: Crofton, MD
At what age did you start playing guitar and why?
14; I wanted to be a rock star, of course!
A classical guitar that an uncle loaned to me.
When I started playing, my influences were evenly divided between the acoustic singer-songwriters of the 60's and 70's (Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, etc.) and the electric rock "guitar gods" (Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, etc.). My first fingerstyle influences were Michael Hedges, Pierre Bensusan and Al Petteway.
A Labor Day picnic at the church that the drummer from my first band attended. My most vivid memory of the gig was when the singer decided to skip over "Cocaine" in the set list, thinking it wouldn't be a good idea to play it at a church function. Well, it was the only Clapton tune on our list, and I wanted to play it. So I just launched into the opening riff, and the drummer and bassist joined in. It put the singer in a tough spot, but being a very creative fellow, he changed the lyrics on the fly. I'll never forget the new chorus: "It's your light, it's your light, it's your light . . . Propane."
Acoustic Guitars you own:
I currently own three guitars--a Larrivee OM-10, a Larrivee J-10, and my main guitar, a cedar/mahogany small jumbo made by Kent Hamblin. I also have a cedar/rosewood Hamblin SJ on order.
The Hamblin SJ, hands down. Superb craftsmanship, and its tone and responsiveness fit my style perfectly. I had Kent build it with a slightly longer scale, so it really handles alternate tunings well.
Your Style, and how you developed it:
I've wanted to play solo acoustic guitar ever since hearing Michael Hedges' "Aerial Boundaries" album--a recording that completely changed the way I looked at playing guitar. I was still very involved with playing in bands at the time, though, so for the most part I didn't really pursue fingerstyle playing, with the exception of adding a few fingerstyle "intros" to our songs, played on electric guitar. Later, around the same time that the band had run its course, I was at a David Wilcox concert, when he invited a guitarist friend up on stage to play a couple of tunes. I was totally blown away by the combination of fingerstyle playing and Celtic music. The guitarist, of course, was Al Petteway--and immediately after the concert I drove over to Tower records and bought the only petteway CD they had in stock, "Caledon Wood." Hearing Al play was truly an epiphany; that was when I knew exactly what I wanted to do on guitar. I scheduled a couple of lessons with Al,
which quickly turned into the recording sessions that would produce my first CD, "Castlerea."
The only times I truly "practice" are when I'm preparing for a performance, or when I'm working on a new arrangement. I spend a lot of my actual playing time working on new compositions. Every once in a while, I will focus on developing or improving a particular technique, but I don't spend nearly as much time as I probably should on those sorts of things. I've always thought of myself as more of a songwriter than a guitarist, so I guess I'd just rather spend time working on crafting new songs than improving my guitar skills.
My favorite acoustic guitarists are Michael Hedges, Al Petteway, Pierre Bensusan, Pat Kirtley, El McMeen, Steve Baughman, Muriel Anderson, Laurence Juber, and many others--the type of players who focus on playing really melodic music, but also know how to groove a little. I also listen to a lot of Celtic music that isn't on guitar--most recently Steeleye Span, Liz Carroll, and John Doyle. I still spend a lot of time listening to acoustic artists with great lyrics and/or hamonies: S&G, David Wilcox, Cheryl Wheeler, Lowen & Navarro, Dana Robinson, Nickel Creek, etc.
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
In addition to "Castlerea," I recently released two new CDs on Solid Air Records: "Celtic Guitar," which is a collection of traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, and "Solo Guitar," which features original compositions. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with comments or questions. Finally, I'll leave you with this reminder from a departed friend: "Play music for life!"
To learn more about Jim please visit www.jimtozier.com