Q&A: Jun/Jul/Aug, Part III
9/1/2010 (updated 1/3/2011)

Re: when comes the full band again?
So, I just felt it was time to put in a request for him to bring another electric band show to the area. How about a show at the Orange Peel in Asheville or the Carolina Theatres in Durham or Greensboro? John Lestina

Orange Peel, Asheville, 17 October.

What pray tell is the guitar tuning on the tune "the job of journey work"? Many thanks in advance. Charles Freeborn

Tuning is DADGAD

Author Tom Robbins once said he is mandated to write every day at the same time and place because, "otherwise your muse won't know where to find you." Do you agree, or do your revelations arrive anywhere at any moment? KA Brown

I find routine very productive, so maybe there's something in it. I do get ideas on the bus/plane/motorway though, so the muse might be using some sort of GPS tracking device. I find it good to change rooms too if things are slow, and sometimes I have a morning room and an afternoon room, just to change it up a bit and keep in (or out) of the sun. George Bernard Shaw, I'm sure you all know, had a writing room at the bottom of the garden that could turn, like a windmill, to catch the sunlight.

I watched and listened with fascination, to the guitar solos you played on the two nights in Portland OR in February. Both performances featured strong, technically demanding solos that were quite different on each night and the textures and vocabulary seem to be so much deeper and richer than before (not to suggest previous offerings were mediocre).

Question - (assuming my observations are accurate) - does this tie in with the two finger injuries you sustained earlier; was a bigger portion of daily practice being devoted toward imagination/listening, rather than finger calisthenics, followed by more physical practice when said digits could work comfortably again? Max Cuthbert, Portland OR

I couldn't say. Maybe I got lucky those two nights. But what you say is interesting. It is a good exercise to imagine playing. The music in your imagination is a little freer than the patterns your fingers tend to fall into, and sometimes you find new things.

Why aren't there any Canadian tour dates booked? 'Tis a shame!!! Maria Post

We are hoping for Toronto (see above). Sometimes it's logistics that keep us out of Canada.

I play acoustic and sing a bit and as long as I have been involved with music it has been intrinsically linked to drinking too much beer and filling the air with clouds of fag smoke. I am now in my early '30s and feeling more mortal! Also, I find my playing and singing are hugely diminished by this connection. I am about to sever these links and become a clean-living musician. Just hoping for a few words of encouragement that this can be a satisfying thing to do - and kinder on the voice too! Might have to find some new session mates though!

If that's what you feel you need at this point in your life, then that's what you must do. Your old friends may drift away, but new ones will fill the vacuum. Acupuncture has been a great success for some friends of mine for quitting smoking.

As I write, England's football team has just arrived back in Blighty after a poor display but recent wins over Australia in both cricket and rugby have been very pleasing. We lead 3-0 in the 5-match one-day series in cricket. But what do you think about 20/20 cricket - not enough narrative for me to be honest....?

I hate 20/20 - just a crap shoot. One dayers are just OK.

I am most happy when flatpicking and crosspicking - though there is much work to be done. I could be alright though in time! However then I hear you hybrid-pick or finger pick, I love it and get diverted for a while. Is there something to be said for doggedly sticking to a single style of attack while you develop your musical understanding? Or is variety the spice of life?

I think you should try everything, to see the possibilities. Life is long enough for you to develop flat and finger styles fully.

When I am crosspicking tunes, usually Bluegrass but all kinds of folky stuff, I rarely play the same passage identically, even if I try. It sounds ok each time but the patterns always vary just a bit. Should I correct this technique or celebrate my "feel" in order to progress as a guitarist - what say you? Pete Moran

I'm with you. I have a hard time playing the same thing twice. I feel we should both develop the ability to do it though, in case we ever have to play something written, like real musicians!

Richard, 2010 has been a big year for you to say the least: Writing, arranging, rehearsing and recording Dream Attic. Curating Meltdown. Rehearsing for 1000 Years and "Loud & Rich". Then, there's the public exposure and media attention associated with your role as curator. Over the past year, you've produced a more diverse body of work than many so-called "rock stars" do in a decade, if not an entire career. It all sounds highly energizing and stimulating, and yet exhausting. How do you manage to do it all, especially given your stimulant-free lifestyle? Are you likely to let your plate get this full again?

Meltdown was stressful - the months leading up to it, and the festival itself. I wouldn't want to do it every year! Next year looks quieter. I like the variety in the musical calendar though.