Q&A April 2013, Part V
4/30/2013 (updated 5/3/2013)

I've been meaning to ask you this for years! (I'm a big fan of your songs and your playing for many years now - by the way, Electric is wonderful)) When you are improvising a solo or a fill, do you ever tend to think in terms of scales and modes? Sort of, "ooh a bit of mixolydian would do nicely here... " etc? Or do you have other ways of getting to do what you do?

The reason I ask is that I, as an average lead-player, stuck in pentatonic boxes for decades, have been trying to use a few modal things to break out of those patterns. Sometimes it seems to work, sometimes the result is a bit of a mess or a blind alley) Is that something you ever chose to do and do you have any practical advice on the subject generally? Thanks very much (apologies to any non guitar playing readers who will find this Q really boring!) Kind regards, Doug

If you practice many kinds of scale, including whole tone, diminished, major, minor, pentatonic - and also arpeggios of various chords - when the time comes to solo, you can move more fluently from one to the other without thinking too much about it. When you are totally inside the music, there is still some part of your brain that is thinking about where to go next.

A good place to start to break out of pentatonic habits is to go to the minor scale, which means adding the missing degrees - second and sixth - to the pentatonic scale.

During a recent trip to the UK I was lucky enough to get tickets to see you at St Albans - the first time I have seen you live. I came out of there on cloud 9 it even made the intense cold weather seem better. I also watched the BBC Four sessions (not as well publicised as the other events to mark the closure of BBC TV Centre it was only thanks to Beesweb and a listing in the Radio Times that I knew it was on). I am a recent convert to your music, so I have lots of questions so please forgive me if you've heard it all before. (Thanks for taking the time to answer my previous ones).

1. When you do your encores do you ever change your mind and play something different to what you had planned in response to audience suggestions?

Yes, all the time.

2. I liked the mix of new and old songs particularly I enjoyed hearing Cold Kisses at St Albans and Waltzing for Dreamers on the BBC Four Sessions. How do you go about choosing which older songs you intend to play does it depend on your mood or how you think they will go down at different venues or how they might tie in with the current album?

I try to represent all eras of my career, as far as that's possible. I tend to cycle songs in and out if they become over-familiar. I also try to react to what people want to hear. There are different songs that find favour in different countries, and sometimes different towns. Sometimes the acoustics of a venue will suggest certain songs.

3. Hearing Alison Krauss singing with you on Snow Goose made me wonder if you have ever been asked to appear on the BBC's Transatlantic Sessions? She was on last year's series together with many other excellent musicians plus of course Danny Thompson is a regular. Best Wishes. Sue (SW France)

I played on one of the earlier Transatlantic Sessions. I do get asked, but it's always at a tough time of year for me.

Planning to see you in Minneapolis in June. Two questions. First, from pictures it seems you have abandoned, for this tour, the blue Ferrington (I believe) guitar that you have used for years in favor of a new red-orange guitar. I don't know much about the technical aspects of various guitars, but I do know that I always have loved the sound of the Ferrington. To my ears it has a deep, rich tone but still, if you know what I mean, with a lot of bite to it. Why the switch, and will we see and hear the blue Ferrington as well on this tour?

The Ferrington needs a little work, so is rested for now. I'm enjoying my red Strat at the moment, which I think also has a great tone. The guitars I use on stage actually all sound pretty similar.

Second, I've seen you perform VBL several times but never that other great ballad in the catalog - Beeswing. Given, I suspect, room for only one, many-versed acoustic ballads per show, any chance we might hear the latter? That would be my choice, though maybe not the preference of the majority of fans. Russ

I've done Beeswing a lot in the last few months. In the current band show, I do a little acoustic encore section, which is all-request, and Beeswing gets asked for frequently.

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