Interview: Preston Reed

PUBLISHED: 11:18 03 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:39 29 October 2010

Photo: Barry Jones

Photo: Barry Jones

Rob Garratt

Since bursting onto the scene in the late 70s, Preston Reed has become regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world. Ahead of his latest Norwich appearance, ROB GARRATT talked to the six-string legend.

Further listening: Preston Reed

Since bursting onto the scene in the late 70s, Preston Reed has become regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world. Ahead of his latest Norwich appearance, ROB GARRATT talked to the six-string legend.

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t Tell us a bit about yourself

“I was born in New York State, about 30 miles from New York City, and then eight years ago I moved to Scotland. I've been performing forever. My first album came out in '79, called Acoustic Guitar, and I've made 16 albums altogether now. I play guitar in an unusual way that I invented. On my first five albums I played a finger-picking style, but because I always played my own music I invented my own way to get more out of the instrument.”

t What's this style you invented?

“Finger-picking was very pretty but it was limited, and I wanted to do something that could get more sound out of a guitar. I realised that if you hit on a guitar it makes a wonderful percussive sound, and I wanted to find a way to use that. The way I play, both hands are contributing to the sound, moving very quickly all over the guitar, and it's very exciting to watch and to listen to.

“It's a combination of all the different kinds of music I like, jazz, rock, funk, blues. That's what holds a lot of interest, because I perform in real time creating all these sounds, and I think that's what inspires a lot of the younger generation. My fan base keeps renewing itself.

“My audiences are very mixed, they are of all ages and everyone seems to get a lot out of it. A lot of people bring kids with them to my shows and they seem to enjoy it as much as them.”

t You are famous for blending all these styles together, how did that come about?

“I have always lived around music since a very early age. I grew up in the sixties and have two elder sisters who would play stuff like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones all day. And then at night my parents would play classical music or jazz. And I watched a lot of TV shows - a lot of those old shows had great theme tunes, and I watched a lot of movies too. There was a lot of music around and I just sponged it up.

“When I was eight years old I came home from school and my Dad was teaching my older sister Susan guitar - and I didn't even know my Dad had a guitar, he wasn't a great player or anything - and I was just like 'teach me!' and that got me started, and I just ran with it. It's all about being creative with the music, releasing the music in my head onto an instrument. That's how I ended up inventing my own style.”

t What can audiences at the Arts Centre expect?

“This tour is about playing my music for people on five different guitars, an evening of diverse music. I'll be taking my custom acrostic, a 12-string, a steel resophonic guitar, a solid body electric that is tuned baritone with a bass string on it, and an arch-top jazz guitar. They're all guitars but they all sounds so different.

“I have played at Norwich Arts Centre a couple of times before and I'm looking forward to coming back. The crowd there is really good and I've always really enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy the parking ticket I got near there, but I'll know to pay and display this time.”

t Tell me about your last release

“I made my first jazz record a year ago, and on it I play conventional jazz guitar. I taught myself jazz and these are my compositions in that style.”

t What are you listening to at the moment?

“If I was sitting at home right now I would be listening to John Coltrane. Or Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, or Bill Evans, all of that great fifties and sixties jazz, that is the music I love to listen to. But I play any kind of music, rock, blues, anything. Any music with an organic freshness to it, and that can come from any genre.”

t Preston Read will be at Norwich Arts Centre on October 8, 01603 660352,

Further listening: Preston Reed

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