Interview: David Caudle

Dan McAvinchey: Welcome back David, it's been a long time, let's get right into it. When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

David Caudle: My older brother Charlie played so there was always a guitar sitting around the house. He would be gone somewhere and I would go into his bedroom and fool around with his guitar and amp. He had a Fender Jaguar and a Fender Twin amp. Pretty powerful amp as I remember. I would turn that thing on, pick up the guitar and make some noise on it. Literally noise. Eventually I would get all of the controls on the amp and the guitar turned up to 10 and of course it would start feeding back like crazy. In a panic, all I knew to do was turn the thing off! He would later come home and go into his room to practice, and when he turned the amp on all hell would break loose. So, he knew who to come find and I got my ass whooped on many occasions for this. If he could catch me! But, eventually he would catch me.

Parents had enough of that after repeated episodes so they made him give me his first guitar and amp which was the old Silvertone from Sears. The one where the case was also the amplifier. When he was in the mood, Charlie would show me some things and I was usually around when his friend Kenny would come over and they would jam so, progression on the instrument just came little by little over a period of time. I was about 6 or 7 when all this started.

I continued to play through junior high and high school jamming with friends. We played stuff like Grand Funk Railroad and other classic rock tunes we all liked. Made up our own tunes like, "Jam #1", "Jam #2", and so on. By this time my Mom bought me my first Gibson, an SG Special, (because Frank Zappa played one) and a Fender Super Twin and we got good enough to play some parties and things like that.

It wasn't until I got out of high school that I decided to get serious with it. Somewhere along the way a friend turned me on to a jazz guitarist named George Benson. The album was "Breezin'" recorded back in the mid '70s. This album literally changed my direction as a musician. I went back and bought all of Benson's earlier releases. Read everything I could find on him and this led me to Wes Montgomery's work, Pat Martino and many other great players. But, Benson had the biggest and most profound influence on me. I had never heard someone play the instrument like that and it just fascinated me.

I started studying and practicing every day. Religiously. 12, 14 hour days. Started taking music theory classes at the community college in Charlotte, North Carolina learning the basics of music and how all of this stuff applied to the fretboard. I also started doing some recording on an old Teac 44 (a 4 channel reel to reel tape recorder).

By the late '70s I was playing in a group with these same friends. We played at a couple of places around Charlotte. We were okay, none of us seasoned musicians of course. People didn't run out of the club! I finally decided that I wanted to attend either the Berklee School of Music in Boston or the School of Music at the University of Miami. I wound up moving down to Ft. Lauderdale in late '79 and it was some of those Teac 44 tape recordings that got me accepted into the School of Music at the University of Miami for a couple of years. The Studio Music and Jazz program I think it was called. Great place to be and I grew like a weed musically.

Moved back to Charlotte in 1985 and worked some odd jobs, warehouse, lawn and landscaping kind of stuff while I worked my way back into the music scene there. I got to the point where I was gigging and teaching enough to make a living so I set out to record my first album project.

Dan McAvinchey: Was your most recent recording "Swing Street" self-released?

David Caudle: "Swing Street", as are the rest of my albums, are all self released. The "To The Top" project, my first, was recorded back in the late '80s and I eventually placed that album with an independent label in California. ITI Records. They were being distributed by Capital Records at the time. The label went bankrupt shortly before the released date. Luckily, I had not sent them the masters yet. That would have been a nightmare legally, to get them back. So I went on to plan B.

By this time my interest was starting to take another direction into aviation via a good friend of mine and fellow jazz guitarist Andre Ferreri. Some years later after I started flying professionally I did my next album, "Night Passions", which Guitar Nine gave me a wonderful review on back in '97. I shopped that project to a lot of labels but I kept getting letters back saying that the music is great and your this and that but our roster and release schedule is set for this year, check back next year - and so on. I moved on from that point.

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?

David Caudle: I would say that what I do is combine jazz improvisation over popular sounding, instrumental music. Most of the tunes I write are in that realm. Tunes with a backbeat, string arrangements, horns and such. I've also recorded two albums of jazz standards and my most recent album, "Swing Street" is a compilation of original straight ahead jazz and Latin influenced tunes.

I'm a jazz player with a traditional jazz sound so a lot of what I do is modeled after the players that have inspired and influenced me the most, for example, George Benson's records with the beautiful string arrangements and pop sounding kind of tunes.

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Dan McAvinchey: David, what are you striving to achieve musically, particularly on "Swing Street"?

David Caudle: I've had the itch for a long time to do an albums worth of original, straight ahead jazz and Latin inspired jazz tunes so I set out to bring that together a few years ago. I started concentrating on the writing and so forth. I always had various ideas for swing tunes that I wanted to record, not to mention doing the Latin influenced thing. There wasn't anything ground breaking I was trying to do. I don't even know what that would be really, but I was just striving to document and showcase my skills as a player, writer and producer.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you use to get your sound.

David Caudle: I play the Ibanez George Benson models - sturdy, well built instruments that sound great to me. I use medium gauge flat wound strings. I also have a couple of Strats that I use for rhythm parts on the pop jazz tunes. Those are strung with a .10 to .46, I think. I even have a 5 String Ibanez Bass. I play the arch tops through a '76 Polytone 104 or through a reissue of the original Polytone MiniBrute. The Strats are normally played thru a DigiTech 2101 that I've had for years.

I'll use various effects on the rhythm parts. With the arch tops I use a little compression and a nice reverb. On occasion I'll use some delay panned off to one side or the other that blends nicely into the reverb. That's basically it. Nothing fancy.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites to promote your recordings and music career?

David Caudle: I have two websites, one that I've had for years at, and another new site I designed myself at I also have a page tied to my Facebook page where the CD Baby mp3 players sit. The CD Baby players are also on my site.

Dan McAvinchey: Thinking about publicity and promotion, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

David Caudle: Well, I'm probably not the best one to ask that question of. I make the music available through Soundclick and CD Baby. I joined Facebook back in 2009 or so but never did anything with that until my niece finally talked me into putting the music on there as a way of promoting it. I am getting a lot of internet airplay via Soundclick and radio airplay affiliated with Jango and Spotify.

All of the CDs are with CD Baby's catalog. I am doing a little more these days than in the past to get the music out there. I haven't performed live in a long time due to my airline job so it makes it impossible to put (and keep) a working band together. That would take a Herculean effort and the logistics of doing something like that, in the manner that would interest me, isn't feasible - financially, or otherwise. So, I'm trying do more to get the music exposure and the radio airplay is doing that for me, since I get listeners from every country in the world.

Dan McAvinchey: Here's a question we love to ask instrumentalists - why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

David Caudle: I like both! It's a personal preference. The reasons are as varied as the individuals themselves. I think that listeners of instrumental music whether it's jazz, classical, new age or whatever can are moved in the same way that a good vocal tune can move them, but it all comes down to a person's taste.

I think it's also a matter of the consonance versus dissonance one's ear can take. The smooth jazz and pop jazz styles were an outgrowth of this. I think it explains why a advant-garde jazz fan really enjoys the journey that a Ornette Coleman, Blood Ulmer or a Lounge Lizards tune will take them on versus another person hearing the same thing will dislike it because it's foreign to them. The harmonic dissonance involved in the composition and the improvisation doesn't appeal to them on any level really! All those "long notes". It's neither wrong or right. It's just environment and personal taste.

I grew up listening to everything from Grand Funk Railroad, Allman Brothers, Doobie Brothers, the Motown Artist to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and everything in between. Instrumental music I believe is an acquired taste where as the popular music of the day, is everywhere. Radio, TV, commercials, sports - you can't get away from it.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

David Caudle: Well, honestly, I don't listen to music all that often, but I do on occasion. Sometimes I'll put on an old George Benson, Wes Montgomery or Pat Martino CD in the studio when I'm doing something else. Or, when I'm in the car driving home from Atlanta late at night I'll turn on the satellite radio and listen to the classic rock, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s channels. Catch Yes on one channel and then Boston on the next. I just flip around and see what's on. I enjoy listening to string-orchestrated music. Then I go for long periods of time without listening to anything at all.

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

David Caudle: I think it's going to be a total departure from what I've been doing musically over the years. My Strats have been sitting over there in the corner for a long time and I have some things I've written over the years that would be more in line with playing them instead of the archtop, such as a guitar, bass and drums kind of a thing.

I'm in the process of putting the studio back together (we moved) so that will have to be done first. The studio is up, the room isn't so I'm formulating how I want to go about treating it. I'll have to pick up the Strat and get oriented toward that kind of Eric Johnson, Robin Ford style of playing but I think that's what I want to do next.

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We first met guitarist David Caudle almost 20 years ago - his 1996 album "Night Passions" was reviewed in Guitar Nine's "Undiscovered" column way back in December of 1997. Caudle has been quite active since then, recording seven more albums of smooth jazz / pop jazz. His latest release is entitled "Swing Street", an all-original collection pf straight ahead jazz and Latin tunes.

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Caudle in cyberspace, and we discussed his introduction to music, his gear, and the realities of creating a balance between life and music.