Interview: Paul Nelson

Dan McAvinchey: Paul, what goal did you have in mind when you started planning and recording your latest CD "Look"?

Paul Nelson: I wanted a diversified CD that was technically proficient yet very musical. The kind of CD that was good enough to stay in a person's player for a while,
or at least in their carrying case as others do in mine.

Dan McAvinchey: Where and how was "Look" recorded?

Paul Nelson: Pre-production was done at my private studio then charted out for bass, drums, and keys, and recorded in New Jersey, and the rest at Carriage House studios in Connecticut where it was mastered by Phil Magnotti (Mike Stern, Victor Bailey). Effects were put on during mixdown. I like recording clean with some EQ-ing - whatever
sound I plan on using gets monitored in. This helps me get the right feel out of my playing - then the over all effect can be adjusted later on independently. I do double, and occasionally triple, track certain guitar parts like rhythms or melody lines that I feel need to be more pronounced.

Dan McAvinchey: How did you learn to play in such a rich variety of styles?

Paul Nelson: Basically out of necessity combined with a large musical appetite.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you typically get the ideas for your compositions? Do you have a particular method you use for writing?

Paul Nelson: It all starts for me with a groove, or beat, if you will, then a riff that spawns an idea for the mood or feeling of the piece, and from there it grows
and grows. I'm quite sure that these ideas are triggered by one's life experiences which are then reflected through their compositions and style. So I guess the more messed up someone is, the more interesting the music! (laughs)

Dan McAvinchey: Do you plan to continue to record and release instrumental guitar solo albums in the future?

Paul Nelson: Yes, until I drop! They're my first love... I'm currently in negotiations with Lion Music with whom I was very impressed with regarding their work with
the Jason Becker Tribute CD "Warmth in the Wilderness" that I was on recently.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you think playing live as much as you have has affected your guitar playing?

Paul Nelson: It's all part of the creative process - a confidence builder as well a great guide as to how to approach the material you write. I think playing live puts
the soul back into what could otherwise be a very sterile and mechanical
situation in the studio. As far as actual playing benefits, contrary to
popular belief, it is not a substitute for private practice but does build a
good ear response, an alertness and ability to thwart many musical mishaps. It
forces you to be aware of your equipment and sound, as well as grooms a
musician to try to create a perfect performance in an always imperfect situation.

Dan McAvinchey: Are there any other guitarists or musicians you'd love to record or collaborate with in the future?

Paul Nelson: There are so many covering diverse musical styles that I wouldn't know where to start the list. I have had the great fortune of working with several great
artists already though and with a little luck it will continue in the future.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you think sets the music of Paul Nelson apart from the other guitarists out there?

Paul Nelson: I guess like a fingerprint, no one musician can be exactly alike, so that helps a bit. If I were to make any distinction, it would be that I really
respect the tune itself and have always sacrificed technical acrobatics and
note bombardment for the sake of melody, depth and feel - which I'll will admit
is a constant battle.

interview pic

Dan McAvinchey: Do you ever feel overwhelmed or underexposed as an independent artist?

Paul Nelson: Overwhelmed? Yes, at times and more so as a solo artist - namely, an
instrumental one. In that genre all the responsibility, credit and blame rests
on one's self, so you just do the best you can (and a little more) and hopefully
people will like what your trying to express musically. Underexposed? I think
if jazz-rock fusion is your choice of musical styles, then underexposure should be
accepted as part of the territory. Fortunately, I've always been involved with
may other projects so it's not something that really gets me down.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel the music press, including the well-known guitar magazines, are currently dealing with guitar-oriented music, especially from instrumental artists and bands?

Paul Nelson: They're doing their best considering there aren't a whole lot of never-before-asked questions floating around to create the ultimate instrumental artist
interview. I will say though that the Internet has greatly helped in the public's re-awareness and appreciation of guitar oriented music - take your site
for example.

Dan McAvinchey: What advice would you give to a young guitarist about to record and release his or her first instrumental guitar CD?

Paul Nelson: Blind faith is one thing, talent is another, so make sure you are equipped and prepared enough to have both tested to their fullest.

interview picture
Paul Nelson was formerly with the group Liege Lord as their lead guitarist, studied with Steve Vai in their Berklee days, and was a protege of jazz fusion great Steve Khan. His all-instrumental fusion release is entitled "Look", a very diverse package that takes the listener on a sophisticated journey through Nelson's musical mind.

Dan McAvinchey contacted Nelson to discuss his music, his approach to composition, and his thoughts on the instrumental music scene.