Interview: Simon Gardner

Dan McAvinchey: Simon, it's great to hear from you again, let's get started. When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Simon Gardner: After a brief tenure with drums at the age of 12, I started guitar lessons at the age of 13 in high school. I can't really remember anytime there wasn't music being played in the household and with my mother being an artist, it was a very eclectic mix of music indeed! My guitar teacher, Rick Purdie, was a wonderful jazz guitarist and teacher. I had excellent tutelage and was shown a very broad range of music and skills such as reading and harmony. Lots of Beatles, George Benson, The Real Book and if I pestered him enough, Led Zeppelin! I never forgot the day he said, "The solo in 'Stairway To Heaven' is one of the best solos of all time!". I was chuffed because I wore my love for Zeppelin like a badge of honour!

When I left school I started working in Brisbane's first Athlete's Foot store and starting saving up to go to GIT in Hollywood in 1989. It was very special time in my life. I was living the dream a block off Hollywood Boulevard playing guitar up to 18 hours a day and having crazy jam parties with people from all over the world every weekend - truly an amazing time and an invaluable learning experience musically.

Dan McAvinchey: Sounds like a great experience! Your most recent work, "And So It Goes...", was it self-released?

Simon Gardner: My latest CD "And So It Goes..." is self released through CD Baby. It was always my intention to release it myself as the thought of trying to pitch it to people was just too depressing! I thought after all these years I didn't want to go another round of, "This is really good... have you thought about getting a singer?" Seriously though, I just needed to do it for my own well being and to recognise my own identity as a musician and guitar player. It is easy to lose these things as time goes by. My motivation also lies in performing it, and my previous works, live. I get the impression punters seem to understand the message a bit clearer when they see that it is music that is not written for vocals and it is quite an experience to see it done live without a net... just five cranking musicians giving it plenty!

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

Simon Gardner: Cinematic, Soaring, Melodic, Instrumental Guitar Rock. I really focus on melody and conviction in delivery of performance. I love the drama of rock music and I love the energy! I am still trying to forge a strong musical voice with the compositions and the guitar is my melody or vocal if you like.

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Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically, particularly with "And So It Goes..."?

Simon Gardner: The name of the album reflects my approach. I was just going to follow the muse and use whatever it took to get the music out. I threw away conventions of equipment and experimented a lot with over dubs and tones. Direct or mic'd, digital or analogue. In the end it's my heart, mind, spirit and fingers that delivers the music or not. Having said that, I do love nice sounding gear, it's just that it doesn't rule my world.

Melodies coined from emotional experiences, dreams and scenarios real and imagined.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you get the chance to play your music before a live audience?

Simon Gardner: Yes! I have been more proactive than ever trying to get shows and so far it has been going well and the audiences have either been in shock, or genuinely intrigued, that there is no singing! It's a really big sound.

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

Simon Gardner: Yes just friend face.

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Simon Gardner: The best thing is to play live and get your friends to support you. This will grow over time to build an audience. Facebook helps with getting people to your gigs but you can't put too much stock in the numbers! You can sell CDs and merchandise at the gigs. It's almost like it's going back to playing live to promote the record, not the other way around.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you now find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Simon Gardner: The big advantages are you are your own boss and you can make (the most important thing) the music exactly how you want to and you can work predominantly to your own schedule! The downside is, promotionally, it is substantially more challenging to even get a thoughtful album review and be connected in the industry. Independence has connotations of singularity which can feel very isolating at times.

Dan McAvinchey: If you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Simon Gardner: James Patrick Page... of course!

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what are some of your other plans for the future?

Simon Gardner: I have started to get the wheels in motion for new record. But my biggest focus is on trying get shows around Australia to promote the album and let loose some big heavy guitar instrumentals!

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Australian guitarist, instructor and producer Simon Gardner, who graduated from the Musician Institute's GIT program in 1990, first appeared in Guitar Player Magazine Spotlight column in 1994. A solo record ("Big Sky") soon followed, and a career was born. Recently, Gardner released another amazing solo album, entitled "And So It Goes..."

Dan McAvinchey caught up with Gardner, posing questions about his new album, and discussing the pros and cons of self-release.