The Guitar Hero series on Jemsite features interviews with guitarists and musicians who may not have star status YET, but their current situations have shaped them to be who they are--determined, fond of their craft, and heroes in their own right. Perhaps you'll see in these upcoming entries the next Jimi Hendrix, Melissa Etheridge, or Duane Allman. Or perhaps they'll become household names by doing what they do best--ripping a mean riff!
John Horne is quite the well-rounded guitarist and for many reasons. While he's a soloist, who uses a fingerstyling technique, he flows with jazz tunes and standards rather than the typical rock genre. Even more so, he doesn't really stick to any genre and is quite open to a variety of tunes--making him the kind of guy you could rock to at a concert, dance to at your wedding, or swing your body to in a mellow club with soft lights.
Beyond that, however, John Horne doesn't even get the most satisfaction out of performing. It's teaching, which he does in between gigs, that gives him the best feeling of all, AND it's a way to get feedback for his performances at the same time.
Let's find out about John and what else makes him stand out from the rest.
How did you get started playing guitar?
I first started playing music in elementary school when I joined the school band program and studied trumpet. I loved the experience of playing in a large ensemble and stuck with it through high school but I was never much of a trumpet player. I mention the trumpet experience because it helped me to grow in ways that playing guitar alone likely would not have. Following a conductor, blending with a section, and even learning when to breathe were all important lessons I learned in band.
During my freshman year of high school I was listening to a lot of new-wave oriented rock music and playing air guitar around the house. It wasn’t too long after witnessing one of my air guitar solos that my mother gave me the opportunity to try the real thing. I had never considered playing the guitar for real when she enrolled me in private lessons with Pittsburgh-area guitarist Anthony Janflone, but I instantly fell in love with the instrument. I can still remember the night I brought home an old Stella rental guitar from my first lesson. Even just listening to the open strings vibrate was thrilling!
Who are your musical influences?
Some of my all-time favorite guitarists are: George Benson, Lenny Breau, Larry Carlton, Tommy Emmanuel, Robben Ford, Frank Gambale, Paul Gilbert, Michael Hedges, Allan Holdsworth, Pete Huttlinger, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Peter Mulvey, Emily Remler, Joe Pass, John Scofield, Mike Stern, Sting, Steve Vai, and David Wilcox. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of these artists over the years at concerts and workshops and I’ve always been impressed by how down-to-earth and welcoming they are to other musicians and fans. Workshops with Emily Remler and Michael Hedges stick out in my mind as especially formative experiences for me.
Describe your musical style.
When I play as a soloist I tend to play mostly fingerstyle guitar with a leaning toward well-known jazz tunes and standards. I don’t think in terms of style or genre, however. I just look for pieces that are interesting and fun to play. I find that most audiences are open to hearing a variety of music and that the solo guitar format keeps tunes from sounding too disparate. Fun songs like “Mercy Mercy Mercy” or “Linus & Lucy” tend to be well-received most everywhere.
Depending on the gig I may decide to play a steel-string acoustic or an electric archtop guitar. I like the tone and balance of the steel-string for fingerstyle playing and it allows me to use open tunings more easily than the archtop, but the sound of an archtop just says “jazz” to me. I have a couple of Fender strats and a nice nylon-string guitar too, but they don’t get out much theses days.
What do you find more rewarding? Teaching or Performing? And why?
Teaching is a far more rewarding experience for me. When I’m teaching I get almost instantaneous feedback concerning my job performance. Seeing a student have that little A-ha! moment and then hearing it transform their playing for the better is just such a great feeling. The ultimate reward for me is a great student performance!
What kind of advice do you dole out beginning guitarists?
Allow yourself the opportunity to absorb as much musical experience as you can every day. Some really important things to do include: lose your ego, play the guitar every day, listen to music every day, find opportunities to play and perform with other musicians, try out different styles of music, learn to read music, learn to play other instruments besides the guitar, and finally - sing everything! You play at weddings and with ensembles...where is your favorite place to perform and with who?
Every gig and venue is different, so it’s really difficult to answer this one. Anymore, I feel like all you can do is practice and show up on time and let the gig happen to you!
Tell me about your experience performing in The Jazztet.
The Jazztet (www.athensjazztet.com) is a jazz quintet consisting of: saxophone, valve trombone, guitar, acoustic bass, and drums. We perform a variety of jazz and Latin pieces rooted in the tradition of the bop quintets of Miles Davis and Horace Silver. Working with the group has given me a level of self-confidence that can only be gained by playing the music regularly with great musicians. All of the musicians in the band are at least a few years older than me and are well-respected in both the performance and education fields. As the youngest guy in the band it’s great to have four mentors to draw on for inspiration and advice.
What are your career plans for the future?
Nothing too different. I really enjoy my job and I plan to continue teaching privately and for Ohio University and National Guitar Workshop. I hope to continue to improve as teacher and to find new ways to reach students of the guitar. I’d very much like to publish more lessons and arrangements in print and on the internet. I should also release a recording one of these days, but I’ve been struggling with the decision of whether it’s worthwhile to invest in producing a physical product like a CD in the age of mp3s.