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Riley Music Academy Blog: Interview with session guitarist Joe Archer

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Interview with session guitarist Joe Archer

RMA’s Jay Riley talks to session guitarist Joe Archer about playing professionally, setting targets and what to work on to achieve great results.

Last month, I worked with a good friend of mine and I thought I would pick his brains about his experiences in the music industry.  Joe Archer hails from the South but now lives and works in the Midlands.  I first met Joe through friends in the Birmingham Jazz Scene and he was always regarded as a great player with a delicate approach and real attention to detail and melodic interpretation.  Having made a name for himself in the jazz world (his album with the Joe Archer Quintet was at the top of the Jazz CD UK chart for 8 weeks) , Joe switched his attention to pop music and is currently playing guitar for The Drifters.  He has also worked with top session players including members of The Vaccines, Ellie Goulding and The Kooks.   Joe kindly offered some invaluable content for the RMA site and answered these questions:

“Did you ever imagine that you would be a working musician and tour with successful artists?”

“I did imagine when I was doing A Levels that I would be a working touring musician, but I think honestly I was way ahead of myself at that stage, and didn’t really realise how much practise and dedication it would take to achieve it.”

“What goals do you set yourself? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 yrs time?”

“I used to set goals for myself, but in a strange way I never achieved those exact things- but because I was working so hard I achieved other things that I didn’t expect. I don’t believe in Karma in the spiritual sense, but I believe if you work hard and always strive for better, good things will happen. I haven’t set myself specific goals this year, but will have achieved some career highlights, for example later on in the year I will be performing with “Mary Wilson” and I will also be playing guitar on a short arena tour, which will include Wembley Arena, the NIA and MEN arenas ( I can’t disclose exact details of this tour yet). Based on my achievements this year, within 5-10 years I want to be playing with more top bands and do more big tours and basically be seen as one of the most on-call session guitarists in the UK and abroad.”

“How do you draw on influences and merge them into your own style?”

“I used to draw on influences by transcribing guitarists such as Pat Metheny, Jim Hall and Pat Martino, but more often than not these days I do more listening to these guitarists and emulate their phrasing- rather than their note choices.”

“How often do you listen to music?  Do you buy albums or individual tracks and what was the last thing you bought?”

“I don’t often buy music, I get stuck on the same things for long periods of time, my most listened to artists are Stevie wonder, Pat Metheny, Jeff Buckley, Snarky Puppy.   Currently I’m listening to “Beyond the Missouri Sky” by Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden, which is an album I often go back to when I feel like I need inspiration.”

“What do you practise most often, noodling/jamming ideas or technical skills (scales, patterns, licks etc)?”

“When I’m not learning an artists or bands material, my practise regime includes mostly scale work, revising the neck of the guitar, visualising things all over the neck of the guitar and maintaining control through metronome work. I also like to include a healthy amount of playing/ jamming over tracks to put what I’ve been practising into good use (this can also be the fun part!)”

“When did you first work with other musicians and how important do you think working with other musicians is?”

“I started working with other musicians when I was 15, jamming in bands etc, that quickly progressed to playing in pubs with bluesy/funk outfits. I think this was important for me as it meant that I very quickly learnt how to improvise and “get through” many musical situations. I think this is important for musicians in general, more often than not the ability to improvise will be one of the most important skills as a musician, whether playing in a band or in the studio, or just bouncing around ideas.”

“What lick/scale/trick do you use most often?”

“Licks and tricks that I use can be some phrases which I come back to, but more often than not I find using a good sense of progression in a solo is a sure way of grabbing an audience, and depending on the gig a sure way to get people going is to play high, fast, use bends and repeated phrases. This can save you on a gig if you run out of ideas!!”

 You can watch Joe’s practice approach here

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