Posted October 2015
If you’ve been a Boomerocity reader any time at all, you already know what huge Tommy Emmanuel fans we are here. You can find our positive concert, CD and DVD reviews on Boomerocity as well as two great interviews with the legendary Australian born guitarist.
Ooppss! Strike that. This makes the third great interview with the man.
In our interview with Tommy last year, his wife was expecting a baby at any time. That healthy bundle of joy did, in fact, arrive – a beautiful baby girl they named Rachel - and our chat started off talking about her.
“That’s right! She’s eight months old. Can you believe it? She’s eight months, already! Incredible! Where has the time gone? Unbelievable.
“I have a twenty-seven year old and a sixteen year old, as well. All girls. Just the way I like it. We learn so much from them, that’s the thing.”
Wanting to not exclude his wife, he adds:
“My wife, Clara, is such an inspiration to me at all times. She’s such a good mother. She’s a hard worker and so dedicated and so helpful in significant ways, you know? She constantly shares the load with me – even when I’m not saying anything about it. She just always shares everything with me so that I can go on and do the best I can. She knows how important that is. So that’s a good partnership.”
Sharing even more about his life, Emmanuel said:
“I was divorced in 2002 and I kind of made an agreement with myself that I would not get married again. Then, I met Clara and three years after we met I just knew there was no point in me prolonging it any longer. I don’t want to be with anybody else. I can’t imagine anybody else in my life. So, I asked her to marry me and she said, ‘Oh. Okay.’
“We got married privately and then called all of our friends and family up to tell them what we’d done. My other two daughters – it took them awhile to get used to the idea. Then, Rachel came along and it took them awhile to get used to that, as well. It’s been an interesting ride the last few years, you know, just personally. I think it’s helped me focus better on my playing, my writing and all that sort of stuff. And I’ve got new management, new business management. Everything has made a big turn and I’m really looking forward to this next couple of years; with a new album out and some great shows coming up.”
A Boomerocity reader said that he saw that that Emmanuel established a new record company, CGP Sounds and wanted to know if it’s for Nashville based and/or American artists or was he looking to open up opportunities for Australian based country bands who may be hoping to knock on doors in the U.S.
“Definitely, I’m looking for real talent around the world. CGP Sounds, at the moment, we have released two albums, so far. One is called, ‘Just Passing Through”. That’s’ some duets with another guitar player and a violin player. It’s in the Django Reinhardt style – like the swing/gypsy jazz style – which I recorded ages ago. We decided to put that out. Then, my new album, ‘It’s Never Too Late’ – via Thirty Tigers – it’s on my label, CGP Sounds. So, that’s the first two products.
“I’m not planning on rushing into too much too soon. I’m just going to kinda ease into it and then make some decisions on who I’ll sign and what I want to do with them as we get more organized down the track.
“My managers are in on the label, as well. They’re the ones really driving everything. We all have to be unanimously in agreement on who we want to record and put out, promote and all of that sort of stuff.”
Knowing that Tommy had been on the Steve Vai owned label, Favored Nations, I asked if CGP Sounds is modeled in the same fashion.
“Steve’s label is Favored Nations and Favored Nations is underwritten by Warner Bros. It’s a big company and he’s got a little bit of it. It has a niche market, you know?
We wanted to have a much better situation. I’ve got Jensen Communications as my promotion team and Thirty Tigers and Red are the label and the distributor. Red is Sony Company. They’re all over the world. Thirty Tigers is going to be driving this album for me and Red will make sure that the distribution is done right. But it’s the first time that I’ve had a product that’s had this much and kind of people behind it and people actually doing their job. It’s been fantastic!
“Already, this is the first week in and we got the Americana chart yesterday and I’m number two as the most added artist on the Americana format. So, it’s really, really exciting for me. We’re hoping for a Grammy nomination in several categories, including Best Instrumental Composition. So, keep your fingers crossed, brother!
“It just feels that we’ve got a great team, now. I feel like we can all really move forward and really go for it!”
We at Boomerocity LOVE LOVE LOVE the new album. I asked Tommy to tell me a little bit about what this particular album means to and for you and what you hope fans will get out of it.
“Well, first thing, I recorded it in bits and pieces because I had a really hectic schedule last year. When I was home in Nashville, I had to get back in the studio and record some of the songs. Then, I wrote more songs when I was away.
“When we knew that Rachel was coming, I wrote, ‘It’s Never Too Late’. I thought it was exactly what I needed for my album. That song and that saying – that’s why it ended up being there. It’s never too late to live happily ever after. That’s what the saying is.
“I have a sign in my house when you walk in the front door, the first thing you see is a sign saying, ‘It’s never too late to live happily ever after’. It’s a very positive message to put out there to people and to remind them to get on and find what makes you happy and run at it with all your energy.
“Every song on the album means a lot to me. A lot of people have commented that they felt that these songs are some of the best that I’ve come up with. That’s nice to hear people saying stuff like that. My songs are like children to me and they’re always precious to me. They’re like little jewels and I try to keep polishing them.
“The other good experience with this album was I decided that I would record some of the songs and mix it with a guy named Mark DeSisto. He’s in Los Angeles. He used to work for me back in the nineties. He specializes in mixing and mastering but he’s a great recording engineer, as well. I thought it would be good for me to have a change of pace so I came here to L.A. for a week and I recorded, I think, four or five songs with him. Then we spent a couple of days mixing and mastering the album. I was really pleased with the work.
“The actual artwork and the photos were put together by my management team. They just did a great job. The cover of the album has little clues to all the song titles in the artwork. If you look at the cover, you’ll see that I’m standing there, looking at a clock. I’m inside the clock. The clock actually goes to thirteen, so you can never be too late.
“My shadow that comes off my figure – my shadow is actually wearing a cowboy hat so that’s El Vaquero, which is Spanish for ‘the cowboy’. It could also be for The Duke. There’s a song on there called The Duke which is John Wayne. I’ve been a John Wayne fan all my life. I just imagined that, if I went back in a time machine back in the forties and somebody asked me to write a theme for a John Wayne movie, that was my operandi. It was my modus operandi that gave myself that challenge. That’s what I wrote.
“Blood Brother was a song – I had a very powerful dream that was just like a movie. I woke up from the dream with that song in my head. I wrote it when I was in Spain. It tells a story, really. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s about brothers who watch each other - who watch out for each other – in the military. They’re fighting a war and they’ve got each other’s back. So, there’s that part of it and, then, the other part of the story is I read a story about a guy who was helped by a very poor Mexican family and he went to try and pay them for their help. They gave him food and they helped him get back on the road again, finally. He tried to pay them and they wouldn’t take anything. The old guy said, ‘Today you, tomorrow me. Today, it’s your turn for an act of kindness. Tomorrow, it might be me who needs it.’ There’s that kind of message in the song, as well.
“It’s Never Too Late, I wrote for Rachel because I turn sixty this year and I have an eight month old daughter. I just never thought that this would ever happen to me. It’s, actually, the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I can’t believe how she’s changed my life. Talk about a reason to get going and to get on with things. You’ve got a baby to bring up and to enjoy. It just reminds you that family is what it’s all about.”
What song from the disc would Emmanuel suggest as a “calling card,” if you will, to entice people to pick up the album?
“It’s Never Too Late – the title song. Definitely.”
Two other tunes from the album that Boomerocity absolutely loves are, “Hellos and Goodbyes”, and “Old Photographs”. Tommy shared the stories behind those songs.
“Hellos and Goodbyes, I did the rhythm guitar and then just played the song over the top. I co-wrote that song with a friend of mine back in the nineties. I arrived here in L.A. and I had a dream and in the dream this voice said, ‘Life is just hellos and goodbyes’. When I woke up, the song that I had been writing, I somehow knew that that was the right title for that song. That is what that song is about.
“So, the guy that I co-wrote it with, I rang him, firstly, to tell him about the title and, secondly, to say that it’s on my album; that he could break out the champagne now. Ha! Ha! I said to him, ‘The song is called Hellos and Goodbyes’ and there was silence on the phone. I said, ‘What’s up?’ and he said, ‘I just came from the hospital this morning. My father passed away last night in one part of the hospital and my sister had a baby, this morning, in the same hospital.’ He had a hello and a goodbye. It was powerful. It gave me chills.
“Old Photographs I wrote after I watched the movie, Lincoln. It just transported me, that film. Not the story. Just the movie. It transported me because it’s so authentic. It reminded me of when I used to sit with my grandmother and I’d look at photographs of all my family and of my uncles who never came back from the war and all that kind of thing; and how precious that time was with my grandmother. I wanted to write a piece that sounded like it was from, I don’t know, the thirties or forties. Like some old guy sitting at the piano, playing for his grand kid. That’s kind of like I wanted to do with that song.
“I heard that everybody who gets the record – I heard that people get a really good feeling from the music and that it brings good feelings to them; good memories. They make of the songs whatever they will. That’s the good thing about a song that has no lyrics. You can, in your own mind; you can imagine what it’s about, yourself. The writer wants you to listen to what he’s writing about through the title. Like Blood Brother. Old Photographs. It’s Never Too Late. Those kinds of titles.
“Some of my earlier work were songs like Determination, The Journey, Don’t Hold Me Back – they are titles that I come up with years ago that speak a lot about what I’m writing about. It’s telling stories with words.”
When I commented that this is evident of an innate musical genius, Tommy’s genuine humility was unequivocal in his response.
“Well, thanks. I wouldn’t call myself a genius. No way! But I definitely – I channel stuff. When I feel inspired and I know I’ve got an idea that I’m excited about, I don’t quit on it and I use every resource I can possibly can to make sure that I get the right feeling across and the story told in the right way.
“When I played in Madrid and Barcelona and Valencia in Spain a few years ago when I wrote Blood Brother, a guy I know who is a local flamenco player, Antonio Rey, he knew no English whatsoever. After the first show, he came to my dressing room and he had his guitar in his and he said, ‘Tommy! Tommy!’ and he played a little bit of Blood Brother and he said, ‘It’s flamenco! Your music is flamenco!’ He felt that that song was flamenco song and it totally spoke to him. Yeah! You never know, do you?”
In preparing for my interview with Tommy (and in hopes of seeing if he was going to be performing within driving distance so that I could mooch some tickets from him), I checked out his tour schedule. The guy’s calendar is jam-packed! I asked him if his family was going to be joining him at any time during the tour.
“Yeah. Well, I won’t see my daughters in England until Christmas. But my wife and my new baby will join me. I’ll see them next week in Las Vegas. They’ll then fly on to
San Francisco. My wife will be with her sister and her mother will come in from Australia so all of that side of the family will be together in California. Then they’re going to fly ahead and be in Korea. I’ll fly out of San Francisco straight into China and I’ll do China, Taiwan, then Singapore, Hong Kong and then I’ll do Korea. When I do Korea, we’ll all be together there. Then, my wife and my daughter are going to fly with me to the Japan dates. Then, we’ll go home from there.
“The Christmas tour will be with John Knowles, Pat Bergeson, and Pat’s wife, Annie. She’s going to sing, as well. I’m going to do a Christmas tour where the first hour is me solo – all the stuff from the album. Then, the second hour after intermission will be all Christmas music.”
Realizing that his time comes at a premium, I asked if there are any new albums and/or DVD’s in the works.
“There’s a lot of new performances that’s been uploaded in the last couple of weeks. There’s a brand new video for the song, It’s Never Too Late. It’s just been put up about an hour ago. So, yeah, there’s a lot of new stuff to look at. Go to my YouTube channel. There’s a lot of stuff to look at there.
“We’ve got to do a follow up, instructional DVD for Milestones. I did a course for beginners called, Milestones, which really slowly led you through to becoming a finger style player. I broke everything down into small bits and made it accessible. So, we’re going to do a follow up on that one. That probably won’t be until early next year.
“I’ve got a duets album in the works at the moment. We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m really hoping to get some great artists on my album – that duets project.”
As with past albums from Tommy, Boomerocity eagerly awaits this project. Check out his tour schedule – as well as any news – at www.tommyemmanuel.com. You will definitely want to catch one of his shows. They’ll dazzle and amaze you. Guaranteed.