Through the previous 20 years, Tim Stewart has established himself because the first-call guitarist for pop music’s largest stars. Even a cursory look on the 44-year-old Los Angeles-based axe man’s credit is nothing in need of staggering: He’s toured and/or recorded with artists corresponding to Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Adam Lambert – and that’s only for starters.
So what’s it about Stewart – or extra particularly, what’s it about his guitar enjoying -that locations him in such excessive demand? By his personal admission, he’s not a lot of a showboater. Given his druthers, he’s content material to put again and play deep, in-the-pocket grooves – though when referred to as on to bust out a solo, he’ll uncork a metallic-tinged doozy.
Folks rent me as a result of I’m versatile. I can play rock, funk, R&B and pop. Regardless of the type of the music, I actually get into the rhythm
“It’s a humorous factor, as a result of no one’s ever come out and advised me, ‘Hey, I such as you since you do that,’” he says. “I believe folks rent me as a result of I’m versatile. I can play rock, funk, R&B and pop. Regardless of the type of the music, I actually get into the rhythm. To me, that’s what makes music tick. Sticking with that pocket is tougher than it sounds, however when you get it, it turns into a part of your mindset.”
For the previous few years, Stewart has been a key fixture in Woman Gaga’s band. He recollects the expertise of enjoying with the pop star at 2017’s Tremendous Bowl as one of the vital memorable moments of his profession.
“There’s no approach I can totally describe the sensation you’ve got on that stadium stage,” he says. “You’ve received everyone round you, and also you’re being beamed out to a billion folks all over the world. It’s thrilling, humbling, scary, loopy – you’re like, ‘This will’t probably be occurring, proper? This should be a dream.’”
Since final yr, Stewart has been enjoying with Woman Gaga at her ongoing residency exhibits in Las Vegas, however he stresses that that is no schmaltzy lounge gig. When the band isn’t performing one of many pop icon’s many hits, they could be prompted to segue from jazz requirements to an Iron Maiden cowl.
“She’s on this higher stratosphere of fame, however folks have to recollect she’s a severe musician,” Stewart says.
“She’s actually trippy and thrilling in that approach. There isn’t a restrict to the sorts of music she likes to play, and that’s why we get so many sorts of people that come to see her. We get pop followers, however we get the blokes from Anthrax and Slayer, too. For lots of the present, we do a German industrial factor, so I tune all the way down to C and simply go. For a guitar participant like me, it’s so cool to be part of that.”
That was the one piece of recommendation I received from everyone: Exit and play and say sure to no matter comes at you. So I performed in all places and with everyone
Throughout breaks in Woman Gaga’s Vegas exhibits, Stewart has been flying again home to Los Angeles to affix guitarist Greg Suran within the American Idol home band. Having studied jazz and classical guitar at Cal State College, Stewart likens his tenure on the present to one thing of a continuing-ed course in music. “American Idol could be very quick paced, and there’s a lot materials I’ve to be taught every week,” he says.
“And I’ve to get issues proper – my tone, my phrasing. There’s no room for slop. The entire band is stuffed with top-notch gamers. I’ll sit with Greg and undergo stuff, and at instances it seems like I’m getting paid to take classes.”
Along with his dance card perpetually stuffed, one may think that Stewart has little time for his personal musical endeavors, however again in 2013 he and his co-guitarist in Woman Gaga’s band, Ricky Tillo, discovered a couple of minutes of their schedules and fashioned a hiphop/thrash group referred to as thebandknives.
The outfit launched their debut album, KNIVES, final yr, and so they’ve simply issued a follow-up titled 11110. Past time constraints, geography can also be a sticking level for the band: Tillo is predicated in Toronto, whereas singer Mr. J. Medeiros lives in Paris.
Taking part in guitar in church after I was 12 was the right coaching floor for me, as a result of I needed to be taught songs and play them reside
“It’s positively a juggling act,” Stewart admits. “Once we first began doing this, I assumed, ‘How can we make this work?’ However we handle to come back collectively and create, and I’m actually pleased with what we’re developing with. Whether or not I’m doing my very own factor or being a sideman, I really feel very lucky to play with such marvelous folks.”
Let’s return to the start. How did you begin enjoying the guitar?
“My complete household performs music. I used to be raised in church, and that’s the place I began enjoying after I was 12. We performed worship-type music; it had components of rock and R&B. It was form of the right coaching floor for me, as a result of I needed to be taught songs and play them reside.
“I used to be at all times enjoying guitar in elementary college and highschool. We began our personal rock bands and performed in garages. It was a mixture of that – church and storage bands.”
Although you grew up with music, was there one particular artist who actually blew your thoughts and set you in your path as a guitarist?
“Eddie Van Halen. Once I heard him, that’s when the guitar form of exploded in my head. He made me return and take heed to Jimmy Web page, Jimi Hendrix, all of the classics. After which I began enjoying on a regular basis, six and 7 hours a day.
“I didn’t at all times slot in in school, so I might disguise out in my bed room and play. I received a lot success from that. On the similar time, my sister was into the Bay Space thrash scene – Testomony, Dying Angel, Forbidden, all these sorts of bands. I received into Alex Skolnick after I was 14 or so. The man’s unimaginable. I favored how he might combine up all the pieces however he was nonetheless enjoying thrash. I wished to do the identical factor.”
(Picture credit score: Kyle Murphy)
Your guitar sound at instances recollects ’70s disco and ’80s-era Madonna. I hear bits of Nile Rodgers, but additionally David Williams, who used to play with Madonna and Michael Jackson.
“David Williams, man – he was superior. I dug him and Paul Jackson Jr. In fact, I listened to Al Inexperienced’s band and Sly and the Household Stone. I liked Earth, Wind & Fireplace, too. Nice rhythm guitar on all that stuff.”
You had been all around the map whenever you had been youthful – church music, R&B, thrash steel. And then you definately studied jazz and classical guitar in school.
“I actually favored all the pieces. That’s simply the way in which I’m, and I believe it ready me for what I ultimately did. If I restricted my listening and enjoying, I might be caught in a rut, or I’d be pigeonholed – “He solely does one factor.”
I’m nonetheless in awe of what Marty Friedman, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani can do
Have been you at all times into Strats and Strat-style guitars?
“I really like Strats, however my predominant factor was Teles. Give me a Tele and it seems like home, though I do love humbucker guitars like SGs and Les Pauls. It will depend on the music you’re enjoying; you choose up the suitable guitar for the sound you need. I’m everywhere with the guitars I play.”
You had been impressed by Eddie Van Halen, however did you ever get into the actually technical shredder stuff?
“Oh, positive. I received into the Shrapnel guys – Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, Gregg Howe. And, after all, I liked Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. There was a time I used to be into the super-heavy stuff. I nonetheless take heed to it every now and then, and I’m nonetheless in awe of what these guys can do.”
Are you able to inform us a bit of about how you bought your massive break? How did you safe your first professional gig?
“My first professional gig was with Jessica Simpson in 2001. I had simply moved to L.A. and joined a band referred to as 4th Avenue Jones. We had a cope with Interscope, nevertheless it simply wasn’t shifting as quick as we wished. That’s after I received a name for the Jessica Simpson gig. I met her musical director and we hit it off. That was the very first thing that received issues clicking for me.”
Have been you ambivalent about leaving your predominant band at first to take a session job with a pop artist?
“Initially, I used to be. You realize, I wished to be in my very own band and do my very own factor, however on the similar time, I used to be newly married and I wanted to work. It was unusual at first. I used to be a bit of naive, like, ‘I don’t know this particular person’s music. It’s probably not geared toward me.’
“However as soon as I received within the band, I began to appreciate, ‘Hey, this may be OK.’ And I met so many cool folks and superb musicians. I’m so grateful that I received the possibility and that I didn’t say no. Taking part in with Jessica actually put me on my approach to supporting a whole lot of enormous artists.”
How did you construct on issues after Jessica Simpson? Did folks begin calling you?
Once I’m on the highway, I take a cell state of affairs – my laptop computer, an interface and amp modeling – and I can do what I would like anyplace. It’s fairly unimaginable
“They did, and I simply stated sure to all the pieces. That was the one piece of recommendation I received from everyone: Exit and play and say sure to no matter comes at you. So I performed in all places and with everyone.
“I labored with completely different producers, after which I’d go off to jam periods. And I nonetheless performed at church buildings round LA. A whole lot of the sidemen had been enjoying in church buildings, so for me, enjoying with them was a great way to community.”
Again within the day, there was the Wrecking Crew, and after them got here the Laurel Canyon session gamers. Does something like that exist now in L.A.?
“It exists not directly, nevertheless it’s not like these conditions. There’s a complete new group of individuals making information that aren’t actually depending on reside musicians as a lot. They don’t need to schedule periods; information are made in folks’s properties, and there’s no set schedule.
“Proper now, I’d say 80 p.c of what I do is distant recording, and that’s fantastic. I’ve my very own area that I report in. Once I’m on the highway, I take a cell state of affairs – my laptop computer, an interface and amp modeling – and I can do what I would like anyplace. It’s fairly unimaginable.”
How do you put together for an audition? What’s anticipated of you whenever you stroll right into a room?
“They typically give me a pair songs to be taught, so I be sure that I do know them. I are available in ready, and I’ve my sounds all dialed in. Issues transfer fairly quick, so that you don’t wish to waste anyone’s time.
“That’s the most important factor: present folks that you just’re dependable and that you are able to do the gig. So far as how it is advisable to act, it actually will depend on who you’re auditioning for. Not all the pieces works for everyone. If you need to be a little bit of a showman, then be a showman. If they need you to put again, then try this. You need to know what the precise gig is asking for.”
Is the artist on the audition, or is it often the musical director?
“Normally it’s the musical director. Typically the artist is there, however usually not. The artist hires the musical director to select the musicians. That’s the particular person it is advisable to impress and construct a relationship with.”
You touched on this. How necessary is a participant’s persona throughout an audition?
“Character is big, man. You possibly can’t be a jerk. You probably have an angle or a superiority complicated, you’re not going to final. You need to keep in mind, it’s two hours on stage, nevertheless it’s 22 hours whenever you’re hanging with the band. It’s worthwhile to be sure to’re a good particular person for the highway. For me, that comes fairly simply. Bands turn into household out on the highway, and I like that form of factor.”
(Picture credit score: Kyle Murphy)
Does enjoying reside pay higher?
“All of it will depend on who you’re enjoying for and what sorts of periods they’re. Some recording periods pay properly, however different instances the budgets is usually a little tight. With touring, yeah, should you’re out on the highway for some time the pay is extra constant. It’s actually a case-by-case factor.”
Let’s speak concerning the instruments of your commerce. What guitars and kit do you usually depend on?
For many conditions, I deliver a few humbucker-type guitars – a 335 and my ’79 Les Paul. Then I’ll deliver a Tele, a Strat and a Nash, and I’ve received some Schecters that I actually like.
“I’ve a customized Schecter that’s based mostly on the Dan Donegan Extremely, and I really like that one. For amps, I like Kempers. For the Gaga stuff and the final Rihanna tour, it’s been Kemper’s Profiler Energy Racks – I put ’em via cabs.
“I’m fairly fundamental with results. I just like the Eventide H9 for modulation, refrain and reverb. For delay, the Walrus ARP-87 is nice. Vertex makes superior overdrive pedals. I additionally use the KHDK Ghoul Screamer for overdrive, and I like their Scuzz Field fairly a bit. EarthQuaker and Beetronics make some very nice pedals, too.”
For youthful guitarists hoping to be the subsequent Tim Stewart, what sort of recommendation are you able to provide?
“Just about what I stated about myself: Go on the market and play, and say sure to all the pieces. Construct friendships and be cool. Do no matter you’ve received to do to remain impressed and be taught.
“I do know that sounds fairly normal, nevertheless it’s what labored for me. For those who play in all places and get to know folks, the suitable doorways will open. It’s only a matter of time.”
Tim’s ideas: methods to get a gig
Present folks that you just’re dependable and that you are able to do the gig. Character is big, man. You possibly can’t be a jerk. You probably have an angle or a superiority complicated, you’re not going to final. Issues transfer fairly quick, so that you don’t ever wish to be losing anyone’s time. The artist hires the musical director to select the musicians. That’s the particular person it is advisable to impress and construct a relationship with. Go on the market and play, and say sure to all the pieces. Construct friendships and be cool. For those who play in all places and get to know folks, the suitable doorways will open. It’s only a matter of time.