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QRD #41 - Guitarist Interview Series Part I - June 2010
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews with:
Jason LaFarge
Aidan Baker
Jamie Stewart
Brian John Mitchell
Martin Newman
Mat Sweet
Robin Crutchfield
Darren Hayman
Anna-Lynne Williams
Larry Marotta
Mike Cosper
Sibyll Kalff
Jamie Barnes
Nathan Amundson
Jenks Miller
Chris Olley
Don Campau
Colin Newman
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Photo by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie BarnesPhoto by Jamie Barnes
Guitarist Interview with Jamie Barnes
June 2010
Photo by Jamie Barnes
Name: Jamie Barnes
Bands: self, Sojourn Music
Websites: www.jamiebarnes.net, www.sojournmusic.com
Listen to "Three Suns"

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it? 

Jamie – Mexican made Fender Strat at age 12. Sold it for cash money once I got a real Tele.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Jamie – When playing electric I generally go to Volume Pedal, Keeley 4 knob Compressor, Luther Overdrive, TC Delay ND-1, to amp. Generally there is some sort of Boost pedal in there too. When Acoustic, I just go straight from my Martin with a Radial JDI Passive Direct box.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Jamie – Guitar. You can only polish a turd so much.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Jamie – I have a few I play. I really like BadCat’s Hot Cat 15W. Warmest tone I’ve ever heard.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Jamie – I actually had a guy build me a guitar with a dried out cow’s skull as the body. He simply bolted a neck on, put a lipstick pickup on it & bam! It looks & sounds like pure evil.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Jamie – It would be called the “Imago Dei” & when I stomped on it would make me as fast a flat-picker as Bryan Sutton.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Jamie – Currently I just have three: Martin D-16 Acoustic Electric, a Fender Telecaster, & a Gretsch Country Gentleman Jr. I have few banjos as well.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Jamie – Always in their case with a humidifier & usually in my basement unless it’s too cold. 

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Jamie – Automatic plane tickets? I don’t know... maybe a quarter inch cable dispenser... like Bubble Tape.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Jamie – Character, quick action. Mostly tone.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Jamie – I have a hard time paying over $2000 for a guitar.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Jamie – I might have someone work on the neck/action for me... generally don’t fiddle around much myself with it.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Jamie – I’m very particular & very cheap… so I look up a ton of reviews & test it out as much as salespeople will let me.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Jamie – Hardly ever. I stick to the things that work for me.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Jamie – I generally shoot for one tone & nest there.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Jamie – I’m currently salivating over the idea of purchasing a National Resonator.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Jamie – Good action & decent pickups. Most young guitar players have no idea how hard they are making it on themselves by not having the neck set up right. This probably leads to a ton of kids quitting because “it hurts to shape an F chord.” Also, most youngsters don’t know jack about tone.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Jamie – I bought a 12 string once & it was the most difficult thing to keep in tune & hurt my hands to play. Ditched it very soon after buying. Also, because it was a Washburn.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Jamie – Badcat makes great stuff. Obviously, most Fender items can be trusted.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Jamie – Just random blues licks. No “Stairway” or “Hotel California.”

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Jamie – Started playing at age 11 on my mom’s old nylon string.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

Jamie – By age 17 I was really good. I started leaning toward being a writer by age 19 & lost a lot of speed & technical skill after that.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Jamie – A bass is too heavy, man. I’m a small dude.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?

Jamie – Sure. Women are more impressed by the guitar than piano.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

Jamie – Sometimes I feel hindered by it as a songwriter because I am so familiar with it that my hands seem to go to the same place time & time again. Writing songs using an instrument you aren’t as familiar with often forces you to focus on the basic needs of a good song - like the melody.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Jamie – David Gilmour, Leonard Cohen, Justin Hayward, Johnny Greenwood, Mike Kinsella.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Jamie – Generally. Name your babies & your pets… not your cars, guitars, or body parts.

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Jamie – I’ve let a neck warp by not caring about its environment. Never smashed a guitar, but would love to have the freedom to do so.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Jamie – Turn on a metronome & practice licks. I’ve been generally doing this more with banjo over the last year since I’m wanting to be a legitimate player.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Jamie – I play maybe 1-2 hours a week. An hour of that usually is performance. I’d love to add more of course.

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Jamie – I steal all my picks from Mike Cosper. Not sure what they are or where he gets them, but they are fine picks. :)

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Jamie – 12s. Always. Better tone, but not finger-bleeders.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Jamie – Every two weeks.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Jamie – Hardly ever. I think the last time was 3-4 years ago.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Jamie – I think my right hand (strumming/picking hand) is where most of my playing strength is. I think my thumb & forefinger do more work than the left hand ever does.

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Jamie – If I get work done I have someone else do it. I never know what I’m doing & it will save myself a lot of grief as well as my wife. When I work on my instruments I generally get very grumpy around the house.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Jamie – I generally hate alternate tunings because they are just not practical from a performance standpoint. I’ll maybe use drop D or DADGAD if I know I’ll have a second guitar on stage with me. I hate it when singer/songwriters detune their guitars & try to tell some sort of story about the song they are about to play to try & fill time. It’s almost always boring & painful.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Jamie – Lead sheets with chords are just fine. I don’t have the patience for tabs or sheet music anymore. Listening to a piece of music a few times is usually enough for me to know & a lead sheet helps a bad memory.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Jamie – Well, I’m very short, so to most people my strap length chokes like a python.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break? 

Jamie – Fingerpicking with two fingers instead of three.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Jamie – The banjo!

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing do you wish you could do that you can’t?

Jamie – Slide guitar. Most people shouldn’t try using a slide. There is a huge chasm between a good slide player & a bad one.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Jamie – Having $5000 to afford a really good one.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Jamie – Holding a lit cigarette behind the nut.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Jamie – My friend bought me a really nice clasp capo with my name engraved into it. I love it.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Jamie – Chicken pickin’.

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Jamie – I switched my major in college to study guitar... it didn’t take long for me to drop out completely.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?

Jamie – A lot of your tone is actually in your hands rather than your amp/pedals.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Jamie – Self-loathing.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Jamie – Best if used in moderation.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Jamie – Rarely. Once it’s in the sweet spot, leave it.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Jamie – Lead guitar players need more creativity in terms of melody lines & to compliment a song rather than holding down the spine.

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Jamie – Nope. What’s that cliché phrase? You are only as good as your weakest link. I think the drummer is usually where most bands live or die.

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

Jamie – Springsteen’s signature Tele always sounds pretty darn gnarly.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Jamie – Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead - very creative work.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Jamie – The Recalibrated Heart I suppose sums me up. Most of my lead guitar days are documented on recordings that have disappeared over the years.

QRD – Anything else?

Jamie – I heart Brian John Mitchell.

Other QRD interviews with Jamie Barnes:
Interview with Jamie Barnes (September 2013)
Musician Dad interview with Jamie Barnes (May 2012)
Christian Musician interview with Jamie Barnes (March 2011)
Interview with Jamie Barnes (February 2007)

Interview with Jamie Barnes (May 2006)
i heart fx - Jamie Barnes (May 2006)