Interview with 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: