By MIKE CHAIKEN
Britain’s Adrian Legg will bring his skills on the electric and acoustic guitars to Connecticut next week as he tours the States to promote his latest album, “The Very Best of Adrian Legg.”
Legg comes to Nutmeg State twice in October. On Thursday, Oct. 3, he opens his tour at The Bayou North in Ridgefield. Then he arrives at Bridge Street Live in Collinsville on Friday, Oct. 25.
The Observer caught up via email with Legg, who was home in the U.K. before he hit the road.
Observer: Most of us, when we’re introduced to an instrument to play, at least in the U.S., we are sat down at the piano or handed an orchestra instrument like a violin or maybe a trumpet. What was your first brush with a musical instrument? What were your feelings toward that particular instrument, and what was your experience in general with music as a youth that made you want to explore it further?
Adrian: I was pushed towards the oboe. I played it as well as I could, school orchestra, local youth orchestras and so on, but I didn’t love it. “Want to explore music”? Hmm. What else is there? Pictures, perhaps; I love photography, possibly because it’s an opposite: it pins down a moment, whereas music flows through a moment and leaves a little emotional trail in our minds. People’s minds work in different ways, I suppose. Perhaps mathematicians have calculations bubbling along at the backs of their minds, accountants have double entry thoughts, scientists have “what ifs,” journalists have who, what, why, when, where?. I just have music pottering along, which is why I can’t function under Muzak, and why the only thing that wakes me at night is external music that conflicts with what’s going on in my head.
O: Eventually you found your way to the guitar… what inspired you as a youngster to pick up your first guitar? What do you remember about the sound that you liked as you started developing your talent? Were there artists you listened to as a younger man that stoked the flames of desire to get better as a player… who?
A: Hank Marvin. I don’t know about getting better, but that simple shiny sound offered a possible creative direction. That was the start.
O: Now, many years later, as an artist, what do you like about the guitar as an instrument that gives structure to your creative spirit?
A: It’s portable, very tactile, very flexible in many respects. I think over time anyone trying to make something becomes habituated to tools that have proved to be functional. I’ve been involved in the technical side of the guitar enough now to be able to fiddle with details in a search for more of the je ne sais quoi. It doesn’t always work, but every failure is a lesson, and quite often the bones of a tune are hidden under it.
O: A quote attributed to you explained you’re a mix between European classicism and American guitar… to the non-musician, someone who simply likes to listen, what does that mean to you?
A: I was brought up on classical music, and still love it enough to be a very picky listener, but the big, hormonal romance was the American guitar.
O: Artists generally don’t like to be pinned to any particular genre. But what kinds of music help inform your sound and if the audience listens closely they may be discern from whence you came?
A: For a long time I heard the American guitar in little bits and pieces from several thousand miles away. Initially, there was no flow of information about it, so I tended to see the wood as a whole, whereas Americans lovingly tend the various trees that make it up.
For me there’s no difference between, say, Elizabeth Cotten and Lonnie Mack. It’s all the American guitar. By the time transatlantic communications opened up more and I started to be able to find detail, I was set on this course anyway and I’m happy with it. I don’t know about genres, I just like the whole thing and want to respond to it.
O: I also read how you like to engage your live audiences with banter and tales. Why take that approach rather than being on stage and being lost in the music and let the audience figure out how to hop on board?
A: Audiences are usually friendly. I don’t always talk, and don’t plan it, it just seems civil and sociable when we’re sharing our feelings in music. On the other hand, maybe I just get lonely on the road.
O: When you come to The Bayou North and Bridge Street Live, what can fans and what can newcomers to your music expect to hear and see from Adrian Legg?
A: I hope they will find music that engages, some tunes they like, and I hope we’ll bridge some of the gaps between our cultures – those gaps can be tricky.
Adrian Legg performs at The Bayou North on Danbury Road in Ridgefield on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. He returns Friday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. to Bridge Street Live, 41 Bridge St., Collinsville.
For more information, visit AdrianLegg.com