Two of the world's top acoustic guitarists, Andrew White and Van Larkins, are taking to the road together this September for the release of their new albums: 'Beautiful Trouble' and 'Cinder Moon', respectively.
You're touring in September with Andrew White… you must be stoked ahead of these east-coast dates?
[Van] It's always great to get on the road here; it's never just about the music, you get to explore the country and discover new places. Australia is bloody big!
What do you two have planned for the shows? Will you join each other on stage at times?
Absolutely. I'll open the show with new tunes from my latest album 'Cinder Moon' and then Andrew as the international act to headline. As a finale, we will perform a tune or three together. I won't give too much away, but considering I shaped my style around one of Andrew's albums when I was a teenager, the combination of techniques and composition when we perform together on stage is something really special.
For those new to Andrew, what can you tell us about this fingerstyle magician who has released 14 albums in an amazing 40-year career?
Andrew White is a troubadour. He is one of those rare artists who can skilfully combine brilliant fingerstyle guitar work with a compelling story in song. The amount of music he has produced is just plain scary.
You were assure of yourself enough to send some of your very first demos to Andrew, even asking him to produce your first album, which he did. You two must share a strong bond, almost a spiritual connection?
Considering I shaped my style from listening to the album 'Guitarra Celtica' by Andrew, and he then produced my first album landing us a deal with CandyRat Records, I would say there is a spiritual connection for sure. When I play guitar with Andrew, we both know what to play and when to play it; makes for a really special performance.
That was ten years ago when your paths first crossed; does it feel like a decade has passed?
A lot has happened and it certainly feels like a life-time since working on our first album together, then touring Canada and New Zealand. It's crazy to think about everything that has happened in that time, not just the albums and tours, but also how I have grown through my music as a person. My guitar always by my side like a best mate.
Van Larkins the fresh-faced musician compared to who you are today; what are a couple of the more significant changes you can reflect on that have really shaped your musical style and rapport with your fans?
My ability to compose music has evolved over the years, as you might hear comparing my 2012 album 'Wandering Hands' produced by Andrew White in New Zealand, with the recently released album, self-produced here in Australia.
As I'm scoring the music to release to the budding guitarists out there, the first thing I notice is the arrangement. My older compositions are around four to six pages in length when scored, and my recent music is double that! My music is more complex and emotive I would like to think, which I would put down to the experiences I have had travelling internationally meeting other fingerstyle guitarists.
You have a new album as well to promote; 'Cinder Moon'. Overall, are you satisfied/ happy with finished result?
I always carry a 'I can do better next time' attitude, which does wonders for my anxiety (laughs). But overall, I am stoked with the new album. A snapshot of who I have become musically over a five-year period, and working with Pix Vane Mason again was just magic; he's such a legend and always commits himself 100 per cent to a project.
Did you work with any other musicians on this release?
This is the first album with no other artists involved. I worked together with engineer Pix, to produce and layer effects like reverb and delay in such a way that it complements, but does not interfere with the original track. So maybe I should say yes, Pix as the engineer was the other artist involved in creating this album.
Did you also work with a producer (who) and if so, what did they bring to the project and eventually the finished product?
Both Pix Vane Mason (Pix Records) and I produced this album together. Considering we have been working together for over ten years and produced the 2010 album 'Myriad' with Andrew White as producer, we have no trouble getting on the same wavelength to create and complete a project such as this.
What brand of guitar, model is your choice these days?
I play my own signature 'Van Larkins' guitar, a Baritone steel string built by Luke Kallquist Guitars in Brisbane. The guitar was created around my current tuning (Open C) and percussive playing style; she rings like a bell with harmonics on every single fret except for the 11th and 13th fret, which is just insane. By this time next year I will also have a signature Tenor guitar to help cover the entire sonic range possible on guitar, and start work on a new Australian-themed album.
You've had some nice words said about your craft including Phil Emmanuel, who said you 'create beautiful musical soundscapes'; that must make your heart beam just a little?
That's something I keep pretty close to my chest, but yes I do appreciate the kind words. The fact that my father created an album cover for Phil back in the '80s as an airbrush artist, kind of makes it feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing; like full-circle you know? Music has been my vehicle, my way of travelling and connecting with people like Phil, Michael Fix, Andrew White and many others, so to receive acknowledgement of that is pretty spesh.
Receiving such praise, does that simply stoke the fire even more to continue on the musical path you are walking?
It confirms that I am on the right path, which is really important when you're kind of just making it up as you go along. Imagine applying for a job, knowing that the job requirements and necessary skill-sets would change, morph and multiply constantly, and even the job itself with certain elements being made redundant with the introduction of new technology and means of sharing music. Getting a shout out from guitar legends like Phil, helps to keep my eye on the ball with all that going on.
Do you see yourself as a life-long touring musician? Or do you have other projects you want to explore at some point in the future?
There will be a shift of focus shortly, something I have been working on for years that will present my music to an entirely different audience. That's all I can say about it right now though.
Van Larkins and Andrew White ShowsSun 17 Sep - Black Bear Lodge (Brisbane)
Sat 23 Sep - Eudlo Hall (Sunshine Coast)
Sun 24 Sep - Encounter Byron
Wed 27 Sep - Newcastle Music Academy (workshop 3pm; gig 7pm)
Thu 28 Sep - The Basement (Sydney)
Fri 6 Oct - Paris Cat Jazz Club (Melbourne)