Andy Timmons Talks Knoxville, Beginnings, Music and Future Plans
Q&A with guitarist Andy Timmons
inTUNE weekly writers Chelsea Babin and Allie Holmes sit down with legendary guitarist Andy Timmons for an exclusive interview after his performance at the Jackson Terminal this last October. Timmons talked of his passion for his music, his beginnings, his future plans and his music life. Be on the lookout for Timmons’ upcoming projects and shows!
Chelsea Babin: So, what do you think of Knoxville?
Andy Timmons: Okay, so, I know for sure I was here in 1990 but I’m not sure if I’ve been here since then. This is kind of crazy – I was in a band called Danger, Danger in the late 80s/early 90s, we were on tour with KISS and I know we played Nashville. I’m pretty sure we played Knoxville too. I don’t know if I’ve been back through here. I’ve played a lot with Olivia Newton John – we might’ve played here...my memory is so horrible.
But, okay, so now here we are in 2019 in Knoxville, so far has been incredible. I like what’s going on downtown. Everybody I’ve met here has been really, really, awesome – really sweet people. I grew up in Evansville, Indiana, so the nature of people is very similar to what I grew up with in Southern Indiana. So, I’m having a great time and the response to the show – it was humbling. It was really, really special. I haven’t played my own music here ever so it was awesome. I hope I get to come back soon.
Allie Holmes: We’d love to have you back!
CB: How would you describe your sound?
AT: You know, it’s certainly, grunge/metal music but there’s a lot of influence from blues and jazz and just life...you know what I mean. My goal in music is to really just kind of put into music what we feel. I write vocal music as well – I love writing lyrics but the written language is very finite. I find that music without the restriction of written language so I’m really moved by other music from my past like Jeff Beck or Ryan Wilson – certain singers can touch you in a certain way. So, I’m trying to do that with my music. I’m trying to reach out so people can feel something… that’s my goal. I think the guitar as an instrument is just kind of scratching the surface of what’s the potential – what we can really do. So that’s my goal.
CB: So, are you self taught? Or did you take lessons?
AT: Initially, I was. I started when I was five and I had three older brothers that played a little bit so… but by the time I was 16, I knew this was gonna be my life and I sought out a local teacher in Indiana (where I grew up) and I started learning how to read and getting some–he was a great jazz player so he started kind of boarding my pallet so to speak, but I was narrowingly just into 60s and 70s rock but then he started playing Barney Kessel and George Haslam and Oscar Peterson records and I was so inspired. I said “well, I wanna know how’s that work?” Then I became a classical major in my first couple years of college because the local university offered a classical guitar program. So, I was in a rock band playing three nights a week, taking jazz lessons so I was getting just lots of musical experience. That’s kind of how the rest of my life has gone. Even out of school, I’ve tried to maintain that kind of openness to all kinds of music and it’s just great that I still maintain my rock foundnation but I keep going in different directions to learn. And just try to get more experience so I can hopefully put to the guitar in a personal way.
CB: What’s the biggest difference between being a session artist and a rockstar?
AT: Well, the session thing will be assigned to me and the situation is that it’s not about you. It’s how can you best serve the situation? You know, what can I do to help this song or if it’s a vocalist or whatever it might be – how can I make this better without getting in the way or detracting. So, obviously when it’s my music, I’m more of the feature so–but it’s really all the same in that I just want it to be the right music at the right time and what’s appropriate for the situation. In my band, I have a bit more space to really indulge and do my thing; whereas, as a session artist/side band, you’re really just trying to do what’s right for the overall good of the work. I’ve started to realize, it’s kind of the way I live my life. I’m very aware of what my actions–what impact it will have on other people and so sometimes I'm too sensitive about that but it’s just how I function in the world and it’s definitely how I function in music.
CB: Do you still get stage fright?
AT: Absolutely. I was really glad to go on first tonight, by the way, it’s like, you know, you got these other great musicians and sometimes it’s a daunting task to go on after someone like that. So, I was very happy to go on first.
CB: How do you overcome your stage fright?
AT: Just by doing it. My first professional gig was my own eighth grade graduation dance and my peers of eight years were in front of me and I was scared to death – you know, back turned half the time, fiddling with my amp. Overtime, you know I was lucky I was in a band with much older players so by the age of 15 or 16, I was gigging three nights a week and so you just get used to doing it but that feeling for me never goes away. That kind of anxious, kind of you know, you wanna do well, I think that’s good, I think that’s a sign that you want to do well and I hope that never goes away. You don’t want to be too nervous but it means you care and means that you really want to do well.
CB: Do you have any pre-show rituals? Something that you do everything that you play?
AT: I go through different fads. I was meditating...some guided meditation stuff and that was cool when I did it but now I don’t do it anymore. I play a lot. I like to sit and have a little rig where I can make some sound and just play. But, no specific rituals – I also like when my gig is early because I hate waiting too much...more time to kind of overthink. A lot of the times when you do sound check, you kind of wish the gig was right then because I’m like relaxed, I’m playing okay, can we just do this? But then you go, now you have eight hours to wait or whatever it is. Today wasn’t so bad because we finished sound check and it was like I go on at seven so we were finishing at like five or six so I went down and found a little coffee place and sat there and checked my Twitters. So you know, yeah, nothing too specific.
CB: Do you have any future plans that you can share with us?
AT: Oh man, let’s see. I have a guitar instructional website that’s called guitarxperience.net. … and so that keeps me busy because I’m constantly videoing new content and I do a different song every month and I teach all about what I’ve done with the song. So, that keeps me busy. I have several records I’m in the process of doing. I’ve got a project I’m doing with Gregg Bissonette and Matt Bissonette who are legendary drum and bass sidemen. Gregg plays with Ringo now, he’s played with David Lee Roth all these cool people. Matt’s out gigging with Elton John. But they’re incredible songwriting and singing guys so we’re doing a record project kind of through pro tools of the internet. But Andy Timmons Band is recording a new record, then I have another solo project I’m working on. I’m always writing. I’m trying to write some good tunes and practicing every day trying to get better. So, lots of stuff coming.
AH: What would you do if you were not a guitar player?
AT: That’s a really good question. I have no idea what that is. I can’t even picture what that looks like. Cause it’s really been the only thing I’ve been interested in, in this passionate kind of way… I have no clue cause I have no other talents. So this is working out okay… are you trying to tell me something? No, I wish I had a more creative answer for that one… you know, maybe I’d work at an animal shelter. I love the animals and the cats – I have three cats.