“I really love the concept of angry and aggressive music like Killswitch Engage and Trivium,” says the 17-year-old acoustic-electric switch-hitter who hails from the sleepy city of Georgetown, Delaware. “But now I’m trying to expand my horizons beyond making noise. You see, when I started playing guitar, I just saw it as a hobby. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it.”
On “V Dub 2,” you navigate through a lot of tempo and thematic changes. What informs your approach to composition?
Well, I’m classically trained, and I had a very strict teacher. He taught guitar the way Henry Ford would show you how to build a car—by the book. I also listen to a lot of 1940s and ’50s oldies, and I love the Beatles and old, cheesy love songs—they always have the greatest arrangements. So I don’t like crazy stuff where you hear the same riff all the time without a lot of variation in the structure of the composition. With my songs, I hope that, by the end, I’ve reached a very high level of dynamic interest.
Can you detail your gear choices?
I have a Taylor 414ce that I knew was perfect for me the second I held it. I could play metal—or any other style—and it always translated the power of my playing. It carries my voice, and it’s my one and only. As soon as I heard it, I gave my old acoustic away to a friend. I usually stick with dropped-D tuning, and I use pretty heavy strings. Right now, I’m using Elixir strings, gauged .013-.058. I like them because they’re smooth, they can really take a beating, and they bring out my guitar’s midrange and heaviness. I remember that my teacher used a 2mm pick, but I like to sweep pick, and I can’t do that technique very well on something that big, so I use Dunlop Tortex .88s for more control. My live setup is very stripped down. I just use the Expression pickup system that comes with the Taylor, and maybe a Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb for a little color. I use a DigiTech JamMan looper pedal to write songs.
Do you have plans to put together an acoustic project with other players?
I play hardcore with my band Capsized and Drowning, but, for my acoustic work, I’d like to stay solo. I’m in the studio now with my solo-acoustic material, and I hope to finish recording in the fall. I listen to a lot of styles, and I would like my CD to sound well rounded. For songwriting inspiration, I’m experimenting with DADGAD tuning, and some other wild variations. Different tunings are great, because the patterns you learned in standard tuning get so messed around that it confuses any muscle memory you may have in your fingers. And, by freeing yourself from any habits you’ve been relying on, you can get past any plateaus that may be holding you back creatively. This is funny—you know, I try to listen to other acoustic players like Kaki King for inspiration, but I just don’t. I love Kelly Clarkson. I listened to her music all the way home from Ozzfest. I think she’s great.