“My Dad had an old Gibson acoustic and a book of Jackson Browne songs in the closet, and, one day, for no apparent reason, I got them out and started playing,” says Myers. “I was about 13. Now, I see my mission as rediscovering an older style of guitar playing that’s not widely used by modern players, and then adapting it to a new repertoire so that it becomes more relevant to modern acoustic music.”
What’s your current gear setup?
My main guitar is a Taylor 310, and I string it with D’Addario light-gauge strings. My thumbpick is a Fred Kelly Speed Pick, and I also use a metal National fingerpick on my index finger. The recordings on my MySpace page were made using a Line 6 TonePort, Ableton Live audio software, and a Shure AXS1 microphone.
What’s the background of your song, “Two Fiddle Tunes”?
It’s a medley of two old fiddle songs: “Liberty” and “Needlecase.” Fiddle tunes are rather short, so playing them in a medley is a common tactic. The arrangement also includes a lot of very fast, legato trip- let ornaments that I picked up on from listening to Irish musicians. The tunes are played in CGDGAD tuning, capoed at the fifth fret.
Why did you decide to focus on rearranging traditional songs?
I’ve always loved traditional music, but I only made the decision to focus on it after I realized I wasn’t a very good songwriter. I think my strength lies in reinterpreting older music, and creating interesting arrangements on the guitar. Right now, I’m committed to the development of my thumb-lead style as a unique guitar voice.
Can you explain that style in more detail?
It’s basically an extension of the thumb-lead technique used in the early years of country music—most notably by Maybelle Carter. The tune’s melody is played with the thumb on the bass strings, while the other fingers pluck or strum the high strings to maintain the rhythmic pulse. I actually developed the technique by trying to imitate clawhammer banjo players, where downstrokes are used to strike the strings with the backs of the fingernails, while the thumb plucks the banjo’s fifth string to create a drone. It’s a remarkably simple technique that generates a lot of notes and rhythmic drive. I got interested in the clawhammer style because I felt the Travis-style technique I was using had become too predictable. The “Eureka” moment came when I made a simple decision to allow the thumb to play the melody, and the index finger to establish the drone on the guitar’s top string. Only after I came up with this approach did I make the connection with Maybelle’s playing.
In my interpretation of the thumb-lead style, the melody is usually the lowest voice sounding, which gives these arrangements a lot of power and rhythmic drive. The droning high-E string—which is plucked by the index finger—establishes a subtle, insistent rhythmic quality that also adds complexity to the harmonies. Left-hand technique is an important part of the style, as well. I use hammer-ons and pull-offs to play fast ornaments, and I throw in the occasional left-hand tap when a note is difficult to reach any other way.