NYLON-STRING MAESTRO EARL KLUGH is in his fourth decade of playing timeless melodies, writing beautiful tunes, and collecting Grammy nominations (12 and counting). His first recording as a teenager had him in the studio with some of the baddest players on the planet, and his latest offering, The Spice of Life [Koch], shows Klugh in top form, covering a wide range of material in a variety of settings. He took time to chat with GP before his packed show at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA. —Matt Blackett
How did you arrive at the tunes on The Spice of Life?
For me, it’s about trying to do something different with each project. Most of my records have either been all original or all standards or popular songs. With The Spice of Life, I wanted a more varied album, so I included some standards, some orchestra things, and some solo guitar. I really like that mix of that record. There’s a lot of different styles and a lot going on from a production standpoint, but it’s still very much a guitar record.
Talk about some of the composers that you’re drawn to. What do you like about Harold Arlen?
With Harold Arlen, I just hear beautiful melodies. I think that is some of the best music ever. I like some music where the melodies and the chords are all over the place, and that can be fabulous. But I gravitate often to very strong melodic statements that can be very hummable, simple, and memorable. For me that’s the measure of a really great song.
You covered “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on your Naked Guitar album. What do you hear when you listen to the Beatles?
It’s all great music. To me, most of their great songs are written just like songs from the ’40s and ’50s—“If I Fell,” “Yesterday,” “For No One,”—those could have come from any of the great composers 20 years before that. That’s what makes the Beatles so timeless. They really understood classic song structure, and they really were adventurous in a lot of different directions. It’s incredible that they did it all in such a short period of time. They started ’61 or ’62 and it was over by 1970. They created a wealth of songs that generations have discovered. It’s still amazing.