The latest “15 questions” feature is with British guitarist Stuart Garrard (aka Stu G). For those of you who may not have heard of Stu G, he has been the lead guitarist and co-songwriter with one of the most successful British bands of the last 15 years, “Delirious?“.
Guitar Jar catches up with Stu G and quizzes him on his technique, guitar equipment and any new projects he’s working on…
I’m one of the few guitarists that would use vintage amps live – my feeling is, why have them if you don’t use them!
Hi Stu G, before we get into the details of your equipment and technique, can you give Guitar Jar readers an insight to why you first picked up the guitar and how long you’ve been playing?
I started playing guitar in 1979 after I heard Queen “Live Killers”. I wanted to become Brian May!! I had played drums for a few years but once I heard that record I wanted to play guitar.
In the first few years in learning the instrument, which guitarist(s) were you influenced by the most and why?
Brian May, Alex Lifeson, Dave Gilmour, Andy Summers, Adrian Belew and Phil Keaggy stick out in my memory, all of these guys had a huge influence on my learning guitar. I did my best to learn their licks off records in my bedroom, much to the “pleasure” of my family.
I’ve seen you play ever since the early “Cutting Edge” days when yourself and the “Cutting Edge Band” played every other month in Southampton. From my perspective, your playing is as recognisable today and I can often tell if you are playing on a recording. Do you share the same opinion or do you think your guitar style has changed significantly over the past 15 years?
I think I have a recognisable style and tone but that’s just how it developed over the years. The combination of playing live and then having the chance to record with some great producers and engineers has been absolutely invaluable. It’s been like one long huge lesson that isn’t over yet. I count myself very lucky to have had this opportunity.
Do you practice? If so, can you shed some insight to your practice routine? What do you focus on to improve your technique?
I don’t practice as much as I should but I know when I’m rusty!! I spend a lot of time writing and recording so I get to practice when recording takes and writing parts. I have a couple of go to exercises I do from way back when I was learning with a tutor that I often pull out and I concentrate on finger strength and playing scales in seven positions in the same key.
You were known to play a blue Fender Telecaster for many years. Can you tell us more about the history of that guitar, where you purchased it from and do you still use it today?
HA! I bought that guitar for £199 in ’93 when I was on the way down to record the second cutting edge tape. It’s a not very good Mexican-Tele that looks like it was made of balsa wood 🙂 Over the years it’s been chopped about and had a variety of pickups in it. Now it has Bill Lawrence vintage Tele pickups a new bone nut, a new bridge… it’s still got the mirrored scratch plat and sounds absolutely awesome!!
You are now well known to play Gibson Les Pauls during live performances. What is it about the Les Paul that you like?
The Les Paul is definitely a go to guitar for me. I like their shape, the way they feel and sound, although every Les Paul is different. I own three; a red sunburst standard in the UK which is the best Les Paul I’ve ever played, a Gold Top Deluxe also in the UK and a black standard in the USA which is OK.
Please can you tell us about your choice of amplifier? Do you prefer combos or do you use the head & cab approach?
I like non-master volume amps. My regular live rig in Europe has been a mid 70’s Park 50w combo and a ’73 Marshall JMP 50 with a 20w greenback 4×12. I also own an early 60’s Vox AC30 (non top boost) and a WEM Westminster. I’m one of the few guitarists that would use vintage amps live – my feeling is why have them if you don’t use them!In America I own a Marshall Bluesbreaker reissue, an AC30 reissue and a MESA Trem-o-verb (which has a master volume!! ha!).
How much do the use of effects pedals contribute to your overall style and tone? Would you feel “naked” if you were left to play with a guitar plugged straight into a good amplifier?
I wouldn’t feel naked. It depends what the song needs. An example of a simple guitar and amp sound is “God is Smiling” off the “Kingdom of Comfort” album… Gretsch Duo Jet and AC30…simple as. I do love effects and have a huge pedal board but mainly would only be using 1 or 2 pedals at a time. The reason the board is so big is so I can have all the sounds I’ve gathered over the years. My pedals are controlled by a GigRig Pro 14 which is an incredible switching device.
What aspect do you miss the most about no longer playing with “Delirious?”?
I miss playing live with Delirious, and getting on the tour bus at the end of the night.
Can you tell Guitar Jar readers about your plans for the future? How is the development of your new band, “One Sonic Society”?
My plans for the future are developing. I have new management (Dave Steunebrink at Showdown Mgmt) and a new publisher in Provident/SonyATV. I am writing and collaborating with lots of different artists and writers and have had some good songs recorded. I’d like to produce some things too.
One Sonic Society is awesome and I’m excited about the EP’s we’re recording and to play live with that project. We’re starting a monthly event in Nashville this summer and can’t wait to see how that develops.
When it comes to session work, how do you approach writing riffs for other artists? How do you not fall into the trap of playing similar licks to those you developed in “Delirious?” Do you find it more challenging writing guitar parts for other artists?
That’s difficult to answer. Most people that book me want me to sound like me, so like I said before, I have a style. But for my sake I try not to keep redoing the same thing. Once again it’s down to the song and what I hear for it. I find it a good challenge!
Your house is burning down. What is the one guitar item you would save?
OOH tricky… I have two hands right? It would be my sunburst Les Paul and my ’66 Duo Jet.
Have you had any nightmare experiences whilst gigging?
Totally have! I used to use a wah/volume pedal that used red Led’s instead of pots. When I was on stage and the red stage lights shined a certain way, I lost all my volume. The worst occasion for this was at a festival in America, where my rig worked for about 10 mins of the 45 min set!!! It took us many weeks and many gigs to work out what was going on!!
If you could form a super group using famous musicians past or present, who would you have on drums and why?
John Bonham…no need to explain why…THE END!