Adrian Legg boats in to Viva’s.
Thursday, April 1, 2004
On his 2003 release Guitar Bones, Adrian Legg’s acoustic fingerstyle guitar music is extremely complicated and incredibly refined. It sounds like the sort of music that deserves to be played in an old, ornate opera house in Vienna. It is beautiful music that should be heard while sipping a glass of fine wine or fancy tea.
In a telephone interview with Legg from his residence in London, the former choirboy tells me why he switched from playing the oboe to playing the guitar during adolescence.
“I wanted to move on from old ladies to younger ladies,” he jokes.
A few seconds later, Legg elaborates about what drew him toward playing guitar. “The thing that got a lot of us going of my generation was The Shadows and the arrival of the electric guitar sound. And, at least partially, the fact that musical authority actually hated it made it very attractive.”
After playing in a Liverpool band called The Rock Springs Country Band and performing in various pub groups, Legg discovered fingerstyle guitar, in which the guitar pick is abandoned to allow the player to play more than one note at the same time. By 1996, Legg had racked up four awards for Best Acoustic Fingerstylist in Guitar Player Magazine’s Reader’s Poll, and also earned a couple nods for Best Acoustic Album. Even though Legg is currently held in high regard as a guitarist’s guitarist, the witty, self-deprecating finger-picker has another take on all of his awards.
“I think I was a default choice,” he says. “Those people were essentially into breaking all the metal people and the shredders like Joe (Satriani) and Steve (Vai). I don’t think they had a clue about what was going on with the acoustic, but I happened to be in a couple of adverts and one of them happened to be on the page facing the poll.”
Legg’s interesting and, often times, very humorous worldview has led the renowned guitarist to be a frequent contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. Since 1995, Legg has contributed pieces like “Roadtrip,” about traveling around the United States during a nightclub tour, and “Differences,” an essay that states that Americans and Brits are “two peoples divided by a common language.”
During our phone conversation, Legg talks about everything from the difficulties of securing a US visa to the beauty of the American Southwest. Of the former, he says “I would have thought that I would have demonstrated by now that I am pretty harmless, but I am still having immense difficulty getting a visa from your Department of Hopeless Insecurity.” About the latter, Legg poetically describes the desert as a place “you can almost hear the earth revolving.”
Though Legg has written a couple of technical books, the Englishman says there is probably not enough money in writing to pull him away from his music career. “Unfortunately, I do have to spend some of my time making a living,” he jokes.
Despite releasing 12 albums since 1977, Legg feels that recordings are little more than “souvenirs,” and that a live setting is where music should be heard.
“I can’t think of anything as fulfilling as playing a gig,” Legg says, and it is obvious that this time he is not joking.
Adrian Legg plays Viva Monterey, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey, at 7:30pm on Tuesday. $12. 646-1415.