Jazz Guitar Today’s Bob Bakert interviews guitarist Josh Meader and discusses his unique playing technique.
Bob: You were born in Amsterdam, and you moved to Australia when you were 11. Your dad started teaching you guitar when you were about seven years old. Your dad is a jazz guitarist, and he plays jazz double bass. Growing up, you played rock, you played fusion, you played all of that… You played with your dad on the streets of Sydney on the same street corner for like 10 years!
Josh: Yeah, pretty much. We did move around a little bit in those first few years just to figure it out. There’s a few spots in Sydney, but yeah, we landed in The Rocks Markets, it’s literally underneath the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Bob: Fast forward…now, you’re all over Instagram. Do you publish something every day on Instagram?
Josh: No, I don’t have my stuff together quite that much. I try and do something every two to three days, that’s what I was doing most of last year – which seemed to be a good timeframe to work with them. I have been a little bit more slack… need to pick up my game a little bit.
Bob: You are well represented on online – but you obviously try to perform live as well, right?
Josh: Yeah, yeah. I mean, definitely try to – and that’s definitely what I love doing the most.
Bob: I loved your transcriptions. You seem to have it down – and the voicings can be difficult. For example, the way the piano was physically laid out and the way the guitars physically laid out – there’s a lot of artistry skill and just physical dexterity to get a convincing voicing. What can you share with us?
Josh: For me, the whole process has been very trial and error. I’ve been transcribing since I was, so 13, 14, maybe. So every day, doing either like one, one big lick or just one small little thing. Every day for all throughout high school, I would have been transcribing something. So I think you do develop your own methods. It’s hard for me to articulate exactly what they are, but I just know kind of the process I need to go through when I’m learning something. And I like learning other instruments just because it gives me the chance to create my own stuff on the guitar. Based off that I can add my own creativity into a transcription. If I were to learn a guitarists part, I almost feel pressured to just play it exactly like them. Whereas if I’m learning something from a horn player, I can really focus in on the notes. The articulation is not going to be the same. I’ll try and copy it as much as I can, but obviously, different instruments or different ways to produce sound are not the same. The piano is going to be very different -learning all those notes, and the combination of notes. Those other instruments give you something that you wouldn’t be able to find if you were to transcribe guitarist. It is super helpful.
Josh: Yeah, that’s, that’s pretty much it, man. I mean, I always slow stuff down as well. Just talking, get everything for sauce.
Bob: So do you literally sit every day and transcribe a piece?
Josh: Well, yeah, not a full piece. Small fragment of something that you hear, something – that’s all it needs to be. It’s just something small, like just be one little lick in a solo. I mean, I don’t transcribe nearly as often as I used to but exactly as you said, it’s vocabulary building. So, it’s the exact same thing as language. Like you don’t go out just with letters and rules, grammar or something like that and expect to actually sentences and have a conversation. You need to load the language or the phrases that people use. You need to be able to understand what people are saying when you gave someone else improvise. so that’s just listening over and over to the same player, getting into the nitty-gritty of what they’re actually doing. Just sitting with them for a while and transcribing all your favorite licks from one particular artist. And then you really start to hear what that voice is.
Bob: You have this incredible quartet that you’re working on in your recording.
Josh: Awesome, awesome, incredible group of musicians, I’m very fortunate, live in Sydney and I can to play my music. They’re all incredible… Alex Hirlian – phenomenal drummer in Australia. Same with the piano player, Matt Thompson. And he does a lot of synth stuff too, he has access to all that, which is amazing. And on bass, Nick Henderson – he’s incredible too.
Bob: So you went to a music conservatory?
Josh: Four years, which was great. Yeah man, super, super helpful. I learned so, so much in those four years. So definitely worthwhile!
Bob: What’s the improvisational jazz scene in Australia like? Is it pretty healthy, people dig the music? What’s it like over there for someone like you?
Josh: Yeah, it was pretty good before COVID but then everything kind of had to shut down.
Bob : Let’s talk about pre COVID.
Josh: It was cool, man. There were some nice bars around Sydney. Unfortunately one of the main ones shut down literally two months before COVID. So that was quite a bummer. They reopened somewhere else. Awesome venue. But even with the move, I think it’s still great. I think Melbourne probably has a better, overall scene just as city – five hours away from Sydney. But it’s between those two Sydney and Melbourne. In those cities, there are always times when the arts going. So yeah. I mean, yeah, it was good. I definitely have always looked overseas to play too.
Bob: You have incredible physical abilities. How did you develop that skill? What kind of exercises do you do?
Josh: Yeah, no. I mean just a lot of time, trying to figure out exactly how all the mechanics work and I mean, I’m going to be honest. Like I didn’t really feel comfortable with my technique fully until a couple of years ago, like two, three years ago and then playing for 17 years now. So it shows you how long technique can take to settle in, but always just been searching for, just looking at my favorite art favorite musicians and seeing how theirs worked and seeing, Don’t forget it’s movement at the end of the day. So efficiency is super important. But then, also the overall feeling. I think you have to almost let your body dictate what it feels comfortable doing. And following that a little bit in a way, if something’s feeling uncomfortable and you just can’t get to work for years and years, it’s probably a sign. Maybe you should try a few different things, see if anything else feels comfortable. But then saying that man, I stuck with my technique for 15 years before it started to feel really good.
Bob: You have it pretty dialed in right now…
Josh: Yeah. I’m feeling comfortable now, man. And I kind of did learn like this extra little technique four years ago or something. And that really helped a lot. three or four years ago, I learned just a different way to pick it’s. I mean, how to kind of explain, but it essentially means like the, the last note of every string. So example, if you’re just playing a scale, instead of picking every note, the last of every string is a hammer on or pull off. So in this case, it’s a hammer on, so you can see I’m running up, down, up and down, up, down, up, down.
Josh: And when it’s put through everything else, if you play my lines slowly, that’s kind of what’s going on. It’s actually giving the right hand, one note spare every time they’d be jumping to the next string. So for example, as soon as I’ve done the upstroke, they’re my hands already ready to go on the A string. So it’s already down on the ice train before that notes hammered on same here. This finger’s already moved down to the A string as soon as it’s finished playing same with the middle finger. So everything’s always on its way to the next destination. So you can kind of be as efficient as possible.
Bob: What guitar players have inspired you?
Josh: Two of the biggest inspirations would be from the acoustic world, like Bireli Lagrene and Sylvain Luc. Yeah, definitely two of my favorites. They were the first two musicians I ever tried to learn stuff from transcribing. So, and they were kind of my first introduction to jazz, as well.
Bob: What about inspiration from musicians that play other instruments?
Josh: Yeah. I guess one of my all-time favorites would be Chris Potter – he is definitely there, man. As far as someone who’s always inspired me to pick up the instrument and play and learn something new. I think the first introduction I had to him was through Steely Dan – and on West of Hollywood album and that song in particular. I was probably 12 or 13 when I first heard that solo, the big play out like four minutes solo that he did on the song West Hollywood. It just blew my mind someone could improvise like that. That kind of sold me on trying to learn jazz. That solo and obviously the Bireli and Sylvain playing Miles. And I had Kind of Blue since I was probably 10. My dad definitely introduced me to that album and it was always a favorite.
Bob: So you’ve got a new project you’re working on that will be released later this year?
Josh: Yeah. I don’t know when it will be out, but I’ll probably aim to record sometime in June or something. We’ll see how it goes – how long it’ll take to produce and stuff after that. But, yeah, this year definitely can expect something.
Bob: And that’s original music?
Josh: Yeah. All the original indie definitely kind of, situated, I guess, jazz slash it’s almost progressive stuff. Progressive rock metal, I guess. I don’t know. It’s hard to put a label on it. I think about, influencers from a whole different array of things maybe, but definitely rooted in kind of jazz and improvisation and stuff.
Bob: So what’s your favorite thing to do?
Josh: Well I’m definitely music man. Just play.
Bob: Do you have a favorite music genre?
Josh: Not really, man. I mean, like a lot of different things going from like hip hop to the crazy kind of metal stuff. Prog metal pop. I love pop music too. And a lot of the more modern stuff at the moment.
Bob: You pick up the gypsy guitar?
Josh: I love playing that too. Yeah.
Bob: I see you are playing to a seven string with the Abasi guitar – what led you to seven string?
Josh: Creative options and new possibilities – I had been playing six strings up until this point and not that I was running out of ideas, but the seven string just gives me a whole new bag to experiment with – which is incredible. So I, yeah, right. Grateful for that, I got to go to play it and have one, which is awesome.
Bob: What amplifier are you using now?
Josh: I’ve got a Matchless Avalon 30.
Bob: And it weighs 600 to 630 pounds?
Josh: Yeah, around that – ballpark.
Bob: We’re glad you have a young back… appreciate your time and will do this again soon– take care.
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