Jimmie Vaughan: Powerful Stuff
GW I can hear how difficult this is to talk about. Is it easier to process and deal with after 20 years?
VAUGHAN No, it’s not. It really and truly is not.
GW A lot of your music expresses a deep joy at just being alive, which I especially hear on Strange Pleasure, which you recorded four years after Stevie’s death. To me, that was a message about how to continue on after tragedy and despair, and it projects a strong message without ever saying it.
VAUGHAN Thanks. This stuff is real emotional to me. It’s very real. A lot of people don’t get it, so I guess it’s not for everyone, but I’m glad that some people hear all that, because that means some of the emotions and thoughts I am trying to project get through.
There are only two kinds of music: the kind you like and the kind you don’t. You can do anything with music and shouldn’t think about it in terms of genres or rules. Within music, there is total liberty. No one can make you like something or play something, and no one can take it from you—not the government, nobody. That’s what makes music so great. It encompasses everything.
GW Are you still playing stock Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Strats? And what are you running through?
VAUGHAN Yes. I’m still playing some of the first ones that they gave me. I tweak them up the way I like them, because I like to tinker, but I also play them right out of the box. I’ve also been playing a Fender Coronado with DeArmond pickups, which is a real oddball and a lot of fun.
I played Matchless for many years and still love them, but Fender has out a new Bassman reissue with a lacquered tweed finish [’59 Bassman LTD] that just sounds great right off the shelf. On the album, I used one of those and a 4x10 Matchless, and that’s it.
I really don’t use any effects, except for an occasional tremolo. I’ve always felt like the Stratocaster itself is a gadget that can give you an awfully wide range of sounds.
GW Are you still open to changing your guitar approach?
VAUGHAN My guitar playing is constantly in a state of change. That’s the fun of the whole thing. Every song is an excuse for me to play lead, a blank canvas for me to paint on, and I don’t want them to be the same. I’m still learning all the time. In fact, I still take music lessons.
GW What do you study?
VAUGHAN Theory, music knowledge… I work on all the basic stuff with a music teacher. I’m just constantly in a state of pushing it and exploring, because that’s what I love doing.
GW So you don’t subscribe to the belief that “book learning” can kill the feel?
VAUGHAN No. I don’t think you lose anything; you just add. Just because I learn a scale or some new changes doesn’t mean I’m going to use it. But if the right situation comes up, I’ve got it in my trick bag. I still play my blues, but I enjoy all music. I really have the best job in the world, because I do what I love, and that’s what I’ve always done.
GW You’ve talked in the past about how hard it was to play sober after years of drinking. Does that struggle fade away after doing it for so long?
VAUGHAN It gets easier and more comfortable all the time, but it never goes away. You just stay with it, and the older you get, the more comfortable you get and the more confident you are that you simply can do it. That excuse goes away. That’s not to say you don’t have problems anymore, but you have a different way of dealing with it, and that makes it easier.
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