Found Sound: Interview with Jazz Guitarist Jimmy Grant

My personal experience with making music has always involved months of writing and fine-tuning, followed by multiple late nights in the studio slaving over minute details. The outcome is always worth the effort, but I’m left wondering if the same result could be achieved spending half the time.

Oakland, CA-based jazz guitarist Jimmy Grant (who I happened to meet on a plane coming back from the NAMM Show) used quite a different process for his latest release, 5 in 5; write a song a day for five days. Record on the sixth day. Release it on the seventh.

A native of Northern California, Grant grew up in a household full of rich musical influences that inspired a passion for the music of Django Reinhardt. While his influences grew to include Russian folk, bluegrass, celtic and classical, Grant developed his own voice on the guitar that is steeped in gypsy jazz technique.

The idea behind his new release might sound simple, but actually came with its own set of challenges. Below, Grant describes what it was like to record 5 in 5.

What is the idea behind 5 in 5? How did the project start?

Well, last September, I decided to enter the first song I ever wrote, “Insomnia”, into the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. I got a call months later saying I had made it as a finalist in the jazz category–and I had completely forgotten that I had entered the competition. It kind of re-inspired me to keep writing music.

For the last couple years, people have been telling me to write more music, which I do, but at my own pace, which is usually VERY slow. A friend was constantly getting on me to write more, and so he challenged me to write five songs in five days. The songs would be about 2 minutes in length, and then I’d record them on the sixth day. I said, “Sure, I'll do it.”

Was it hard?

I did find it challenging. I did have to throw a lot of songs away. To be completely honest, I still had two and a half songs to write on Sunday, the last day. So I was a bit strapped for time.. and our recording session was at 8:15 AM on Monday. I didn't finish the last song ‘til about midnight on Sunday.

Most musicians I know would refuse to record at 8:15 AM. It's too early. But after mass amounts of coffee, we managed to record everything in one day.

Tell us about your guitars.

I play a French-made guitar, built by Christelle Caillot. In my opinion, they are one of the best gypsy style guitars you can buy. It is a replica of a Selmer style guitar, which is what Django Reinhardt played. I also use a 1981 Gibson ES-175.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences in and outside of the jazz and gypsy-jazz genres?

So many to list. I'll start with gypsy jazz. Of course, Django Reinhardt, but also there are many other greats like Angelo Debarre, Bireli Lagrene, Matelo, Tchan Tchou and Serge Camps.

Other guitar influences I have are Marc Ribot and Grant Gordy. I love music from all over.. Segei Orekhov, Vasile Pandelescu, Taraf De Haidouks, Tony Rice, Jacob Do Bandolim, Tom Waits, Glenn Gould, The Beatles, Erroll Garner and Duke Ellington. That’s all that comes off the top my head right now.

Take a listen to 5 in 5 opening track “Katyas Cold” below.

Jimmy Grant is currently touring and recording with the Bay Area-based group Junk Parlor, and will be doing more “challenges” in the near future. Learn more about him at the following links:

Tom Gilbert is a guitarist (and aspiring pedal steel player) living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When he’s not blogging for Acoustic Nation, eating Thai food or being obsessed with his dog, Tom does marketing and PR for music and audio companies with Mad Sun Marketing.

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