Los Angeles-based rocker Andrew Watt has spent much of the past year out on the road, building his reputation by touring his eclectic, soulful sound with a host of bands.
Before that, Watt was one third of California Breed, which also featured Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham. It was a unique combination that yielded a successful album and tour.
Recently, Watt returned to the studio to record his debut solo EP, Ghost in My Head. The EP, which was produced by Alain Johannes, is a self-reflective journey—but a rocking one for sure. The four-track package features Watt on vocals, guitar and bass.
I recently spoke with Watt about Ghost in My Head, his time with California Breed, his gear and more.
After your time with California Breed, did you feel a need to having to prove yourself with this album?
Not really. California Breed were so expressive and a lot of those riffs had been with me for quite a while. It was a big part of my sound.
When you get on stage and in the studio with someone like Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham, you have a choice at that moment. You’re either going to buckle down under the pressure or rise to the occasion. I did my absolute best to kick it to the next level, but I also was pushed by all of the talent surrounding me. But everything has to run its course and nothing lasts forever. So when it became clear that California Breed wouldn't be going on, it seemed very clear to me that I was going to make a solo record, take these new songs and finish them myself.
I was blessed to be approached by John Varvatos to play music for a new label he had just started. It was a no-brainer and it all came together very organically.
What’s your writing process like?
It works in a couple of different ways. A lot of the times, I’ll be sitting down on the couch just playing guitar when something will come out. It’s more subconscious for me. I might just be having a conversation with someone and working off their vibe. Or sometimes I’ll let a sound affect my emotions. Whether it’s good or bad, I’ll get a feel for a topic that will make me believe certain moves and a chord will come out to cover it. Other times, something will affect me mentally and I might write a full lyric about it and then put it to music.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the EP. Can you tell me the origin of “Ghost in My Head,” the EP's title track?
I spent a lot of time touring with a lot of different acts over the last few years. And as any touring musician knows, when you get on tour, you sort of enter this bubble and at times it’s hard to keep up with the people and life you’ve left off the road.
I was in a process where I was on the road for years straight and when I came back, I expected everything to be the same and just get back into my normal mode of “home." But I had a girlfriend at the time and when I got home she told me everything had changed. She said, “My life’s changed. Everything is different here, and you just expect me to be the same but I’m a completely different person.” That’s when it sunk in that it really had been a year. It was the perils of the road.
That’s a really fun track. It’s one of those songs where the riff just came out. It’s about traveling and moving around and vibing. It’s about staying up when other people are trying to keep you down.
You’re a big fan of vintage gear. Was a lot of that used on this album?
Absolutely. I recorded with Alain Johannes. He’s worked with Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. We used a lot of old Marshall and Supro amps. Guitar-wise, I used my SG Special and an old Tele Custom. I also played bass on the record.
What’s your current setup like?
I’ve been running my guitar in stereo through Orange amps—one amp slightly overdriven, but clean to play dynamically softer. The other amp is rocked out. I can run them together or separately and they give me a more complex tone. I use the Orange Dual Darks. They just put out.
What are your touring plans for 2016?
I just got off tour with the Struts, which was amazing. I’ll be doing more dates with them, and a few more are starting to get locked in. I’ll definitely be out for the majority of 2016 all over the country.
What excites you the most about Ghost in My Head and the next stage of your career?
With this album, I really feel I was able to express myself fully as an artist. I think it’s the best music I’ve ever made, and I’m excited to be able to share my voice with the rock community and the world. I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing it live.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.