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How session ace Charlie Worsham is sending the Nashville guitar scene into overdrive

Charlie Worsham
(Image credit: Erika Goldring/WireImage)

Nashville is full of talented guitar players who play on hit records with half their licks tied behind their backs – such is the life of a session musician. But Charlie Worsham, a first-call player for artists like Eric Church, Kasey Musgraves and Dierks Bentley, finds ample opportunities to let his fiercest licks fly. 

Worsham, a Berklee College of Music-trained guitarist and songwriter who cheekily catalogs his six-string exploits on a Spotify playlist dubbed Sh!t I’ve Played On, champions the throngs of guitarists who live in Music City. 

He has routinely led themed “guitar nights” at CMA Fest, and he orchestrated a popular residency at Nashville’s Basement East club pre-pandemic called Every Damn Monday, which drew slingers such as John Osborne of Brothers Osborne and Sadler Vaden of Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit band. 

He also freely shares his techniques with aspiring players and songwriters. For Fist Through This Town, a highlight of his 2021 EP Sugarcane [Warner Nashville], Worsham posted video tutorials on his chord choices – like why he uses all six strings to play a C chord – as well as how to play the ripping solo, which nearly didn’t happen at all. 

Producer Jay Joyce finally sent him home after a few uninspired takes with an assignment to listen to some music that might light his fire. So he went back to the beginning.

“That next morning, I walked in with my Charlie Worsham-via-Steve Gaines solo, and I saw a little nod of being impressed from Jay, which rarely happens,” Worsham says. “It made me really proud and made me really glad that I grew up in a household with a big ol’ stack of Skynyrd music.”

Joyce also challenged Worsham to track Sugarcane with just a single guitar. Worsham chose his “Excalibur,” a 1960 dot-neck Gibson ES-335 gifted to him by Vince Gill. “There was never any doubt,” he says. “Whether it’s me playing shows live or playing on somebody else’s record or my own record, whatever, that’s where I start.”

The producer’s trick had more to do with forcing creative decisions than holding him back. “Right now, while I’m still trying to establish myself to the masses, they maybe can’t go eight layers deep. They just need to hear that one guitar, so I’m in a place of simplifying and trying to lean more on my fingers than my gear, and it’s been good for me.”

  • Sugarcane (opens in new tab) is out now via Warner Music Nashville.

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Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs (opens in new tab), a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.