Guitarist Zane Carney’s musical journey started at an early age.
Following a four-year stint as a star on a Nineties sitcom, the former child actor dabbled with guitar before deciding to retire from the acting craft to begin seriously honing his guitar skills.
With a new-found perspective and an appreciation for jazz greats like Wes Montgomery, Carney’s work ethic, combined with a ravenous appetite for music theory, would eventually lead him to some pretty notable gigs, including working as guitarist for the Broadway show Spider-Man: Turn off The Dark and collaborating with the likes of Bono and Justin Timberlake.
In addition to Carney’s current job as touring guitarist for John Mayer, he recently released two solo albums. The first, Confluence, is an inspired collection of songs showcasing his strength as a vocalist and songwriter. Amalgam, which was released in February, is a dynamic, guitar-driven instrumental album emphasizing Carney's virtuosity and improvisation.
I recently spoke with Carney about his music, working with Mayer and his affinity for Musicvox guitars.
How would you describe your album Confluence?
It’s a little bit of a “growing pains” kind of sound, it's about me searching for my own voice. It was the discovery of something that would allow me to express myself as a solo artist and a mixture of the many of the different styles of jazz and blues that inspired me.
What was the writing process like for that record?
I always try to use a different process for each song I write. For instance, the song “Fade to Black” was inspired by listening to a lot to Neil Young’s After the Goldrush. I was also reading a lot of T.S. Eliot at the time and felt like writing poetry. For the song “Talk to Me Baby," I had already had the title lyric in mind and just expounded on what that thought meant to me.
What can you tell me about your jazz guitar album, Amalgam?
I had vocal cord surgery at the end of last year and was trying to think of another way to stay present as a solo artist. Since I was unable to sing, I decided to release an instrumental album of guitar songs I had completed. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a jazz album, but if you went to the store, you’d find it in the jazz section. I’m so proud of this record.
You described Confluence as a "growing pains" kind of album. How would you describe Amalgam?
It’s less searching and more definitiveness. It’s knowing the sound I’ve developed over the years and getting the chance to showcase my confidence as a guitar player.
When did you decide that music was going to be your calling?
I was actually a child actor on a sitcom for four years in the early Nineties [Dave’s World]. Once that ended, I was cast in a film with Billy Crystal. By that point, I figured acting was going to be the route I would go. But once I turned 14, things started to change. I really started getting more into jazz and music theory. Then once I discovered Wes Montgomery, I really understood what it was all about and immediately changed direction. I began to devour every one of his records I could find.
What’s it like working with John Mayer?
It’s special when you have a leader who’s also a musical genius. John has so much knowledge and wisdom and can give you a detailed analysis of everything he’d like you to do, but he also allows you to be yourself inside of that. It’s amazing.
Tell me a little about your relationship with Musicvox guitars.
The Musicvox SpaceRanger was one of the first guitars I ever owned. I got one for my 12th birthday and remember thinking it was the coolest looking guitar I had ever seen. Having a guitar I could relate to really helped me stay passionate and played a big part in my musical journey.
What are your thoughts on the Musicvox 12-string Space Cadet model?
Most of the 12-strings I’ve played over the years have a specific mid-range that honks at you at a certain point. Even though it’s a mono instrument, I’ve always wanted a 12-string that had a wider breadth to it. When I tried the Space Cadet, it had that feel and I immediately fell in love with it. I also love the look of the guitar. It actually inspires me to play and try different things. I’m sure I’ll be using it on a lot on my future projects.
Speaking of future projects, what else are you working on?
I have a few things going on that I’m not able to talk about at the moment. Right now, my Number 1 passion is continuing to support John on his tours and albums. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of that.
For more about Carney, visit zanecarney.com.
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.