Guthrie Govan explains why he'll never be an "online guitarist"

Guthrie Govan performing live
(Image credit: Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty)

In this day and age, the internet has become a launch pad for many aspiring guitarists who seek to share their chops online with other like-minded individuals.

Despite the mammoth popularity surrounding the practice, Guthrie Govan has revealed he has no intention of becoming a part of the “online guitarist” craze.

The fusion virtuoso made the remarks during a conversation with Guitar Magazine while promoting his band The Aristocrats' latest live album, Freeze!

When quizzed about the contrast between his live and online presence, Govan – who has fairly limited interaction with social media – responded, “I acknowledge the apparent paradox lurking in there, but I think a person’s comfort level is informed a much by environment as by personality type.

“I’ve met people who seem totally at ease in large social gatherings but would be horrified by the prospect of hopping up on stage at a blues jam,” he continued. “Perhaps I’m just wired with the reverse polarity.

“I genuinely feel more comfortable when I’m playing. Also, when I’m on stage, I somehow feel more like a conduit for something, so I suppose I’m perceiving that ‘something’, rather than myself, as the real center of attention.”

On the frenzy surrounding YouTube and Instagram as platforms for guitarists to show off their skills, Govan acknowledged the role both play in increasing a player’s exposure, though admitted “it’s all pretty far removed from what originally attracted me to the idea of becoming a professional musician”.

“I salute anyone who has embraced that model and made it work for them but for me, personally, a huge part of the ‘being a guitarist’ experience is the element of playing with, and for, other people,” he added.

“Whilst I do of course understand the concept of moving with the times, I just can’t get excited about the prospect of making guitar-centric videos of myself for a living.

Faced with any choice between making my musical activities either more enjoyable or more profitable, I’ve always been more likely to gravitate towards the former

“Faced with any choice between making my musical activities either more enjoyable or more profitable, I’ve always been more likely to gravitate towards the former.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the prolific performer discussed his various music-related lockdown activities, which included fine-tuning his technique, experimenting with his string gauge and collaborating with Hans Zimmer on film scores.

“I’ve just been taking the opportunity to reassess various little details in the way I play,” Govan reflected. “In the quest for a tone which actually sounds half-decent at 'quarantine' volume levels, I tried switching my string gauges up to 11-50.

“This doubtless sounds like an insignificantly tiny change but somehow it made me ‘zoom in’ on a few aspects of my technique, so I think overall my playing is a little cleaner now and, as a huge bonus, my slide tone sounds much more believable!” 

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.