“I was playing a Van Halen solo in my mind”: Post Malone trips up during Tiny Desk performance – because he was busy thinking about Eddie Van Halen’s playing

Post Malone performs an NPR Tiny Desk concert
(Image credit: NPR Music/YouTube)

Though he’s predominantly known as a pop-rap superstar, Post Malone is actually also quite the guitarist, and a rather underrated one at that. 

His impressive resume of collaborative credits will testify to that fact: he’s road-tested a Gibson SG at Norman’s Rare Guitars, played an acoustic guitar alongside Andrew Watt, and he’s even jammed with Jared Dines.

Not only that, he covered Nirvana during quarantine, and played Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover in a guitar battle with Watt that same year

The point is, Post Malone has an appreciation for all things guitar, which makes it somewhat unsurprising that he name dropped one of the instrument’s most iconic players during his recent NPR Music Tiny Desk performance.

However, he didn’t just name drop the late Eddie Van Halen, he said he messed up his performance because he was literally too busy thinking about EVH’s playing.

After finishing a stunningly arranged acoustic performance of his 2019 soft rock bop Circles, Post Malone confessed to butchering the chords because he apparently had other things on his mind.

“Thank you guys very, very, very, very much,” Post Malone said. “I know I totally butchered the chords there. There was one point where I was like, I don’t even know where I am on the [fretboard].

“I was playing a Van Halen solo in my mind,” he quipped. “Which I can do, I just don’t really feel like it.”

Obviously, we don’t imagine the two-hand tapping lines of Eruption were literally circling through Post Malone’s mind while he was strumming the Circles progression, but it’s still yet another nice nod to the artist’s wider appreciation for the six-string.

And as for the small matter of whether Post Malone actually can play a Van Halen solo… well, that was probably tongue-in-cheek, too, but we’ve seen him tackle Eric Johnson before, so perhaps it's not entirely out of the realms of possibility. We'll see it when we believe it.

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Interestingly, it’s not the first time the names of Post Malone and Eddie Van Halen have shared the same sentence. In February, Tom Morello teased that he had been working with the vocalist on a “phat jam” that could be Post Malone’s version of Beat It.

“We worked out a pretty sick jam,” Morello said at the time. “To me [it] felt like it could be, for him, like his Beat It, y’know. Michael Jackson, a big pop star, paired with Eddie Van Halen and made something that no one had expected. ‘This could be your Beat It, dude!’ He just won’t finish the song.”

Still need convincing of Post Malone’s guitar and heavy music sensibilities? Well, in 2021, he joined Slash, Chad Smith, and Watt for an epic cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs.

He’s also received high plaudits from Watt, who said of his Cliffs of Dover guitar duel adversary during an interview with Guitar World, “Post is a great guitar player. And he's just an amazing musician. He's one of those guys that can do anything, you know?”

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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.