It’s late in the evening, the sun has just sunk below the horizon and TrueFire is hosting one of our traditional house concerts for local student members, friends and family. It’s an hour before show time and Andy Timmons is in the house, warming up his hands on his guitar and getting ready to go on stage. I sit with him for a few moments and he casually starts to share some of his warm-up techniques with me. He travels with a pocket-sized drum machine/guitar FX box that allows him to plug in and get basic guitar tones and some simple rhythm tracks. He’s using it now with his headphones on, so all I hear is the unamplified metallic sound of strings on frets and a fury of pick noises, but still, it’s clear how clean of a player he is. The crowd is patient yet, but the buzz for what we’re all about to participate in is coming to its anticipatory head. The cameras and stage are set, and we’ll soon be treated to a night to remember.
I frequently describe Andy as one of my favorite people to work with in the studio. For some of the artists we work with, there are two sides of their personalities — the on-camera and the off-camera personality. With Andy, there is one. The laid-back, open, friendly guy you see in his courses is exactly how he is in person. He’s easy going, but spirited, with a self-assured confidence and sense of comfort that seems to come with knowing and walking your own path. It’s what makes him an excellent educator, but it’s also what makes him so likeable, and I think it’s the same energy you hear in his performances.
The first time I worked with Andy was in early 2014 when we shot his Electric Expression course. He wanted to come in the day before the shoot to get setup, so when he landed in town I had him come straight to the studio. It’s a funny thing really, because he instantly struck me as a super humble, laid-back, low-maintenance guy, and yet after fiddling with his tone for just a few minutes, he just lights up this sound, instantly demanding the attention of anyone within earshot. That tone was incredible, and we knew we were in for a treat over the course of that shoot! There’s an interesting embodiment of the old anti-braggadocio saying there, “let the [instrument] do the talking”. A saying that in Andy’s case can be left unsaid. But when he’s given the chance, he’ll talk the talk too. And that’s one of my favorite parts of what we do here at TrueFire. Do you want to know how Andy Timmons perceives and approaches music? Of course you do. Check out his courses, because he doesn’t hold back. Countless inspiration and insights, not to mention tons of great licks and harmony to glean there, and what’s more, his presentation makes you feel like you’re hangin’ with your guitar bud the whole time. No pretense.
He’s also frankly one of the most melodic and tasteful players I’ve ever come into contact with. As a guitar fan and music industry professional, there are few guitarists that I would put into the same class. His records possess some of the most enticing soundscapes and emotionally potent melodic lines I’ve ever heard, soaring and diving in and out of my conscious mind as I listen. Check out Andy’s latest record, “Theme From a Perfect World”. It’s available wherever you get your music, and it’s one hour of songs that perfectly exemplify the balance that I wish more instrumental rock guitarists could maintain. Although he’s clearly the centerpiece, he plays with the ensemble and can restrain his demand on your attention as the bigger song weaves its way through your mind, spurring self-reflection and engagement on a more rewarding level. That’s what my favorite music does for me, and this latest record has got that stuff.
We’ve worked with Andy on other courses too including his Blues Expression course, an in-depth look at some of the more bluesy approaches in his toolset, and he’s also played the All Star Guitar Night event on a couple occasions for us. That show is always a blast to put on, and while it usually runs pretty late for production staff, Andy is one of the few artists that joined us for late night pancakes after the show, because on top of being a top session guitarist and phenomenal artist, he’s a great guy. And great folks eat late-night pancakes together.
Jumping back to show time…the crowd at TrueFire headquarters is lit up. Andy puts on arguably one of the most electrifying solo guitar shows they’ve seen, certainly up this close. And on top of the two cameras perched in the corners of the room, he agrees to let me attach what, in hindsight, was a monstrous GoPro mount to his headstock for his performance of “Electric Gypsy.” Mind you, this was before the beautifully lightweight Hero Session model was released. If you watch the video, you can literally see the moment he feels the weight and questions his own judgment on that call! But alas, he was a total team player, and the results were killer. It’s that lack of pretense and willingness to share that I think weaves itself through Andy Timmon’s person, certainly my impression of him anyway. It’s what makes him an educator you must know, someone you should absolutely spend an hour experiencing a record from, and if you ever get the opportunity to do so, see him play live.