You’re watching a popular singer onstage in front of a crowded room. They get out of the second chorus and look to their side to watch the guitarist lay down a sweet solo. So who is the singer? Well, that varies, but there is a really good chance that the guitarist is Jason Loughlin. He is often seen onstage with a variety of bands these days. But isn’t that hard to keep track of all those notes floating around in one’s head? “It’s just a game of time management,” says Jason. “When I take a gig I make sure I have the proper time to learn or review the material. Playing in a bunch of bands is super rewarding for someone like me who gets bored very fast.”
Certainly no time for boredom when your schedule looks like this. “Right now I lead two of my own bands, The String Gliders and Osceola. I’m a band member of North of Amarillo, a band that plays all the Emmylou Harris Hotband arrangements mixed with other 60’s and 70’s country. Recently, I’ve been a sideman for Sam Outlaw who’s been getting a lot of great press from Rolling Stone and NPR.”
How does a gig like the Sam Outlaw one come about? “Sam was a fan of my record Peach Crate and would come to see me when I would be playing in LA. Next thing I know he made this great country record with the legendary Ry Cooder. I got a text one day from his bass player Daniel Rhine, who I knew from a tour I did with Rachael Yamagata and Sara Bareilles. It said ‘Can you sub for Ry Cooder in June?’ Um….YES. So, I’ve doing it since. It is fun just being a sideman and opening for great artists. I would never be able to do that with my instrumental music.”
Of course just like in the real world, once you get a good job, you need to figure out how to keep it. Jason says, “Take every gig when you’re starting out and take them all seriously, they all have something to teach you whether it’s on the guitar itself, on stage or off. Learn parts that give you new insight on how to arrange; learn new styles; solo in a way that serves each song appropriately; learn how to prep for a rehearsal and even how to be comfortable when the artist wants to change everything you worked on at rehearsal or sometimes even on stage. Even little things like how to use a crappy house amp with a smile, help carrying gear, driving the van or buying a round all contribute towards making yourself irreplaceable.”
When Jason plays you can tell there is more going on than just a casual guitarist banging out some chords. His understanding of “parts” and “layering” is evident on his solo record, and certainly understandable from his sideman work. But there has to be more to this depth of musical understanding than just that right? There is. “Some people might be surprised to know that the trumpet was first priority to me up to about age 23. I went to school for classical trumpet and theory/composition. I studied for four years with trumpet virtuoso Lee Soper. I made my living in and around New York as a classical trumpet player for a few years. I was always studying guitar and playing in bands on the side though. I got a job at Starbucks, worked the minimum amount of hours to pay rent and eat and started studying jazz guitar with Vic Juris. I practiced ten hours a day for a year or two. Frank Vignola was also a big help to the way I view the guitar neck.”
What would steer someone from the trumpet to country and swing on guitar? Jason says, “I grew up listening to a lot of swing. My grandfather was a huge Les Paul, Errol Gardner and Django Reinhardt fan. This meant every Monday night my grandparents would take me to see Les Paul at Fat Tuesdays. Then, when I was 24, I read an article in Vintage Guitar Magazine about Danny Gatton and I was like ‘Man, I gotta check this guy out. He combines all the things I love about guitar.’ I got his record 88 Elmira St. and traded in my archtop for a tele that week!”
Jason is really popular with students at TrueFire because of his understanding of how to get a student from point A to point B. “The toughest thing for a lot of students is to make that connection between just knowing some licks and knowing how to go play a gig and not get a cymbal thrown at them!”
Jason is hard at work about to release the String Gliders album, an all-star band with twin teles and steel guitar. He has several other projects in the works, but it is hard to finish them all when you have such a touring schedule. He still finds time to share his knowledge and art whenever he can.
Jason has some great advice. “If you really want to be a musician, burn your safety net. Yup, remember how your parents were like ‘Get a business degree and you can always play on the side’…they don’t know what they’re talking about. Set the safety net on fire. Set goals, make lists and run yourself like a business. Manage your time and goals. Get a good teacher, make a practice schedule, start playing out no matter how bad you are or how many times you get fired from a gig. Take every gig until you get a feel about what it is you want to do.”
Great advice! It certainly has worked for this classical trumpet playing barista! But now instead of serving lattes he’s serving up tasty licks, and just the right part for the song.