We average over a hundred sessions a year here at TrueFire. We’re either working on a new project with an artist that we’ve worked with in the past, or we’re producing someone’s first project. It never gets old.
The collaboration, creative energy, and production process is always something we look forward to and of course, the music lights us up. Thanks to the players we’re privileged to work with, the guitar playing is always top notch and very often truly amazing.
Play along with recordings, surround yourself with musicians who have good time, use a metronome/drum machine and work on a variety of rhythmic feels & grooves at various tempos.”
“Amazing” is always the case with James Hogan, who can play any style, anytime, anywhere. James’ impeccable technique and soulful, evocative musicality is clearly evident whether he’s playing classical, pop, jazz, rock or a fused combination of the above.
His reputation as “the quintessential studio musician and touring sideman” is well deserved and is also evident just by scanning the artists he’s recorded and/or performed onstage with: David Sanborn, Dave Brubeck, Brent Mason, David Grissom, Frank Gambale, Chaka Khan, Enrique Iglesias, Patti LaBelle, The Manhattans, The Drifters, The Coasters, Buddy Miles, Left For Dead, The Jacksonville Symphony, The Florida Orchestra, and Broadway productions of Little Shop Of Horrors, The Best Little Whore House In Texas, Grease, Godspell, and many, many others.
James’ self-produced, and widely acclaimed instrumental album, True Diversity, not only hit #1 on the charts, it is without question one of those must-haves for the guitar record collection. Tune it in and you will hear for yourself how appropriate a title that is for a James Hogan album.
“When I first started out on guitar, I worked really hard to emulate my heroes and wondered what it would be like to be them.”
Fortunately for all of us, James is also a passionate educator and getting to work with him in our studios, and getting to know him personally, is a joy in every aspect. He’s buttoned-up and prepared for every session, nails every performance, conveys very sophisticated information in a very accessible way, and is just an all-around cool hang.
We always look forward to our next session with James (as does our student community!) and we asked James if he would answer our Proust-like questionnaire so that Riff readers could get to know him a little better and we share that with you here along with some video links to a few live performances (check out his TrueFire courses too!).
What is it about the guitar that attracted you to it originally, and still fascinates you today?
Duane Allman’s legendary slide guitar intro on “Statesboro Blues” from Live At Fillmore East is what initially attracted me to the sound of guitar. My dad played that record a lot at the house when I was really young and Duane’s guitar tone and slide playing, in particular, really commanded my attention. Also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was fortunate to grow up in a house with a lot of great guitar records. Freddie King, BB King, Al DiMeola, Kenny Burrell, Steve Cropper and Eric Clapton were all in rotation at our house. There were also a lot of great guitarists on the radio when I was a kid and it seems I was always drawn to them. You could turn to virtually any station or genre and hear great guitar playing. Later on, when I heard Van Halen it was all over! That was the turning point for me. Eddie blew my mind. I had to have a guitar! It’s been quite a journey since. To this day there are many things that still fascinate me about the guitar and music in general. The one constant that inspires me the most is the feeling I get when playing guitar.
“I would love to have been there to witness the moment that sparked my interest in guitar in the first place, front row for the live Allman Brothers recording of “Statesboro Blues” at Fillmore East.”
Your idea of happiness?
In the grand scheme, it’s living a comfortable and fulfilling life with faith, love, family, friends and good health. If I’m being selfish though, I can see how traveling the world and melting thousands of faces nightly with a vast collection of vintage boutique guitars and amps would make me very happy. Only if I travel by private jet though! I’m over the bus/van thing.
Whether living or dead, who would you like to have dinner with?
I’d skip dinner and go for drinks with Bon Scott.
I’m not a person who typically adheres to mottos, but I do like Joe Madden’s: “Do simple better.” I’ve used that with my students on a few occasions.
Name three things a player can do to improve their musicianship.
1 – Learn where all of the notes are on your instrument. If you don’t know where all of the notes are on your instrument with instant recall how can you truly master it? This is a must!
2 – Learn to play “in the pocket.” Play along with recordings, surround yourself with musicians who have good time, use a metronome/drum machine and work on a variety of rhythmic feels and grooves at various tempos. Learn to play behind the beat, on the beat, in front, etc. This is hugely important!
3 – Don’t overlook music fundamentals. Master the basics! Learn to play and hear fundamental intervals, scales, chords and arpeggios. Learn to (at minimum) read simple chord charts. People tend to gloss over this stuff and do themselves a great disservice. The greatest musicians are masters of music fundamentals.
If not yourself, who would you be?
As a kid, I used to imagine myself as Dale Murphy hitting in game 7 of the World Series with a tie score and bases loaded on a 3-2 count, or as Larry Bird shooting the game-winning “3” vs the Lakers at Boston Garden in the Finals. When I first started out on guitar, I worked really hard to emulate my heroes and wondered what it would be like to be them. Nowadays, I’m completely content with just
Given the changing business landscape of the music business and how tough it is to sell records etc. — what are the positives about the current evolution of the music business?
It’s really subjective I guess. With streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, along with web platforms like YouTube, there are a lot more opportunities for young and unknown artists to get heard in today’s music business landscape. That is a positive. The current model is also especially great for consumers. With little, or no investment people have access to 1000’s of albums worth of music at their fingertips in an instant. In a perfect world, the exposure gained through streaming would lead to increased concert attendance, merch sales and revenue for artists as well. The other positive I see is that vinyl sales seem to be on the rise, which is nice.
What are your aspirations?
Generally speaking, I aspire to be a better husband, father and son. Regarding career goals, I’d love to perform and record with more of my heroes, increase my visibility globally and expand my legacy as a musician and educator.
What one event in music history would you have loved to have experienced in person?
This is a tough one! There are so many historic moments that come to mind it’s almost overwhelming to choose one. Imagine being at the debut of one of Beethoven or Mozart’s Symphonies, or at Robert Johnson’s recording session? How about attending Miles’ recording of Kind of Blue or Hendrix’s set at Woodstock? Man!!! I have to say that out of curiosity I would love to have been there to witness the moment that sparked my interest in guitar in the first place – front row for the live Allman Brothers recording of “Statesboro Blues” at Fillmore East. I’d be curious to know if the actual moment eclipses the way I always envisioned it in my mind.
Your favorite heroes in fiction?
I mostly read non-fiction, though Sherlock Holmes, Santiago and Philip Marlowe immediately come
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Without a doubt, my wife and family are the greatest loves of my life. Guitar is a close 2nd though!
Your favorite food and drink?
Food = Spiced & steamed Florida Gulf Shrimp.
Drink = Château Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux, 1996
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with (other than music)?
As a kid, I dreamed of pitching in the Big Leagues, so I wish I was gifted a 100 mph fastball and a