'The Mystery Revealed!'
Tommy Emmanuel was born in the New South Wales town of Muswellbrook. He began to play guitar at the age of 4 years and by the age of 5 was a working professional musician, as much of his childhood was spent touring Australia with his family band, playing rhythm guitar.
In 1966 when his father died, he started to give guitar lessons at the age of 12. He first came to be noticed nationally when he won a string of talent contests in his teen years, and by the late 1970s, he was playing with his brother Phil in the group Goldrush. During the early 1980s, he joined the reformed lineup of leading '70s rock group Dragon, touring widely with them, including a 1987 tour with Tina Turner, before leaving to embark on a solo career.
While Tommy has never had formal music training, his natural musicianship and prodigious playing ability has won him fans from all over the world. As well as being a guitar master, he is also a professional percussionist, and has been known to play percussion parts on the body of his guitar.
1994 saw Tommy as a member of the John Farnham Band. Australian music veteran John Farnham invited him to play guitar next to Stuart Fraser from Noiseworks for the Concert For Rwanda.
In July 1999, at the 15th Annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention, Chet presented Tommy with the honorary Certified Guitar Player degree, an honour bestowed on only two other guitarists (besides Atkins himself) - "In Recognition Of His Contributions To The Art Of Fingerpicking".
One of his career highlights was his live performance at Sydney when he played on the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics in 2000. 1 billion people watched this event, which was shown worldwide.
He tours around the world, frequently playing in small venues. His concerts are extremely popular with his dedicated fans not only because of his amazing musicianship, but also due to his powerful yet laid back stage presence.
Tommy released the DVD "Live At Her Majesty's Theatre, Ballarat, Australia" July 11th, 2006. Tommy's latest album, "The Mystery," was released August 22, 2006. His song "Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag" from this CD won "Instrumental of the Year" at the 35th Country Music Awards held at the Tamworth Country Music Festival on Saturday the 27th January 2007 and also was nominated that year for a Grammy for "Best Country Instrumental Performance".
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up
and how many still factor into your music today? "The earliest influences were Hank Williams and Marty Robbins, The Shadows, The Ventures and some Australian artists, for instance, The Joy Boys and Dave Bridge, And then came Chet Atkins and Merle Travis, James Burton and Roy Nichols and later Eric Clapton, SRV, George Benson, Django Reinhart."
"As a teenager I listened to Gordon Lightfood, Don McLean, James Taylor and later Elton John, Billy Joel, Steve Wonder. I’ve been influenced by saxophone players, piano players, singers, drummers, you name it. I’ve been influenced by it."
"I think you can definitely hear the influences of singer/songerwriters rather than guitar players in my writing."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of
buying your new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "How about “good” - Only kidding. The purest acoustic sound that I could get. The sound that I make when I play my guitars is what comes out the speakers. I’m a singer/songwriter without the singing."
Please reveal to us just what being a renowned 'finger style guitarist' means when it comes to playing the guitar? "It means that I have to work harder than ever to keep raising my standards. It means that I get to meet a lot of nice people around the world and see a lot of incredible sites as I travel."
How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "I never think about that. I only try to write the best I can and play the best I can. I don't try to set any kind of trend or have any other motive but striving for excellence in what I do and try to keep my focus on that."
Please tell us more about those days back in Australia when at age just 6 you began your PROFESSIONAL career with your older brother Phil! Just what made it a so-called 'professional' career beginning at that age and not just simply a child playing his guitar at family get togethers and such?! "Well, for start off, we were a serious band in the entertainment business. We played shows and got paid for it. My mother took the money at the door. We toured all over Australia, and that's what we did for a living. That makes us professional."
You've worked with - and for - many famous artists throughout the years, but which stands out to have been one of your most treasured experiences thus far? "Recording The Day Fingerpickers Took Over The World with Chet Atkins. And every time I jam with Les Paul, who's 92 years old. I have to pinch myself because I can't believe I'm up on stage with the guy who invented the electric guitar."
Having won four Platinum and Gold albums in your native homeland, isn't it about time that America recognized you also in much the same way?! How are we going to ensure that this happens?! "Well, for a start off, I've been nominated for a Grammy twice, and Chet and I won an award for our album....readers poll. I have lots of American awards such as the Acoustic Guitar Readers Poll of 3rd favorite artist of all time and 4th favorite album of all time, and the Kentucky Thumpickers Hall Of Fame."
"As far as making this happen.. you leave it to me. I'm working hard to see my audience grow all over the world. Remember that awards don't alway put food on the table nor do platinum albums."
Please tell us more about the night you recorded your new performance DVD, 'Live At Her Majesty's Theatre' in Australia. Did it all go as smoothly as it seemed or were there any musical speed bumps that were edited out?! "There was nothing edited out that was not worth looking at. It was a nice night and very relaxed. I came out to play as best I could for the audience as I normally would. Technically there was a problem where the lighting board computer program crashed, but luckily, there happened to be a similar lighting board in Ballarat!"
As you sit back and reflect on this DVD what has subsequently been you favorite moment to rewind to and play over and over - whether in reality or in your mind? "I've never watched it from start to finish. I don't watch my own DVDs!"
If asked to for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "Kool & The Gang "Celebration" that I did with Dragon in the 95. I love the song. It's lots of fun."
Lastly, and throwing in a comedic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "Depends how they're cooked..... :)"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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