Slim Gambill: Taking The Guitar To The Edge with Fake Jazz & Theme Songs by Todd Beebe

Photos by Paul Natkin

The role of guitar playing in modern music is a continually evolving position. To stay on top of the game, most working professionals need to be able to adapt to many situations. It is an art to have the chops to stand out front when called upon, but lay back in the shadows when it’s time to serve someone else’s music. Meet Jason “Slim” Gambill. Slim has toured the world and seen remarkable success as guitarist for the multi platinum Lady Antebellum, who has sold more than 16 million albums worldwide, racked up 7 Grammys and countless ACM, CMA and People’s Choice Awards, and had nine #1 songs. In addition, Slim performed in the house band for NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly,” toured with Tyler Hilton, Josh Kelley, played sessions for some of the biggest names in music, and over the course of his career has found himself on stage with John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Nicks, Maroon 5, Rob Thomas, Jennifer Nettles (of Sugarland), Aloe Blacc, Kamasi Washington, Jessy J, Jake Owen, Frankie Ballard, Canaan Smith, Devin Dawson, Ben Rector, Darius Rucker, Vanessa Carlton, Macy Gray, Peter Frampton, Kenny Chesney, and countless others. He proves, night after night, that he is the right man for the job, as Lady A shines time and again, with Gambill’s amazing playing holding down a solid foundation. But there is a whole other side to this remarkable player! On September 6th, Slim Gambill will release Fake Jazz & Theme Songs. It is a remarkable, head turning collection of catchy tunes that feature other top notch players such as sax great Jeff Coffin from Dave Matthews Band, and guitarists Chris Nix and Isaac Hanson. Helping Slim lay down the songs are Justin Glasco on drums, bassists Matt Wigton and Luis Espaillat along with Mike Rojas and Kenneth Crouch on Keys. Slims amazing chops are front and center and those who are unfamiliar with his mastery of the fret board will be truly amazed. But this is not just a guitar shred fest. The songs are full of catchy hooks and melodies that draw the listener in, mixed with horns galore! We even get the amazing Candace Devine making an appearance on the great Over Getting Over You, which sounds like a 1970’s classic that never got recorded! But the great thing about Slim is how approachable of a human being he is. His love for his wife and children shines through first and foremost, and he’s a true salt of the earth guy. I caught up with Slim recently, right after Lady A’s sold out show at Ravinia in Chicago. We instantly hit it off and had a great time talking all about guitars, the current state of music, Slim’s early years, and of course the new album. Slim’s as great as they come and we had a great time talking! Thanks for a great interview Slim!

Todd Beebe: Thanks so much for talking to me today Slim!

Slim Gambill: Absolutely! Thank you!

TB: So you were born in Nebraska am I right about that?

SG: Yes! I’m from Omaha. It’s Nebraska, but it’s not farm country. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and then finally landed in Colorado Springs. That’s where I would consider home. I was there from 8 to 18.

TB: You travel a lot of course, but where do you call home right now?

SG: Nashville. Just outside of Nashville.

TB: So how old were you when you got your first guitar?

SG: I was nine. My grandma had this old guitar, and there was a guitar class at my school. There wasn’t some bug that bit me where I was like, way into some guitar player. I was nine and just thought “that sounds fun! I’ll play the guitar!” (laughs) So I took the guitar class with the Mel Bay book and all that. But then I got bit by the rock and roll bug for sure when I was like 11. I started getting into listening to records a lot! And when I got to junior high there was another guitar class and that was where we did the Mel Bay book one, book two, there was a lot of sight reading and chords. But then, once you got through the book, whatever tune you wanted to learn you could learn it for class. And so, the three songs I learned for that class were in fact Stairway to Heaven, Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary. I can’t remember if it was the first song I learned but Stairway to Heaven was one of the first classic rock songs I learned! I was really into hair metal! It was 1989-1990, so I was into that, but I grew up on my parents record collection, which was classic rock and other stuff here and there. But what really sparked it was when I first heard Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and all that stuff. I never learned to play like those guys. For some reason I was never drawn to figuring out how to do that myself. That just really got me. It was like, “I’m a rocker this is what I’m into!” In 1989 you were defined by the music you listened to! Cause right around then country music was suddenly mainstream. Garth Brooks came along. So overnight, all these dudes in my junior high school were dressed up like Garth Brooks! In the meantime, hip hop was becoming a bigger deal around then. So it was this thing where there wasn’t a whole lot of overlap, because it was junior high school. So that was me, I was one of the rocker kids!

TB: So what was the actual first music you remember hearing as a kid that really caught your ear?

SG: The first stuff I remember really being drawn to was in my parents record collection. Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond. In the early ’80’s at some point, my dad replaced the 8-track player in our car with a cassette deck. So we went to the mall and bought some cassettes. He bought Toto 4,  the Rolling Stones Hot Rocks, Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits and the Moody Blues Days of Future Passed. So that was what we had on in the car. So I remember those records from early on. It was the early ’80’s, so it was Thriller, Born in the U.S.A., She’s So Unusual, Purple Rain, Like A Virgin, and all that new wave stuff. Some of the biggest records ever were made right then, when I was first hearing popular music. So I think that stuff rubbed off on me from a melodic and song point of view.

TB: Did your parents play music at all?

SG: No, as far as I can tell I’m the first and only musician in my entire family tree!

TB: OK, let’s talk blues for a minute. When was the first time you remember hearing the blues?

SG: I got really heavy into blues records in high school, cause I discovered Jazz and some blues stuff. I got into John Lee Hooker and a couple other guys. I went to college at USC in Los Angeles and one time my parents came to visit and we went up to the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, and I bought this compilation CD. It was almost an introduction to electric blues. There was Muddy Waters, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker. There was all this great classic stuff, and I was just obsessed with that two CD set. So that was really my introduction, I guess I was 18 years old. And from there I started to settle on my favorites. My favorite Muddy Waters record is probably Electric Mud, because it’s like dirty psychedelic blues. It sounds like Hendrix!

TB: Yeah that one gets a bad wrap sometimes! But you’re right- it’s awesome!

SG: Yeah! And I love the Muddy stuff before that one too, don’t get me wrong! But I was always drawn to the more rockin’ stuff. You know, Buddy Guy, the first records of his I got were Feels Like Rain and Damn Right I Got The Blues. So I heard some of the later stuff, for a 20-year-old, you know? But the one that just crushed me was Stone Crazy! Like the first two and a half minutes are just him like and playing the guitar! Then he finally starts singing the song. I remember hearing that and thinking “Wow! That is dirty!” And the whole record is just that. It’s just dirty electric blues, so I love that! I’ve seen Buddy a couple times. I started going to the Long Beach Blues Festival every single year. I got to see everybody! I saw John Lee, I saw Buddy, Jimmie Vaughan was there. I got to meet Hubert Sumlin! I carried Chuck Berry’s guitar! I saw all these great blues guys! And of course I loved Stevie Ray Vaughan! Every kid born after 1975’s biggest blues influence! I wore his stuff out!! Just amazing! Yeah I would say 18 is when I discovered the Blues, and it’s still a big part of me!

TB: So what were your early years of playing out like?

SG: In high school I was a super band geek. I was in jazz band, and I was way into that. I had a jazz combo with some buddies and we tried to play standards. But then my own band was this thing called the Awkward Stage. It was me and two other buddies. We learned a couple of tunes, but we mostly just made stuff up. The stuff we were really into was heavy, dirty blues and heavy, dirty funk, you know, like P Funk. None of us had any money. So we had a few records, we didn’t have any gear. I played through my buddies dad’s old Peavey PA head. That was the guitar amp I was using! You can’t make this up! (laughs) We would just get together and make stuff up, and sometimes it would go somewhere and it was glorious, and, as improvisational music goes, sometimes it just crashed and burned! But we didn’t really play out, we just got together and played. I think a lot of people come up learning a lot of tunes and stuff and I was always of the disposition that I’d rather make stuff up than learn other people’s stuff! That’s how it’s always been ever since high school. After my first year of college, I wrote a whole bunch of music and we made a record and we got this other band together that was parts of the Awkward Stage and some other guys. We did this funky, jazzy thing with a horn section and all the stuff I had written. That’s kind of where my current project almost has its roots, was that project. It was called the Juices of Brazil. I can’t remember why we called it that! But that was the name of the band and we made a record and we played out once or twice, but everyone was in college in different states. This was a Summer project. That was the first music that I ever actually wrote, where I sat down and wrote and arranged the horn sections.

TB: So, besides the classes at school, were you formally trained? Did you take guitar lessons at all?

SG: I took some lessons when I was like 14 years old. The first guy I took lessons with, I’d come in and play something I’d want to learn and he’d transcribe it and write it in my tablature book and I’d go home and figure it out. The second guy taught me scales and modes. He didn’t exactly tell me what to do with them, but I had this whole book with all these scales written out and I would practice scales up and down, cause I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. But by the time I got to high school it wasn’t lessons, all of my playing out was jazz band concerts. I was a percussionist in wind ensemble and orchestra, stuff like that. I had awful, awful stage fright! At jazz band concerts, if I had a solo, it would be full on- my hands were shaking, my heart was about to pound out of my chest, like bad! Through college and everything it was really bad! At some point I had to address it.

TB: Oh wow! So, obviously you got over that at some point!

SG: When I started my first band in LA, it was called Deep Fried, and it was all music I had written. But it was like this rockin’, funky thing, and it was all my stuff, and for some reason, when I had this band, I could finally express my own voice and I could rock and I could play funky stuff. I wasn’t trying to play jazz standards, because I was never good at playing jazz standards. I was never good at transcribing solos, I was never good at learning that stuff, cause I just really didn’t want to! So I think that once I had my band, the stage fright just kind of went away. Because I felt confident playing it! I think the way to get over the fear of something is to make yourself better at it I guess. I wasn’t good at playing straight ahead jazz and I knew that! So I’d step on the stage with no confidence. But when I started playing my own rock and funky stuff, I was confident about that. I knew that I could play it, I knew what I was doing, so it was sort of like “okay I can do this and now I’m free to just express myself!”

TB: So you went to college in LA. What made you want to go out there initially?

SG: I wanted to be a musician and honestly, going to college is what got me out there. I went in as a recording arts major and that’s what I got my degree in as well. But I just wanted to play guitar and I needed an excuse to move to LA. I couldn’t just get out of high school and move to LA you know!? (laughs)

TB: Right! And now that trail obviously led you to play with Lady Antebellum eventually?

SG: Well, long story short, I was playing in bands around LA. I was in graduate school for a quarter at UCLA and while I was in grad school, a band that I was playing with called Firstman, signed with Atlantic Records. So that was short-lived, but we cut a record and it all just went away as sometimes record deals do. But I jumped around from band to band. I was always a guy playing in bands, that was my thing. But there was this guy named Eric Clinger who was at Hollywood Records. Before that, he got my band their first showcase. Clinger was a big supporter of that band. So fast forward, he’s at Hollywood Records, we still know each other, and he has this artist named Josh Kelley. He made a record on Josh and put it out and it did really well. The second record came along and Josh wanted to shake stuff up, and so they brought me into the fold. So me and some other buddies made Josh’s second record called Almost Honest for Hollywood Records and then I went on tour with Josh. About the same time, Josh’ younger brother Charles graduated from UGA and decided to come out on the road with us and just hang out and sing a song every night. We just got to be buddies and started writing songs together, and he moved up to Nashville. Josh built this killer house in Nashville! And right then he met his future wife in LA. So Josh just built this killer house, but he’s spending all his time in LA! So he has this huge, empty house with a studio in it, so Charles starts living there. I’m bouncing back and fourth between LA and Nashville, staying at Josh’s house and one day I’m on the phone with Charles and he says “Man you got to come out to Nashville and hang out! We have this group together and I need a guitar player. We can hang out at Josh’s and write songs!” I was in one of those spots in LA where I just wasn’t really doing all that much. I’d been on tour a lot but it was kind of just like, this dead spot. So I was like “yeah why not!?” So I just threw all my stuff in the truck and drove to Nashville! I got there April 1st of 2007 and July 1st I was in the studio cutting Lady A’s first record, which also happened to be my 30th birthday! So yeah, it was the closest thing to a whim I’ve ever done and it worked out!

TB: What a great story! And that first record pretty much hit right out of the gate right?

SG: The third single off the first album was the first number one. The first single did really well, the second single didn’t do quite as well, the third single was a massive hit! It won a bunch of awards. Then the fourth single, which was the first single off LP 2, was Need You Now. So then it was off to the races! It was I Run To You and Need You Now and American Honey was the next one, and so yeah it was a madhouse for a few years there! And that was cool by me! It was great!

TB: Oh yeah! OK, so you love guitars! I’ve seen some clips of you online and you have some pretty impressive gear there!

SG: Yeah I love guitars! (laughs) I’ve always been a collector. I’ve always liked to have little collections of stuff. When I was a kid, I would want a whole bunch of something and a whole bunch of something else and a whole bunch of something else, even if it was something little and simple. I just like to collect! And the fact is that I’m obsessed with guitars and now I’m able to get my hands on some guitars! Lately it’s tapered off, but for a while there I was like “I’m in the studio, I need all these guitars and all these sounds in case this comes up. I need it!” I would find excuses! I mean growing up I barely had a guitar and could barely get a new set of strings for the guitar. I didn’t have any pedals. I didn’t have a real amp. So I think the counter balance to that is in my adult life, I’m a working professional musician, I’m kind of like “yeah I’m going to get some gear now!” (laughs) Yeah I love guitars!

TB: You have amazing chops, which people will hear on this new album! Are you big on practicing constantly?

SG: I would say 95% of my practicing, ever, over the course of my life, would be sitting in front of the TV and just noodling! (laughs) When I was a kid I would want to spend time with my family, sit around watching Home Improvement. So I wanted to practice, but I also wanted to be in the same room with my mom or dad or whatever, so I guess that’s kind of where that started. It’s killing two birds with one stone!  I want to watch Black Mirror, but I also need to practice! (laughs) I’m not a total TV junkie either, but I get bored and sidetracked easily! Just sitting there practicing to me, gets kind of mundane, as far as just keeping your chops up goes. So just sitting there running scales and doing legato exercises, it’s pretty flat. So I kind of need something to stimulate me while I’m doing that!

TB: This is a topic we could discuss for days, and no one really has the definitive answer, but I wanted to ask your thoughts on downloading versus purchasing music?

SG: I think the thing that needs to be encouraged is that if you stream something three or four times, then go buy it. If you like it enough to listen to it three or four times, then spend the 99 cents and download that song. You still have the ability to listen to a gazillion songs, but the ones that you really focus and key in on, go buy it! You used to be able to do that in the record stores, you could put the headphones on and listen to it before you buy it. But back then you had to buy it if you wanted to keep listening to it. Now you don’t! That being said, the attention span is that people might not want to listen more than the three or four times that they stream it. When you look at it, we’ve all bought records. I have a huge record collection! But when’s the last time I listened to most of it? Most of the music in my iTunes, I haven’t listened to lately, because there are tens of thousands of tracks! So I spent the money and I bought it, but a lot of those tunes, the deep cuts and a lot of the B Sides on my favorite records, are the songs that I don’t really listen to. So really, looking back, if I could have avoided buying the songs I didn’t really want, I may not have. It’s hard to tell people “you have to go buy my record”, when you might not like every track on my record. So all you can do is encourage it. It’s like, if you want to support me, as an independent artist, here’s an LP if you like vinyl, and also here’s a down-load card so you can put it in your phone. But if you really want to support me, please buy my music! But it’s hard to tell people you have to buy music when really, it’s kind of hard to justify forcing people to buy something they don’t necessarily want. But if they want to support the cause, and if they want independent music to still exist in 10 years, they are charged with that task of actually supporting it.

TB: So let’s talk about the new album some. Last Time Thing is very Wes Montgomery, which is just awesome!

SG: Yeah when I was tracking I tracked it on a Les Paul and the heavy riff is what got kept from the tracking. But the main melody and stuff, I went back. I definitely get pretty obsessed in my home studio, just getting tones where I want them and getting the parts where I want them. On the tracking floor I’m paying attention to everything else, cause I’m producing and playing and making sure everyone’s doing what I kind of want them to do. So the stuff from the tracking floor, most of it I end up doing later. It ends up being an overdub.

TB: So what was the inspiration for something like that, with the octaves and all in there? Is that something you kind of stumbled on or did you hear it before hand in your head and then it just came out?

Slim Gambill at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, July 12, 2019. (Photo by Paul Natkin)

SG: In that case, I had the heavy riff on top and then I just kind of heard the octave melody in my head on top of it. Yeah, that’s literally where a good chunk of the stuff kind of starts, with something I’m hearing, and then I figure out how to play it and I figure out the harmony underneath it. In that case I had written the riff and the melody, and I sent it to a buddy of mine that was working with Mindi Abair, and nothing ever happened with that, so I developed it myself. Then the B section, I can’t remember what that came out of, but I did a little Beatles theft and did a little Strawberry Fields! (laughs) It just kind of went there!

TB: Levitation is amazing! When you’re trading solos, that’s awesome!

SG: Yeah that was fun to do! What’s funny is all the horn stuff, I sent it out to people. The trumpet got recorded in a hotel room in New York City!

TB: Really!? I was gonna ask you about that. Even though so many parts were recorded separately, the whole album has such a live feel. It sounds great!

SG: Well, my guitar playing on that was one of the few from the tracking session that was actually kept. So the four-piece band actually is live in the studio, but then all the horns, I did Jeff’s stuff, the sax stuff, and then I sent it to the trombone player and the trumpet player. I had to make everything kind of work together tonally, and just timing wise, cause horn sections, they like to record together because they lock in better that way! I think overdubbing horns is the wrong way to do it! However, by necessity, it’s the way you have to do it a lot of the time. But, yeah, all the solos were done by dudes in their own studios, or in the case of Dante, the trumpet player, it was in his hotel room in New York City on the day of a canceled Justin Timberlake gig!

TB: Wow that’s amazing. And then 54321, the whole time signature thing is just so cool! And of course we have Jeff Coffin. What a player!

SG: Dude, he’s a beast! He has such a thing too! That’s him playing soprano on that track, it’s like so perfect cause, obviously it’s him, but it just immediately goes and sounds like a Dave Matthews or Bela Fleck track! It’s like wow, it just went into jam band territory! He’s great! Just a great dude!

TB: Now I gotta ask you: at the beginning of 54321 there’s a Wind Cries Mary lick there am I right?

SG: (laughs) Oh yeah, that’s what that is! It’s a throwback to one of the first tunes that I ever learned to play! It just kind of fit right there. I played it and I was just like “yeah I’ll keep that!”

TB: I love it! Now did you ever want to do this kind of thing before or have you just not had the time?

SG: Well ever since The Juices of Brazil when I was 19, was the last time I did something like this. I have a buddy in Las Cruces, New Mexico who’s a high school band director. He played trumpet on The Juices of Brazil and we went to high school together. He has a Jazz festival every year. It’s like middle school, high school, college, a big band Jazz festival. It’s a non-competitive thing, called the Onate Jazz Festival. And he hit me up and said “Hey do you want to come and be a mentor and clinician at this thing?” Cause basically the big bands get up and they play, they have a 15 minute slot. They play two or three tunes and then the clinicians get up and work with them and say like “oh this was great, this could use some work” and basically just address what we hear. And I was like “man, I haven’t really thought about a big band since high school!” So, he has local, pro musicians in a house band, and you get up and play and I was like “what do I play?”, and he said “you can do standards or you got any of your own stuff?” And I’m like “no, but I could write some!” And so I went back to that Mindi Abair idea that they never wrote, and that’s where it started. I came up with that and I had also been trying to do a project with some guys in Nashville, so I had a couple other ideas that I’d been playing with them. But I just started to flush stuff out and basically was like, okay well, I need to record these ideas to send to the house band. Because I had it all charted out, but I needed to record it with some guys. So me being me, one thing led to another! I booked The Sound Emporium and booked some killer musicians. They learned the tunes. I had four tunes, then it was five tunes and six tunes, then seven! So we go to Sound Emporium, crank out all seven tunes in a day, almost killed everybody! Cause no one’s used to playing this stuff, myself included!

TB: I was going to ask about that. These are pretty intricate tunes! They’re not just G, C & D and we’re done! Was there a lot of rehearsing?

SG: Well I did a rehearsal with the drummer and the bass player. The piano player, Mike Rojas, he’s an A-List Nashville session player. He’s played on like, a zillion country records, but he also moonlights in a big band. So I knew he would crush it, and he did! But ultimately, me demoing the tracks to send the house band, ended up being these fully realized recordings. Then I started over dubbing them and I was like “I’m gonna put horn sections on this stuff!” And then I had an acoustic idea, and then I had the four guitars idea, that was just this last minute weird, art piece. The Candace Devine tune was the last one I added. That was something we had cut for her record. But it all started with saying “okay, I’m going to cut some demos with these ideas, so I can go play at this jazz festival!” Then I was like “well, this is done. I might as well put it out!” So it’s kind of like an accident on some level, but it’s caught on and people have responded really well to it! Playing the shows has just been a blast! It’s just cool to go and do my thing! I haven’t gotten to do that in a long time. I probably could have made the time to do it, but it just never really occurred to me to do it.

TB: So stuff like Cop Show, which obviously ties in with the “theme song” part of the album is great!  I feel like I’m watching TJ Hooker or something. I love it!

SG: Yeah! That’s what I was going for! It’s a tribute to the 80’s! I was over at Jeff’s place, and that was the last tune. He just blazed through everything so fast and I was like “I don’t have any ideas on Cop Show!” But I started thinking and I said “what if you did like a Baker Street / Careless Whisper – like, ridiculous, David Sanborn thing? We’ll ‘verb it out!” And he came up with that melody and then at the very end I was just kind of like “man can you just do a cadenza? Just do Careless Whisper, literally!”  And that’s what he did, and we ‘verbed it out, and it’s so perfect! That was one of those things where he probably hasn’t been asked to do that, maybe ever, but he’s just so good and so versatile- he just crushed it!

TB: So this was all very heavily charted out I’m assuming?

SG: Oh yeah! I don’t realize how hard it is cause it’s stuff I hear in my head and I figure out how to play, but then when you go to actually make a chart of it it’s like “jeez! How many codas do I want these guys chasing?!”

TB: Silly Time I love! I know that was written for your Son, and then Lyla Marie was written for your Daughter right? Both great tunes!

SG: Thanks! Yeah, Lyla Marie was a thing I sang to my daughter when she was a baby. It was a silly little thing I did, but it was one of many things I sang to my kids and I’m kind of like “man that’s a good melody, I should do something with that!”

TB: So you actually get the melody in your head and put it down, then you have to go back and put chords behind it right?

SG: Correct! And that’s where sometimes the underlying harmonies get a little squirrely because it’s like, “okay what goes underneath this melody?” You have to figure out what would fit under the melody. Sometimes it’s really straightforward and sometimes it’s not!

TB: Right! Yeah that’s got to be pretty hard to do at times! And you’ve got Kenneth Crouch on here too, on Also Shuffle.

SG: Yeah Kenneth’s a monster! His piano solo on that was just so deep, I actually went back and cut my guitar solo again because I was just like, “this is not even hanging with this at all!” (laughs)  I’ve known Kenneth for like 15 years and when I hit him up on the phone and I was telling him about it, he was getting into it and he said “man I’m just trying to get into some new stuff!” He was getting into Indian music and all this, cause Kenneth’s been in it forever! And he’s done everything! So he just needed something fresh, so he sent me the track back and I’m just listening to it and I’m like “wow man!” He takes it out! His pocket is just so deep man! I just love what he did on that track!

Slim Gambill at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, July 12, 2019. (Photo by Paul Natkin)

TB: So going back, you have a degree in music and music production, correct?

SG:  Well it’s called Recording Arts. It’s like engineering.

TB: So is that something you think you’ll ever pursue more?

SG: Being an engineer? Oh no! I was never that good at it, and I got my degree in engineering right before Pro Tools came out. So I have a degree in like, aligning tape machines and signal flow and analog compressors. None of which I really know how to use that well! So I never had a real knack for engineering. I know my way around Pro Tools now to record stuff and edit, but that’s it.

TB: What are your thoughts on Pro Tools versus tape/old school recording? I know some guys that are still just stone set on recording old school, but you sure can’t beat the convenience of Pro Tools.

SG: At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to: I can be in my hotel room and edit. I don’t have to go book a studio for 85 bucks an hour and sit there with the tape machine and be limited on tracks. Trust me, I love the sound of analog as much as the next guy, but as far as how records are made in the modern era, Pro Tools has just made everything a lot more doable. Cause, who has a tape machine?  I couldn’t have made this record on the budget that I made it on if I was going to tape. I mean, it would have been an $80,000 record! (laughs)

TB: (laughs) Right! So, when was the first time you ever had a feeling of “Wow! I’ve gone from my bedroom, as a kid, to this! Now I’m in the big time!” Was there a particular moment for you?

SG: You know, that question makes me think of this huge songwriter in Nashville named Craig Wiseman. He’s written a ton of songs. I’m paraphrasing, but someone asked him if he knew when he had found success? And he said “success doesn’t work that way. It’s a gradual thing.” It’s not like suddenly you’re successful. It’s like, no, it’s stepping stones. It’s sort of like, you look and go “oh I guess I’m successful now.” So I guess I kind of have been for a little while. But it’s not like you just wake up one day and everything’s awesome! And that applies also to playing guitar and playing guitar for a living. I gradually found myself in this position where I get to do this for a living and I have been able to for quite some time. But I think one of the trappings of being ambitious people is that you’re never quite satisfied with where you’re at and you never really consider it the ultimate level of success that you want to be at. So, I don’t consider myself as successful as I want to be, even though I recognize that I’m as successful as anyone in the game I guess, and as successful as anyone would like to be, doing what I do. I guess I’ve reached a certain pinnacle, but I’m still working towards more!

TB: Oh yeah, and that’s a great attitude! OK, I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but I just need to get it for the record: how did you start going by “Slim”?

SG: Man, the band I was in on Atlantic, was with a guy named Joe Firstman. He just started calling me that. He was the kind of guy that everyone wanted to be around and everyone wanted to be like. So he started calling me that and then everyone else in Hollywood started calling me that, and it stuck. I mean, if I meet a new neighbor in my neighborhood, I introduce myself as Jason. But in a professional setting, I just kind of cut straight to Slim, because everyone ends up always calling me that. Sometimes my mom calls me Slim! It’s like okay, this is getting ridiculous! (laughs) That was in 2001, so it’s been sitting there for a long time!  But for my stuff, you’ll see album credits, it’s always Jason Slim Gambill. But for my project, I was like “that’s kind of clunky man.. let’s just call it Slim Gambill. That’ll be like my alter ego for my project.” And it’s just a little bit easier!

TB: OK, final question. Hard one, but I’m always curious to hear people’s answers. You have a ton of music left to make and many great years, but 3,000 years from now, how does Jason Slim Gambill want to be remembered?

SG: Musically, I’d like to be remembered as a diverse musician and a tasteful, melodic musician. Personally, I hope that people regard me as a nice guy and a good person to be around, and ultimately I hope generations from now I’m seen as having raised amazing kids. I want to be a great dad honestly, above everything else! I just want to be an amazing dad and I want my kids to flourish! I want to make sure that they get everything they need.

TB: That’s great! Great answer! Slim, thank you so much for talking to me today! Congratulations on the new album! I know people are gonna love it and be knocked out by the great playing and great tunes!

SG: Thanks man! This was great, thank you!

Make sure to pick up the new album, Fake Jazz & Theme Songs, and keep up with Slim on his website and Facebook:



BG is a free magazine bringing you stories about Buddy Guy's Legends, blues music, and music generally. Please direct submissions to [email protected] for consideration.

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BG is a free magazine bringing you stories about Buddy Guy's Legends, blues music, and music generally. Please direct submissions to [email protected] for consideration.