Name: Roger Lasley
Town: Northfield, MN
Hometown: I wasn't born there, but I consider Hampton, Iowa, my home town.
At what age did you start playing guitar and why?
I started playing guitar at age 10. When I was 8 or 9, a fellow grade school student auditioned for a spot on a school talent show by singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. I was part of a tumbling act. We made it on the show and he didn’t. But that was the day I started to want to play guitar. No one taught guitar where we were living at the time, but when we moved to Iowa, my Mom found out someone in town taught guitar and I began to take lessons.
I think it was a Kay acoustic and I know it wasn't new.
My first paying gig really stunk! It was at an event called Ackley (Iowa) Sauerkraut Days, summer of 1963. I don't remember what I played, but whenever I smell sauerkraut it wafts me back to 1963.
Acoustic Guitars you own:
A standard Martin D-35.
My Martin D-35.
Your Style, and how you developed it:
I'm a flatpicker at least to the extent that I use a flatpick when I play. I always play in standard tuning. I played primarily electric guitar from 1960-1975 and have done a lot of ensemble playing down through the years. I think that has informed my present style. But I concentrate on composing and performing original tunes for solo acoustic guitar these days and my approach to playing is therefore perhaps more focused on the “one guitar” approach than most flatpickers. I do indulge in fast riffs on occasion, but I don't specialize in fast riffs that only make sense with accompaniment. Although I sometimes go for a spare sound in my tunes, I often use a full array of cross-picking and brush-stroke strategies (might even have invented a few of my own) to fill out my arrangements. I'm typically very chord oriented when playing solo, keeping my fingers in chord positions and only moving them as needed, capitalizing as much as possible on harmonic tensions and interplay by letting the notes hang out. I do try to move up and down the neck freely, however. I have a number of staccato and damping techniques that I use as a change of pace from this typically legato approach. My compositional style has its roots in traditional music, but I don't limit myself strictly to the AABB format. I tend to write pieces that have more sections than are usually found in traditional tunes and I incorporate interim passages. I also sometimes shake up the section order as I move through a piece to take advantage of dramatic contrasts. I try to surprise my audience without losing them.
I try to practice at least half an hour in the evening and more than that on the weekends. Gone are my days on the road when I could and did devote 8 hours a day and more to playing guitar. But I do need a half hour each day to stay fresh and rust free. When I practice, I'm usually rehearsing tunes, arranging or composing. I don't practice scales, but I do exercise my brain and fingers by vamping after I get warmed up; interesting things can happen, particularly when my brain is momentarily distracted! If I'm rehearsing for a gig, I typically run through the tunes in set order once a night, time permitting. Otherwise, most of my practice time is spent composing and rehearsing what I'm composing with the intent of bringing my next set of keepers into the studio while they're hot.
Plectrum stylists: Mike Bloomfield on the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band LP; Doc Watson; Freddy King in instrumental mode. Finger stylists: Chet Atkins; Leo Kottke; Reverend Gary Davis; Steve Barney (if you haven't heard him yet, you owe it to yourself to get his Treeline CD).
Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
I've written a lot of original material for flatpick guitar, much of which appears on my 6 instrumental CDs. Please listen! www.cdbaby.com/all/rlasley If you've always thought that flatpicking is just for ensemble playing and that it only sounds like riffs and scales when you play it by yourself, my music might just change your mind.
To experience a little bit of Roger's music please visit CD Baby's "Roger Lasley" section.