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Artist of the Month for June 2005: Roger Lasley

Name: Roger Lasley

Age: 54

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.

First guitar:
I think it was a Kay acoustic and I know it wasn't new.

Early Influences:
Mel Bay

First gig:
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.

Favourite Guitar:
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.

Practice Regimen:
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.

Favourite Artist(s):
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.
If you are a guitarist with a cd out and would like to be featured here please contact me.

AOTM Archives:

August 2008 - Danny Combs
March 2006 - Bryan Clark
Februry 2006 - Darin Leong
January 2006 - Andy McKee
December 2005 - Don Alder
November 2005 - Doug Young
October 2005 - Nancy Conescu
August - September 2005 - Warren Greig
July 2005 - Ian Melrose
June 2005 - Roger Lasley
May 2005 - Jim Tozier
April 2005 - Jessica Papkoff
March 2005 - Todd Habekost
February 2005 - Michael Hewett
January 2005 - Steve Barney
December 2004 - Tony McManus
November 2004 - Chris Newman
October 2004 - Kevin Kastning
September 2004 - Rick Duke
August 2004 - El McMeen
June-July 2004 - Charles David Alexander
May 2004 - Tony Capri
April 2004 - Shane Simpson
March 2004 - Bill Cooley
February 2004 - Greg Meckes
January 2004 - Gary Leek
December 2003 - Ernie Hawkins
November 2003 - Keith Knight
October 2003 - Jaquie Gipson
September 2003 - Chuck Durfor
August 2003 - Cathy Horner
July 2003 - Art Edelstein
June 2003 - Muriel Anderson
May 2003 - Clarelynn Rose
March-April 2003 - Steve Wildey
February 2003 - Rick Ruskin
January 2003 - Kerry Kling
December 2002 - Tim O'Brien
November 2002 - Howard Emerson
October 2002 - Dennis Roger Reed
September 2002 - Larry Pattis
August 2002 - Paul Asbell