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Artist of the Month for May 2005: Jim Tozier

Name: Jim Tozier

Town: Solomons, MD

Hometown: Crofton, MD

At what age did you start playing guitar and why?
14; I wanted to be a rock star, of course!

First guitar:
A classical guitar that an uncle loaned to me.

Early Influences:
When I started playing, my influences were evenly divided between the acoustic singer-songwriters of the 60's and 70's (Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, etc.) and the electric rock "guitar gods" (Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, etc.). My first fingerstyle influences were Michael Hedges, Pierre Bensusan and Al Petteway.

First gig:
A Labor Day picnic at the church that the drummer from my first band attended. My most vivid memory of the gig was when the singer decided to skip over "Cocaine" in the set list, thinking it wouldn't be a good idea to play it at a church function. Well, it was the only Clapton tune on our list, and I wanted to play it. So I just launched into the opening riff, and the drummer and bassist joined in. It put the singer in a tough spot, but being a very creative fellow, he changed the lyrics on the fly. I'll never forget the new chorus: "It's your light, it's your light, it's your light . . . Propane."

Acoustic Guitars you own:
I currently own three guitars--a Larrivee OM-10, a Larrivee J-10, and my main guitar, a cedar/mahogany small jumbo made by Kent Hamblin. I also have a cedar/rosewood Hamblin SJ on order.

Favourite Guitar:
The Hamblin SJ, hands down. Superb craftsmanship, and its tone and responsiveness fit my style perfectly. I had Kent build it with a slightly longer scale, so it really handles alternate tunings well.

Your Style, and how you developed it:
I've wanted to play solo acoustic guitar ever since hearing Michael Hedges' "Aerial Boundaries" album--a recording that completely changed the way I looked at playing guitar. I was still very involved with playing in bands at the time, though, so for the most part I didn't really pursue fingerstyle playing, with the exception of adding a few fingerstyle "intros" to our songs, played on electric guitar. Later, around the same time that the band had run its course, I was at a David Wilcox concert, when he invited a guitarist friend up on stage to play a couple of tunes. I was totally blown away by the combination of fingerstyle playing and Celtic music. The guitarist, of course, was Al Petteway--and immediately after the concert I drove over to Tower records and bought the only petteway CD they had in stock, "Caledon Wood." Hearing Al play was truly an epiphany; that was when I knew exactly what I wanted to do on guitar. I scheduled a couple of lessons with Al, which quickly turned into the recording sessions that would produce my first CD, "Castlerea."

Practice Regimen:
The only times I truly "practice" are when I'm preparing for a performance, or when I'm working on a new arrangement. I spend a lot of my actual playing time working on new compositions. Every once in a while, I will focus on developing or improving a particular technique, but I don't spend nearly as much time as I probably should on those sorts of things. I've always thought of myself as more of a songwriter than a guitarist, so I guess I'd just rather spend time working on crafting new songs than improving my guitar skills.

Favourite Artist(s):
My favorite acoustic guitarists are Michael Hedges, Al Petteway, Pierre Bensusan, Pat Kirtley, El McMeen, Steve Baughman, Muriel Anderson, Laurence Juber, and many others--the type of players who focus on playing really melodic music, but also know how to groove a little. I also listen to a lot of Celtic music that isn't on guitar--most recently Steeleye Span, Liz Carroll, and John Doyle. I still spend a lot of time listening to acoustic artists with great lyrics and/or hamonies: S&G, David Wilcox, Cheryl Wheeler, Lowen & Navarro, Dana Robinson, Nickel Creek, etc.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?

In addition to "Castlerea," I recently released two new CDs on Solid Air Records: "Celtic Guitar," which is a collection of traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, and "Solo Guitar," which features original compositions. I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to contact me (jim@jimtozier.com) with comments or questions. Finally, I'll leave you with this reminder from a departed friend: "Play music for life!"

To learn more about Jim please visit www.jimtozier.com
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