LA based guitarist and session musician John DePatie is no stranger to performing in front of large crowds. With an exciting career spouting 20+ years he has shared stages with some of the greats… Nancy Sinatra, Jarvis Cocker, Leif Garrett, and Little Steven.
I was influenced by a lot of the music that was coming out at that time: Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allan Holdsworth etc. I loved the classic rock masters like Hendrix, Zepplin and Eric Clapton too.
Can you introduce the UK audiences to your sound and what it’s all about?
Sure! I do instrumental music where the guitar is the primary focus much of the time. I started playing guitar in the 80s, which was a very fertile period for the guitar. I was influenced by a lot of the music that was coming out at that time: Jeff Beck, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Allan Holdsworth etc. I loved the classic rock masters like Hendrix, Zepplin and Eric Clapton too.
I listened to jazz a bit when I was a kid, so I got into Charlie Christian, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt. At some point I became aware of the classic surf stuff and things like ‘Sleepwalk.’ I’m sort of a mishmash of all of that stuff. I like improvisation, but I also like very simple pop melodies. Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, The Beatles, James Brown and Bob Marley were all huge influences and there are bits of them in my tunes too.
You’ve played alongside some legendary musicians (Nancy Sinatra, Jarvis Cocker, and Richard Hawley to name but a few!) who did you most enjoy sharing a stage with?
Well, all of them! But I owe Nancy the most. It was through her that I got to share the stage with Jarvis and Richard, not to mention Don Randi, Danny B Harvey, Clem Burke and so many others. She’s a great musician and her music really requires a lot of versatility, which I found really enjoyable. We’d go from a country thing, to 60s blues, to ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘Boots’, ‘Bang Bang.’ I’d play acoustic and electric and sometimes she’d want me to play really hard rock sounding stuff and other times more delicate things. ‘Bang Bang’ was so much fun to play. On the UK tour we started the set with that one and the spotlight would come down on me playing the intro while she walked out. That was fun!
Nancy Sinatra is a great musician and her music really requires a lot of versatility, which I found really enjoyable.
Recently, you collaborated with Don Randi on Good Jazzy Vibrations — a tribute to the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. How does performing as part of a duo compare to going on stage solo?
On Good Jazzy Vibrations we actually had bass and percussion tracking with us, and the legendary Hal Blaine on drums. The release before that, Acoustimania, was just the two of us on acoustic piano and nylon string guitar. I love the interaction of playing with other musicians and especially Don. He’s got so much in his bag of tricks, I’m still surprised every time I play with him and we’ve been playing together for 14 years now!
The solo thing is a whole different mindset. I’m not a proper guitar soloist like Joe Pass or Tommy Emmanuel, even though I really enjoy that and wish I could do it. I used to use a looper pedal, but now I’ve switched to an iPad with a foot controller. I like taking the essentials to a familiar song and then improvising around it. Sometimes for example, I’ll just do a straight chord backing and play the melody and solo over it. But if I’m really feeling it, I’ll maybe come up with a little background part that isn’t part of the song, and then harmonize it 2 or 3 times. Then I might take the chord track out and use some substitute chords. I can also bend the tempo and end up in a completely different place from where I started.
I love the interaction of playing with other musicians and especially Don Randi. He’s got so much in his bag of tricks, I’m still surprised every time I play with him, and we’ve been playing together for 14 years.
Your music has taken you all over the US and as far as Norway! What’s different about your fanbase there? And what advice would you give to another aspiring session musician?
In Norway people have surprised me with their enthusiasm and their deep love of music. When I was growing up on the east coast of the US, my friends and I would get excited to go out and hear live music. It was the event for the week! There are still places like that in the states now, but in Los Angeles it’s different. In Norway people have invited their friends to my shows and they really know all types of music.
And that’s related to the best advice I ever got about becoming a session musician: Listen to as much music as you can. Some music you’ll probably like right away, other music might have to grow on you. But if you have an open mind and open ears you’ll learn that different styles emphasize different elements: harmony, rhythm, certain tones, whatever.
First published on Gigride.