Below is an interview that we did with progressive fingerstyle guitarist Adam Werner. Adam and I met at a conference in California and I became an instant fan. I had never seen or heard anyone so gifted with the guitar like him and I was overjoyed that he interviewed with us for the second issue of New Hope Productions. We want to thank him for sharing a little bit of his story!
NHP: What inspired you to start playing music, in particular the guitar?
AW: As a kid, my interests and passions were in pencil drawings (not even music). I always enjoyed listening to music, but never had an interest in becoming a “musician.” When I was 14, a friend, who had been taking guitar lessons for a short while, brought me an electric guitar and said, “Here! Let’s start a band!” So I started to teach myself to play guitar. After some time, we started a rock band and had all kinds of fun!
NHP: When did you start playing and composing?
AW: Shortly after teaching myself to play guitar, at age 14, and starting a rock band, we started to write our own music. We wanted to “make it,” tour and become rock stars, like our musical heroes, so we wrote music, rehearsed and performed locally.
NHP: Who has inspired you or has had the biggest impact on you and your music?
AW: During my rock band years, I admired many musicians, such as Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Brian May and many other rock-oriented musicians, but was also introduced to a record label called WINDHAM HILL. They were the label that created the “New Age” genre. The artists on that label inspired me the most to do what I do today, musically. Specifically MICHAEL HEDGES & WILL ACKERMAN are the two guitarists that influenced me the most. Michael Hedges gave me the tools to do what I do & Will Ackerman gave me the courage to go out and do it!
NHP: Who is the “dead man” in the title of your piece “Apprentice of a Dead Man”?
AW: The “Dead Man” I refer to is this piece is Michael Hedges. Michael passed away in 1997, just at about the time I was transitioning from Rock music to this Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar community, so I never had the pleasure of experiencing Michael’s unbelievable talents and creativity in a LIVE performance (and I didn’t have YouTube back then), but I was so blown away by what he created that I explored every possible way to learn what he did to see if I could incorporate any of those elements into my playing and possibly my own music? He has so many techniques and “tools” that I picked up, I wrote this tune using a lot of what I learned from him. So, in essence, I was an “Apprentice” of Michael Hedges, sort of.
NHP: I remember you telling the story of what inspired “Home in Hanalei.” First time I heard this piece, I cried like a baby. Can you tell us that story?
AW: LOL. Yeah. I love that piece and the story behind it. My touring partner, Chris Yeaton, doesn’t’ care so much for the story because it takes so long to tell in concert, but I do it anyway. LOL!!! Anyway, so years ago, my wife and daughter took a trip to Hawaii to visit her sister, who had recently moved there. I happened to be on tour with my son at the time. One day, my wife called and said, “Don’t spend any money!” Looking puzzled and confused, I replied, “Why?” My wife proceeded to tell me that she had just put an offer on a house. “What?!” I said. Yeah. She put an offer on a house. I had mixed feelings about it because, at that point, I have NEVER been to Hawaii!!
So, we finally got the house and had planned on going for the summer to fix and clean. GO FOR THE SUMMER! I HAD NEVER BEEN TO HAWAII BEFORE! “ISLAND FEVER!” LOL! I had so much anticipation about being “stuck on an island” for 2 months. I didn’t know what to expect. Once I got here, got out of the airplane and stepped out of the airport, I was totally hit by the energy of Hawaii (Kaua’i) that some people experience. It was amazing! The colors were different, the smells were different, just the entire vibe was different….than Los Angeles! I felt totally at peace there! It was an unforgettable experience.
While we were there, we did the “touristy” things and explored the island. The North Shore, there is a place called Hanalei. In Hanalei, there is a church that sits on the most beautiful grounds I had ever seen! To the right of the church is an old cemetery from the mid 1800’s. While exploring the cemetery, I noticed that the 3 largest headstones have my last name on them, “WERNER.” I was floored! Here is my connection with this magical place!!! I felt I was “Home.” This tune came from that experience. See what I mean? LONG STORY! LOL!
NHP: You have some interesting looking guitars. What can you tell us about your favorite ones?
AW: Thank you. I have a lot of different instruments, but my main instruments are my Marin D-28, Kiso/Klein DK1 and my Dyer-style Harp Guitar. Unfortunately the Harp Guitar doesn’t play anymore, but I did get to use it on tour for many years and hope to own another one at some point. My favorite is my Kiso/Klein DK1. It was designed by my friend, world famous luthier, Steve Klein. It is a BRILLIANT design and the craftsmanship is unparalleled!!!
NHP: What inspires a song for you?
AW: Inspiration comes from anything and everything! I’ve learned not to force it! I just try to be open to it so it draws to me. Sometimes this takes time. A LOT of time! Sometimes a piece of music will just write itself! For example, “Vienna” was something I wrote after the experiencing the birth of my daughter (Vienna). “An Evening at Black Canyon” was written about my favorite camping area. “Freak of Nature” just wrote itself, “Mother Nature’s Medley” was my first themed composition, written about the life cycle of a thunderstorm and a new one that I’m recording, “Sage & Sand” was written about a profound experience I had with my son, although He’s not pleased that his name is not in the title like my daughter’s tune. LOL! (Sorry Tristan!). So, inspiration comes from all kinds of things.
NHP: And lastly, where can people find and purchase your music?
AW: They can just shop their favorite online store (iTunes, etc…) or they can help an artist out by cutting out the middleman and going to the artists directly. www.adamwerner.com is my website, www.adamwerner.bandcamp.com is where I sell digital downloads (which are a “pay what you want” pricing for now). That means, they can download my entire album and bonus material for FREE, but if they feel compelled to donate something to me directly, they can at any amount. I hope everyone enjoys the music. New music is coming soon as well!