B.J. Golden talks to Breedlove about life on the road with Brantley Gilbert and how his classical training has helped him.
B.J. Golden is new to the Nashville scene – only having moved there this year. He can now be seen playing all over USA with country superstar Brantley Gilbert. We spoke with him about life on the road and all the different instruments he plays – and believe me there are a lot!
Breedlove: You’ve had quite a year. Moved from Denver to Nashville and have spent most of the year touring with Brantley Gilbert. How has it been?
BJ Golden: This year has been incredible. We have been on the road almost non-stop since I joined the band at the end of March and our current tour goes through mid- December. I can't speak highly enough about this organization and all of the people that make our shows happen night after night. I feel very fortunate to be able to call all of the band, crew, and Brantley my close friends. We have a lot of fun out on the road.
BL: Do you get nervous before walking out on stage in those huge arenas?
BG: I rarely get nervous for these big shows. The audience at our show is so full of energy that, even when I am having an off day, they remind me why I do what I do. I've put in over twenty years of practice and performing and now I get to let that show on stage and it is a beautiful thing. Quite honestly, playing classical guitar recitals and competitions makes me much more nervous than playing arenas.
BL: Speaking of classical guitar recitals - you have your masters in classical guitar performance from the University of Denver. Do you find that the classical background helps you to be more versatile and crossover to other styles more easily?
BG: Absolutely. Even though most of my time in academia was spent studying classical music, the fundamentals of music theory and establishing an effective practice routine carries over to every instrument and it cuts down the learning curve drastically. Two of my newest instruments are the resophonic guitar and the banjo, both of which are very demanding of the right hand. Studying classical and flamenco guitar for over eight years greatly improved my dexterity, and, in turn, improved my ability to figure out parts with minimal technical limitations. A solid ear training foundation is also one of the most valuable tools we have as musicians and something that was highly focused on at both Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Denver. When I started my music studies at MTSU, I had zero formal training and I couldn't read a lick of music. Playing different genres effectively is dependent on your ability to "speak the language." Without all your fundamentals in place, so many crucial things can be overlooked when listening and learning a new style.
BL: When you’re just jamming at home or on the bus what style of music do you play?
BG: Lately I have been playing a lot of bluegrass, jazz, and classical guitar on the bus and at home. Bluegrass lets me absorb several of the instruments I am currently studying to gain technical and musical prowess. I can also play bluegrass with my band mates and we can help each other get better at our weaker instruments. However, the sound of the classical guitar resonates with me the most and it is hard for me to go a week or more without putting in some time on that instrument. Playing classical guitar is also how I warm up for our shows every night.
BL: You play piano, organ, mandolin, resophonic guitar, acoustic and electric guitar…am I missing anything? Do you have a favorite instrument?
BG: I also sing harmonies on a few tunes, but that is correct for the instruments I play for Brantley. I also play the banjo, bass, and the cello, just not on this gig. My favorite instrument is certainly the guitar. I have spent a lot of time studying the guitar under some of the best players and teachers in the world and if I am going to pick up an instrument to play, generally it is the guitar. That being said, I really love music and I enjoy playing every instrument.
BL: More specifically you play a Breedlove Premier FO mandolin. What is it about the sound of that instrument that you like?
BG: What I really enjoy about the Premier FO is it's well balanced sound and it's playability. It is a really comfortable instrument to play and it cuts through the mix very well. Our front of house engineer has even commented on how it sounds like you are sitting right in front of the instrument when I am playing, even through our huge PA system. This can be very difficult to achieve, but the Premiere FO, in combination with the Fishman Nashville pickup does a great job. Not to mention it is a fine looking instrument, too!
BL: How long have you been playing the mandolin?
BG: Two years.
BL: How has it changed your playing style?
BG: Once I became comfortable with the mandolin and started working on transcriptions of guys like Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Aubrey Haynie and other bluegrass players, I really noticed how much mandolin playing relies on double stops. I also noticed that by loosening my grip on the pick, I was actually able to get more of a woody sound and improve my overall tone on the mandolin. Both of these techniques can be applied to the guitar for added color and tone. I am only scratching the surface on transferable techniques and sounds, but these are the discoveries that really excite me.
BL: What are you most excited to do when you get a break? Will you get a break?
BG: When I get a break at the end of the year, I am really looking forward to going back to Colorado to ski and hang in the mountains. I plan on spending as much time there as I can before we start back up next year. There is no better place for me to recharge and prepare for another tour than in the Rocky Mountains.
No doubt that BJ is a talented musician and that we’ll be seeing a lot from him over the years. Check him out with Brantley Gilbert who is currently headlining the Let it Ride Tour. For more information on tour dates visit his website.
Photo Credit: Ryan Clendaniel