The internet is amazing. Blogs are even more amazing. The internet and this blog have allowed me to “re-connect and communicate” with many people.
Fourteen years ago, I lived in Seattle, WA and worked for a well-known technology company. I was in sales management and had a team of sales professionals who worked for me.
I have always believed that success is directly tied to the quality of the people you associate and work with on a daily basis. It’s hard to succeed totally on your own. The truth is… any success I realized in the corporate world was more a factor of my ability to identify talented salespeople and encourage them to work for me than any personal achievements of my own.
(By the way, that same axiom holds true today — surround yourself with as many successful people in the music world as you can. You will learn from them and they will inspire you to grow as a guitar player.)
OK… Back to Seattle… No one called me “GuitarDaddy” then. I did not even play the guitar! But the seeds of my six-string love affair were being planted…
One of the talented salespeople who worked for me was a young man by the name of Brian Oaks.
While I will always remember Brian for his drive, determination and professional sales skills, I will NEVER forget how he often spoke of his love for the guitar. I will admit that at that time, I did not understand how ANYBODY could be passionate about a guitar… but time sure has opened my eyes.
A few years ago, the internet allowed me to re-connect with Brian and that re-connection evolved into this blog post as Brian allowed me to interview him about his life and the guitar.
Brian’s passion for the guitar and music drove him to leave corporate sales and the security of a weekly paycheck to pursue his dream of playing guitar professionally.
I believe Brian’s story is one worth sharing with the readers of TheGuitarBUZZ. Enjoy!
GD) How long have you been playing guitar?
BO) About 25 years…I remember getting my first rental guitar in 5th grade (Gibson Sonex 150)…. I started taking lessons and really getting into it pretty fast. My grandparents bought me my first guitar in 6th grade from Kennelly Keys Music in Burien, WA. It was a 1983 Sienna Sunburst Fender Strat. I still have it today and it is 9/10 as far as condition goes and remains safely tucked away. Having a great first guitar really helped me learn.
I will say that there were some years during and after college that I did not play much. I wanted to be a doctor in college and then ended up in sales. During those years, I played but did not practice much. About 10 years ago I met someone that moved up to Seattle from Nashville. We became great friends and that is when I really started back at it.
GD) Who are your major influences?
BO) I always dug the session guys more than anything growing up. Dann Huff, Jerry McPherson, Mike Landau, and Gordon Kennedy were big when I was young. I loved how these guys could come up with the perfect part, solo, and sound for a song. That was inspiring to me. Still is…Today All the above still inspire me but also guys like Gerry Leonard, Michael Lockwood, Tom Bukovac, Kenny Greenberg, Shawn Tubbs, Brad Paisley and many others. Each of these players approaches the instrument in a different way. GREAT learning opportunity to learn from diverse people!
When it comes down to it I love guys with confidence. This is rock and roll to me. Seeing Tom Bukovac, Mike Landau or Kenny Greenberg live is pretty stupid cool. Listening to Jerry McPherson come up with some amazing part is too. Confidence is a major influence to me as I am trying to get better at it.
GD) How would you describe your playing style today?
BO) Well I hope I sound like me! I am definitely a pop/rock guy heavily influenced by country and roots rock. I love the sound a cool vibey & guitar into a great amp with a memory man delay. I love making chunky rhythm and the fun ambient/washy stuff too. I love simple lines that make a part and love a solo you can sing to…. Since being in Nashville I have totally been digging into the great country players and using my fingers a lot along with the pick. I have always used a “hybrid picking” style (Mark Knopfler ) but even more so now. I sound like Brian Oaks with a little of my influences mixed I hope.
GD) Tell me about the move from Seattle to Nashville:
BO) Well I loved working for Dennis Jones but I think I loved guitar more (chuckle). I think there is a time in all our lives where if we are really honest with ourselves we know what God created us to be. I believe for me that this is music. I just had to make the jump. I knew I was good enough (to an extent as the talent here is scary!). I just did not want to come to the end of my life and say I wish I would have… It has been the best thing I have ever done less marry my wife Stephanie and have my 2 kids Tyler and Abigail. Dreams are powerful when you have a talent. If those two things are there, you have to run with reckless abandon in that direction. I moved down here in my mid 30’s. That is late to an extent but it was the best decision for me. I do not regret a second of it. I have the best job in the world.
GD) What are you working on right now?
BO) I play for country artist Mallary Hope. AMAZING artist on MCA Records. I have also been on tour with Point of Grace and Mark Schultz on the Come Alive tour. That has been a ton of fun. Will be continuing that tour this winter on the West Coast. I play for a lot of artists not on “tour” as it is expensive to get a band on a tour bus so we do fly dates or short runs. I played this summer for Warner Bros. artist Whitney Duncan when she was doing band shows. That was a lot of fun.
I am also producing a live record for a church up in Chicago with Brent King in May. He is an old friend and is Ricky Scaggs engineer. Great learning experience there. There is also session work too, but I am enjoying playing live right now so that is what is taking up the most of my time.
GD) Describe your live rig: guitars, amps, effects, …
BO) It depends on the gig, but I have been using my Matchless HC-30 and a matching Matchless 1×12 cab. That amp just seems to get most of what I need with my pedalboard. That amp at 9 is magic. I have to use in-ears, which I am not real fond of. I know the amp sounds good in the house even if it is not great in my ears. I also have a Divided by 13 FTR 27 I love too.
On the winter run for the Come Alive tour I am taking a 1966 Fender Bassman head and a Naylor Superdrive 60 on the road. The Bassman is amazing sounding and has lots of vibe. The Naylor is the best amp I have ever played for solos and big Rhythm.
As far as effects I have a big Trailer Trash board that has basic food group stuff on it that I use for dates when I need a lot of options. I run 2 Line 6 delays, as I need more than 3 presets. I love the Memory Man but the Line 6 works great when I need presets. I have an old Nobles ODR-1 for overdrive and a Xotic Effects RC Booster if I need to add a little dirt to the clean. I also use an Fulltone OCD on the board too for a little extra muscle. I have an Arion Stereo Chorus (old one) for that Leslie thing, a AYA R-Comp compressor when I need it, a Sweet Sound Mojovibe for univibe stuff and a Fulltone Supa-Trem for Tremolo. With this board many are run through a true bypass looper to keep my signal chain clean.
Less is more and I usually keep it pretty simple as the more distortion you use does not translate very well out front sometimes. I run delays a little hotter live too as they can get lost out front. I love the tape delay settings as each repeat gets more nasally and translates well. Also for really vibe stuff the multi-head setting on the Line 6 is stellar to me.
For guitars that depends on the gig again. For instance on the Come Alive tour I took my Duesenberg Outlaw TV. This guitar pretty much goes with me everywhere. I also have my Jeff Senn Tele that is a staple now too. For the vibey stuff I took my Gretsch Tennessean with flat wounds. Jerry McPherson told me to do this 10 years ago and I never went back.
I bought Fender Aerodyne Tele from Mike Britt of Lonestar that is pretty cool too. This next run I will probably bring out my Gibson SG Heritage too. Great guitar and the Humbuckers sound great through the Bassman.
I aIso play Eastman mandolins (Amazing) that I take on tour as well as a Deering 6 String Banjo.
For acoustics it is my McPherson for sure. I have to capo quite a bit and it intonates no matter where I capo. They make amazing instruments. I would not leave the house without it. It is just one of those guitars that is effortless to play.
I also use Tone Freak effects on my smaller board and Elixir strings. They are the only strings I can play because of my sweaty hands. The sound great and last WAY longer than a normal string. I use them on everything. I am also putting Lollar pickups in everything I can. I have them in my Senn Tele, my Les Paul Goldtop and now in my Les Paul Jr. Love em’.
GD) What is your guitar-playing highlight?
BO) I was playing for James Otto last year when his single “Just Got Started Loving You” was at #2 on the country charts. When we did it live I played the opening riff with just me and the high hat to start the song. On the last show I did with him we opened for Lynyrd Sknyrd in front of about 9,000 people. Was a real rush when the crowd went nuts for the song when it was me at the front of the stage.
GD) Any new recordings / CDs in the works?
BO) I have always been more interested in making other people sound good. I love writing so I hope you will hear some of my songs on the radio!
GD) And the Duesenberg???
BO) Where to start… The owner of the US side of the company is my dear friend Nathan Fawley. He supported me when I first moved to town. My first Doozey was the Outlaw TV. He had me do demo clips for them on their website along with Chris Rodriguez (Keith Urban), Rod Janzen (Dierks Bentley) and Mike Campbell (Tom Petty). No pressure there! That was a great help to me early on.
It is the one electric that covers SO much ground to me. It can do the strat thing, the rock thing and the big neck sound jazzy thing. The TV also has an alligator skin covering that just looks sweet too. The craftsmanship is great and it is really easy to play.
I also have a multi-bender that allows me to do pedal steel licks. If you have not played one, you have to. It is a great tool.
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I love to hear about people who follow their dreams.
Like Brian said, talent and dreams can be very dangerous!
Congratulations Brian, on all of your achievements!
Visit Brian’s MySpace site by CLICKING HERE.
You can also follow Brian on Twitter by CLICKING HERE.
Finally, Brian wanted share a few of his favorite guitar links… Please check out: