Ted Pierce is a veteran Rock On instructor, having taught songwriting and guitar at last year’s workshop. This year he will be instructing the same two skill sets, sharing his experiences working as a professional guitarist and songwriter with the young musicians of the camp. We got a chance to ask him a few questions about his career and what he will be bringing to the table in 2010:
Rock On: You were born in Hollywood, California and before you were 20 years old you lead a band in England. What motivated the move to Europe?
Ted Pierce: I had the opportunity to work as a stage hand in a theatre in Switzerland when I got out of high school. Of course I jumped on that. But it was England that I was particularly interested in. Jimi went to England and that was where he made it. In my naïve mind at the time I probably hoped for something similar.
RO: How did you happen to hook up with Jackson Browne? How long did you two play together?
TP: I met Jackson Browne at Frank Lucido’s California Guitar. This guy walks in and I said to Frank, “That guy looks like Jackson Browne.” He said “That IS Jackson Browne, he came in to look at Ry Cooder’s guitar that is on consignment.” I went in to watch him and he got nervous and handed me the guitar. I said to myself “Oh boy you better play good now” and I guess I did. Basically we just played together in the store that afternoon.
RO: You have written songs for some popular artists like Cyndi Lauper and Kenny Rogers. What is it like to write a song a have it be popularized by someone else? Is there a point where the personal aspect of writing songs clashes with the business aspect of selling them to major recording artists?
TP: I have written a lot of songs which have been recorded by others. Not allof them have been released. It is a wonderful feeling to be appreciated in that way, and yet it is not always as romantic as it may sound. I’m not rich yet, put it that way. But writing is about writing, not about money. If you are writing to make money and not for the love of it you will get discouraged pretty fast.
RO: I see you have played in Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie tribute bands. In general, tribute bands garner a lot of criticism for trying to live up to the original and failing. What fueled the decision to put your time and effort into a tribute to a classic artist?
TP: Again it is about love of the music. I had to be talked into doing Hendrix. I mean, Randy Hanson is a friend of mine and nobody could ever do Hendrix better than he does. So I felt like a second fiddle from the top. But I think there are many cover bands that do an excellent job. Some of them end up sounding more like the record live than the original artist does.
RO: You picked up the violin at age 8, the guitar at age 12 and before your teenage years concluded you were leading your first band. What advice do you have to offer to aspiring young musicians? Do you thing studying as a multi-instrumentalist prepared you better for the music business than if you just stuck with one path?
TP: Great question. I think learning about bass and drums and keyboard are all going to help one musically, and that is what it is about – music. If you have the aspiration to lead a band, well, it’s a hard job. But for sure the more you understand those other instruments the easier that job will be. Even if you never master another instrument, a working knowledge will help you in arranging music and playing with other musicians who are playing other instruments. Guitarists tend to think that the guitar is the most important instrument. That is nonsense. If the drums or the bass suck, the music will suck no matter how good the guitarist is.