Almost 10 years to the day, Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel still remembers almost every detail of a show he played in Oklahoma City.
“Right after 9/11, I came through, and it was one of my first shows of the tour. Everyone was still pretty numb,” Emmanuel said. “I found some poetry about America, and I read it to the audience while a friend played ‘America the Beautiful’ on the guitar. I remember that it kind of broke the spell, the chains of what had happened. It was such a big outpouring of emotion, and I’ll never forget that night.”
That’s really saying something, being that the two-time Grammy nominee seemingly has a lifetime of potentially unforgettable moments. With nearly 20 albums to his name, the internationally renowned musician has played with the best of them: Eric Clapton, Chet Atkins and Les Paul, to name a few. His precise, fingerpicking style is unparalleled, and he’s only getting better.
“The harder you work, the more dedicated you are to it,” he said. “Good things keep coming to you.”
His biggest thrills come from being onstage.
“You can only practice so much behind closed doors,” Emmanuel said. “There’s nothing like playing for an audience; it’s the best feeling I know.”
I don’t think like a normal guitar player.
He’s touring as relentlessly and extensively now as he did 30-some-odd years back. The biggest difference now is his increased reliance on his old acoustic guitar, which, for a guitar player of his magnitude, offers a world of possibilities beyond its electric counterpart. His solo show sounds like more than just one guy, with his finger patterns opening up rhythmic, harmonic and percussive elements all at the same time.
“It’s all about state of mind. I don’t think like a normal guitar player,” Emmanuel said. “I’m trying to pull rabbits out of the hat to give people a good time, and it helps focus people in. I try to draw the crowd in and give them a good time.”
Emmanuel is currently touring in support of a greatest-hits album that coincides with the launch of a trio of websites that not only promote his music, but also stream instructional videos and more. But for all the things he’s done, he had never attempted a Christmas record. That’s about to be checked off the list, however, with a disc dedicated to the season lighting up this November.
“It was great to have a little Christmas cheer in the middle of the year,” he said. “We decorated the studio with lights and such, and this was the first week of July. It was really lovely.”