Robben Ford is thoughtful and considered when discussing his music and influences. The legendary blues guitarist has collaborated with artists from Miles Davis to George Harrison, while also releasing a stack of solo material. He doesn’t have a working preference either way, but enjoys both outlets for different reasons.
“It’s always a pleasure whenever you can collaborate with like-minded musicians, the weight is equally distributed … As a solo artist the pressure is basically all on you, so it’s a relief whenever you have the opportunity to work with your peers, who indeed have their own strong vision of one kind or another, and you’re able to contribute to that. But it’s a relative situation in either case.”
Ford has played live with a myriad of musicians over the years, but his solo work in the studio takes up a significant amount of his schedule. “I think anybody likes to have time,” he says. “Music is an art form and I strongly relate to recording, as I would to a painting – it’s nice to be able to make changes, to be able to let something sit and decide whether or not you’re happy with it, find ways to make things better if you can, so anybody likes to have time.”
Ford’s latest release sought to combine the two ways of working. “The intention of the new record A Day In Nashville was to replicate a live performance, that was the whole idea, and so we did what we did. Going into a studio and cutting nine tracks like that in a single day is just not your regular occurrence, and it turned out incredibly successful.”
A Day In Nashville features contributions from one of Ford’s greatest allies: his trusty vintage six-string. “I have a 1960 Telecaster that has probably been my best friend, from the point of view that I can find a way to use it in any situation. It’s just a great instrument – no matter what the musical setting, I seem to be able to find a way to make it fit, so that has just been my go-to instrument for many years now.”
And his ultimate collaborator? Fellow guitar master Jeff Beck. “About ten years ago [I] finally saw him perform live, and he became my favourite living guitar player. He’s just brilliant, and I’ve just been invited to be a guest sitting in with him in Italy in July. It’s the one guy that I really wanted to play with sometime, and now I’m going to have the opportunity, so I’m very excited about that.”
One of the major moments that shaped Ford’s style was when he played as part of the L.A. Express, which was Joni Mitchell’s band on Miles Of Aisles. “The time I spent with Joni Mitchell was particularly inspiring and informative and I learned so much that has stayed with me and encouraged my music,” he says. It wasn’t necessarily Mitchell’s style of music that affected him so much, but rather the artistry of her practice. “My background is in the blues, which is very earthy, simple music, but being exposed to someone like her and the musicians that were around her really just raises your game. It opens up your musical world and broadens your whole perspective.”
Ford relishes the opportunity to pass on the knowledge he’s acquired through experience by operating a ‘Guitar Dojo’ when he’s not touring or recording. Still, he says there are certain things about his music that remain constant.
“I always feel like the same musician, no matter what the situation. I can’t help but just be myself … I’ve always connected with this kind of joyous energy; I like to uplift. It’s what I connected with in music and it’s what I certainly hope is the salient quality of what I do, you know? Make people happy.”
A Day In Nashville out now through Provogue