Canady Rat records artist Ewan Dobson has created a massive following for his virtuosic and unique fingerstyle technique.
How massive you ask? This video alone for his song Time 2 currently has over 14 million views:
It’s easy to hear the influence of classical, heavy metal, trance, techno and video games in his playing. It’s an unlikely combination, and bewildering to imagine how he translates all of those influences to the acoustic guitar. His playing simultaneously represents all these influences with ease.
The first time I saw him perform was at an open mic of all places. It was at Covernotes Tea and Coffee House in Richmond Hill, Ontario, his hometown. Nobody had any idea what they were in for. I had never even heard of him at the time. I happy I was introduced this way, because it was shocking.
Ewan knew what he was doing. He stepped onto the stage and set up his digital delay pedal with his acoustic guitar. He wasn’t wearing his signature hat though. As soon as he started playing, the audience was mesmerized. I don’t use this term lightly, and I’ve been to a lot of concerts. We were almost hypnotized. Why was this happening at an open mic?
At the end of his 5 song set Ewan mentioned he had CDs for sale. I’ve never seen an audience flock to this request before or since. But I swear, each person left with 2 CDs.
When he introduced the tune The Legend of the Brown Goat I was thinking, “Seriously??? Really??? What is this about?” It turned out to be my personal favourite.
Check the song out and then read on to see the Q&A I did with Ewan:
Q&A with Ewan Dobson
Luke: What are you looking forward to the most about you upcoming European tour?
Ewan: The most important thing is to deliver performances to the best of my ability. The audiences in Europe support what I do and I am no longer simply playing to satisfy myself. I am more concerned than ever with not letting down my patrons, who are spending their hard earned dollars to come hear a night of guitar music. I look forward to giving these shows the best I have to offer.
I always have some nervousness, but it helps keep me grounded. The nervousness is something that can be channeled into awe, or respect, for the tasks at hand. Being too sure of one’s self in the face of obligations can cause complacency. In other words, I see the importance of focus and the necessity for respecting the audience that wants to hear a good show.
I am also looking forward to visiting these countries that I have never been to or played in before.
Luke: How do you come up with song ideas?
Ewan: It either starts with a chord progression and out of that progression emerges a melody to match, or a melody comes first then I must find the appropriate progression to fit underneath it. Other times, it is a riff that I come up with and I expand on it the best I can. Sometimes the songs are shorter because I can only come up with so many developments. In other cases it becomes a longer song if I can develop it further.
Luke: How do you translate those ideas into compositions, do you have a method to the madness?
Ewan: As I touched on in the previous answer, I will expand on an idea until it is clear to me that it has reached its limit for development. I sometimes use a bluegrass or traditional melody approach to writing music, having A and B sections with a variation to keep it interesting.
I prefer to call them musical ideas rather than compositions. I find the word “composition” so very formal and I imagine it being more applicable to writing music without an instrument in hand, on a 12 staff score with a fountain pen. I am just coming up with ideas on guitar, putting them together in a format that I think works, and playing them the best I can.
I don’t apply the same seriousness that is found in classical study to what I do. A lot of it is done in the spirit of fun and experimentation. I very much enjoy simple melodies and embrace them without worrying. I convey the simplicities with intricate techniques in some cases.
Luke: Of all the guitars out there, what led you to use Stonebridge Guitars?
Ewan: I was fortunate enough to win a Stonebridge guitar at the 2009 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition. I primarily use the Stonebridge for my flatpicking acoustic metal/rock. The D23CR I have has good string spacing and neck size for the material I play with the flat pick. The tone is perfect for my heavy acoustic picking.
Luke: Tell us what Stonebridge models you own?
Ewan: I have two Stonebridges, a D23CR 6-string and a SJ24SR 12-string.
Luke: One of my favourite tunes of yours is The Legend of the Brown Goat. Tell me the legend in your own words.
Ewan: It is open to interpretation and imagination. Perhaps it has something to do with the attempt to be sure-footed in the mountainous ups and downs of life. It is often the case that my whimsical song titles are questioned for their deeper meaning, where in most situations there is no deeper meaning in the title itself.
Ewan is heading out on a European tour this February with dates in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey and Slovakia. Check out the dates here: http://ewandobson.com/shows.html
Ewan Dobson’s Stonebridge Guitar
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