"For Maria" by Dutch guitarist Ivo Meijer is a truly beautiful and sensitive weissenborn instrumental that immediately caught the ears of us here at TWiE HQ. From the first few bars you can hear a real sense of the mans' main artistical influence shinning through. From a back ground of heavy metal, funk and jazz Ivo has finally arrived at a happy place playing Kiwi style open tuning instrumentals. Ivo has truly fell in love with the weissenborn and he promises this is only the start of his adventures that ultimately he hopes will blossom into a full blown weissenborn opus just like his musical inspiration, Thomas Oliver.
"On Track" with Ivo Meijer
Hi Ivo. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a musician.
Well, ever since I picked up the guitar at the age of 14, I’ve been dreaming about a career as a musician. It’s my goal in life to make music for a living, with the people that I love making music with. At that time, I was heavily influenced by two bands; Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. Tom Morello’s extraordinary sounds and playing style were very inspiring to me as a beginner. And to this day, I still love listening to those big, fat, badass one-string guitar riffs, doubled by Tim Commerford on bass guitar. I think that’s the main reason I’m using an Octaver in my guitar effects setup; to mimic the sound of guitar and bass playing the same notes at the same time. I love fattening up distorted one-string riffs with an Octaver, it always puts a smile on my face!
After I graduated from high school, I formed a band with some friends from the music school I was at. During that time, I gravitated towards what I would like to call more “sophisticated” music, less of that “raw and edgy” stuff. I fell in love with GROOVE, the funk became my gospel! I listened to the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, James Brown, Jamiroquai, Maceo Parker, The Meters etc. A lot of the music that I played and wrote with that band, was inspired by these artists. But there was always some sort of rock element in our writing. I guess that’s a part of my personality as a musician.
At the age of 19, I began studying Guitar at the Conservatory of Haarlem, Netherlands. Here I learned a lot about harmony and music theory, and developed a more intelligent vision towards music. This is were I received the blessing of Perfect Pitch, a talent I’m very lucky to possess. Also, the music I listened to was more complex; I was crazy about this instrumental jazz/funk/world band, called Snarky Puppy. This band brought together all the elements that I loved in music; groove, rawness, intelligence, and of course stellar playing! Their concerts that I visited where even more mind-blowing than their studio recordings, just pure musical bliss!
At the moment I’m in my final year at the Conservatory, and I’m preparing and organising my graduation concert. I’m putting together a repertoire that reflects all the aspects of me as a musician. So it will contain some funky grooves, heavy riffs, soaring lead guitar, and of course, Weissenborn!
Regarding your song “For Maria” and playing style on a Weissenborn. If I’m not mistaken I can hear lots of Thomas Oliver influences coming through in your playing. Is he someone you have admired musically for a long time and was he responsible for you taking up the Weissenborn in the first place?
Yes, definitely! Thomas is absolutely, without a doubt, the reason I’m playing the Weissenborn today! About a year ago, I was getting more into slide guitar, and started listening to players like Derek Trucks and Jerry Douglas. One night, I was sitting in bed with my laptop. You know, one of those nights where you can’t sleep, and feel the need to discover new artists and music. That night, I was watching Youtube video’s of Jerry Douglas. There was one video, were I was reading the comments, and in one comment someone used the word “Weissenborn”. Having never heard of this instrument before, I decided to type it in the search bar and hit Enter. I clicked on the first hit I saw, which was called “Thomas Oliver - 'The Moment' (Weissenborn Instrumental)”. The moment I heard the first notes of that song, changed my life completely. I instantly fell in love with the warm, deep, beautiful and calming sound of the Weissenborn. I knew that I had discovered something that would open up a whole new world of possibilities. Since then, the Weissenborn has become a major part of who I am, both as a musician and as a person.
I understand Thomas has heard your track and said he liked it. That must have been a great feeling, to hear that from someone you admire musically?
Yes, that was a very special moment for me. Because if I hadn’t discovered Thomas Oliver and the Weissenborn, I probably would never have written that song, nor would I be writing my own music on the Weissenborn. Thomas has inspired me to learn how to play the Weissenborn, and gave me a strong base from where I could start practising and playing. I consider him my greatest teacher in learning this craft. He has inspired so many people to pick up that oddly looking acoustic guitar that sits in your lap, it’s amazing! And he’s just this guy who does what he loves most in life, and shares it with the world around him. Thanks to Thomas, who shared his music with me and many others, I am who I am today. I’m very grateful for that. So yeah, it felt really good to hear that he liked the track!
You met him too I hear, that must have been a thrill?
Yes, Thomas and I met for the first time on February 1st, 2015. He was playing a show at the Q-bus in Leiden. I was there with Maria, to watch him play for the first time live. It was amazing to hear the music I was listening to for months finally being performed live by the man himself. There were very few people at the show, which created this sense of being at a private concert. I think that really resonated well with the music Thomas was playing that evening. It felt very intimate and personal. After the show, I got the chance to meet him. We started talking, I told him who I was, and that he inspired me to play the Weissenborn. At some point, I asked him what kind of slides he was using. He then took me to the stage, and gave me his Tony Francis Style 4 Hourglass for me to try out. I was very surprised, because by “slides”, I actually meant the tone bar he was using! But the fact
that he immediately trusted me to show his Weissenborn and allowed me to play on it, wow! I have no words for it! We haven’t seen each other since, but I would like to meet up with him in future. And when we do, I hope that we can make music together, that would be awesome!
Tell me what qualities about the Weissenborn do you love so much?
I think I fell in love with the Weissenborn because its sound is so unique. It sounds different from a dobro or any other lapsteel for that matter. It’s got its own set of characteristics, which you won’t find in any other instrument. For example, the harmonics that you can play behind the bar, if positioned correctly, have this very harp-like quality to it. You can hear me use this in the intro of “For Maria”. I think this is because the guitar is almost completely hollow. There’s so much resonation going on inside, you can feel it when it’s in your lap. This also goes for the low-end of the instrument; the deep, bassy notes that come from the low D-string. You can feel those notes go through your whole body, an amazing feeling! And of course the tone bar and the strings; ain’t nothing like steel on steel baby! There are a lot of metallic background “noises” happening when you move the bar across and on and off the strings. I think these noises contribute to the magic of the instrument. I use this to add more character in the mix during recording. In the video of “For Maria”, you can see two mic’s hanging above my left hand. They’re there to record those noises, and to capture the resonation of the neck.
So who is “Maria”, and why did you write and dedicate this instrumental to her?
Well, let me begin by telling you that Maria Eugênia is one of the few people in my life that have a permanent place in my heart. She is a very special lady from Recife, Brazil. Maria came to the Netherlands in October 2014, as an au pair to stay with a Dutch family for a year. We met for the first time in Amsterdam, on November 6th 2014. We fell in love with each other that day, and a few weeks later we were in a relationship together. During our relationship, I’ve had the pleasure of doing so many great things with her; going on amazing trips to Maastricht, Paris and Texel, and to a spa & wellness center for my birthday, to mention a few. We loved doing these activities together, and we’ve had such a wonderful time doing them. Those where the days I’m telling you! But sadly, our relationship had to come to an end, due to the fact that she was going back home to Brazil in October 2015. We both knew that we would’ve had a difficult time maintaining a long-distance relationship, being 7.700 km away from each other. So we decided that this was the best way to go. But I can say, without a doubt, that this was the best year of my life so far. If I look at myself a year ago, I realise how much I’ve changed in such a short time. Maria has inspired me to discover more about myself and the world around me. To travel to places I’ve never been before, both in the world and inside myself. And I still love her for that, for being a part of that change in my personality.
Since day one, Maria has been an important part of my development as a Weissenborn artist. She listened to me play every time she was with me, and joined me to see the Thomas Oliver show in February. She was also in the audience the first time I performed on stage with my Weissenborn. So she has seen me grow from up close, and supported me all the way to where I am now. During this development, I was messing around with some melodies and chords that I came up with. They where just loose ideas, pieces of a puzzle that I eventually put together. At some point, the puzzle was solved, and a song was born. The only thing missing was a title. Then I realised that, when I played the song, it reminded me of Maria and the wonderful time we had spent together. I felt that I had subconsciously written this song for her. So “For Maria” was the only possible title the song could have. It’s my way of thanking her for the time she was with me, for the time she loved me, and to remember all the great memories I have of her.
Was it one of those songs that came very quickly, or was it something on the back burner for a long time before it all came together?
This was definitely a song that took a while to take shape. I discovered that the little ideas I had written and recorded somehow worked together as a song. The first idea was the second intro part, after the harp-like harmonies. Then came the ideas for the verse, the chorus, the bridge etc. It started to sound like a song, and after some fine-tuning, it became the version as I recorded it. I think the first idea came in the beginning of 2015, and the song was finished and recorded in October 2015, so yeah, this wasn’t a quickie! I’d like to think that’s because while I was writing, I was creating memories with Maria, and that each part of the song symbolises a different memory from the time that the part was written.
What tuning did you use?
In the studio I used C#G#C#E#G#C#, half a step lower from the standard DADF#AD.
Any more material written and recorded, ready for release?
At the moment, I’m expanding my repertoire with more instrumental tunes. Whenever I have an idea, I work on it until I feel that it’s almost finished. Then I record it on my phone, let it sink in for a few days, and then finish it. This way I hope to build a repertoire of 45 minutes, more than enough to perform with. For one of the songs, I felt like it needed something more. So I arranged some piano parts for it. Both instruments sound really good together, and I’m planning to record that song in the near future, so more on that later!
I understand our mutual luthier friend Ferdinand Van Den Berg made your Weissenborn you play on the track and in the video. I met Ferdinand last year in Amsterdam and he showed me around his workshop and instruments, and I must say, that sounded wonderful. How did you end up purchasing one of his Weissenborns?
I met Ferdinand through another guitar luthier. He knew I was looking for a luthier that had experience with creating lapsteels and Weissenborns, and told me that I should get in touch with Fern’s Guitars. I did, and made an appointment to meet him in his workshop in Amsterdam. In the meantime, I did my homework and checked out his website. At first I was interested in his Weissenborns, but they where above my budget, so I turned to his electric lapsteel model the Slide King. I found out that he had made one of those for Jerry Douglas himself! And I could afford the Slide King, so I was pretty much set on purchasing that when I went to his shop. As I walked in, I noticed that there was a Weissenborn hanging on the wall. It turned out to be a Style 1, which was built for a client back in 2009, but he never picked it up. The client requested a wider string spacing, to make hammer- ons and pull-offs between strings easier. I decided to try out both the Weissenborn and the Slide King, to see which one I’d like best. After an hour of playing both guitars, I told Ferdinand I wasn’t sure about which one to pick. He then made me an offer: if I wanted to buy the Weissenborn, I could take it home with me for the same price as the Slide King! That was a really friendly gesture of him, and shows what a great guy he is! Two weeks later I made up my mind, and purchased the Weissenborn. She bears the name “Maria”, of course, and has a leather necklace of a guitar wrapped around the headstock. Maria gave me this necklace on the day before she left, as a goodbye present. It now has its permanent place on the guitar. I’ve been playing and practising on my Weissenborn almost every day since I got it, and it sounds better every time I pick it up. Ferdinand told me that, in electric guitar terms, it sounds more like a Telecaster than a Les Paul. Even better, because I definitely prefer a Tele over a Les Paul!
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Are you playing any public performances on your Weissenborn?
Currently, I’m involved in an acoustic duo project with a singer. We’ve done a few gigs together, where I got the opportunity to experience playing Weissenborn in a live situation. I really like performing with that guy, we can sense each other really well musically, and we always know where to go when it comes to dynamics and improvisation. We’re planning on playing more in the future, but we’re also both occupied with the writing and development of our own repertoire. So I think that’s where most of my focus will be for now considering Weissenborn. I would love to experience playing a gig just by myself, with my own songs, and I’m planning do that as soon as possible!
Where was the recording and video made?
They where both made in the main audio recording studio of the Conservatory of Haarlem. The video was shot with an Iphone 5s. The production work was done by Ruben Bausch, and the engineering by Simon van Boxtel. Both great guys I really enjoy working with in the studio! I did all the video editing myself.
Is it available for digital download or just on Spotify?
The song is only available on Spotify. The idea of people having to purchase my song through an online store, just didn’t suit me. I wanted to share my song with the world as quickly as possible. Spotify provided that for me. I think Spotify is the future of music distribution. It makes music available anywhere, 24/7, no listening limit, takes up no space on your computer or your phone. All of that at a fair price. It definitely beats illegal downloading if you ask me!
Your Facebook page says the Weissenborn is now a big part of your work as a session musician. Tell us about your session work with the Weissenborn.
Well, I first and foremost consider myself a session musician, who plays both guitar and Weissenborn. Most of the session work that I do consist of people asking me to come play in their band or orchestra for a short period of time. For example, playing in the house band of various jam sessions, or playing in the orchestra of a musical production. During these jobs, I usually just play the electric guitar. I do have already played the Weissenborn with some artists, but I’m hoping to use it much more in the future!
So what are your short term plans musically and your long term goals with regards to the Weissenborn?
Right now, I just want to keep writing and composing new songs, until I reach an acceptable amount that I can use to perform on stage. After my graduation, I think I’m going to travel for a while. I think a nice change of scenery will teach me a lot of new things about myself, and will inspire me to write even more! My first stop is probably going to be Ireland. I really like the Irish culture, folklore, and of course their traditional music. Then I’m thinking about going to Brazil, to visit Maria and to get to know her family and friends. Maria has already told me a lot about Brazil, but I want to see it all with my own eyes! My goal is when I come back from my journey, to have a finished repertoire of Weissenborn instrumentals, and to record them and perform them live!
Thank you Ivo for talking to us and all the best with your future projects, please keep in touch :-)
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