Oh to be young and talented again (well younger anyway). Jacob Rågård has both in abundance. His debut Weissenborn instrumental "Sundown Slide" on YouTube back in May 2015 was nothing short of sensational. The composition was packed with masses of technical dexterity coupled together with wave after wave of sublime melodic refrains. It was in short one of (if not the best) Weissenborn instrumentals I've heard this year. I was fascinated to hear Jacob's story behind this track, his influences, how he came to be playing the instrument in the first place at such a young age and what he intends to do in the future with the instrument.
Hi Jacob thanks for agreeing to talk to us.
My pleasure! Thank you for contacting me.
How old are you Jacob if you don't mind me asking?
I’m 18 years old.
What part of the world are you from?
I’m from Denmark. I live in a small town called Odder in East Jutland.
Have you studied music, or are you studying music right now?
Right now I’m studying at Odder Gymnasium (Odder High School). The main focus in my class is music, so I share that passion with most of my classmates.
I’m also in the local music school where I have been playing the guitar since I was 11 years old. When I was 14 I got a new guitar teacher, the renowned guitarist Christian Alvad. Christian has had a major influence on my musical development. He inspired me to start playing fingerstyle guitar which immediately became my biggest passion. I will claim that Christian can play almost every instrument that has a resemblance to the guitar ;-). When I decided to play the Weissenborn he taught me the basic techniques on the instrument.
I see from your YouTube channel that you are a big "tapping/percussionist" guitarist from a very early age it seems. Is that your main musical focus still these days?
It’s hard for me to say what is my main focus, as I love both instruments. The Weissenborn is very unique in its own way, and I can create a sound that I would never be able to make on the regular guitar. A lot of the techniques I use on the Weissenborn are techniques I have learned by playing fingerstyle guitar. For instance the artificial harmonics I use on the song ‘’Sundown Slide’’ is a technique that I transferred directly from the regular guitar. I just loved the way that I could smoothly slide on the harmonics on the Weissenborn.
So the big question how did you discover the Weissenborn, and what made you decide to buy one and start to playing it?
The first time I ever discovered the Weissenborn was about 3-4 years ago on YouTube, when I saw Thomas Oliver's big Weissenborn hit ‘’The Moment’’. I had never heard anything like it before and I immediately fell in love with the instrument!
I bought a tone bar and raised the strings on my guitar to be able to play it like a lap steel guitar. It was a cheap Washburn guitar with .011 strings. It simply just didn’t sound as good as a Weissenborn guitar so after a while I lowered the strings again. For a long time I really wanted to buy a real Weissenborn, but as the instrument is not so well known I couldn’t find a place in Denmark where I could buy one. I thought i had found a store in Copenhagen who distributed Gold Tone Weissenborns. They told me that they could have a Gold Tone Weissenborn home in about two months, so I ordered one. But after waiting for more than 5 months, I decided to buy one abroad. I asked my guitar teacher if he knew where I could buy a Weissenborn, and then he told me about Anderwood Guitars, Britain. And so, after years of wanting a Weissenborn, I finally bought one from Anderwood Guitars :-).
Would I be right in saying that you are a big Thomas Oliver fan? Your style and sound echo some similar characteristics?
You are absolutely right! As I said before, Thomas Oliver was the one who inspired me to start playing the Weissenborn in the first place. I love Thomas' smooth and melodic playing on the Weissenborn.
Your favourite Weissenborn artists then, other than the big T.O.
Xavier Rudd, Martin Harley, Ed Gerhard, and Ben Harper of course! I also have to mention the big Jerry Douglas though he mainly plays the Dobro.
So how long exactly have you been playing the Weissenborn now?
I have been playing the Weissenborn for about 6 months now.
How did you find the transition from regular guitar to lap steel?
I actually found the transition quite easy. After I had learned how to mute the string behind the tone bar and play clean notes, it felt very natural to play the Weissenborn. My right hand technique is basically the same whether it is a regular guitar or a Weissenborn. If I hadn’t been playing fingerstyle for years before picking up the Weissenborn, I’m sure it would have been a lot more difficult to learn.
What do your friends think of the Weissenborn? Ever had someone say to you "why are you playing that antique"? lol
People are mainly interested in knowing what that ‘weird’ instrument I just started playing is. ‘’What is that Heisenberg-thing you are playing?’’ is a question I get sometimes. Haha.
Is this an instrument that you will be pursuing long term, or is this just a passing phase, will we be seeing you learning other new instruments and moving on from the Weissenborn?
I’m sure that the Weissenborn is something I will practice for a long time! I have never thought of ever quitting playing Weissenborn. I really enjoyed learning to play the Weissenborn, and learning to play new instruments in the future is definitely something I’m going to do! I have always thought that it could be really cool to learn playing the Harp Guitar. I’m also a big fan of Andy McKee and Michael Hedges, who both have composed phenomenal music on the Harp Guitar.
As a seriously good "tapping/percussionist" guitar player have you ever tried incorporating these rhythmic percussion slaps and taps on the body on the Weissenborn into a composition very much like Thomas Oliver did on "Boy"?
No. I have actually never tried that on the Weissenborn (yet)! But I really think that Thomas Oliver with the song ‘Boy' proves that percussive playing on the Weissenborn is breathtaking!
What about performing live, have you played the Weissenborn out in public?
I have been performing a couple of times with my Weissenborn, yes. For a long time a have been playing some small gigs with my guitar once in a while. Now I always bring my Weissenborn with me at the gigs!
Recently I was asked if I wanted to be warm up artist for Andy McKee when he plays in Aarhus in October!!! It was Casper Esmann (Booker of Andy McKee, and a fantastic guitarist himself) who asked me if I wanted to be a special guest for the show. Of course I said yes. I feel incredibly lucky and honored as Andy McKee has been one of my biggest idols for years! I’m also proud to help make the Weissenborn better known, because the instrument really deserves that.
Are you working on any new material or videos right now?
Right now I’m having fun with the open D minor tuning. (D A D F A D). I already have a couple of new ideas for new material in open D minor, which I’ll share when it’s ready!
I see you’ve already released a new tune on YouTube called “The Theatre", tell us about that video shoot, it looks very slick and professional.
The video is filmed at an old theatre in my hometown. I had always wanted to shoot a video at unique setting different from my home. I had written a tune which I thought would fit perfectly for the place, so I decided that I would shoot the video there. The theatre was built in 1908 but has lain largely unused for several years.
My dad knows the owner of the theatre, so I was quickly allowed to use the place for shooting my video.
As you see in the video there’s a lot of different camera angels going on. And as I don’t have my own cameraman, I had to set up the camera at different spots all by myself. I like that it is possible to make videos independent of others. I enjoy both the audio recording/mixing- and the filming/video editing process too. I really like being able to do all of these processes myself to get the result that I want.
So the track "Sundown Slide" tell us about the inspiration behind writing this track?
The song is not about a specific topic. I think that for me, the song is more connected to the feeling, I get, when I play the song. It’s up to the listener what feeling they might get when they listen to the song.
How did you choose the title "Sundown Slide”
Finding titles for my tunes have always been more difficult than writing the song itself. I tried in my mind to create an image on the feeling of the song. To me it was a Sunset.
How long did it take to write "Sundown Slide"?
I actually wrote most of the song in one evening. It was a quiet evening, I was sitting playing on my Weissenborn, and suddenly a song came out of it. Sometimes I can sit for hours trying to compose a new song without getting something that satisfy me. It was just different with ‘’Sundown Slide’’. For me, the best way to write new music is to let the music come naturally instead of trying to force it out of the instrument. If I think too hard while trying to write something new, I just never get real satisfied.
What tuning do you use on the track?
The Tuning is open D. (D A D F# A D).
What Weissenborn are you playing in the video?
I’m playing on my Anderwood Big Island Professionel.
Ever thought about releasing "Sundown Slide" on iTunes or bandcamp so people can buy it and download it?
I have actually never thought of releasing music for people to buy it. If people would be willing to buy my music on iTunes I would be very pleased!
Do you have any short term future ambitions to record enough Weissenborn tracks to release an EP or Album?
When I have enough material I will definitely consider releasing an EP.
What long term ambitions and goals do you have as a guitarist for the future. Is this something go you'd like to make a profession doing or is this just a pastime that will ultimately stay a hobby?
As music is my biggest passion I would be lying if I said that it wouldn’t be nice to become a professionel musician. My biggest dream is to be able to make a living of what I really love to do. I know it really takes a lot to become a professional musician. Especially for fingerstyle guitarists/Weissenborn players as the music is not as popular as other genres. I’ll just take it one step at a time and see how it develops. But I can’t imagine ever quitting to play music!
Thank you for talking to us and I'm sure this won't be the last time we hook so all the best to you and I think I can speak for everyone in saying "please keep the Weissenborn music coming" :-)
It’s my pleasure. Once again, thank you for contacting me!
"On Track" with Jacob Rågård
Copyright the weissenborn information exchange. All rights reserved.