“On Track” With Adam Bay
I hadn’t been playing Weissenborn for very long when I first discovered “Coast” by Canadian roots and weissenborn artist Adam Bay. The track is thoroughly hypnotic and totally relaxing and to this day I still play it many times a week as part of my “Best of Weissenborn” playlist on my ipod. Adam is a very down to earth guy and very much in touch with his surrounding, his blend of roots music is full of energy and passion that makes his music (and especially this track) stand out. I caught up with Adam while in the middle of recording his debut album to talk about this ‘early days’ composition and what he’s up to at the moment.
Hi Adam thanks for taking the time out to talk to me, first up tell us when you wrote this song and where it sits in your Weissenborn playing development as it is a very early track of yours is it not?
Well I’ve been playing weissenborn since I was 16 or 17 and started writing my own music on it when I was 18. ‘Coast’ was my 3rd weissenborn track I recorded but my first attempt at an instrumental. I wrote it when I was 22 and at the time was pursuing a singer/song writter dream. So the current version released has a quick vocal part half way through.
What part of Canada do you come from? Judging by the songs title The coast seems to be very important in your life and is reflected in your music?
I am from Vancouver Island on BC’s west coast. I grew up in Shawnigan Lake, which is a small lake side town in the hills a short throw away from the ocean. As a kid we spent a lot of time by the ocean. Day trips to Tofino, camping on Gulf Islands, French Beach and Bamberton Beach were regular growing up. The Ocean is where I feel most grounded, though a good fire always helps!
What Weissenborn did you record with that day?
I used my Celtic Cross by Neil Russell. My first local made weissenborn.
What tuning did you play it in?
DADDAD. Any variation of D has always been a favorite of mine. Not just in weissenborn and guitar, but didgeridoo and harmonica as well.
Was the song tweaked and re-tweaked in the studio or was it a case of in and out job done let’s go to the bar and have an Alexander Keith 😉 ?
It was a easy day. From start to finish it took 6 hours. The largest chunk of time was spent on the short vocal track. I have since dropped singing from my music. The slide tracks only took 2 takes and didge was one.
So when you break the track down there’s a lot going on. Stomp box rhythm intro (loop) -Drone (loop) – Weissenborn melody – Harmonica melody – Sticks – Reverse Weissenborn looping – Didgeridoo – Lots going on there my friend. How do you play this track live, must be a bit tricky. What gear and how do you use it to recreate this tune in a live setting?
I really enjoy this one live. I’ve used it as a opener for 3 years. Every time I play Coast live I find something different. There’s no one way I go about approaching this one on stage. Sometimes it’s 4 minutes long, others it can be 12. I feel the room out and just go for it! As far as gear goes, lots of reverb, a Electro Harmonix freeze and a Line 6 DL4 with reverse loops always help.
Xavier Rudd I imagine is a big influence on your roots style and sound, judging by all the stomp box, didgeridoo, harmonica and Weissenborn you practice in your live sets.
I came accross Rudd early in life. I was taking a didgeridoo class when I was 12 and the teacher put on a didge solo by him as a example. He told us not to pursue Rudd’s style as it included lots of digital effects and wasn’t traditional playing. I feel in love with his sound and there started the dream of being a singer/song writer. I’ve been following his music since and seen him in concert on more then a few occasions. It was Rudd’s music that started me on weissenborn playing and the creation of my one-man-band rig I play on. He has and still is the biggest influence on my musical life.
You have recently acquired a new Weissenborn I hear, a tear drop no less. Tell about this beautiful creature and the luthier who made it?
It was very generously built by Mike Rusen. I was aware of his stuff most of last year from seeing it in the shops. I knew that he learned his craft from Neil Russell but had yet to meet him. My manager was able to get in contact with him and set up a meeting. After a early morning failed search for surf, I drove back in town to meet Mike at his wood shop. We connected very quickly that day as we have a lot in common on a personal level. He offered to build me a weissenborn custom to my liking from lumber I hand picked from his stock. I didn’t have a Teardrop yet so I went that route but had him build it a half inch deeper in hopes of a deeper tone. I picked old growth Vancouver Island cedar for the top. Local maple for the head, fret board and bindings. Mahogany for the back and sides and ebony for the frets and markers.
You’re playing a very very impressive selection of vintage weissenborns for the new album too I understand. Who’s the lucky guy who owns all of them?
Neil Russell of Celtic Cross Instruments owns a very wide range of vintage weissenborns and square necks. I was able to meet him last year when my Celtic turned 10 years old in December. He is a very easy to talk to and down to earth guy. Not to mention a fantastic builder with a very impressive list of clientele like Xavier Rudd and Ben Harper. As a builder and collector, Neil really knows this instrument in and out and every visit I have with him I learn a lot. He has very generously offered any weissenborn from his collection to loan out to me for the recording of my up coming album.
What was it like playing guitars nearly a century old?
Honestly I can hardly explain in words. The current weissenborn I have on loan from Neil is a 98 year old original made by Hermann Weissenborn. The tone, energy and spirit from this instrument is unlike any I have ever played. I will be using it to record the albums title track.
I understand you are rerecording “Coast” for your upcoming debut album. Are you taking the opportunity to rework the song? If somewhat can we expect from the new version?
Yes, you can expect Coast to reappear on the album. I will be taking much from what I learned the first time around but adding lots that I learned in other studios since. I will be using a Green Bullet to record the harmonica this time as I love the warm tone it gets! The original was recorded in E and this time will be dropping it down to D. I do have one instrument that will be added but I’m keeping it a surprise until the release.
Is the new album Weissenborn centred?
For the most part yes. There will be a new recording of my didge solo ‘Pressure System’ that I’m very excited to record. Some songs with include stomp box, didge, harmonica and maybe a piano in the back for good measure but otherwise all will have weissenborn as the lead.
When is it looking to be finished and released?
Currently I am aiming for the first day of summer but recording starts next week. So hopefully everything goes as planned.
Thanks for your time Adam and for staying “On Track”