Jim Stubblefield is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. Outside of being an outstanding interview, he can play the guitar – and quite well I might add. His influences run the gamut; spanning from rock to music from Spain. With complete control of his instrument, Jim has put together an album that will keep your ears interested and take you on a fresh new journey of specter. Mr. Stubblefield has been gaining acclaim as this newest album gains momentum amongst critics and musicians alike. In this candid interview, Jim tells of his influences, technical requirements, and instrumentation needed to create this new journey. So, let’s take the journey together and, enter into the land of Jim Stubblefield’s music as he forges new musical territory for us to experience.
Thomas: Tell me a little bit about your new album?
Jim: This is my 6th solo album, and it’s an instrumental on what I like to call “guitar oriented instrumental world fusion”. I tend to gravitate towards writing instrumental music. It’s kinda 50/50 acoustic instruments as well as world percussion and, the other half is electric guitar as well as no-lyric vocals. I dip into my love of Celtic music and my love of South American music. And, of course for the lack of the better term, the Spanish influenced music. It’s all kinda morphed into my own style and way. My music is more of a world fusion. That’s probably the best description of my music: world fusion.
Thomas: Where do you get your influences from?
Jim: It’s really hard for me because I’ve been, for many years, writing music that has been mostly Spanish influenced; like Latin guitar, instrumental – Southern Spain feel. In this record, there’s so much more I enjoy. So, what I did was I just wrote songs, instead of trying to worry about how the songs on the record sound. The common core is my guitar playing, and I kept the ensemble pretty consistent. And, I understand a lot of musicians want to kinda show everything they can do in recordings. But, I said I “don’t care anymore” I’m going to put my style on there. My early solo album I tried to playing every style possible. That’s because I didn’t know what my style was. Then, with my middle three albums I kinda picked a lane and I got people who liked what I did – people who got it. Then, my last one I went in a more electric direction and used the people who’ve stuck with me over the years. They have an expectation but, they also appreciated the fact that I pushed myself.
Thomas: With this particular project, who were you trying to please?
Jim: I was trying to please myself actually. A lot of my earlier music was so fixated on trying to do something I enjoyed, but I also wanted to be successful. I wanted to make money for my art. When your younger you’re trying to become professional. “I’m just trying to create, I don’t care who buys it.” That’s a great ideal to have when you’re younger. With my previous album, I wanted to write songs that were good but also please myself and with the ability to sell it. I wanted people to buy my music so I could keep doing music as my living.
I was concerned about selling it. Now, I’m old enough that I just want to do something that I love. This next project is coming out for better or worse.
Thomas: How are you taking risks, and experiences new sounds and textures?
Jim: I’ve always said, but I never had this doubt, but I’ve always said that the key thing as a composer is melody. If you can’t write a good melody, you can dress it up, but to me if I can’t write a melody, obviously harmony and organization is important too, if I can’t write a sequence of notes with the correct spaces between that touches people more often than not, then I’m off track. A good song is a good song you don’t need a lot of stuff behind it. If I can write a good melody then, if I want to dress it up with a banjo or a kazoo I can, then it doesn’t matter what I dress it up with. It might be a bad choice of arrangement, but its still good melody. If I can write a good melody then I can do things in production that are interesting but, they don’t rely on the melody for support – but support the melody.
Thomas: How did you pick the instrumentation for this album?
Jim: There is something about a sustaining instrument. I had a number of melody instruments and, I could even play it on and guitar, but it’s not going to sound right. So, I wrote melodies with the intentions to play through the melodies. That’s why I had the viola play a lot the melodies. I had non-lyric vocalization. I wrote melodies like this that would work with this instrumentation. I would think, “Yeah I’m a guitar player, but this melody is better played on a viola.” It was very liberating. I’ve done that but; I look at this as more of a compositional effort. There is plenty of guitar shredding on the record, and at the end of the day I like what serves the melody of the song best. Much of the instrumentation is rendered with the viola and non-lyric vocalization and, of course I have percussion.
Thomas: Do you think it was hard to scale back and not be in the spotlight as a lead musician?
Jim: You know I actually it wasn’t. It was more of being worried about people expecting a guitar record from beginning to end. In 2007 I did a CD and the record kinda had the same approach. And, lot of people told me this is a great record for a guitar player but, I wish there was more of you on it. I preferred to think that just because you’re a guitar player or a violinist or whatever, that you aren’t a composer too. That way you don’t have to eat up all the scenery and I think that there’s a expectation in the music world. You hold your instrument in high esteem. Give me 50 minutes of that instrument 60 percent hotter than any other; I found those records really boring. And so, I didn’t want to create a guitar-centric album. Something more collaborative.
Thomas: Did you go into this project with a lot of influences?
Jim: Yeah because the thing is, my interests in music came in the form of progressive rock music. The big long 20-minute songs, and that kinda music is really cool and interesting to me. What would happen if I took this somewhat approach to my music but, I started to add a little bit of this little bit of that? I’m not really worried about the commercial viability and, honestly the album has been doing really really well. It just charted on the ZMR chart and, I debuted in the top 100 on that chart.
Thomas: Do you think this album came out at the right time?
Jim: I think it might be. There are pieces on this album that I was doing 20 years ago. And, I remember when I really started to dabble into this style and there weren’t a lot of people doing it. Now, everyone likes this style. It use to be really special – they’re not a ton of people who were doing it. I wanted music to be more engaging and I think any music can be background music if you turn the radio down; I wanted to push the envelope a little bit. There still is a huge market for instrumental music. I just hope people who are looking for new music that I can at least be on their list; something to check out. The exposure I have had gives people the chance to at least check it out and make there own decision about it.
Thomas: What would be the top thing you want that an audience or a new listener to get out of this album?
Jim: To be able to put the CD on and have it take them on a journey; whatever that journey is. Have them be inspired to do things in there own lives, especially if there artists themselves. Also, to be an inspiration that would be solid. Whether they’re writers or artists or musicians. And, the last thing would be interesting. I want people to take away that they enjoyed it. For people to put the music on and it sends them joy. I think that’s the most important of part of creating music.
You can listen to Jim’s newest here.