Guitar instrumental albums, at least on the current mainstream side, have fairly gone the way of the 8-track tape. We usually think of the “guitar album” genre as the sole province of jazz, led by greats like Wes Montgomery and Pat Matheny. But country fans can fondly remember Chet Atkins, Buck Owens’ band The Buckaroos and Glen Campbell recording top instrumental albums, which all saw decent sales figures despite the absence of lyrics.
Now, Nashville-based guitarist Gavin Kennedy is resurrecting the instrumental art form with his debut project, “Sunchaser.” Kennedy composed all 11 selections and co-produced the album with noted U.K. rock musician Adam “Nolly” Getgood. The idea of releasing an all-instrumental record as your debut is certainly a bold move, but one that Kennedy amiably addressed as he spoke with “Sports & Entertainment Nashville.”
“It’s not something that’s usually done,” Kennedy agrees, “but I think Nashville has really grown into a town with broader tastes. It’s good to see that diversity in the music community. There is lots of room for creativity here. One huge advantage I may have had was that there was very little pressure, because it was my first project. I was lucky enough to have the freedom to do this. For me, it’s pretty awesome to be able to tap into what I do and see it being accepted. It’s very inspiring.”
Kennedy is a perfect example of the diversity to be found on the Nashville music scene. He’s one of the few artists who can lay claim to being born in the Music City–”I have found that it’s like being a unicorn,” Kennedy jokes—yet his “Sunchaser” project would hardly qualify as country. His co-producer Getgood is better known as the bass player for the metal band Periphery, though Kennedy’s project doesn’t bang as loudly as the typical metal album. “Progressive metal” appears to be the most apt description.
The two collaborators have known each other for a few years, dating back to a time when Kennedy was doing an internship in the U.K. “Nolly is a hero of mine in terms of his musical mind,” Kennedy says. “His band is really a big influence on me. We met when he was doing a project with another band. We got to know each other really well so the idea of working together seemed like a pretty intuitive decision. It was a relaxed process and really enjoyable.”
The Kennedy back story could serve as a lesson in dedication and the pursuit of a dream. He started playing guitar at age 11, but found that practicing his scales wasn’t always to his liking. “I had a lot of resistance to practicing,” he says with a laugh. “I found a teacher who made everything fun and was so eager to help me learn. For me, instrumental music was so approachable. I liked the idea of experimentation and that is what I started to focus on. This is what I wanted to do.”
Kennedy worked to develop a signature guitar tone, certainly noticeable on the “Sunchaser” album, in cuts like “Rum Ham” and the three-part “An Ecology.” He notes that “An Ecology” was the first selection written, with “Rum Ham” coming early in the process. Most of the guitar and bass tracking was done in Getgood’s home studio in the U.K., giving the album a comfortable, streamlined feel.
“I’m blown away by the reception we’ve received so far,” Kennedy raves. “I was a little uncertain about getting this out there. But I couldn’t be happier.”
“Sunchaser” is available now.