On the Record with Julian Lage | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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On the Record with Julian Lage

“I knew that it would kick my butt if I had to play a guitar that’s so direct and honest.”

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At 28, guitarist Julian Lage has a wealth of experience, playing bluegrass and jazz with people like Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and vibist Gary Burton. His new record, Arclight, features a mix of pre-bebop jazz and originals inspired by everything from folk to John Zorn. His trio performs Tuesday at The Warhol.

How did Arclight come together?

Jazz-guitar trios — there are so many great ones. Up until now, I always avoided the context, thinking maybe I’d be better suited to nontraditional formats, like my chamber group that I had for a while, and duos. [But I thought,] now’s the time to give it a shot and not let the lineage of it weigh me down. 

What was significant about using a Telecaster?

I knew that it would kick my butt if I had to play a guitar that’s so direct and honest. And it’s considered the most brutally honest guitar as far as giving you feedback. Is your time good? Do you get to places too soon? Is your touch too heavy? 

Is it hard to have an identity when playing various styles of music?

I can’t say there’s any system to it, but there are very practical things that help me switch between projects. If I’m playing bluegrass, it’s not so much that I go into my bluegrass archive — because I don’t even know that much about bluegrass. If I consider the person I’m playing bluegrass music with, then any decision I make is more for the sake of us and not so much because of the bluegrass archive.


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