In a career that has spanned over five decades, Tommy Emmanuel has become one of the most respected and acclaimed musicians on the planet. At the end of a hugely successful 2017 National tour, the New South Wales-born guitarist is returning to Australia in August 2018 for a unique opportunity that no guitar fan will want to miss.
Calling in from his home in Nashville, Tommy is looking forward to returning to Melbourne which he calls “one of his home towns” for four days and nights chock-full of learning, jamming and playing, becoming immersed in the magic of music alongside fellow guitarists Michael Fix, Simon Hosford and Richard Smith.
Hi Tommy thanks for chatting. You’ve got ‘The Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Retreat Australia’ coming up next year, can you tell me a bit about the idea behind the experience?
Basically, it’s four days of as much learning and playing as people can absorb and take in. I have three really wonderful instructors and we start out the day together having breakfast and then I take the entire group in the morning for discussions and demonstrations. Each morning I have a different theme; today I may be talking about arrangements and then tomorrow we may do a whole thing on performance and preparation. This will actually be the first one I’ve ever done in Victoria. I’ve done a few in Sydney and last year we did the first ever guitar camp in Havana in Cuba and each year I usually do one in California and one in New York.
Is this program geared towards people at a particular level, or can anyone attend?
Anyone can absolutely come. I’ve had many guys with their wives come along, and their wives are not interested in music at all, but they come along and listen to everything and go away with a different perspective on everything. It’s also a good opportunity for musicians to interact with guys who make a living making music; who know what it takes to make a living playing music and people who this is all they do. You need to hear from people like that when that’s what you want to do.
For people coming into the retreat, what would be your number one piece of advice?
Just leave your worries at the doorstep. You don’t need to be worrying about stuff, you need to come along and immerse yourself and take note of everything.
You mentioned you do these camps at a few different places over the world. What’s the most rewarding part of running these retreats?
The best thing is just spending time with people that is uninterrupted, with no other reason for being there other than the love of playing. That’s the best part. A lot of people also say it changes that the way they look at life in general, from every perspective – how to live. A lot of the principle that I apply in my music, I apply to life as well. The other thing is, is that we are not the judge and jury; we want people to know that we’re not impressed that you’re great, we’re not impressed that you’re terrible and we’re not impressed that you’re in the middle, all we want to see is that you and love it. And if we see that you love it, we’ll do anything to help you. That’s the bottom line.
Thanks for chatting. To finish up, you’ve performed hundreds of concerts all over the world, averaging 300 shows each year. What keeps your momentum going year after year?
I think the mystery of the instrument is still fascinating to me, it’s this little piece of wood with threads on it, but it’s such a mystery. As for momentum, as long as people hear you, you’ve always got a job. You keep pushing your stuff out and you keep challenging yourself, I enjoy it very much and it’s good for me to be on tour, it’s good for my playing and it’s good for my creativity and then the best part is, you just never know how it effects people, and that’s a bit of the mystery of it. If you can make someone’s life better by what you do, it’s all worth it.
The Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Retreat Australia will take place at CountryPlace, right in the middle of Dandenong Ranges and 40 minutes drive from Melbourne on 15 – 19 of August 2018.
For further information, visit tommyemmanuelguitarretreat.com