Darren Hodson: Lulu to Nashville; Gibson to Gretsch

Darren Hodson: Lulu to Nashville; Gibson to Gretsch

We were lucky enough to bump into guitarist Darren Hodson (Lulu, Rumer, The Southern Companion) to get him to take us through his pedalboard and impressive guitar collection. He also draws one of the most incredibly refreshing and touching portraits of being a jobbing musician. If you want understand more about the real world of a gigging guitarists, read on...

MPS
Who are you working with at the moment?

DH
I’m about to start a tour with Lulu, we’ve a 7 week run around the UK then the festivals start in the summer, I’m also playing with my band “The Southern Companion”

MPS
What kind of work do you get the most satisfaction out of?

DH
I enjoy the recording process, making something from nothing and I love working with other people’s songs as well as my own but for me nothing beats playing live. That interaction and connection with the other guys on stage when it’s working is pretty addictive.

MPS
Can you pick out a favourite gig?

DH
Probably opening for Rumer in Nashville last year at The City Winery, we’d just done a month around the UK and Europe where I’d been opening the shows and then playing guitar in her band. For the US dates she had her american band so I was just out there as an artist, not as her guitar player as well.

I loved Nashville, I don’t know if it was just being in that songwriting town or what it was but I could do no wrong that night, my set went down really well with the crowd who sat and listened to every word I sang, it was just a perfect show. We’d had great shows all round Europe but after my opening spot I always had to get my head straight into being a session guy again, to go back on stage and do a good job for Rumer 10 minutes later, In Nashville I could just relax after my set and enjoy how well it went.

MPS
Who do you count among your musical influences?

DH
I love that American, Southern kind of thing, The Allman Brothers, The Black Crowes, Tom Petty etc etc, Marc Ford and Mike Campbell are two of my favourite guitar players.

I really love Alt Country / Americana, guys like Jason Isbell & Ryan Adams who are both killer songwriters. For me it’s about the song, you can be a great band with amazing musicians but you need great songs, all the fancy guitar playing in the world won’t make up for a shitty song.

MPS
If you could go back to any musical era what would it be?

DH
The Laurel Canyon, Troubadour Club scene in the late 60’s early 70’s sounds like it would have been a cool place to be, hanging out with Jackson Browne and those guys.

MPS  
What was your first guitar?

DH
My “own” first guitar was an early Korean Squier Strat in white but my dad had a 76 Wine Red Les Paul Custom that I basically stole off him and used all the time in the early days.

MPS
What guitars are you playing at the moment?

DH
The usual kind of stuff I guess, I’ve a couple of Telecasters that are my kind of go to guitars for most things, a Gibson 335 with the small block Inlays, a Les Paul deluxe, a Midtown Custom, a Gretsch 6120 DE, I love Duesenberg guitars too, I’ve a couple of Starplayer’s and a ’52 Senior.

My main acoustic is a Gibson Hummingbird but I’ve been playing this sweet little Martin GPX1-AE a lot lately, I wanted something pretty inexpensive to take out on the road as my Hummingbird is like one of my children and I’d be heartbroken if it got wrecked.

MPS
Tell us about your Strymon Flint, what made you chose it?

DH
Mainly because I’ve a couple of amps that I like to use from time to time that don’t have Reverb & Trem on them, a Gibson Goldtone & a Narrow Panel Fender Super clone I had built for me, I originally bought the Flint to put on my board for when I used those amps.

It sounds so good I just use it with whatever amp I’m taking out now anyway.

MPS
What else do you have on your pedalboard?

DH
For the Lulu show I’m using a BBE Sixties Wah, a Crowther Hot Cake Bluesberry, an Analogman King Of Tone, a Dinosaural compressor, a Fender FVP-1 Volume pedal which is great for the money, an old MXR Script phaser, an MXR Carbon Copy delay, the Strymon Flint and a custom made A/B + C switcher I had made.

I like a fairly small board if I can get away with it, I’ve got a Strymon El Capistan on the way which will probably replace the Carbon Copy if I get it in time before the tour starts.

Amp wise I’m using one of those new 68 Custom Deluxe amps which I got off Fender last year for the Rumer tour, for a fairly cheap, “new amp” it sounds amazing.

I’ve also got a ‘65 reissue Deluxe which again is great and I can run them together or just use the ‘68 on smaller shows.

MPS
Is there anything you have parted with that you really miss?

DH
I shouldn’t have sold my Lazy J20 amp, that was a great amp that I didn’t get the best out of really, I swapped it for the bigger J-40 which I thought having more headroom would suit me better but as good as the 40 is, the 20 has that something a bit special.

I wish my dad hadn’t sold his old Les Paul, he offered it to me first but I was about 22 at the time and had no money and didn’t really want it that bad anyway, I don’t think it was a particularly great guitar but for purely nostalgic reasons I’d like to have it back just because of all the gigs I did with it as a kid.

MPS
Is there any advice you can offer to people starting out on their musical journeys?

DH
When it comes to session work the best advice I was given was just be the guy that turns up prepared and on time, know your parts, be friendly, easy to work with, easy to get on with and have your shit together. Make life easy for the artist and the MD by not being the one in the band they have to worry about.

As an artist, the main thing I’d say is do it for the right reasons, it has to be about the music. If you want to be a musician because you want to famous, the odds are so ridiculously stacked against you you’re better off doing pretty much anything else. The same goes if you want to be rich, you just won’t be.

If you’re only in it for the “Rock n Roll, glamorous lifestyle” you will be sorely disappointed when your changing room is the Gents and the rider is some out of date sandwiches from Asda. In fact get used to being disappointed because as a career it has to be one of the most disheartening, arduous, competitive, financially non-viable paths you could take. You will experience rejection on a daily basis, be largely ignored by the gathered masses as you pour your heart out in the corner of the local venue, which incidentally is run by a bitter old, failed musician who will rip you off given half a chance.

It’s almost as if to be in the music business you need to have skin a foot thick, a heart of stone and absolute, unwavering belief that you are the best in the world at what you do regardless of what anyone says (think Kanye West), and yet to be a great musician you pretty much need the polar opposite character attributes, work that one out!

However, if you have a love for the music you are making and an almost telepathic connection with your bandmates on stage, all the hard work, bleary eyed motorway miles at stupid o'clock in the morning, time away from your family, having no money in the bank because of your borderline obsession with old amps and guitars, all the let-downs and empty promises, all that stuff fades away, you live just for those little moments of magic, that perfect, near out of body experience on stage when the pocket is so deep you can lean into it, in that moment it’s the best job in the world.

 

Find out more about what Darren’s up to with his project The Southern Companion:

Twitter
Twitter.com/darrenhodson
FB
Facebook.com/TheSouthernCompanion/

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