An interview with Alt-Guitar Summit curator Joel Harrison

What current or future project are you most excited about?

I have 2 new CDs coming out this spring: Multiplicity (Whirlwind Recordings), a collaboration with the Indian sarodist Anupam Shobhakar. We wrote the music together and also have a quintet (that’s sometimes a sextet) with drummer Dan Weiss. Then there’s Mother Stump (Cuneiform), which focuses on my guitar playing in a trio and quartet setting. Mother Stump features an unorthodox collection of "covers" ranging from Luther Vandross to Paul Motian to Leonard Cohen to Buddy Miller.


Have you played the NYGF before? Can you tell me a little about the performance you are doing at this event? 

Yes, back in 2004 in a tribute to George Harrison and in 2005 for Blood on the Tracks. This time, I will be one of 7 guitarists playing pieces by Paul Motian on January 19. 



What is your favorite guitar you own?

It depends on context: either my 1967 ES-345 or my 1960 Telecaster.


If you could own one guitar that you don't already, what would it be?

A 1950's Stratocaster that was beat to crap and had been played in 1000 smoky bars.

If you could perform with one living person, who would it be?

The Allman Brothers!


If you could gig with one person no longer alive, who would it be?

Hendrix (of course) or Miles.


Best book you've read all year?

I reread Ironweed by William Kennedy. It is truly amazing, full of the history, pathos, and details that inspire my own writing.

If you weren't performing music, what would you most like to do?

Writing books.


Do you have any special hobbies outside of music?

I should, but I don't. I'm a lifer.


How do you typically discover new music?

Talk to friends, read the paper, stay curious.


Most influential albums for you currently?

Scar by Joe Henry.


All-time favorite venue to perform in?

Any one that will have me.


What was your most memorable Eureka moment (in a performance context)? 

During the Free Country "Catastrophe Tour" in 2004, when I realized, in a venue with zero people in it, that making a living playing creative non-commercial music would try my mind, body, and soul even more than I ever imagined, no matter what apparent "success" might lay in wait, and that I damn well better try to love myself, and what I do, and to continue to grow, to kneel before the divine spirit that brings me a little light, or I would just have to give up.


To learn more about Joel Harrison, please visit his website:

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