Interview With Country Jazz Legend Steve Trovato

Saturday, 9. June 2012  -  by  Evan Dexter


If there was ever any proof that making it in the music business takes hard work, Steve Trovato is it. Trovato’s extensive record of accomplishments is longer and more boastful than most ever dream; he has established himself on stage as one of today’s greatest guitarists, and in the classroom as one of the greatest guitar teachers.

Having been recognized by Gibson for outstanding musical achievement and by Tune-Up with induction to the guitar Hall of Fame, Trovato’s career has not gone under the radar. With his unique blend of jazz and country music he has graced the stages of musical festivals around the world, successfully recorded two studio albums, and most recently headlined All Star Guitar Night at this year’s NAMM show.

We caught up with Steve to ask him about his distinguished playing styles, his life teaching at the University of Southern California’s prestigious studio guitar department, and his upcoming third album, Heartland.

Steve, you’ve said that your initial attraction toward the guitar came as a 10-year-old and watching girls scream for rock guitarists on The Ed Sullivan Show. As a young guitarist, did you ever imagine your relationship with the instrument evolving the way that it has; into not only a performer, but a teacher and author too?

That’s funny. I guess I did notice that the rock bands such as the Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin got quite a response from audiences. When I heard players such as Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page I realized that they were all playing the same instrument but all sounded different. I thought: here is an instrument that can reflect the personality and musical influences of the person playing it. I wanted to be able to do that. It was at that moment that I began playing guitar.

I never imagined I’d be a professional guitarist. I just loved the guitar so much. I practiced 8 or 10 hours a day for the first 5 years or so. I couldn’t get enough. I transcribed everything from Chet Atkins to George Benson. I played every chance that I could and got so much satisfaction from performing it was almost addicting.

I graduated number 1 in the class at the Musicians Institute in 1983 and they asked me to teach. I had never really taught but the opportunity was so good that I just said “Yes”. 
I got better and better at it by doing it and by being around some of the best teachers the world has ever known. Next thing I know I was contacted by Warner Brothers to write an instruction book on Country Guitar.

Things have really just fallen into my lap. In the music business a musician needs to do the very best that he or she can and not cut any corners. It’s a lot of hard work.  People began to trust me to do a good job and the word gets out. The work continues to come in if I continue to work hard. My philosophy is: Give them a dime for their nickel which means do a better job than they expect. Works every time. 
There is really no substitute for endless hard work. There isn’t any traffic on the extra mile.

Apart from screaming females, what was in the guitar for you that the piano lacked? Did you find it more expressive? More fulfilling?

My first instrument was piano. I played for about 6 or 7 years. I love the instrument and it is very satisfying to play. I could play very complex classic compositions while learning how the composers conceived of and wrote the pieces. I feel that playing a visual instrument like the piano helped me to better understand and visualize how the musical alphabet was set up. It also helped me to understand chord voicings and music theory.

After a few years of playing the classical pieces on piano I realized that I was re-creating someone else’s talent. My contribution to the piece was merely interpretation. When I began to play guitar I found it more expressive. I felt I could better express my feeling through guitar through its uniqueness. I could play loud, soft, bend notes, use effects, and use different instruments all of which enable me to give the listener a snapshot into my soul. This expressiveness of a guitar gives it the personality of the musician playing it.

That’s why I think that there have never been any effective synthesized substitutes for the emotion of guitar playing.