So What’s Your Story?
Originally form Orkney, Scotland, I moved to Costa Rica at the age of 19 after spending a year out before University.
Living so far away from my country and culture has made me rediscover the folk music I grew up listening to at my family’s musical gatherings.
I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 10 but only became interested in Celtic Fingerstyle after hearing Tony McManus’s album “Ceol More”. That album struck a note with me and ever since I’ve been playing Celtic music.
My debut fingerstyle album Journey’s End has just been released on Bandcamp featuring 22 traditional Scottish and Irish tunes arranged for solo acoustic guitar.
Seven Questions with Stephen Wake
1) When you pickup the guitar right now, what is the first song that comes out?
I usually have my guitar tuned to DADGAD so the first tune that comes to mind is “Catherine Kelly’s”, an Irish slip jig. This was one of the first tunes I learned for Celtic Fingerstyle and it’s stuck with me ever since. I also use the tuning CGDGCD and I often play my own arrangement of “Sully’s jig/The Old Copperplate” just because it’s so much fun to play.Other days I just like to explore those tunings a bit more and improvise.
2) Who is your favorite Modern Fingerstyle Guitarist at the moment? Which guitarist/musician are you most inspired by?
Well right now I’m listening a lot to Randal Bays. I really admire his style of playing and arrangements. Tony McManus is another player who is always on my playlists, and to mention a few others, Pierre Bensusan, Steve Baughman, El McMeen, John Doyle and Preston Reed. I also listen to a lot of traditional folk music, bands such as Lunasa and Runa. I’m always searching for that tune that will sound just as good as the original on acoustic guitar.
3) What is one piece of gear you can’t live without?
Probably my custom UE triple fi’s. I just love the fact that wherever you go, whether on a bus or just in the street, you can have inspiring studio quality sound straight from your iPod. I’m also pretty fond of my Sennheisser HD’s and Westone quads, but the triple fi’s are by far my favorite. As for musical instruments, my Larrivee OM-02 is my favorite instrument to play on. I can’t really go more than three days without playing something on that guitar.
4) Aside from the fact that you are a great guitar player, what is something else that is surprising or interesting about you?
Well when I was 17 I took a year out before University and lived with a family in Costa Rica. I enjoyed that experience so much that I decided to move back to Costa Rica when I was 19, leaving my studies at Glasgow University and studing a B.A in Classical guitar in Costa Rica. I now run a studio business in Heredia, one of Costa Rica’s main cities, and I’m also married to a Costa Rican. Last year we were fortunate enough to be blessed with a baby girl, Emily.
5) What’s a normal day like for you? School? Job? Music?
My day job is mainly in the studio, recording and mixing vocal tracks and producing studio projects. I also do live sound events from time to time but mainly work in the studio.
6) How much time do you spend playing guitar a day/week?
I usually try to fit in a bit of practice every day. Sometimes it can be just 20 minutes, other days 4-5 hours. Hanging my guitars on the wall has really helped. As soon as arrive at the studio I see them straight away and play 15 -20 minutes. You also never know when that spontaneous inspirational moment will come, so having your guitars near you and ready to play is a great way to be more active on your instrument.
7) What’s on the horizon for you in playing and life?
I’m currently working on a short tab booklet of 14 tunes I’ve selected from my album “Journey’s End”. I already have a few more tunes arranged for my next album so I’m just going to try to build on that and hopefully have another release next year.