Tommy Emmanuel returns to Oz with appearance at Bluesfest
TOMMY Emmanuel never imagined being anything other than a musician.
The guitar virtuoso, one of only five people to be named a Certified Guitar Player (CGP) by Chet Atkins, was teaching others how to play at the tender age of 12.
"While I was going to school in Parkes in NSW, I had a lawn-mowing business and I taught guitar three nights a week,” he says.
"It was strange being a 12-year-old teaching adults.
"I'd never really wanted to do anything else.
"I've always played music because I love to play and I've always been on stage because I love to entertain people.
"I always thought I was fortunate that I knew at a very early age this was what I wanted to do.
"I never wavered from that. I always knew that when I played something, good happened to people.
"I still don't know what it is, and frankly I don't want to know ... I've been so fortunate to not have a real job.”
Emmanuel, 63, is back on home soil for a national tour which begins in Cairns and takes in a special 30th anniversary appearance at Bluesfest in Byron Bay before finishing at the Sydney Opera House.
"A lot of my friends will be there, like Keb Mo and War and Treaty,” he says.
"There are so many good artists on that show.
"I remember when Bluesfest first started. I was playing it regularly, so it's good to be able to come back to it. It's probably been about 15 years.”
The Golden Guitar winner's other shows will feature special guest Jerry Douglas.
It will be the Nashville-based dobro master's first tour of Australia. A 14-time Grammy winner, Douglas has played on more than 1600 albums.
"He's going to blow peoples' minds. You've never seen anyone like him,” Emmanuel says.
"He plays the dobro, which is slide guitar.
"The instrument is a resonating guitar and he plays it standing up but it's on its side. It's the most unusual style.
"It was James Taylor who called him the 'Muhammad Ali of the dobro'.
"He can play any kind of music at all.
"He's such an open-minded guy, and he and I really clicked the first time we played together.
"He's going to play some of his own music, then I'm going to play my show on my own and then I will bring him out and we will hose the people off as good as we can.”
After his Australian shows, Emmanuel will tour China before going back into the recording studio.
"I've got some time in June and August to record a new solo album of all original songs. I've got quite a few new songs I've been putting into the show,” he says.
"What I've been writing is mainly from life experiences.
"I wrote one song on a train trip between Paris and Cologne and I just happened to see a billboard for Harry Potter World.
"You know what, I've never written anything that was cinematic like that.
"I started searching around for some nice chords and ideas and ended up writing this song. It came out really good.
"Tom Felton, who played Malfoy (in the Harry Potter films), is a good friend of mine. He's a guitar player, too.”
Tommy Emmanuel's national tour plays Byron Bay Bluesfest on April 20.