Jay Leonard J on his love of The Last Waltz and his dreams of growing a pencil moustache

The Canadian guitar player is most notably known for his esteemed YouTube channel but, as he reveals below, he’s also an accomplished session musician and something of a Bigsby aficionado.

Jay Leonard J
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The moment it all started

“When I was a kid my aunt made a mixtape that featured, among her choices of mostly slick 90s pop tunes, Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly. That track completely changed my life; all my first solos where Buddy Holly solos and he became such a guitar hero for me that I even ended up naming my daughter Holly.”

I couldn’t live without my…

“I have an original, blonde 1968 Fender Telecaster with a factory installed Bigsby tailpiece. Every major moment of my music career was achieved with that guitar and we have been through almost everything together.”

The one that got away

“Not a guitar but when I was younger, I traded my entire pedal board (including an original EHX Russian-Era Big Muff Pi) for a Boss ME-8 Digital Multi-Effects pedal… Still wake up with nightmares about that one.”

Jay Leonard J

My signature model

“I have associated myself with Tele-style guitars with Bigsby tremolos, so it would definitely be in that direction. Three mods to make any Bigsby Tele awesome:

  1. Locking tuners: your tuning and restringing time with thank you.
  2. Mastery Bridge: those things are absolute magic. The RSD bridges Fender puts on their Custom Shop Jazzmasters are awesome too.
  3. Drill holes where those Bigsby stringing nibs are. Now you can thread your strings though those holes and restringing gets a lot less annoying.”

The first thing I play when I pick up a guitar

“Something in Bm. Is it just me or is that the funkiest of all keys?”

The best advice I’ve ever been given

“The best way to break into the music scene is to always show up to other people’s gigs. Successful musicians always support each other, and you will be surprised how quickly you get noticed, make connections, and integrate into the community.”

My Spinal Tap moment

“I was the guitarist on Sandy Lam’s 2012 world tour, and we filmed the concert movie at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Unfortunately, the stage lights they used made my pickups roar with the nastiest 50 cycle hum I’ve ever heard. It was fine most of the show but there was one tune [Soft hyphen] – the slow soulful ballad – where I had to circle around this huge stage doing these little emotional bluesy licks. I felt like Indiana Jones walking on those stone blocks in The Last Crusade. I had to contort my body in all these awkward ways to avoid hitting a hum hotspot, looking more like a spasming snake than rock star. If you watch the final film, you can even catch a few hum spots in the tune where I overstepped my mark. Oops.”

Jay Leonard J

My guilty pleasure

“I always like to hide little bits of obscure pop song riffs into my guitar parts. Sometimes a band member will catch me doing it, leading to that song going down some very entertaining rabbit holes.”

I’m in the band

“The Saturday Night Live Band. Any cast, any era.”

I wish I was there

“I had the film The Last Waltz on constant rotation back when I was in college. Intimate venue (they even got served thanksgiving dinner), stacked artist roster, and a huge amount of emotional investment from everyone on stage and off; that show is one of the great moments in rock history and a microcosm of everything I love about music.”

Jay Leonard J

The first thing on my rider

“Have them install one of those virtual golf practicing booths in the green room. If I am not holding a guitar, I am usually holding a golf club.”

If I could just play one thing

“I’ve always wanted to play guitar like Django Reinhardt. He has such a playfully carefree approach, and his feel is absolutely untouchable. Nuages, in particular, always lights me up like an illegal firecracker. Years ago, I bought this big heavy book of Django transcriptions and, when I make it to my golden years, I’m going to buy one of those Selmer Maccaferri style guitars, grow a pencil moustache, and start working my way through that book.”

For more tuition, podcasts and exclusive vlogs, visit patreon.com/jayleonardj.

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