Tim Smith has always appreciated guitarists with a total command of the instrument. He has played with Lyle Workman, a true virtuoso and he readily acknowledges his skills. His hat is off to the Berklee-styled players who graduate from the school with an ability to shred and zoom over the fretboard and capable of playing any type of music they encounter. But his true love comes for players who might be less technically gifted but more creatively inspired. He was a devotee of the Pretenders' James Honeyman-Scott, XTC guitarists Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory and The Smiths' Johnny Marr.
Smith brings that organic approach to every project he's been involved in from the Producers back in the mid-1980s through Jellyfish in the early 1990s. He joined Sheryl Crow's band in 1996 and most recently was part of ex-Oasis guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds band. Tim did not play on the debut album of the same name but has been part of the touring band for well over a year now. While all the guitar parts and solos have already been written, Smith still gets a chance to bring his own signature and sound to the music.
Calling from Dublin, Ireland where the High Flying Bands were currently playing a gig, Tim Smith talked about his unique approach to guitar playing and how limitations in your playing can be a good thing.
UG: You played bass in your earlier bands but you play guitar with High Flying Birds. What is your main instrument?
Tim Smith: I was a guitar player. I went to a Performing Arts high school in Louisiana playing guitar in jazz bands and stuff. It just so happened the first band I joined needed a bass player and I wanted to do it so bad so I just borrowed a friend's bass and learned all the songs and got the gig doing that. I think most guitar players are able to kind of get their head around bass pretty easily unless you're going to go for the full on, deep major kind of bass playing. Which I was familiar with a little bit. I remember going to see Jaco and stuff like that but I was never ever gonna try and be a player like that.
Who were some of the guitar players you listened to back in the day?
Well I was never really like a shredder or anything like that. So for me it was always more tasteful guitar players that played and wrote songs or artists who wrote songs that had interesting guitar parts. I was always really into the band XTC because I thought their guitar player and the singer [Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge respectively] who also played guitar wrote really interesting things in a time when punk and New Wave was going on. They had a way of bring in a little bit more of a learned guitar approach without it sounding too stuffy and stuff. I was always interested in stuff like that.
Who else did you listen to?
When I was in school and we listened to guitar players I always kind of fancied Pat Metheny who was about as jazzy as I ever really wanted to go with it. I went really far back with Joe Pass and that was cool. But I always thought jazz guitar was always boring to listen to-if you were playing it was always kind of cool. But when I'd go and see jazz bands I just kind of got bored. Unless it was Big Band stuff and you were playing in a rhythm section, I thought that was pretty ballsy.
What about a band like the Smiths and Johnny Marr?
Absolutely. I always loved Johnny Marr. I mean I was probably like most kids when "How Soon Is Now" came out going, "How did he get that sound?" at the start of that song and tried to figure that out. I met him a couple times and when I played with Neil and Tim Finn in the Finn Brothers band, he came and played with us and we did "There's a Light Within." It's interesting I didn't find this out until recently that he was into James Honeyman - Scott from the Pretenders. I was just listening to the Pretenders second record and how much I thought that guy at the time in the late '70s and early '80s was doing some pretty cool stuff with guitar chords over different chords and different rhythms against different rhythms. So yeah, that whole genre of stuff is what I was always way more interested in than any kind of like soloist and stuff.
The Producers were the first major kind of band you were involved in?
Yeah, I was 18 and I lived in Louisiana at the time in 1984. They had put out a couple records and I don't know where you're based but in the southeast where I was from at that time they were huge. I used to go see them and they were like The Beatles; they were massive in New Orleans and stuff. I was 18 when I heard through a friend they were looking for a bass player and I dropped everything. Because I had a scholarship to go study jazz at Loyola in New Orleans or join a band and to me it was like, "I don't really wanna play jazz - I'd rather be in a rock band."
You recorded the Run For Your Life album in 1985 with the Producers.
Yep. I moved to Atlanta when I was 18 and started playing bass with them and did that for a long time. And then mostly we put a record out on our own and we were signed to MCA and then kinda got dropped when a new president came in and a classic thing that was happening to a lot of bands in the late '80s and early '90s. But we just toured all over the country and were basically a bar band.
The band had elements of Foreigner and the Babys and was really melodic.
A definite power pop band with Cheap Trick kind of influences. Everybody was real aware of how to play and write real good songs and stuff and had a lot of really good talent. They were a bit older than me too so for me it was my first time on the road and experiencing all that lifestyle and stuff. I was like a kid in a candy store as far as learning about gear and different things I could do much less all the fun stuff you can get into trouble with on the road.
The Producers' guitarist Van Temple was inspired.
Yeah, I think what was really interesting to me was 'cause I was so much younger than them and they grew up in the '60s, a lot of their difference reference was to Hendrix and all these different things. The keyboard player Wayne Famous had played organ with all these guys in the late '60s and was like a prodigy B-3 player and stuff. I mean I was aware of Hendrix but as I've tried to explain to people when you've experienced everything that happened after Hendrix and to other people who have listened to him and assimilated him into their style, when you hear it back it's interesting but it's not like it blew my mind. Because I'd heard so many different things that had come out after that. Unless you had the kind of reference for what it was like at that time.
What exactly do you mean?
I remember talking to Eric Clapton about this - I got to play with him - and he said, "You just can't imagine how different that sounded at the time." Coming from him he was just blown away. Do you know what I'm saying.
All these other guys have come and added that style or part of that finesse and stuff that he had into their styles. So the guys in the Producers had a lot of references to things that were before my time that I got to learn a lot about. Even Van when I saw them play was playing an Ibanez Studio Series guitar or something and that was like the first guitar I bought. Even before I played with them when I was probably 14 or 15, I went and bought a guitar like that 'cause I saw him playing one. That was in that period of like what The Police were doing and he [Van Temple] was using a Roland Jazz Chorus amp and that sound. So that clean chorused guitar stuff, he showed me how to do that.
"I think most guitar players are able to kind of get their head around bass pretty easily."
In 1992 you joined Jellyfish on bass and played on their Spilt Milk album.
I was also a fan of Jellyfish when their first record came out. I went to see them open for a band called World Party and really thought the songs were amazing. It was a little bit of a comic thing with the way they were dressed and stuff but I really liked the music. A guy who became a friend of mine who was their live sound engineer, a guy named Shalom Aberle. He had moved to Atlanta where I was and was picking up work and we became friends. He did some work for the Producers live and at a Christmas party or something he told me they were looking to replace their bass player and the guitar player had quit.
So it was a similar sort of situation as the Producers?
He asked, "Was I interested?" and it was the same kind of deal. I'd kind of been doing my own thing back on guitar playing around locally in Atlanta when I wasn't doing Producers shows. I went out to California and played with them on bass.
It's so strange that your gig with the Producers and Jellyfish was on bass.
Again I don't really consider myself a bass player full on so it was more about songs and playing to the songs. I think they picked up on that too.
You came up with some interesting bass lines on songs like "New Mistake" and "The Ghost At #1" from the Spilt Milk album.
Most of the stuff was already sort of done before I got in the band. All the demos had been done and the parts were there. They had a full on vision for what they wanted to do but it was really, really amazing to be part of that. That was probably the thing I've been most proud of musically. Just because it was so involved and required so much effort.
There were some amazing producers on the Spilt Milk ablum like Albhy Galuten who had done Saturday Night Live and Jack Puig who would later go on to work with Sheryl Crow and the Goo Goo Dolls.
The way that Albhy and Jack particularly engineered that stuff, I think it's sonically the best-sounding best stuff I've ever heard. I learned all kinds of crazy things about running the bass through an AC-30 and to put a big speaker in front of it to use as a microphone and just all these interesting tricks and stuff.
In 1996 you formed the Umajets?
Well that was kinda my little band that I had. I was doing that in '96 and I got asked to play with Sheryl Crow. I played with her July 4th and that was my first show. I remember we were in Atlanta and the Olympics were there and we played some stuff for that.
Being asked to play with Sheryl Crow must have been a big step for you.
I got a call from my friend Johnny Colt who was the bass player in the Black Crowes who lived in my neighborhood and we had known each other even before he was in the Black Crowes. He called me and asked if I was interested in playing with Sheryl Crow and I just said, "Nnnh, I don't really like her." I wasn't a fan of "All I Wanna Do." It's one of those songs you were hearing on the radio back then all the time. It's like, "If I hear that song one more time...". And he said, "Well man, I think this would be a good experience for you. She's doing really well. As a favor to me will you just go out there and check it out?"
You obviously did check it out.
I went out there and we rehearsed and I was asked to learn some new songs at that time and one of which was "If It Makes You Happy" and the other one was "A Change Would Do You Good" that were on her second record. I actually really liked those songs and came to find out they were co-written with a friend of mine that I had met on the Jellyfish tour who was playing guitar with Tears For Fears that we were supporting. A guy named Jeff Trott so I kind of knew him and he was out there and it was like, "Oh wow, this is kind of cool." And she was just the most charming, gracious, fun, cool musician - not just a woman - that I had been around.
She was that accomodating?
Coming from a band like Jellyfish where it was so serious and not a lot of fun on the road despite the music being kind of lighthearted and fun. Really kind of tortured artists those guys were. There just wasn't a lot of joy in that. And it was such the opposite when I got to go play with Sheryl. We'd go out to dinner right after rehearsals and just talk about politics or go to movies and hang out. She had already won some Grammys and done pretty well for herself but I was just excited to have a chance to do what I could do for an artist because it was pretty different than where my head was at musically from her. But she was cool with that.
Sheryl Crow liked the idea of having musicians around her with different backgrounds than her own?
Yeah, she had heard about Jellyfish and respected what I had done and stuff and got kind of an odd group of different musicians in her band at that time and that was interesting. So it was fun and I learned a lot about simplifying playing 'cause her parts were a lot more simple but that's when I kind of dove into a whole different way of thinking about music as a sideman or whatever. And not just trying to be complicated and play as many licks as possible and how much heavier that can be too. So that was really a good eye-opening experience.
Do you think you took that concept of trying to simplify your playing into the High Flying Birds?
Yeah well, 'cause I started out as her bass player for a couple years and then she and I did a whole tour, which was an acoustic tour where I played guitar with her. Then I started playing some electric guitar in her band and bass and we would switch off. I've always felt like I was more of a singer-songwriter-guitar player kind of guy and love playing acoustically. But not just straight strummy stuff that's boring. 'Cause where I grew up in Atlanta in my later years, there was a lot of acoustic music that was going on and most of it was nothing really interesting. So I tried to learn a little more about capos and different tunings and ways to play with two acoustic guitars where it wasn't just you're playing the same thing.
You tried to apply that to the High Flying Birds?
When I heard Noel's record and saw him and stuff, I realized he was already kind of aware of that. He uses a lot of capos so I was already kind of hip to that. Although I haven't had a chance to do any acoustic things with him, I think his music lends itself to that kind of treatment.
"I always thought jazz guitar was always boring to listen to - if you were playing it was always kind of cool."
The first album you recorded with Sheryl Crow was The Globe Sessions in 1998.
Yeah, I played bass on it and I played some acoustic guitar here and there. It was kind of like a loose group record or whatever but yeah, just whatever was needed. I was always kind of like the utility guy 'cause I think she's a great bass player. She's basically a pianist or keyboard player but she plays bass lines like you would play with your left hand on piano and the way they would move and stuff.
Sheryl Crow is an amazing musician with an incredible feel but she's not a real technician.
Because she never really practiced. I thought one of the key things about her music and any kind of music is if your songs are real straight and you get real straight musicians to play it, there's nothing interesting about that. If you can get straight songs and players that are struggling a bit, there's something charming about that. She would kind of take on bass parts that were that way. She knew what she wanted to say musically in her head but she wasn't technically a great bass player. But there was something about that struggle and the tone she could get that made it not so muso-y and I think that's always cool. So that's why I never really wanted to learn the ins and outs of everything about a guitar to be a virtuoso. I like having a little bit of a struggle and trying things in a way that makes me have to approach something that's not as easy all the time.
What are your feelings about guitar players graduating from Berklee and technically-oriented players who can run scales for days?
I think it's amazing. I grew up with guys like that and guys that went to Berklee and I have friends that do that still. It's unbelievable what they can do but it just never moved me. I've played in bands with guys like that and I think it's an unbelievable talent to be able to do that. For me I'd much rather go, "OK, well I'm gonna pick up a mandolin. Or I'm gonna try and figure out how to play pedal steel," which is just insane trying to do that. That's the next thing I'd like to try and do 'cause it's so bizarre. But not because I want to be a virtuoso at any of 'em. I just wanna be able to lend as many different colors to whatever songs or whatever kind of music's out there.
You were part of the Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park recording. You had a chance to play alongside Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. That must have been ridiculous.
Yeah, it was crazy. On the day of the show - and I don't think anybody's ever really talked about it - I was kind of sick as a dog for that. Keith's guitar tech came up to me right before and he goes, "Man, I know you're not feeling well but this is what Keith does when he gets like this. I'm gonna make you his drink." It was something like vodka and Orange Crush and he gave it to me and it totally worked. I mean I got through the show but I was still sick afterwards with the flu. But I got through the show.
Any other interesting anecdotal moments?
There was another thing when we were rehearsing. I looked over and it wasn't for "White Room" but it was a song we were all gonna play at the end of the set or something. Clapton comes up and Keith comes up and he walks over to Eric and just kinda starts pointing at him. I don't know what he's saying but our drummer's kind of sitting in-between them on the drum riser and we came to find out later that he was yelling at Eric for something that happened in the late '70s or mid -'70s. Where Eric had been somewhere and had kind of said something rude to Ron Wood and now Keith was trying to air those grievances. It's like some old story or something and it was bizarre.
Hard to imagine Eric Clapton and Keith Richards arguing with one another.
It looked like we heard later that Eric was like, "I don't want to be on the stage with him" kind of thing. I guess they worked it out but it was weird.
What a great story.
Yeah, Keith was probably the coolest onstage because he actually took a minute if you watch the video or hear the recording, he thanks the boys in the band 'cause "We're the ones up there doing all the hard work."
That was special for Keith to say that.
That's the kind of guy he was and he really believed that when he rehearsed with us and stuff. He'd come and play some little club shows with us in New York City and he just wanted to be one of the guys and he was just unbelievable - unbelievable player.
You played bass on "White Room" with Clapton on guitar. Did you go back and listen to the original Cream version to pick up some of Jack Bruce's bass lines?
Well I'd grown up with it and I was always a Cream fan. I was not really a fan of Eric's stuff after that. As soon as he started playing Fenders he just lost it for me. So yeah, the Cream stuff was always great. I probably would have even gone further with it because it wasn't like a power trio and there was a bunch of us playing it and it was gonna get a little noodley and stuff. But yeah, I even played a Gibson EB-4, which was the same kind of bass Jack Bruce was playing. And probably would have fuzzed it up a little bit more if it was more stripped down.
Were you a Jack Bruce fan?
I just thought he was an amazing bass player. I can kinda get my way around it but I don't put myself in any kind of category with him. But I love that kind of playing and that kind of sound.
Did you have a chance to talk with Clapton about Cream and different things?
Oh yeah, I mean we hung out a lot because he had dated Sheryl for about a year. He would come to shows and hang out. It was really interesting when we were playing in Paris once and he told Sheryl that he really liked hanging around us because it reminded him of when he was in Derek And The Dominoes and there were all these other players and there were some southern guys and this, that and the other. We would just take the piss out of him too - we just thought of him as another guy even though we knew who he was and stuff. He even invited us to his house in Surrey that was actually for his 20 years sobriety dinner or something.
That is very cool.
So everybody that was there were either his friends from A.A. or us and he had a separate little cooler for us guys to have real beers and stuff so he was actually really cool. But to be actually in the house where George Harrison wrote "Here Comes the Sun." So he was talking to us about that. A lot of what he experienced at that time in his life was pretty messed up with drugs and stuff and he would talk about that and say, "I wish I could remember more of all the stuff you're asking me about but I just don't 'cause I was too high."
Playing "Happy" with Keith Richards was a real moment.
Yeah, we did a few tours opening for The Rolling Stones and that was amazing. Ron Wood became pretty good friends with Sheryl and when we played in London with Sheryl, he came and played every night with us. One night he took me back to his house and we watched some old Faces videos together and yeah, I was picking his brain about everything.
"The guys in the Producers had a lot of references to things that were before my time that I got to learn a lot about."
He'd ask me where I was from and I'd say Louisiana and he'd go, "Oh man, I remember growing up and all the blues artists and that's all we wanted to be like those guys." I said, "I was growing up there looking at you going, 'I just wanted to be like you.'"
You played on "Soak Up the Sun" from the C'mon C'mon record?
Uh huh and sang on that with Liz Phair.
How did you get involved with the High Flying Birds?
It happened because the guy who was playing keyboards and the guy who was playing drums, I got them to come over and play with me in Sheryl's band in '99 and have been in the touring band ever since then. The keyboard player, Mike Rowe, had played keyboards with Oasis before he had joined Sheryl's band and I met him because he was a big Jellyfish fan. And the drummer, Jeremy Stacey's twin brother Paul was playing in Oasis as well so we all kind of knew each other and had been working together or had played together.
Jeremy Stacey and Mike Rowe played on the High Flying Birds album.
They had played on Noel's record and were in rehearsals in London and I guess they had another person playing guitar who was sort of a friend of a friend and for whatever reason it just wasn't working out. They called me at the last minute and I was in Los Angeles doing a recording and said, "Hey, would you be interested in coming over to do this?" So it was sort of a last-minute thing and learned about three or four songs on the plane right over and just went to the rehearsal studio and plugged in and played loud and hard [laughs.]
Was it sounding good at that first rehearsal with Noel?
Yeah. I mean I always tell people when they ask me what it's like playing with Noel is that his songs are great and he's a great songwriter. His guitar parts are pretty simple and a lot of cowboy chords [basic chords] and shapes like that and not a lot of intricate things. But it's cool and you have to know how to do that too. I felt like it was real natural for me because I've always played like that as well.
You did know you were joining the band as a guitarist and not a bass player?
I assumed when I was coming over I'd just play rhythm guitar but I ended up being asked to do a few leads, which I've never really done. That's been kinda fun for me just messing around with pedals and stuff to get tones and solos and things and I've never really done that.
That must have been challenging.
That's been fun. It's been fairly natural but I am the only American in the group and I was really shy. The first thing I said was, "Well he knows I'm an American right?" and it was, "Yep, yep, he knows."
Had you been a fan of Oasis?
I liked Oasis and I had a couple of their early records. I think most people in America knew about them but they were never the huge, huge thing they still were or that Noel is now in Europe, the Far East and the UK. We're playing sold out arenas over here [Europe] and it's crazy; I had no idea. I mean I went and saw Oasis in Atlanta in a small club and it was just like, "It's really loud and they're not moving around at all. Cool songs. So what?" That was kind of my feeling.
Did you know about the drama between Noel and Liam?
A little bit only because we knew some of their touring staff I had worked with and some of the guys in the band were friends of them and kind of knew what happened. I think I even remembered being in Atlanta and they canceled the show and we'd read that Noel had just quit the band and was on a plane. I think really that was happening so much here and there that people kinda got tired of it. I just stopped paying attention. I know they had done a tour with the Black Crowes and we knew all those guys and we knew there was always a struggle between them and stuff.
Had you ever met Noel or Liam prior to playing in High Flying Birds?
I had met them years ago when we were down in South America. I met Noel and he definitely seemed like the guy who was all about writing songs and stuff and could have a conversation. Whereas Liam just was having drinks all the time so there was definitely two kinds of personalities here.
Did Noel show you any of the guitar parts he wanted you to play or make suggestions?
I think he wanted things played pretty much the way they had been worked out. I mean there were some parts I thought he would have wanted me to do that he was covering and vice versa. I wanted to get a little deeper into different effects and things to bring out parts and to play with a little bit more of a layered sound. And he was like, "Ahh, that's just too much." One of the first things he said when I came in was, "Look, if I don't say anything to you it means I like what you're doing." Which is cool but then you never really know is it rockin' or is it just OK. I would try and cover where there would be multiple overdubs on the record, "How was I gonna do these?" Kinda fudged my way around some things.
Did you do much rehearsing?
We tweaked it a little bit and we rehearsed every day where we'd just run the set once and then he'd leave. We had a long time to kind of wrap our heads around what worked best and get it all sorted.
You mentioned earlier about how you were experimenting with capos and that was a technique Noel had also been using.
Yeah, there's a couple songs where he might have the capo on the seventh fret and I've got the capo on the second or first fret; I can't remember which one. I think the song was "Broken Arrow" that we played live like that. And I've just always been a fan of that kind of thing where you can get different things and the different textures you get from the different capo positions and what the chords can do and stuff. It just gives it a richer thing where you can't really tell what the chord is when you play it right together. That's what I like and I think he was hip to that. Yeah, he's aware of it.
"I started out as her [Sheryl Crow] bass player for a couple years and then she and I did a whole tour, which was an acoustic tour where I played guitar with her."
Noel typically played acoustics on songs like "If I Had Gun"?
Yeah, Noel was playing all the acoustics, which I thought was kind of surprising. I thought I would have been playing more rhythm acoustic stuff but he really likes doing that. It gave me the wherewithal to be the rock guitar player, which I've never really been [laughs].
When Noel picks up the electric on a song like "Aka... What A Life" the feel is much different than when he plays acoustic?
Yeah, obviously when he's playing electric and using all his effects and his delays and things it's definitely a different thing than just strumming. But I think he's a great acoustic guitar player. He plays with a really thin pick and he doesn't play too hard. When I was growing up I would hit the guitar so hard because I would be so excited about playing, I would just hit the pick so hard. He had already mastered that and figured that out so when I see him play he just knows what he's doing on acoustic and it sounds great.
There is footage of the High Flying Birds performing at Live at T in the Park and the guitar sounds are pretty big.
Yeah, it was turning to 11 and probably pushing on one of my pedals. I've been loving my rig and stuff. I saw that T in the Park thing and I couldn't believe it. When you're working and you're playing you're just doing your thing. I knew there were a lot of people there and stuff but it's just you don't really the mix when you're onstage and stuff. So I heard it and it was like, "Wow, this is like an epic big rock concert."
You play a Telecaster but typically you're a Gibson Les Paul guy?
Yeah, a couple of Les Pauls and a couple of 335s. Noel had basically said he just liked 335s and I ended up bringing a Nash Telly. I listened back to some of the stuff we were doing when we were both playing Gibsons and sometimes they were kind of canceling each other out. I actually brought it out to play on "If I Had a Gun" and I found out later he'd actually said, "You know what? I think I did play a Telly on that" so that worked out. Mostly Gibsons but I'm not afraid to use anything.
What kind of pedals did you use with the band?
What I really got into when I started playing with him was getting a Strymon TimeLine, which I had not really heard about. I've been using that for delays and a Strymon El Capistan, which I love. For my overdrives, my guitar tech Andy Harrison who I had worked with from Sheryl Crow, he built amps and made his own pedals and stuff. He made a custom Foxx Tone Machine Octave Fuzz Clone that he brought out that is amazing. I use that and this thing called a Keeler Design that's a Push pedal. Not the Keeley but Keeler that is the weapon for me. That guy's amazing and I love his stuff.
What else did you use?
I have a Ratt pedal and an MXR Custom Comp pedal [CSP202]; Boss Reverb [RV-5] and Tremolo pedals [TR-2]; and I use a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler for a few things just so I don't have 15 other pedals on the board. But the Strymon TimeLine, oh my God. Oh man, it's just unbelievable. It can do so many things.
What kind of amps did you pull out for the High Flying Birds?
I run the rig in stereo between one of the new Vox AC30 amps they're coming out with that I had never really played but I just got them brought over and I loved 'em. And a 20-watt HiWatt head with a 4x10 cabinet. The two of 'em just running all the time and I loved the way they sounded together. 'Cause the HiWatt's a little bit more dirty and crunchy and you get that sparkly spank of the AC30.
There's a video of High Flying Birds performing at the BBC Theater last November and doing "(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine." You get a chance to solo a bit and do some shredding.
[Laughs] I's not really shredding; it's just a solo.
That solo section actually suggests Jimmy Page's solo in "Stairway to Heaven."
Well the solo was already written some I'm just copping it. So I didn't have anything to do with that. Noel had done that and I thought he was gonna play that and we were in rehearsals and he said, "No, I want you to play the solo." He told me that at the end of the day and the next morning I was like, "Ah, I've picked up that solo if you're ready to do it" and he was like, "Really?" And I went, "Yeah." He's kinda like, "You've already learned it?"
What was that like learning a Noel Gallagher solo note-for-note?
He's an interesting guitar player because he taught himself and there's sometimes where he can show me something or he can tell me something and it's in a way that I understand it. And sometimes there's other things that he has his own language about that I kinda have to go, "Oh, you mean this" and I get it.
This goes back to what you were talking about with Sheryl Crow's musicians and how they were somewhat challenged in their approach to her music.
Somebody like Lyle Workman who I'd worked with is an unbelievable guitar player and he's one of those kinds of guys. He's a virtuoso and he can play anything but he also knows when not to play. Then you get somebody like Noel who might have what some people might call limitations because he's only using what he needs to use to get his point across. That's just as powerful as the other way.
How has the tour been going?
We're doing some festivals and then we're gonna get a little bit of a break and do more festivals. We go back to the Far East and finish the tour in October and November with Snow Patrol in the U.S. and then we're done.
Has there been any discussion about you playing on the next High Flying Birds album?
Umm, well you know he's always writing songs and I don't know what his plan is. He talked to me once about getting involved with something. He kind of plays all the guitars and bass on his records. I can't speak for him but it seems like from what I've heard other people that have been working with him in Oasis through to this that he's really happy with this and the record's done really well. He's obviously been happy with that success.
You would like to work with Noel Gallagher again if the opportunity arose?
I'd love to play with him again and even though this is called Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, I don't think he's ever thought of it as a real band but just a vehicle for him. And if it comes around again, I'd love to. I mean I'd love to do more with him; I think he's great. I'm not worried about it or whatever but we'll see.
"I always tell people when they ask me what it's like playing with Noel [Gallagher] is that his songs are great and he's a great songwriter."
Are there any other projects you've been pursuing?
I have a band with a bunch of people in L.A. called The Tall Boys, which is kind of like a Fleetwood Mac-y kind of thing. There's two girls in the band and we just write songs together. My friend Jeff Trott who wrote all the songs with Sheryl Crow is in the band and that's what I was doing when Noel called so I kind of put that on hold. And maybe I'll go back and do some stuff with Sheryl next year. That and I just got married...
Thank you. I want to have some time home with my wife and all that so I'm looking forward to a little bit of a break.
Your work with Noel Gallagher and Sheryl Crow has consistently been imaginative and so well-executed. You are a really good guitar player.
Not that this has been a fun thing for me sometimes but the fans for Oasis were rabid. When Noel put this band together it doesn't take much for you to go find people saying some pretty horrible stuff about me because I'm the new guy, I'm American, and I don't look like what they thought they needed a guitar player to look like. Whatever it is. I have to take some of that and go, "Get a life. C'mon."
Play all the good notes, Tim.
Alright, man, a pleasure. Take care.
Interview by Steven Rosen
"We did a few tours opening for the Rolling Stones and that was amazing."