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Prince Sampson / Blog

Interview published in The Guitarist, SMOOTH SOUL JAZZ FROM THE UK

While the front line of rock and pop is full of glittering names and come-and-go stars, the business end of music is powered by the hard working, no less talented players who lay down the tracks, do the tours and stoically get it right, night after night. Prince Sampson is one such guitar player, whose CV includes stints with The Pasadenas,Des’ree, Joss Stone and Eternal among many others. Having been a pro musician for so long, and having worked with many great artist, self-taught Sampson decided now was the time to release his first solo album,Living In The Moment, a collection of soulful jazzy grooves. “ I felt the confidence to try and express myself,” he tells us, “simply to see what type of music I would make ! It feels like a natural progression in my journey as an artist .”

What about guitars for the new album? “On this album anything in my house with strings on it got used,” he laughs, “because of the amount of layering that went on.” Those guitars included a Gibson ES-775- “the best guitar pound-for-pound that I own,” a Taylor 414 CE, Fender Stratocaster, Lakewood D-18, Takamine EN-60C Nylon and his heavily modified Gordon-Smith... “That’s the one guitar which I’ve used in one way or another throughout my career. It also came into its own when I put a MIDI pickup on it. It’s the main guitar I use to render up all the tracks I produce.” And what about nylon strings ? Does he approach that from a classical perspective? “ When I lived in Guyana,” he explains, “all you could put your hands on was an acoustic guitar, so thinking about it, I never made any distinction between steel-or nylon-strings. Almost everything I heard during my teens was either from Guyana,Venezuela, Brazil or Suriname radio, so I must say it feels natural to come full circle in part on this record.”And amplifiers? “My main amp for my electric guitar work was my Mesa / Boogie Mark III . It’s indestructible and the only things I change in it are the valves from time to time. I also have an acoustic amp, an AER Acousticube and studio-wise I use a Mindprint DTC preamp, Avalon 2055EQ and a Focusrite Red 3 Compressor.”

Having tracked much of the album at his own studio, it’s clear that Sampson is relatively on the money when it comes to the technical aspects of recording. How did he learn? “ The hard way,” he laughs.” I had studio experience and there were a couple of things I picked up watching The Pasadenas rendering up tracks, but after doing numerous tours I found myself writing and producing half of an album with Des’ree. The learning curve was very steep-knowing how to set a compressor for a guitar is a little different to setting one for a top-selling Sony artist’s vocal mic! But with perseverance I became better at recording, so that by the time it came to doing my own album, I felt confident enough to tackle all the recording issues for myself. “The other thing that came from doing all this producing was that it improved my guitar playing, since I got a better understanding of how what I played reacted with whatever I was playing against or within the track. And timing is everything! When I start playing my parts, that’s the time that I pay even more attention to everyone else.”

Any more pearls of wisdom for the guitarist readership?” Be true to what you want to express. Fads will come and go, so it makes sense to just go for what you really like, Study and research,approach all aspects of your playing, but forget about it the moment you step on stage-whatever you were practising should eventually kick in as a reflex. When someone pays money to come to a gig to see a band, they want to be entertained, so do all of the hard work before any performance, then onstage just enjoy your music and have fun.”