On a U.S. tour with Adam Lambert that will eventually take him to Europe, guitarist-singer-composer Monte Pittman is aware that fan reaction to the shows is definitely heating up.
Moving through the Northeast just ahead of the July heat wave, Monte mentions the diversity of the audiences for Lambertâ€™s shows and the fact that â€œthe fan reactionâ€™s been more intense than anything Iâ€™ve ever seen. Even in 10 years with Madonna, thereâ€™s never been anything like this!â€?
Which is ironic considering that a few years back, Lambert was working his way up in shows like â€œWickedâ€? and was the vocalist in Monteâ€™s band Citizen Vein, formed when Pittman first came to L.A. from his home in Longview, Texas.
Following Adamâ€™s epic turn on American Idol, the roles have been reversed somewhat, but both continue to make music seamlessly together. As Monte sums it up, â€œAdam tends
to look at things from the lyrics and I look it at it musically, and thatâ€™s how we make magic together.â€?
Monteâ€™s hectic apprenticeship in L.A. included everything from a job in a music store to stints with Prong (featuring his friend Tommy Victor on guitar and vocals), Citizen Vein, and teaching guitar for well-known clients such as director Guy Ritchie and Madonna. The teaching job soon evolved into a high profile job as Madonnaâ€™s guitarist for several tours, whenever he wasnâ€™t playing with Adam or Tommy.
Influenced by metal bands like Metallica, Kiss, Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeath and local idols Pantera and Dimebag Darrel while coming of age in and around Dallas, he always related to acoustic guitar as well, with Dylan, Cat Stevens, James Taylor as influences along with â€œUnpluggedâ€? albums by Alice in Chains and others.
Over the years, Monteâ€™s acoustic style continued to evolve whenever he got the opportunity to play, on stage with Madonna during all of her recent tours and three albums (American Life, Confessions On A Dance Floor, and Iâ€™m Going To Tell You A Secret), with Adam, or on his own. Recalling the Drowned World Tour with Madonna, he points out that the album â€œhad several acoustic numbers that we had to recreate as closely to the record as possible on stage, which you canâ€™t do with a stock pickup or microphone, especially if youâ€™re playing with in-ear monitors.â€?
Looking at all the alternatives to amplify his Black Gibson Dove guitars, Monte chose the Fishman Ellipse Blend pickup and preamp system and the Aura Spectrum, which he describes as â€œthe best acoustic guitar sound Iâ€™ve ever heard for a live situation.
â€œIâ€™m currently using this setup on Adam Lambert tour,â€? Monte continues. â€œGoing into the Aura Spectrum, using all of the pickup, then playing through the SA220 portable performance system as well. For Madonna, I used the Spectrum on a Chet Atkins nylon-string guitar and when playing live, I would blend it to get some of the pickup and some of the mic. You can hear it on the â€œSticky and Sweetâ€? tour. Thatâ€™s the Ellipse Blend pickup, right in the middle, and Madonna used the same rig I did.â€?
Besides his prominent acoustic guitar playing on tour, Monteâ€™s approach to the instrument is truly showcased on his first solo effort, The Deepest Dark, available on iTunes and CD Baby. Asked why he chose to do an album devoted to acoustic tunes, he explains that he wanted it to be â€œjust me on the album, something I could recreate anytime I wanted to.â€?
In keeping with that approach, Monte â€œwanted it to be as organic as possible, kind of like how Zeppelin or Pink Floyd would have recorded it back in the day. I recorded everything on tape in the big room at Paramount Studios in LA.
â€œWe set up in the middle of the drum room and used up an entire board, just for acoustic guitar and vocals. And even though we did all of the typical miking techniques, we also experimented with different techniques to make a spiral around and behind me to get different room sounds and reverb effects. We used echolettes to get this creepy â€˜Friday The 13thâ€™ sound.
â€œAnd even though we miked the guitar, we also went direct where some of the pickup and microphone was used, and that signal went out to the Fishman SA220, which was miked up as well.â€?
A noticeable departure, Monteâ€™s use of a PA system within the studio was also conceived with specific sonic results in mind. As he points out, â€œI wanted to include what it would sound like live in the overall sound so it wouldnâ€™t sound too far away. Like I was playing in the listenerâ€™s living room. It has some of the best acoustic guitar sounds I could get.â€?
With the recent addition of twins to his new family and a tour that will no doubt extend to the end the year, Monte is typically way beyond busy at this point. Up next: another solo album and a record project with Adam, for which he will be submitting material. Then thereâ€™s a solo tour to support The Deepest Dark and possibly another tour with Madonna if she decides to go out again.
But the buzz surrounding Monte, given his high profile collaborations with Adam and Madonna, not to mention a solo album reviewed by CD Baby as â€œ10 songs that span the emotions of one manâ€™s life…but he makes them feel like the songs were written for you,â€? success seems inevitable at this point.
Photo credit: Lee Cherry
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