In terms of the amount of work we needed to put into it, actually, that took a lot less than if you were to just take a song with chords and say, “Oh, this is the simplest.” There is not really an answer here, since it depends a lot on your ability but there’s a lot of things you can do to make a song sound more interesting and less flat. You can increase the volume, maybe add some different notes, and use more of your fingers and your fingertips to play. If you want to be technically accurate, your fingers have to be really sharp and you can’t just use your thumb to play chords (and as a result the guitar sound doesn’t sound as nice). On the other hand, a lot of the other things we did, we just learned in the most interesting way. One particular tip that I learned in college was that you can practice scales. So one of the best ways to learn to play scales is to lay them on the table, and start playing a chord sequence. Start with a scale that you know and gradually add more and more. Once you start to get a feel for it, you make a note of it. In this situation, I just used my guitar like an instrument, not like an instrument that I used for writing music. It is so easy to make a mistake, and having an instrument like that was really helpful—that made me so much more confident in playing the same piece so I can just play it again so it doesn’t sound so bad.
You’ve been working with John Scofield—do you ever think about the other people who make music as artists? Does that ever help you with your composing and recording?
No, that’s such a weird answer. I think just because I am able to get so much out of doing music at this stage doesn’t mean I want to just be just playing. I love playing. I was just so happy when people would say to me, “Oh, well, you’re not playing very well, I wonder if there’s anything you can do about that.” For me, actually, playing is very much a creative process. Playing with someone really helps you understand what you are doing; you might be able to figure out what you are doing, but just playing does help, and not only to play but to be able to explain to the listener exactly what you are doing in how many different settings and how many different ways you are going to do it. It makes it so much more