Instructor Spotlight: Anders Mouridsen
By Billy Saefong
He's taught you how to play the blues, he's taught you how to play rock leads, and he's even got some serious country guitar chops. The focus of this week's blog post is Anders Mouridsen. Anders is a GuitarTricks.com instructor, and guitarist for the Grammy-nominated country singer, Cam. The guitarist was kind enough to tell me about his early days of learning guitar, touring, and the anxieties of playing in front of a crowd. And the most surprising thing I learned about Anders? Guitar is not his first instrument. Read on to learn about one of the most talented guitarists today.
A: I started playing accordion when I was 6 years old or so, because my dad had promised me a joystick for our [computer] if I signed up to learn an instrument at the local music school. My friend's dad played accordion and that seemed as good as any other instrument at the time. I ended up being quite lucky, because the accordion teacher was incredibly inspiring and made music really fun from day one. On top of that it was so cool to be able to play melodies and accompaniment without needing power or anyone else. I very quickly discovered how fun music could be, and received a lot of encouragement because I was able to play by myself anytime and anywhere.
"When I reached an age where accordion wasn't cool anymore (before it became cool again) I switched all my efforts towards playing guitar."
Simultaneously, I grew up with my mom's two brothers playing guitar. They were very ambitious classical guitar players when they were younger and there was never a family function without them bringing their two, old steel-string Martin's and playing beautiful renditions of songs by Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch, James Taylor and Neil Young. I remember being endlessly intrigued by their vocal harmonies and how they could pick a driving finger picking pattern while at the same time making a melody pop out between it all.
I learned a bunch of guitar from them, and started taking lessons on the side. Guitar was my second instrument for a long time, but when I reached an age where accordion wasn't cool anymore (before it became cool again) I switched all my efforts towards playing guitar.
Gretsch Duo Jet (left) and a Gretsch Banjo (right)
B: I know you've done a bit of work as a producer and songwriter, too, so my question is, when is the Anders Mouridsen Accordion album coming out?
A: Haha I'm not at liberty to disclose that at this time. You'll have to take that one up with my label, UYR (Umpa Yodel Records). They're based out of Dusseldorf.
B: A guitar-player's first guitar is a pretty big deal. I remember my dad bought me a Squier Strat as a high school graduation gift, I still think it has the best neck I've ever played. Do you remember your very first guitar? What was that like?
A: My mom's brother called one day and asked if I wanted to buy an electric guitar for a little less than $200. It was a red and black sunburst guitar with planets as the fretboard markings. The brand was called “Starforce” I think. Needless to say I thought it was the coolest thing ever! My dad made an amp out of an old radio and two cheap stereo speakers. It didn't sound great, but it made a sound and I didn't know the difference. One issue I had was that I desperately wanted to play the riff from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and was missing the overdrive. My other uncle then stepped in and sold me a yellow Boss OD. There's no way this setup could have sounded anything less than terrible, but I was stoked! Once I became a bit more serious my uncle lent me his old Strat (the one I still use in tons of sessions and GT videos) and his old Fender Concert amp. I went out and bought myself a RAT pedal and I was on fire! My big goal was to play "Still Got The Blues" by Gary Moore.
B: What kind of gear are you using now?
A: I use a Gretsch Duo Jet for most of our shows - it's kind of like a country Les Paul with a Bigsby. I love that guitar and it's easy to travel with. I carry it with me on the plane in a double case that also has my Gretsch banjo in it. For our bigger shows I use my Gretsch Black Falcon, which is an amazing guitar - only a bit harder to travel with.
On my board I have a volume pedal that I use for pedal steel-type swells, a Cannonball Fuzz, a vintage TS808 Tube Screamer, two amazing overdrives and a booster that my uncle built (same uncle with the Strat) and a Line 6 M9 for all my reverbs, delays and wild card FX. Next to that I have a tiny board for the banjo with a tuner, an EQ pedal and an L.R. Baggs D.I. box.
"I'm still trying to figure out how to hold the pick..."
I always play Super Reverb amps, and I actually own three of them - one in Denmark, one in L.A. and one in Nashville. I like the vintage early silver face models, but when we do fly dates I usually rent a newer one, and they sound just fine. Especially since they upgraded the stock speakers! I'm not a gearhead. Once I find a sound that works for me I don't mess with it, and I have no inherent desire to mess with knobs and try out new stuff. I just want to play!
Anders playing his uncle's Stratocaster in a GuitarTricks lesson
B: A lot of beginner guitar players run into a wall. Either they feel they aren't learning at the pace they want to, or they hit a plateau. Did you ever feel this way while learning? Did you ever feel like you might give up on playing?
A: At least once a month! No joke. I'm still trying to figure out how to hold the pick... and while I do make my living playing guitar and always feel like I deliver when it counts, whenever I practice by myself, I often feel like I'll never get it and I should just stop trying. And yet I could never stop, and I guess part of the beauty of trying to master an instrument is that it never stops being challenging. There's always a next level to reach for, and that'll never end! I also deliberately make it extremely hard for myself when I practice, so it's anything but gratifying musically. I do enjoy the feeling of confronting it head-on, like weightlifting. And then when I'm “out there” playing, the aim is always to play to my strengths. Overall, I usually feel like I'm getting worse, but when I hear older recordings of myself I can hear how much I've progressed. And those rare moments where you feel like you're killing it, are absolutely worth it!
B: You said that you feel like you've progressed quite a bit when you listen to your old recordings. I want to jump into the past just a tiny bit and ask if you remember the first time you played in a band and in front of people?
A: Well I chickened out on what would have been my first recital at a local school. I was going to play accordion, and I just didn't want to do it once I was there. I remember it as if there were 2000 people there, but I'm sure it was more like 60 at most. Fortunately my parents were really understanding about it - it's interesting to think about how things might have been different if they would have forced or pressured me to do it. The next time I was supposed to perform was in our local, beautiful, old reverby European church, for a Christmas concert. I took the plunge and played "Silent Night" for everybody there. There couldn't have been more than 60 people in this church either, but it may as well have been Wembley to me.
"I was very nervous, but when nerves are combined with confidence, it's a magical feeling."
Later on I performed with a million different bands, and that was a lot less scary. It still is. You share the good and the bad, and you can feed off of each other's energy and confidence. It's a great thing performing with a group!
B: By now you've played with huge acts from P!NK, Taylor Swift, John Fogerty, Cam, etc. Surely, you don't get nervous in front of crowds any more right?
A: I definitely still get nervous, but it's very different when it happens. Crowd size has very little to do with it. Recently we opened up for Tim and Faith with Cam, and it was a huge arena/stadium, and I came out feeling like, “Oh fun! An arena, I know how to do this!” Then as a contrast we played The Troubadour in L.A., which aside from all the cool history, is really just a small rock club. All of our peers and industry folks were there, and it just had to go well! I was very nervous, but when nerves are combined with confidence, it's a magical feeling. The confidence isn't always there, cause even if you have faith in your own abilities, there are always things outside of your control that can go wrong. And some days you just feel “off” for one reason or another. When your nervous and the confidence isn't there, it's a horrible feeling and you just have to power through. TV performances are also extremely nerve-wracking because you get one take to do it, and it goes out to the whole world and lives on forever on the internet afterwards. And you have to look cool for the cameras, too!
Anders (far right) with the Cam band
I imagine the day I stop getting nervous is because I no longer care. I can't imagine that day will ever come! Finally I'll mention that it also comes down to what I'm doing. The further outside of my comfort zone, the less it will take to make me nervous. I could write a novel about this.
B: Honestly, I'd read that novel! But final question; if you could work with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Well, I've learned the hard way that it's not always a good thing to meet your heroes. Nothing against them, but they just don't have a fair shot at matching the expectations you have of them in real life. You have developed a whole meaningful relationship with them and they don't know who you are. I think that can be disappointing to most people! Therefore I'd be nervous about working with some of my all-time heroes. If that weren't an issue, I'd have to say Tom Waits. I love his music, and it would be so fun to play those songs with that band! Or play a loud rock show with Neil Young. Other than that I have to say I'm pretty happy with the band that I'm currently in. Cam is probably the best singer I'll ever work with, and I get to write, record and perform our songs with a killer band that consists of close friends and musicians I greatly admire. Someday, I'd like to also have a band that's completely my own, but that's a bit down the road still.