Carving your niche as a instrumental guitarist is an uphill battle in today’s music landscape, but Boston-based guitarist Patrick DeCoste is on his way to doing just that. He’s performed the Star Spangled Banner at Shea Stadium, played in the orchestra pit for the Hairspray musical, and is currently promoting my 2nd full-length digitally mastered CD, “Show Me The Way To Go Home”.
I highly recommend that you buy this cd for yourself, I couple of my favorite tracks include “Perfect People” – soulful melodies with some great harmonics, and “Marvin Berry’s Cousin” – a Chuck Berry, bluesy feel. Listen for yourself here.
I had to chance to talk with him and he passion for creating and playing instrumental compositions as well as his thoughts on a number of subjects.
Interview with Patrick DeCoste
What was your songwriting process for the new CD? How did the new album come to be?
PD: My first album came out in 2004 so this new album is everything that happened after that or 12 of the best tracks since that time. For a song like “Perfect People”, I basically came up with that chorus/riff that you hear right after the intro, it’s essentially what drove the song. I came up with the riff during a practice session, I love using chord melodies. I tell people half-jokingly that 99% of what I play is crap and what I record is the 1% that isn’t.
Very rarely will I sit down and write an entire song, it usually takes weeks. I’ll write a part one day then three weeks later I’ll write another part and realize I can start combining parts.
For recording I’ll use my Mac and then plug it into Garage Band. I find I usually write using my acoustic guitar and then add effects. I think a lot of my acoustic stuff translates really well because it’s bare bones and raw before adding effects.
How do you market your music and what are your thought on signing with a label?
PD: One of my friends helps out a lot with marketing my music, it’s hard getting attention to my music, and I’m very proud of this cd so I’d like to get the word out and promote it as much as I can.
I think that it is unrealistic for a label to come to me and say “you play original music and you don’t have a singer, let’s get you on board.” Although, if you had asked me five years ago where I would be musically, I would have never thought I’d be close to where I actually am now. The music industry is changing so rapidly, so if there’s an opportunity I’d like to be ready.
I learned quickly that it’s not so much what you know but who you know. The trick is for you to know enough when the opportunity arises you’re ready in order to capitalize on it. I think that preparation is more important than being the best guitar player, or the fastest guitar player.
I put myself out there so to speak when I was ready and felt confident in what I was doing. I knew that doing the instrumental guitar thing was going to be really difficult and there would be resistance because some people are really not familiar with the genre, others think that it’s just one long guitar solo. I just wanted to make sure I was ready and comfortable in what I was doing.
I find it extremely challenging and intimidating to put together a song that’s three minutes long and never says anything vocally but still gets someone’s attention musically.
What inspired you to play guitar and what advice can you give beginners?
PD: “Cliffs of Dover” by Eric Johnson and “Always with You, Always with Me” by Joe Satriani were huge influences. I took lesson at a local music shop right around the time Extreme’s “More than Words” came out.
I tell beginners to learn what you want to learn. It’s kind of like a magic trick, because you’ll find that when you get to certain level you realize what other players are doing and you can see where your progress is headed.
How did you develop songs for the new CD?
PD: I remember first learning “Sweet Emotion”, I started riffing around into “We Will Rock You”, and I ended up writing “The Dirty South” for my new CD. They’re all fairly connected, so just by learning other riffs you can come up with your own ideas.
Do you have product endorsements?
PD: I’m endorsed by DigiTech, Ernie Ball, and Clayton Custom Picks. I also use a John Petrucci Ernie Ball electric and a Breedlove is my current acoustic guitar of choice.
Where did you record the new CD?
PD: I recorded my cd’s in my basement, all on Mac and Garage Band. I then send the tracks to my buddies Josh and Rich who do the bass and drums. I’m doing the stuff everyone else would do. I’m not sure if it’s luck or hard but it’s working for me.
If you make a great song the song will speak for itself.
What are your thoughts about selling your songs on iTunes?
PD: Everyone can be on iTunes, is that good or bad? If I’m on iTunes, the likelihood of finding my music is zero unless you already know me, so I’m not sure it’s worth it for me at this time.
What’s your take on the importance of scales?
PD: Scales are important to learn and understand. I primarily use scales after recording to refer back to in order to analyze what I’ve done. If you don’t know the pentatonic scale then you don’t know 90% of rock guitar solos.
Are you a full-time musician?
PD: I work full time as a Grant Manager, I recently was asked to do a clinic at Bentley for students to discuss having a career and exploring other interests at the same time.
What are working on now?
PD: I’m pretty content with current guitar skills, but I’m currently focused on trying to translate covers songs in order to play them an interesting way to the listener.
I also have a radio interview and performance this week at Tufts University then I’ll be playing locally after the holidays.