An Interview with Jason Stewart
Austin, Texas's Newest Guitar Prodigy
[Lance Monthly] Can you introduce yourself?
[Jason Stewart] My name is Jason Stewart and I'm an American guitarist. Much of my music is instrumental and in the same style as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. However, I really enjoy playing as many different styles of music as possible. I don't just wake up one day thinking, "I'm going create a 'Neo-Classical' or a 'Caribbean Rock' tune." It usually just hits me unannounced and there's no stopping it. When it's time to record, hey, it's time to record. All other distractions are put to the side. Very often I write and record a song in one day because if I wait, I may lose the vibe of what I'm feeling.
[Lance Monthly] How did you begin guitar?
[Jason Stewart] I come from a musical family. My dad [Dick Stewart] and my brother [Ritch Stewart] both play guitar and bass so I was probably initially attracted to it through that. But I never took lessons from them. I have to admit, when I first started playing, it was love at first sight because I was obsessed from day one. In high school I often had multiple guitar classes and I would put my chair up against the practice room door so no one could barge in on me. I took some jazz lessons after high school for a little while but most of what you hear in my music was motivated purely by a love for the instrument.
[Lance Monthly] "Alien funk" is my favorite song because it's quite fun. How did you have this idea of two aliens who discover a guitar?
[Jason Stewart] I had that idea for years before I actually got around to doing it. Finally, one day I came across the three note chromatic progression for the song and that's when I decided it was time. I was going to have the first alien play a terrible version of, "Mary had a Little Lamb" originally, but I forgot. One of these days I'd really like to take more time and redo the whole song.
[Lance Monthly] Why do you choose to put a drawing on your page and not a picture of you? and why did you write "shred now, talk later"?
[Jason Stewart] Honestly, it was originally just laziness. I didn't have a scanned picture of myself so I used the graphic. But then I really started liking it, although I probably use it too much. I like the over the top crazy look in his eyes as he's letting loose! I feel very much like that at times. I'll be using pictures of myself on future CDs. I have some great cover ideas that really speak to me. "Shred Now, Talk Later," is just a little catch phrase that hit me. It just means, let's talk later, okay, because right now it's time to play!
[Lance Monthly] 55 mp3 files [available for] download! You're the first artist to [post] such [large numbers of] songs. Why?
[Jason Stewart] A number of reasons. Some of this might sound a little bizarre. The main reason is because I want to share it with the world. Sure, I would love to make money doing what I love but until that happens, why would I want to hoard all of this creative stuff to myself when I can let other people enjoy it, too? I never even contemplated money or fame when I first started playing or for a long time after that. I played because of how it made me feel to turn the expression of the soul into a tangible creation that could be related to others. I've never experienced anything like it. Also, 55 songs is just the tip of the iceberg. There's hundreds more where that came from. I am of the absolute belief that the best stuff I will ever write is still ahead of me. I've gotten to this confidence point where there is nothing I can hear in my head that I can't play on my guitar if I practice it enough. I want my older music to be remembered because I owe it that moment in time but change is the spice of life and progressing forward is the direction you want to go. So, I'm not as attached to my music as some musicians might be. Don't get me wrong, it's not all going to be free forever but you know what? If I could eat and sleep under a roof for free, then my music would be free, too! Hell yeah.
[Lance Monthly] Which guitar players influenced you?
[Jason Stewart] This is a pretty funny list but it may explain why my music is so diverse, at times. My first influence was probably Joe Walsh. I love the Eagles for their tight, consummate and fantastic song writing. I got my blues bends from Joe Walsh. Then there was Eddy Van Halen who showed the world how to finger tap. My legato was then influenced by Randy Rhoades, still one of my favorites because of his unique and ferocious voice on guitar. After that, it was the shredders of the '80s and '90s. I got into Greg Howe and Tony MacAlpine at the same time and I picked up tons of stuff from those guys, legato and staccato. And I suppose Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson have snuck into my playing a little bit. Overall, though, I don't sound like any of these guys. I've developed a pretty unique identity myself.
[Lance Monthly] It's time for the favorite game on guitar-heroes.com. I'll give you several names of guitarists and you give us your opinion.
[Jason Stewart] Easily one of my biggest influences. Greg Howe has the smoothest, fastest legato I've ever heard. His picking has gotten much better over the years but his overall ability on the guitar has to be heard to be believed. As with all shredders, he can get a little long winded but he knows how to mix it up more than most by throwing in different types of chops and blues bends and great melody lines.
[Lance Monthly] Steve Lukather
[Jason Stewart] This probably sounds silly but I haven't heard much of his stuff. What I heard sounded pretty solid and together and I did hear a pretty strong identity in the playing.
[Lance Monthly] Steve Vai
[Jason Stewart] Steve has one of the strongest identities in instrumental music today. His stinging licks and whammy bar gymnastics always bring a wry smile to my face. And if you can make it all the way out to Neptune sometimes, his song writing can really blow you away, too.
[Lance Monthly] Tony Mac Alpine
[Jason Stewart] Probably my strongest picking (staccato) influence, Mac Alpine's first couple albums kicked ass. His incredible picking mixed with his haunting melody lines really did it for me. The only thing as impressive as his picking, is his piano playing.
[Lance Monthly] Paul Gilbert
[Jason Stewart] I Haven't listened to too much of Paul's material but what I've heard is very impressive, technically. He doesn't really do it for me beyond that, though.
[Lance Monthly] Brett Garsed
[Jason Stewart] I hadn't heard of Garsed until this interview so I listened to some. It's very nice, technical and smooth. More in a jazz vein, from what I heard, but very nice stuff. I'll have to check out some more.
[Lance Monthly] Eddie Van Halen
[Jason Stewart] This guy was truly amazing in his time. "Eruption" was done in the late 70's and "Spanish Fly," which is an impressive acoustic picking and tapping tune, was just a year or two later. He's got great rhythm chops as well, although he seems to have mellowed a little with age. But in the early days he was extremely innovative and revolutionary for his time.
[Lance Monthly] Jason Stewart
[Jason Stewart] Oh my God! The Undisputed King of Chops! (Just kidding). If I had to analyze my own playing I would say it's baffling. I listen to my stuff through the years and it almost seems like I'm listening to many different guitarists. One minute I play a blazing Neo-Classical Chop and the next minute I'm playing a Bluesy, chromatic legato run. I always found that guitarists who were really great pickers lacked a little on the legato side and vice versa. I've always tried to balance the two. It is a little difficult to switch back and forth. I think the most important thing I learned was phrasing. Like my counterparts, I could play up and down the neck all day if I wanted to but if it bores me, what makes me think it won't bore other people, too? I try to keep my blazing in balance with melody and overall good song writing. It doesn't always happen that way but I try to keep it in mind.
[Lance Monthly] Have you ever heard of any french guitar players? (if your answer is yes, name them please.)
[Jason Stewart] I honestly can't say that I have but I'm sure there's plenty.
[Lance Monthly] Have you jammed with any well-known guitar players? (if your answer is no, with who would you like to jam!)
[Jason Stewart] Nope. I've jammed with countless people but none of them well known. I'd love to groove with Vai & Satriani, they both seem pretty cool. And I'd love to jam with Greg Howe and trade ideas. But I'd really like to jam with Victor Wooten (fantastic bass player). I bet we could come up with some crazy, crazy stuff.
[Lance Monthly] What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin guitar?
[Jason Stewart] First of all, make sure that it's something that you love to do. Otherwise, it may end up being more of a chore than anything. Because if you love it, then you won't mind the endless practicing you have to do if you really want to push your limits. Maybe some people are born with more of a feel for something than others but you will not find one great guitar player who will ever tell you that he didn't have to sit and practice for hour upon hour to get there. That's the way it works, there's no way around it but like I said, if you love to do it, then it doesn't feel like work. And even if it does feel like work, once you start accomplishing some of your goals, it will feel that much more worth it. The only other thing is this:
Don't imitate others. Find your own voice. Joe Satriani didn't make it because he sounded like Eddy Van Halen. You can use others ideas and chops as a starting point to get you going but you have to find your own voice from there. Besides, that's the whole point of loving what you do in the first place.
[Lance Monthly] Can you give us your favorite lick?
[Jason Stewart] That's a tough one because there's so many. A lot of my favorites are Greg Howe licks because they're so smooth and fast and perfect. Eddy Van Halen has some really creative licks. My favorite lick of my own is probably in the last part of a song called, "Razzberry Jam." Actually, I like the whole passage. It's a bit Greg Howish but I like how I change the tone of each pass and the intense measured speed of the ascending legato stuff in "Mixolydian" is pretty cool. I actually don't have that song listed on my MP3 site right now. I'll see if I can get it up, ASAP. I also like the first major shredding section of "Frenzy" because it's so ridiculous and distorted.
[Lance Monthly] How many albums did you record? Are all available on the web?
[Jason Stewart] Under my own name I have five for now. Four of them are with MP3 www.mp3.com/jasonstewart and one of them is with Lance Records - www.lancerecords.com However, I have enough material for many more, so more albums may be pending. Right now, I'm concentrating on newer stuff. I've also recorded with my dad on a few of his albums that you can find at - www.mp3.com/lancerecords