There is no greater form of communication than music. Guitar happens to be one of the most widely loved musical instruments around the world. It takes years of avid practice, perseverance, zeal and enthusiasm. A good guitarist is one who spellbinds the audience by the magic of their fingers and can transport the people to a different world. It is necessary to be honest with one’s music and play it with all of one’s heart and soul. He or she should have the ability to move others emotionally with their music.
Neil Zaza is one such melodic instrumental guitarist, songwriter and record player who has carved his name in gold in the field of music. For his technical brilliance, versatility and outstanding musical interpretation, Neil Zaza is considered as one of the guitar Gods. He has the ability to combine solid, catchy songwriting with a melodic sense and technical power. Zaza’s extreme versatility has been showcased widely worldwide in concerts, festivals and solo instrumental albums. He is popularly known for his album ‘Two Hands, One Heart’ which was his first solo album, ‘Sing’ and ‘Staring at The Sun’.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in the United States where he still resides. Neil started playing guitar at a very tender age. He took formal classical guitar lessons from the University of Akron under renowned performer Stephen Aron.
Neil quips, “It was when I was a young boy. I knew all I wanted to do is to play guitar. I have always been inspired by Eddie Van Halen. When I first heard him playing, I thought, ‘Wow! This is amazing. This is something I want to do.’ From that point on, I kept playing throughout school and in bands. Neil started his career with classical guitar and then moved to rock and now he is into melodic instrumental.
On quizzed about what led him to this transition, he remarks, “I have always enjoyed classic music, I think it’s beautiful but I have never felt the connection. I have always enjoyed connecting my guitar to the amplifier and playing it out loud, go crazy. It felt like it was more like me rather than anything else.”
How is it different performing solo than in a band?
“I like playing solo because I can guide which direction the music will go. Sometimes in a band, you don’t have consensus about things, you are not together in the decisions. It’s the exact opposite when you are playing solo. You can do your own thing.”
Which brand of guitar do you use? Which gears do you like using best?
“I use signature guitar. Few gears which I use are hot tone pedals, Fractal Audio amplifiers etc. But I don’t believe in gears, it’s always more about hands. That’s where the magic lies.”
About his song making process he shares, “It’s not an easy process. It’s easy to write a song but it’s awfully difficult to write a good song. I don’t sit and write music. It comes in bits and pieces to me when I am in sound check or when I am practicing so I record them on my phone. I wait for inspiration to hit me.”
Neil further mentioned that it’s not about playing fast guitar but about making the emotional connect with the audience. If someone can make you feel, ‘wow’ then yeah he is a good guitarist. It’s all about being honest about your music and able to share that with other people. To be able to communicate with the audience is the hardest part.
Neil is of the opinion that the current global music industry is not as good as it used to be. The focus today is more on production rather than the actual song or the composition. “Today if you take the production out, you realize there is no song. No music,” quips Zaza.
Zaza considers Eddie Van Halen and Neil Schon as his favourite guitarists and of all the new artists he likes John Mayor. Zaza had just released a new record this year which is called ‘Peach’. And he is also writing a lesson book on guitar.
Neil has a word of advice for the aspiring guitarists, “the most important thing in life is to love what you do. If you are playing guitar than play it because it’s what you love doing and you are passionate about it not because you have to or because it will get you popularity. Be honest.”