Mike Ragogna: Daniel, what advice do you have for new artists?
Daniel Lanois: My advice to new artists is to do everything in your own power to find your own voice. I love it when I hear somebody embrace something in themselves that allows them to be unique. For me my steel guitar is my friend. It never changes, it’s not technological, there’s no options, I just have to devote myself to it and become a better player by playing it a lot. If there’s something inspide an artist and they think, “Oh, that’s really unique to me,” then I’d say that’s a component to chase after.
MR: You mentioned your steel guitar. Looking back to the days you began learning your instrument, isn’t it fascinating that you became an innovator in music and sound?
DL: Well, that’s a beautiful compliment, thanks very much. There were a lot of restrictions when I got started, my mom didn’t have any money, I was lucky to even get a music lesson. The music studio only taught accordion and slide guitar, so I was pushed into slide guitar whether I liked it or not. Perhaps that restriction allowed me to funnel all of my devotion and passion and love for music in the right direction. There are times when I feel bad for young folks coming up in these modern times because the options are endless. You can go to the guitar center and walk out with a zillion sounds. When I was a kid getting started, I was lucky to have one or two sounds. I think there’s no substitute for love, committment and passion. Whatever tools happen to fall in your hands are almost secondary to your committment. Committment is a driving force.
MR: Do you think having that many sounds ready from the start makes it confounding or confusing for a new artist?
DL: I think part of the intelligence now is to choose something that you’re very excited about and stick with it. Become a master at a few things rather than a dabbler of many. I’m pretty old school in that way. I like it when somebody has applied themselves to a specific corner of what they love, whether it’s music or otherwise. I appreciate that my friend does good leather hand stitching. It’s not haute couture, but it’s beautifully done and it’s a cottage industry. It has to begin as a seed, but that friend of mine will become an expert at that particular stitch and make beautiful things with that. That’s probably more important than considering all aspects of fashion.