Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuneful Interviews: Dylan Richardson

Dog whisperer, avocado avoider, good-humored and intelligent--join me today for a quiz visit with my brother, Dylan Richardson, a multi-instrumentalist, musical accompanist, and tune composer. 

At seventeen years old, Dylan has been playing guitar for twelve years. He started with conventional guitar lessons from the age of six until he was thirteen years old. Besides summer camps and a few Skype lessons with Zac Leger (Irish music mentor), he has been largely self taught in Irish guitar accompaniment as well as banjo, bouzouki, and mandolin. He has won 1st place in the under 13 accompaniment competition at the Maryland State Fleadh, and in August of 2011 he qualified to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh under 15 accompaniment competition. In addition to backing up melody players, he enjoys composing tunes for them. 

Credit: Matt Ferrara Photography
The main focus of this interview is Dylan's work accompanying melody instruments. In my opinion, Dylan is a fantastic accompaniment talent and my favorite guitarist with whom to perform. He is also the main accompanist on my soon to be released debut CD.

What's it like being an accompanist?

Nobody really recognizes you, unless they have a similar appreciation and knowledge of accompaniment. You don't want to be the center of attention at all. The accompanist mainly pulls the melody together by adding down beats and more complex rhythm.

What's the most important thing about being an accompanist?

To know when not to play and what not to play. Also, to know what not to add. Rhythm is a big part of being an accompanist. If you add too much it can crowd the melody, if you add too little, it doesn't quite enhance the melody and can change the listeners perception of the tune. It's a lot to think about at first, but once you get the feel for it, it becomes easier. Many accompanists only really want to hear themselves and what they are doing, they don't really take enhancing the tune into consideration.

What was your favorite gig to play and why?

A recent gig we played at The Burren was my favorite. We opened for Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely. It was a good atmosphere to play in. The crowd really appreciated traditional Irish music. The sound technician was phenomenal in capturing the true sound of each instrument. And the hospitality from The Burren was incredible in making us feel welcome during our first visit to Boston.

What inspired you to play the guitar?

I don't remember really. I think I just liked the way it sounded. 

 What other accompanists do you enjoy listening to?

John Doyle and Eamon O'Leary as solo or duo accompanists are two of my absolute favorite players because of their ability to work together with two completely different styles. I love the way they enhance each other's playing and accompany other musicians.

Who has most influenced your style of playing and why?

John Doyle because I have learned great tips from him such as, how to keep the tempo going, how to work with varying rhythmic patterns, and to work out nice accompanying variations whilst keeping an imitative rhythmic percussion.

How can you vary the rhythm?

Difference in downbeats, accents in the up strokes, triplets, quadruplets, and change in the overall picking pattern within the tune, are some of the variations I use.

Currently, Dylan and I keep a busy schedule of gigs, but his plans for the future include a possible career in sound engineering, growing as a professional guitar accompanist, and pursuing his love of photography. 

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