home listen a- z back next
Jules Shear

A Conversation with Jules Shear (continued)

PM: I was amazed last night by your guitar style.

JS: Ah!

PM: I think somebody alluded to it in something I read--but I was shocked to see, "Wow, he's playing everything with his thumb!"

JS: I think it's interesting that after all this time it's something that people just have never noticed or never cared about it.

PM: Whether someone plays or not, how can they not notice it? It's like, "This cat is playing everything with his thumb!"


JS: That's right. That's right. I think it's really interesting that people say, "Whoa, you played them all like that! You kept doing it over and over again!" Yeah, that's the only way I know how to play. I taught myself how to play when I was a little kid, I was about thirteen, on my brother's guitar, which was a right-handed guitar. And I'm a lefty. And I just tuned it to a chord, basically, and just went, "Okay, there's a chord. And here's another chord when I bar it here. And when I bar it--hey, they're all chords up and down the neck. I can do this."

PM: "I'm in business."


JS: That's right, with all major chords definitely. I had to figure out how to play the minor chords.

PM: Yeah, I don't think I noticed how you played minor chords.

JS: Ah. Well, with the bottom string, it's tuned to an open G up until the bottom string, which is an E.

PM: Okay.

JS: And so that would make it a minor.

PM: Oh, okay. Then you have the relative minor on the bottom.

JS: So if I use the bottom string, it becomes a minor chord.

PM: And otherwise you don't use that bottom string.

JS: That's right.

PM: Wow! That's interesting. That's almost--that's like Keith Richards-esque.

JS: Or Richie Havens-esque, maybe--or Elizabeth Cotton-esque.

PM: And she's also left-handed upside down, right, Elizabeth Cotton. [So that's what it is, really: guitaristically, Jules is a cross between Richie Havens and Elizabeth Cotton.]

JS: Richie is right-handed, I believe, but he does that open-tuning thing with his thumb.

PM: Right. But his low strings are up here, right?

JS: I believe so. They should be at the bottom, shouldn't they, low strings at the bottom?

PM: Yeah, well, call me old-fashioned, Yeah, I think so.


JS: I think that's the way it goes, man, I don't know.

PM: That's really amazing. It's almost like a clawhammer banjo or something, it's so backward.

JS: [laughs] Well, that's why it all seems natural to me.

PM: And it sounds good, that's the bottom line. I mean, that's the whole bottom line--you write good songs, and the guitar sounds good, and that's all that matters.

JS: There you go.   [laughter]  


print (pdf)     listen to clips      puremusic home