Paul Gilbert: 'Working for the Weekend was the song that started it for me'

Dimanche 28 Septembre 2014

Interview with guitarist Paul Gilbert for the release of his new solo album Stone Pushing Uphill Man but also for the new Mr. Big album The Stories We Could Tell. Paul Gilbert also tells about his online guitar school.

© James Chiang
© James Chiang
There is a great deal of cover songs in this album. How did you choose them?

Well, all the songs are different from each other. Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” is a screaming rocker, while “My Girl” is an arty pop shuffle. “Wash Me Clean” is a lush ballad, and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” is a dirty blues howler. “I Got the Feelin’” is high-energy funk, and “Murder By Numbers” is deranged jazz pop. But “Working for the Weekend” was the song that started it for me. That tune has so much energy that it just put me in a good mood for the whole record.

Was it hard to turn these vocal melodies into guitar melodies?

It took some effort, but it was exactly what I was interested in doing, so it was really a joy to spend time with the details. I’d love to do more of this kind of thing, even if I don’t release it. I learn so much from the way singers sing.

You also sing one song on the album. Is it something you would like to do more in the future?

My singing voice is unpredictable. Sometimes I really like it. But most of the time, I’m not so satisfied with my tone and pitch. I have much more consistent results with my guitar. I think the secret of singing is to accept the limitations of my voice. I have a low range, so I just have to choose songs with a lower melody, if I want to sing them.

What is the main challenge when you record an instrumental album?

The challenge for any album is to get my energy up to the same level as a live performance. If I’m on tour, then my overall energy gets very powerful. But if I’m home for a while I start to relax. So in the studio, I really have to work to get my energy back.

There is also a new Mr. Big album that will be released in September. What could you tell about it?

It’s all new songs, of course. I used more wah wah than I usually do… inspired by Robin Trower. And of course, I was inspired by making Stone Pushing Uphill Man, so my solos may have more vocal elements than usual. Still there is plenty of fast stuff when the song calls for it.

Could you tell me about your online guitar school? How does it work?

I’ve been doing it for over two years, and have made over 2000 video lessons! To begin the school, I made a complete video course that goes from beginner to advanced. But the main feature of the site is that any student can send in a video of themselves playing, and I watch it and make a video lesson to reply. These two videos, the “question” and my “answer” are put together as a “Video Exchange,” which is available for all the students to watch. So when I teach one student, I’m actually teaching every student. I really enjoy it. My students keep getting better! If you want to join, just go to

What are the main difficulties encountered by the guitar apprentices?

People often “look” more than they “listen.” Students can be very good at the visual part of playing. They know shapes of chords, scales, and arpeggios, and they can read tablature. But the “listening” part is so important. So I have come up with many ways of teaching vibrato, bending, dynamics, note-length, picking tone, legato tone, and of course having a good sense of rhythm. These are the elements that make a guitarist sound “pro.”

Will you play live in France as a solo artist or with Mr. Big in the near future?

There are no shows in France scheduled at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll be back. I love playing in France!

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Boris Plantier