VAN LARKINS
Wandering Hands
(Candyrat)

 

He records under the name Van Larkins, but either way, Australian guitarist Owen Van Larkins is bound to turn heads around with his 2012 Candyrat CD Wandering Hands. Kind of reminiscent of Lasse Englund’s trendsetting 1986 Anchor CD and or Ralph Towner's ECM style guitar impressions, the Van Larkins guitar approach is both hypnotic and melodic. On Wandering Hands Owen’s guitar craft gets some smooth backup from bassist / slide guitarist Ross McDermott along with scenic sounding touchups on cello and harmonica. Also cited here as an influence turns out to be current guitar hero Kaki King. With its rolling New Age guitar soundscapes, the sound of Wandering Hands is deep and meditative and like Englund, Owen is also rhythmic in his approach. But the spotlight here is clearly on Van Larkins, who fits in well on the Wisconsin based Candyrat—a label doing great things in the CD music world with their multi-tasking roster of top acoustic guitarists. Commenting on his 2012 CD, Owen adds, 'Wandering Hands was recorded in late 2011 and completed at the beginning of 2012 whilst staying with producer and singer songwriter Andrew White. My debut solo album represents a one year period in which I left the Australian shores and reinvented myself as a musician.'


mwe3.com presents an interview with
OWEN VAN LARKINS

mwe3: There’s so many great Australian guitar players currently recording. I’m amazed, what is it about Australia that makes so many great guitarists? I know Hank Marvin also lives in Australia, have you seen Hank around? Has the guitar always been a part of your life and how long have you been playing guitar and when did you start playing guitar?

OWEN VAN LARKINS: Australia is a magical place, full of everything a musician needs for inspiration, from the beautiful beaches of Bondi, to the red sands of the outback, I find everything I need here to compose my music. I am yet to meet Hank, but I’m very good friends with Phil Emmanuel who never hesitates to share his extensive knowledge of the Shadows sound. Phil and I have performed together on stage and also during a master class, we featured together on the 6 O’clock news shortly before I left the Australian shores for the first time.

I picked up a guitar when I was 13, not knowing where it would take me, at that time it was a fun way of joining in with the high school band, or trying to impress the girls in my class. After leaving school in 2000, I decided to pursue further studies in this field, completing a Certificate III of Contemporary Music as well as winning the ‘Contribution to the Student Group’ award, one of only two awards given that year.

Once I realized I had the ability to compose original music I went on to study diplomas in both music performance, and sound engineering-it always helps being able to communicate with the sound tech at a show!. So in short, I have been playing finger-style guitar and composing for 11 years now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

mwe3: Where and when was Wandering Hands written and recorded? And who else did you record the album with and also what other people were involved in the recording and production?

OVL: Wandering Hands was recorded in late 2011 and completed at the beginning of 2012 whilst staying with producer and singer songwriter, Andrew White. Although a lot of the material on the album dates back up to ten years, this is because I was focused on composing for the duo Hunter Van Larkins while I worked full time since I was 19 years old.

My debut solo album represents a one year period in which I left the Australian shores, and reinvented myself as a musician. The album features the amazing harmonica player and fellow performer, Brendan Power (Sting) as well as cello player Janet Holboro and engineer for the album, Ross McDermott who played keys, bass and slide guitar.

mwe3: How about the great CD artwork? Is there a story about the colorful Wandering Hands painting and layout?

OVL: The talented young man responsibly for my artwork is Derek Sammak. I was more than happy to leave creative control to Derek and feed him ideas, stories and music during the recording process, even though he is based in the USA, and at the time still finishing his exams for his last year of school, Derek was with me every step of the way bending and morphing digital art with the abstract and experimental.

mwe3: Were the Emmanuel Brothers were quite influential to you? When did you start listening to Tommy Emmanuel play and what albums do you like best from Tommy and Phil and what other guitarists, in Australia and beyond, and bands and albums do you still find inspiring to listen to?

OVL: Tommy Emmanuel is a guitar guru and what I would aspire to be as a performer, I have had the honor of meeting Tommy a few times after his performances and a number of the guitarists on my label have toured with him (Don Ross, Gareth Pearson) I am crossing my fingers I get that opportunity!

The story of how Phil Emmanuel and I met is quite interesting. In the early 1980’s my father Perry Larkins designed using airbrush and canvas, an album cover for Phil Emmanuel. My father used to jam on his harmonica with the brothers at the iconic Ettamogah Pub. It was probably 3 or 4 lessons into the master class with Phil that this connection was made known; you should have seen his face! Phil is a great teacher and all round nice guy, he was a real treat to perform with, and it’s an honor to call him my friend.

The albums I find inspiring still to this day are: Only, and Endless Road by Tommy Emmanuel, Celtic Gypsy by Andrew White, Passion Session by Don Ross and pretty much everything by Pat Metheny, Kaki King and Michael Hedges.

mwe3: What guitars do you play live with and also what guitars do you record with? Do you have and record with electric guitars and also how about strings and favorite enhancing effects you use in live and in the studio?

OVL: I recorded Wandering Hands with a Stonebridge guitar, which is the North American distributor for Furch guitars (Czech Republic).

After performing at the Montreal Guitar show in June of this year (Also known as the Montreal Jazz Festival), I discovered my new favorite guitar, the Chatelier guitar from France. You can expect to see and hear me playing this guitar for a long time! A beautifully crafted instrument to be sure. Without giving to much of my secret recipe away, I have fallen in love with the combination of acoustic guitar with fretless bass and slide guitar, and also the Fender Telecaster for harmonies and ‘ghost tracks’. These instruments combined with subtle digital loops make up the majority of production on Wandering Hands. I am now working to replicate this production live using a loop pedal, not as a tool for building a song live, but more for triggering prerecorded harmonies and bass lines at certain points throughout my performance to give the listeners a little taste of the album.

mwe3: And how did you become involved with Candyrat Records, the label that released your CD here in the US? They seem to be doing some great things for the guitar these days.

OVL: Candyrat Records is the central hub for today’s modern progressive finger style guitar genre. It is where my music lives.

I first made an appearance on the label when my duo released the album The Express in 2008. Candyrat at this stage was open to distribute the album, but was waiting for us to pull out the big guns with our most recent album Myriad before signing an album exclusively. We have a great deal of thanks owed to our producer and mentor Andrew White for our connection to Candyrat Records, as most successful musicians would be aware, it is the help of experienced and accomplished artists that can save the ‘up-and-coming’ years of trial and error, and for that we are forever grateful.

mwe3: What other things interest you besides guitar playing and music? Hobbies, interests, causes?

OVL: I have worked in the area of environmental fieldwork and horticulture for the best part of a decade; it’s what paid the bills before I made the terrifying leap of faith into the life of a full time musician (laughs). So you could say I am a green thumb at heart, I have also been involved in fund raising for children in Africa as well as many local events to promote original art.

mwe3: How about future plans moving forward including promoting the Wandering Hands CD in Australia and the US?

OVL: I am working now to perform my music all over the world, applying for festivals to use as key dates to book smaller shows around. My album is already being promoted on around 100 radio stations in the US and Australia, and I have a number of new videos to be released online.

As far as new projects, I have a number of things in the pipeline with Candyrat as well as new contacts in Asia and Europe. It’s time to work hard, travel the world and share what I do best with the people that enjoy original music!

Thanks to Owen Van Larkins @ www.VanLarkins.com

 

 
   
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