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Jay Psaros

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

Photo credit: Vanessa Walsh

How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Hmmm, I want to say around 12 or 13.

What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?

My first guitar was a silver Epiphone electric guitar. My dad got it for me, actually against my mother’s wishes, because my grades weren't up to par. I don't have it anymore but I wish I did!

Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?

The only other person in my family who plays is my father. He plays some guitar, so growing up there was always an acoustic sitting around.

What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?

I primarily play three guitars. My Martin D28, my Martin 0018 and my Fender Telecaster. My favorite is a tossup between my D28 and my 0018.

What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?

I use Martin Acoustic SP light gauge. For larger events, I change my strings every show. For bar gigs, I tend to keep them for a week or two.

Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?

I do use a pick often. I like the Tortex, I believe .73mm?

Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?

For my acoustic rig I keep it really simple. I have a tuner>reverb>looper. I only use the reverb pedal while playing over a loop, but my acoustic does have reverb on it coming from the mixer. For my electric rig, I have a tuner, volume pedal, overdrive, compression, delay, tremolo, wah wah and chorus. I don't have a favorite pedal, per say, but I do like my Line 6 delay and my Hall of Fame Reverb.

Do you work on your own guitars or do you bring them to a guitar tech? Are there any guitar techs that you would like to recommend?

I do some of the very light stuff out of necessity. Often, on the road, something breaks and I need to fix it or at least band-aid it. When I'm home I have a couple guitar techs that I like. Steve Morrill is fantastic and Luke Vail is great too.

Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?

Hands down, it's South Shore Music. Like so much in music, it's all about the hang and the guys at South Shore Music are just great people. Friendly, fun, knowledgeable, fair and they carry great gear.

At what age did you start writing songs?

Not too long after I started playing. I'd say by 15 I started writing instrumental songs on acoustic.

What is your songwriting process? Is it the music or the lyrics that usually come to you first? Do you write old school on paper, or electronically?

I typically write the music first but that isn't always the case. It just so happens that a melody tends to inspire me the most and I try to fit whatever emotional content I have going on at the time into the melody that I'm feeling. But sometimes, there's a topic that inspires me or words I feel I'd like to get out and then the process is reversed. I hardly ever write electronically although I'm constantly texting myself ideas, sayings, titles etc.

Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?

Probably one of the hardest questions! But Tom Petty has always been on the top of my list. I also love Tommy Emmanuel and Phish. Three totally different things, but I love the writing of Tom Petty, the soulfulness and earthiness of Tommy's playing, and the freedom in Phish's music.

If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Tom Petty

What are your top three “desert island” albums?

Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever

Tommy Emmanuel - Endless Road

James Taylor - Sweet Baby James

What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?

I think it was Horde Fest at Great Woods. The last concert I attended was Jimmy Buffett at the same venue (although new name).

The Beatles or the Stones?


Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?

I made a couple drinks and dinner at a place in Burlington, Vermont. I can't remember the name of the place but last time I was in Burlington, it wasn't there anymore.

What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?

I think touring for a year with Three Dog Night. What an experience!

Photo credit: Vanessa Walsh

What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don’t have to name names).

Oh man, this is a good one...for every great gig there's a bad gig, and there have been a lot of gigs. I think my worst gig was hosting an open mic at a theme park.

What are some of the venues you enjoy performing at the most? What things make the venue enjoyable for the performer (location, equipment, setup, organizers)?

Hmmm, well regionally I really love The South Shore Music Circus, Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, The Cave in Cohasset, and The Olde Hitching Post in Hanson. The venue doesn't always have to be an exclusive music venue. For venues that are purely for music, good sound and vibe is where it's at. Of course nice people as well. For smaller restaurant type places, I tend to like the places that feel folksy...not too many TVs, good food, appreciative audience and without a Type A manager present, if that makes sense. Nobody likes people breathing down their back when they are working!

How do you work out your setlist?

For larger shows, I typically plan out a setlist ahead of time. For smaller gigs, I just play to the room or what I'm feeling at the time.

Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?

Absolutely, but that's a whole other article! All in all, I think everyone in this business has their own unique path. I wish early on, somebody told me the value of relationships in not only this business, but all businesses. There is no resume, list of achievements or qualifications that matters more than your ability to respect people and work fluidly with them.

Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?

Another tough one...I feel somewhat unable to answer this question because I know there will come a time when I won't be able to take my own advice, but I think you just need to keep going. It's ok to write stuff that sucks...and to play like shit for a while. It's all part of the process.

If you weren’t a singer songwriter, what would you be doing for work? I'd be doing something that involves the outdoors. I love hiking, skiing, nature and travel.

Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.

I have a full band show on December 23rd at my studio, PBJ Records in Scituate MA. It's The Jay Psaros Band Second Annual Holiday Spectacular. Here is the link for tickets:


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