How old were you when you started playing guitar?
I first started playing guitar when I was 10 years old. I took lessons for about 6 months or so and have been self-taught since.
What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?
It was a Yamaha FG-180 from the 60’s or 70’s. It was a gift from a family friend, and I do still have it!
Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?
My dad played a little bit of banjo when I was really young, but stopped playing a few years before I picked up the guitar. Other than that, I’m the only person in my family who plays. My grandad was a big reason for me getting into music…he didn’t play, but was a big music fan and had a pretty extensive record collection that I would listen to growing up.
What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?
I play Martin guitars pretty much exclusively. I have a newer D-41 that I love…my favorite guitar I own is a 1954 Martin D-28. I use that on a lot of sessions and have had it for a long time. I also play Pre-War, Co. guitars.
Trey's Martin D-28
What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?
I use D’Addario Nickel Bronze medium gauge strings (13-56). I change my strings every show. Most of the time I am performing in a duo, and I really don’t want to risk breaking a string on stage and leaving my duo partner out there alone on stage.
Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?
I use a BlueChip TAD60. They are awesome and last forever.
Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?
I use quite a few effect pedals. My favorites are a EHX Micro Q-Tron and a LR Baggs Voiceprint. The Q tron gets the Jerry Garcia Mu-Tron sound down and the Voiceprint helps make my guitar sound acoustic when I plug in.
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 have a great guitar tech named John Arnold. He works on all of my guitars.
Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?
Gruhn’s is still the benchmark for guitar shops. If you’re ever in Nashville, you have to go there. I also love Morrell’s Music in Johnson City. Emerald City in Seattle. Lots of great stores all over!
Trey at Emerald City Guitars in Seattle, WA.
At what age did you start writing songs?
I wrote my first song at 13, but I didn’t get serious about writing until I was 18 or so.
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 usually write the lyrics and melody at the same time. One leads the other. Depending on the day as to which is the leader. Most of the time, I start with a lyrical idea. The melody writing is always my favorite part. I love noodling around with tunes. I used to write electronically, until I lost a bunch of songs that I had saved on my iPhone during an update. Now I’m back to the old school pen and paper way. Old school is usually best.
Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?
Merle Haggard, Tony Rice, and BB King.
If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
What are your top three “desert island” albums?
Tony Rice “Manzanita”, Miles Davis “Miles Smiles”, and Led Zeppelin “Physical Graffiti”. Today at least.
What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?
First concert I attended was a bluegrass festival. It was the festival that made me decide I wanted to play music. I saw Jimmy Martin and Charlie Waller perform that day and it changed my life.
The Beatles or the Stones?
Tough choice. But I’m going Stones. (I LOVE the Beatles. But I love the Stones more.)
Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?
I honestly can’t remember my first paid gig. I remember getting paid to play at the Opry when I was 11…that blew my mind. I would have paid them to play there.
What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?
I’ve had several. Playing the Opry With Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs when I was 11 is probably the top. Also, getting to work with Johnny Cash. Also, working with Taj Mahal recently is up there too.
What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don’t have to name names).
Haha…no comment. There’s a gig in California that comes to mind…
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)?
The Ryman in Nashville is the pinnacle for me. Love playing there. The vibe of that room is incredible. It can’t be matched. There are so many great venues that I love playing at. I’m a big fan of old theaters. Vibe over anything else.
How do you work out your setlist?
A lot of spontaneity on the set list. We often just call songs on stage. We know what song we are going to start with and end with most of the time, but everything else is pretty much improvised on the spot.
Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world.” I’m still working on that one.
Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?
Remember to have fun. Play/write/sing for FUN. And if it isn’t fun, put the pen/mic/guitar down until it is. That usually works everything out…
If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?
Who knows…I’m not into much of anything else. My dad is a mechanic and I always thought that was pretty cool. Maybe that…
Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.
Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley's website: Robandtrey.com
Trey's website: Treyhensley.com