top of page

Wyatt Easterling

Singer-Songwriter Q&A



How old were you when you started playing guitar?


15.

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


I bought a Guild D-25 mahogany in 1975 and I do still have it. I had the good fortune of having Chet Atkins play it when I was a youngster visiting him with my friend John Loudermilk III. We were there over Christmas break with our guitars in tow and Chet asked us to play him something. I was mortified but I managed to play something poorly.

Chet reached for it and played something amazing and just chuckled and said keep practicing. Sound advice from one of the greatest. This reminds me I want to bring it out and have it refurbished. It still sounds great but the binding has loosened and it could use a fret job.


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


I’ve been told that my father played piano exceptionally well, but after medical school he never touched it again. My mother on the other hand played piano just about every day. She played classical pieces, and I was into the singer/songwriters of the day so we never “jammed.” I wish I had tried to play with her.


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


I have a:


1977 Martin D-28 herringbone

2011 Stonebridge D-22 SR (Frantisek Furch guitar) made in the Czech Republic


Wyatt playing his Stonebridge D-22.


1975 Guild D-25M

1980 Daion D



My main stage guitar is a Goodall: Goodall Grand Master with a cedar top, Koa binding, rosewood back and sides and mahogany neck. I had this custom made by James Goodall and I’m amazed that it just keeps sounding better and better. Oh, and I use a passive K&K pick-up in all my guitars.


Photo credit: Neale Eckstein


James Goodall of Goodall Guitars.


Wyatt playing his Goodall.


My other stage guitar is a 2012 Yairi Flamingo Classical FG-20 made from yellow Heba wood. I bought this gem at the Yairi workshop in Gifu, Japan from Master Yairi’s son in 2019. I even have an endorsement from Yairi. I learned about Yairi classical guitars from

Dominic Miller who was Sting’s guitar player for years. We were playing around a campfire one evening and I asked Dominic what kind of mic they used when he recorded Shape of My Heart on Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales, and he said “It wasn’t the mic mate! It was my Yairi classical guitar!" He went on and on about Yairi classical guitars and how the Japanese make the best classical guitars so naturally I had to have one. It took me another ten years but now I know what he meant when he said they’re the best!



Wyatt Playing his Yairi.


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


Elixir Phosphor Bronze Nanoweb 12/53 light gauge and for my classical I use high tension Savarez. They’re a little more expensive but produce a great sound.



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


I’m a finger picker. I used to use my natural fingernails until I broke my thumb nail at the beginning of a recording session in Nashville. Sonny Garrish was playing steel on my session, and he uses a Herco Flex 52M Blue thumb pick. He handed me one and I’ve used them ever since, probably can’t play with any other kind, never tried!



These days I also have acrylic nails put on my index, middle and ring fingers so I don’t have to stress about breaking a nail. I learned about this little trick from James Taylor, works beautifully. I think James even has a YouTube demonstrating how to apply the nails yourself. I tried during Covid and it worked but I wasn’t going to win any contests.



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


I have a Boss Tremolo that I like to use on a couple of songs just to change it up in a set. Otherwise I play without.


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?


Greg Hanson in Durham, NC.



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


I’m very fond of SoundPure in Durham, NC. There’s also Casino Guitars in Southern Pines but that’s a bit of hike for me as it’s about an hour and a-half away. They both offer a wide variety of boutique guitars. I love the smaller luthiers; their instruments have their own characteristics, personalities that don’t show up in mass produced guitars.




At what age did you start writing songs?


When I first picked up a guitar at age 15, I found it easier to make up my own songs rather than learn songs off a record. I learned a lot of songs off records but that was what kicked me off as a writer, and when my friends started requesting my own songs I was a goner. My best friend’s father, John Dee Loudermilk, was a huge songwriter in Nashville and he also encouraged me to write my own songs. With all of these world class talents influencing there was no other path for me but to become a professional songwriter. I could see no other future.



To add to my fate my father was very close with and worked alongside Ike Taylor, James Taylor’s father, at UNC medical school. I was of course deeply inspired and influenced by the entire Taylor clan and their musicality. Livingston Taylor became my mentor as a young performer for which I will always be grateful.



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?


When I get a moment of inspiration I pick up my guitar and start cobbling it together all at once, the music and lyrics. Or sometimes I start noodling around on my guitar and get inspired. When that happens the melody tends to call in the lyric mood; happy, sad, or whatever the message is going to be.



I’m very tactile, I prefer to use a legal pad and pen. The act of physically writing down ideas helps distill the parts, the direction. If I’m onto something, and remember to do it, I start recording on my iPhone. You can lose little gems when you’re first creating, shaping your new song, so having a recording going during the session is an idea saver. It’s a chore to weed through a session, but losing an inspirational idea because so much is coming fast is a drag.

Photo credit: Eric Bannan


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


Carole King

Neil Young

Jackson Browne

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


Tom Petty


Photo credit: Mark Seliger


What are your top three “desert island” albums?


Tea For The Tillerman

Tapestry

Ten Summoner's Tales (for which I helped Sting bring Paul Franklin over to UK to record steel guitar, that was fun!)



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


The Beatles or the Stones?


Both.



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


Bambinos in Durham, NC $20 plus a pizza.

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


Along with my business partner Miles Copeland, we created a writer retreat held at Mile’s chateau in the South of France. We brought artists together with the songwriters signed to our publishing company, Bugle Publishing Company, to “The Castle” and amazing collaborations and friendships were forged. The list of attendees stretches from Carole King, Olivia Newton John, Keith Urban (whom Miles managed at the time), Cher, Ted Nugent, Stuart Copeland (Mile’s brother and founder/drummer for the Police), Squeeze, Paul Thorn (our Bugle writer), Brenda Russell, Patty Smyth and the list goes on. We did this retreat for 12 years. It was the first of its kind and I proudly claim my idea.


The Castle Songwriting Retreat, South of France - Photo from Wyatt's collection


Wyatt with Olivia Newton John.


Other highlights:


Signing to Atlantic Records and co-producing the triple platinum selling album Life’s A Dance for John Michael Montgomery.



Writing the title track for the platinum selling Dierks Bentley album “Modern Day Drifter.”



Bringing Sting to Nashville to record “Every Breath You Take” with Tammy Wynette.



And for myself, being chosen twice in 2010 and 2011 for Kerrville New Folk as a song writer.

Photo credit: Susan Roads


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


I don’t hang onto those experiences; we all have them regardless of who you are.



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)?


I love playing the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. The sound is always great, and the venue personnel show nothing but respect to the artist and support team. Same goes for The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC. Great sound and appreciation for the artist. If the sound isn’t great, it doesn’t matter if you’re Paul McCartney, people will leave saying he’s not as good as I thought! LOL


Wyatt performing at Cat's Cradle.


Wyatt playing The Evening Muse.


How do you work out your setlist?


I have a list that is always evolving. I have a couple of songs I like to start with because they’re good tunes to warm up on and I can almost go auto-pilot on them so I can feel out the rest of the stage environment, i.e., sound, monitors, audience. It’s not that I’m phoning it in, it’s just that I can deliver the first couple of tunes well and do my check-in for the rest of the show.


Photo credit: Daniel Navarro


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


Focus on what gives you the most satisfaction and study the artist you most admire.




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


Sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind. It’s called spontaneous writing or mind dumping but it will shake you out of your stalled mode and get you back on track. The hardest part about writing is starting. Once you start the flow will show up.


Photo credit: Anna Sullivan



If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?


I’d be working with horses somewhere out west.



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


You can hear my songs at wyatteasterling.com and check out my upcoming shows there as well. And please follow me on InstaGram.com/wyatteasterlingmusic.









Comments


bottom of page