Laurence Juber never stops honing his craft
If Laurence Juber isn’t a household name, it’s not because of sloth. At 59, the fingerstyle guitar virtuoso has already issued 20 albums, and he’s putting the finishing touches on numbers 21 and 22: a jazzy studio effort and a live recording culled from recent tours. He recently contributed to Chimes of Freedom, an Amnesty International benefit disc on which he joins Seal and Jeff Beck for a version of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. Diablo 3, the latest version of the popular video game, features his music. An instructional app for the iPad is in the works. And, as he explains from his Los Angeles home, he and his wife Hope have just inked a deal with a New York City producer to get their Gilligan’s Island: The Musical up on Broadway.
By any measure, he’s one of the hardest-working men in showbiz. And judging by the first part of his career—which found him picking up the guitar in the wake of the Beatles’ early hits, landing his first session gig with producer George Martin, and then joining Paul McCartney and Wings in 1979—he’s also enjoyed his fair share of good fortune.
What played the biggest part in his success: talent, determination, or simply being in the right place at the right time?
“The answer to all of those is yes,” Juber quips. “I grew up in London, in an era where there was a constant, regular exposure to fresh, new, and exciting music. Every Thursday, I’d open Melody Maker and I’d read about a new Rolling Stones record, or a new Beatles record. And Saturday I’d go to the record store and buy the new Who single, and that night my buddies and I would get together and figure it out.
“I also did sufficiently well in school that I was able to go to London University and study music,” he continues. “And then, while I was in college, I was not only playing folk clubs and top-40 gigs, I’d go and play in the pit band for Jesus Christ Superstar or tour around the country with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, doing jazz gigs with a big band.”
And then there was the McCartney experience, which Juber compares to grad school. Asked what he learned from Sir Paul, he has a comedy-gold answer: “Never smuggle marijuana into Japan.” More seriously, though, he credits the former Beatle with turning him from a musical chameleon into an artist.
“Although I had a lot of technical skill, I never really understood where inspiration comes from,” he admits. “And then I’d see Paul at it, and I realized that it’s just your job. You get up in the morning and you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to write.’ You don’t have to wait for some bolt of lightning to strike you on the head and for inspiration to flow; you just have to kind of encourage it.
“It was a fantastic experience, a fantastic education, and it opened a lot of doors for me,” he adds. “But it didn’t change my basic career path, which was making a living playing guitar.”
Laurence Juber plays St. James Hall next Thursday (July 5).