Artist Interviews Country&Blues Month

Austin Crum

What players influenced you early on and still do today?

My biggest influences when I started playing were Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, those two were the reason I wanted to play the guitar. Now my main influences are Brent Mason and James Mitchell, there is something about their playing that grabs my ear and I love it!

Which players influenced your tone the most?

I guess that just depends on the style of the music. If I am playing a classic rock song I want to sound like Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. If I’m playing blues I tend to emulate SRV’s tone, if I am playing country I try to sound like Brent and James. All those players influence tones I try to achieve.

You are currently using Little Walter Tube Amps, the amp that many players claim ended their tone search for good. What drew you to these amps and do you think your tone chasing days are over?

Well I had posted a video on YouTube a few years back, and the Little Walter Amp builder, Phil Bradbury reached out to me. He told me that they were having a little get together at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville, that I ought to stop by and meet them and try out a few amps. So I went and played them and the amps sounded great. About three months after that I went to Phil’s to pick up my very own and the rest is history. As far as tone chasing goes, I don’t think that will ever be over. I have vintage Fenders I still like to use and new amps I’d still like to have. Same thing with pedals and guitars, I’ll probably never stop buying new gear haha!

What does your full rig entail in full detail from mics, pickups, pedals and everything else involved in your killer tone?

Well when I am tracking at home I record with a Shure beta 57 on 1974 Fender Bassman 50 with a 1×15 extension cab loaded with an eminence speaker. Sometimes I’ll go direct, my studio board is equipped with the JDX Radial Direct Drive amp simulator and it sounds fantastic. The Pickups I use in my Telecasters are Seymour Duncan’s. In the bridge I have the five-two session musician pickup, the middle is a Seymour Duncan Hotstack, and in the neck I use a mini Gibson Firebird humbucker. Most of my strats have Kenny Wayne Shepherd signature series pickups in them. Gibson guitars I pretty much leave them stock. I use a baritone, gut string, and an acoustic when the client requires it. Pedals consist of multiple things, I think right now I have 3 separate pedalboards that I use. I’ll just discuss my studio pedal board it has the most goodies: Wampler Ego Compressor, Wampler Hotwired, Analogman TS9 Tube Screamer Silver mod, Boss EQ, Dunlop Volume pedal (XL), Dunlop Custom Audio Electronics Wah, TC Electronics Hall of Fame 1, Analogman ARDX20 with Amaze1 attachment, Korg Pitchblack tuner, JDX Direct Drive, and Strymon Mobius.

Everyone has those moments where they try a new piece of gear that becomes like a revelation for their tone. What was the last addition to your gear collection that provided that type of experience?

I have a few new pieces of gear that’s done that for me. The Wampler Tumnus mini and the Wampler Hotwired pedal have both opened up lower gain options for me that has really affected my sound. The Positive Grid Modulation and Stymon Mobius has gave me more tonal possibilities without taking up so much board space.

Your name and word of your playing have traveled quickly in a short time. Does it feel great being recognized for all the hard work you have put into your playing?

Yes, it feels wonderful. I am so thankful for all the opportunities God has blessed me with, my talent is God-given and I couldn’t do it without him! I am so grateful to do what I love to do.

Can you share one of the techniques you struggled with and how you beat the difficult plateaus that exist when trying to play at a high level?

The hardest struggle for me was learning jazz and western swing styles. I thought to myself, “I will never get this, it is to hard to understand, what are the standards? How do I play over these chords?” Suddenly I started to get a little better and I just kept learning solos from my inspirations and I started to get the handle on it. Now don’t take me wrong, I still don’t understand all of it and I’m still learning all the time. The best advice I could give is, don’t give up, even though it seems impossible, with enough time and effort you can learn it.

You often go between genres and styles. How does your gear change when you want to lay into some blues? Is it as simple as a Strat / Tele swap or is there more to the changeover.

Yes, most of the time changing guitars will do the trick. When playing blues I like to have a big biffy Strat or Les Paul. One other change in playing classic rock and blues I like to control the volume on my guitars to clean up, instead of using a volume pedal like I do in my country setup.

What advice would you have to players just getting into country and/or blues playing?

My best advice to anyone wanting to get into those styles is pick a player you like and learn of bunch of their solos. I have fount in my personal experience learning licks just doesn’t do it for me, I can’t tend to remember them, however you may be able to. If you learn whole solos though, then you can pull licks from it and place them in your own vocabulary. When you pick a player you like and start learning their compositions, you will begin to think like them and see how they see the fretboard. That will help you approach the style and help you make your own voice.

What does 2019 involve for you and both your session and live playing careers?

I’m still in college at the moment and I hope to graduate by the end of the year. So I don’t know how much I will tour yet, still bringing in some dates. I will be playing in the studio and playing around Nashville a lot more though. I’m just trying to keep a good balance in my life with school, sessions, practice, and tour dates.

I came across Austin a few years ago when I joined the Telecaster Facebook group. Even then, as a young fella, he had a feel and style that just didn’t make sense for a young unseasoned guitarist but none the less, there he was. Since then, he’s become one of the hot names to watch around the country and blues scenes. No doubt, Austin is a hell of a nice guy and an even better guitarist.

Austin endorses: Chicken picksEminence speakers, Little Walter tube ampsLucky dog guitars and Andy Kirkpatrick benders.

Also check out: Austins Youtube channel