Meet 2018 Hot Club Dream Camp Instructor & Guitarist, Max O’Rourke!

Max O'Rourke

We chat with 2018 Hot Club Dream Camp instructor, Max O’Rourke!

CBMF: Tell us about your musical roots.
Max O’Rourke: The first kind of music that really hooked me as a guitar player was blues. I’ve always loved the conviction and feeling that the great players had. From there, I got into jazz and from jazz, I got into gypsy jazz.

CBMF: What are you listening to right now?
MO: I’m in the middle of a big Kendrick Lamar kick.

CBMF: Who is your dream collaborator?
MO: I would love to work with Jon Brion. He produced many of my favorite albums and has a style of writing and arranging that I really admire.

CBMF: Who had the most significant impact on your musical taste as a child and teenager?
MO: Hands down my old guitar teacher David Newsam. He introduced me to the music of Django. He also gave me a good foundation on how voice-leading and harmony works, which helped open my ears to the music that I love today.

CBMF: Which musicians do you consider your greatest influences today?
MO: This one’s hard–there are many! I love the way Julian Lage approaches the guitar so open-mindedly, and that’s always something I’m trying to work on (also his tone is killer). I’ve learned a lot from Brad Mehldau, especially the way he composes and arranges. Elliott Smith has had a huge impact on the way I write music. And of course, Django. The spontaneity, the creativity, and the feeling he was able to play within his later years is so inspiring.

CBMF: What drew you to gypsy jazz?
MO: I’ve always loved this style’s rhythm section. It’s amazing how heavy it can feel and how hard it can swing with just a guitar and a bass.

CBMF: If not gypsy jazz, what kind of music would you make?
MO: Lately I’ve dug deeper into the electric guitar and have written a fair amount of tunes for it as well, so I would definitely go in that direction a bit more if gypsy jazz suddenly disappeared.

CBMF: What fact about you most surprises people?
MO: I was once in a Toyota commercial that was exclusively in Spanish.

CBMF: Imagine yourself at 10, how would younger you react to your life today?
MO: I think ten-year-old me would be surprised at what I’ve been able to do with music. Back then, I could barely handle a barre chord. Now, it’s twelve years later and I’ve played shows on three continents, written and arranged for woodwinds and strings, I’ve recorded an album under my own name, and I’ve gotten to meet and play guitar with some of my heroes.

CBMF: Where do you find inspiration?
MO: Being unhappy– for me, music is a way to sort out and communicate what’s going on inside through a language that makes sense to me, much like a poet would through written word or a painter through paint.

CBMF: Describe your rehearsal routine.
MO: Rehearsals, for me, are all about trying to iron out the wrinkles and get the message/feeling of the song as clear as possible, so it’s ready to play in front of other people.

CBMF: How do you prepare for a performance?
MO: Apart from warming up my hands and ears, I try to remember to breathe and to remind myself to play how I feel.

CBMF: If you had a time machine, what concert would be your first stop?
MO: This was so hard to choose that I couldn’t. Here are my top three:
Django Reinhardt (anywhere in between 1947-1949), Bill Evans (with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian), then Elliott Smith (1999)

CBMF: What song would you love to cover/rearrange?
MO: Lately I’ve been thinking about trying to arrange a cool Debussy piece (Preludes Book 2, No.3: At The Gate Of The Vine) for my group with the electric guitar. There’s a recording of Debussy himself playing it on piano that I really like. It kind of swings and isn’t that much of a stretch vocabulary/instrumentation-wise. I think it’d be fun.

Catch Max on the mainstage at CBMF this summer, or join him and other gypsy jazz masters for a week of instruction and jamming at the 2018 Hot Club Dream Camp!

Check out these upcoming shows featuring Max O’Rourke:

Gypsy Jazz Goes South: Hot Club in Latin and South America
Wednesday, July 25, 2018 8:00 PM
Crested Butte Center for the Arts, Crested Butte, CO
Tickets $35.00

Gypsy Jazz Tribute to Stephane Grappelli and Les Paul w/ Nicki Parrot and Jason Anick
Sunday, July 29, 2018 8:00 PM
Crested Butte Center for the Arts, Crested Butte, CO
Tickets $35.00

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