BRENT MASON - Brent Mason is one of the most recorded guitarists in history. As well as being a Grammy Award winning artist he is also 14 times winner of the Academy of Country Music, the CMA (being nominated every year since 1991), a NAMMIE winner and for many years has won the annual Music City Allstars Award (the musician that has played on most songs on the radio in respect of the top ten for the entire year).
Brent was born and raised in the city of Van Wert, Ohio. Born into a musical family, he taught himself to play guitar at five years old by sitting on the floor and using a butter knife to play his father's acoustic like a slide (the instrument was too large for him to hold and play normally). He has never had a music lesson and is unable to read music to this day, playing instead ‘by ear’.
After leaving High School, he started working at a tool box factory. While there he witnessed many co-workers injure their hands, lose fingers and in one case lose their entire hand. The final straw came when he riveted a hole completely through his thumb in the middle of his thumbnail. Brent realized that if he was ever going explore his musical gift fully he had to leave the factory and pursue his dream before he too lost the use of his hands permanently. Brent left for Nashville at the age of 21 with a hole punched completely through his thumb.
Wasn't everyone in a family band...?
Brent found the first few years very hard. He met up with his only industry contact, Paul Franklin (the session steel guitar player) who he had met while living in Ohio. Paul and Brent became firm friends and Paul helped Brent learn the Nashville ropes.
It was Paul Franklin’s brother-in-law, Gregg Galbraith, who led Brent to land his first regular gig in Nashville, The Stage Coach Lounge. Besides keeping food on the table for about five years, this job opened some important doors for him in the music community; as by being seen on a regular basis by the inhabitants of Guitar Town.
After playing the club for two years, Brent heard guitar icon Chet Atkins was coming to listen to them. Brent: “I said ‘Sure he is’. Then in walks Chet himself! He sat at the table closest to the stage and just watched me play. It was the most exciting thing to happen to me yet!” A month later, Chet stopped by again, and this time brought George Benson with him. Through these meetings, Chet asked Brent to play on his album, Stay Tuned. This project was Brent’s first master session and included legendary guitar greats such as George Benson, Mark Knopfler and Earl Klugh. From there on in, Brent worked more sessions, and has since gone on to be probably the first call session guitarist working out of Nashville at the present time (In a sentimental twist of fate, Twelve years after being exposed to the world by Chet Atkins, Chet did Brent the honor of joining him playing the solo, so beautiful in its simplicity, on the song My Little Ballerina on Hot Wired. Chet confided to Brent shortly before his death in 2001 that My Little Ballerina was his last recorded work).
There will never be another Chet Atkins...
Brent is now predominantly known for his work as a session guitarist, working out of Nashville in a career lasting over 25 years. Not only can he be heard on a high proportion of the country Top 10 at any given time, his playing can also be heard on countless TV commercials, film sound tracks and television scores. His technique and the theoretical approach to his style have been studied extensively from places as diverse as the Berklee College of Music and countless internet forums and online lessons.
Although his name is not always recognized by general music fans, Brent is well-known and respected throughout the music industry. His masterful and versatile playing of electric, acoustic and classical guitar sets the bar of excellence for professional and aspiring guitarists alike. Guitar Player Magazine has Brent as one of the world's top ten Masters of the Telecaster/Titans of the Tele."
Over the years, Brent has recorded with (to name but a few): Alan Jackson, Alabama, Josh Turner, The Chipmunks, David Gates, Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Neil Diamond, Rascall Flatts, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt, Lorrie Morgan, Brad Paisley, Clint Black, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Shelby Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Keith Whitley, Natalie Cole, Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, The Judds, LeeAnn Womack, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood and many, many more.
Working, working, working...
Hot Wired album art - 1997.
Although currently his name is synonymous with Country Music (a result of appearing on so many records in this genre), Brent, in reality, is a virtuoso musician who is more at home playing jazz, classical, Latin, swing, blues, rock and funk styles. He cites some of his main influences as Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau, Pat Martino, Roy Nichols, George Benson, Jeff Beck and Larry Carlton. He was also inspired in his teens by a more obscure guitarist named Carlos Rios after he heard him on a Gino Vanelli album released in the mid 70's, entitled "Brother to Brother." Taking a bit here and a bit there from each of his influences, he combined them into his own emerging unique style. It has been said that it is partly due to Brent's influence that country music was re-energized and soared back into popularity in the 1990's.
Brent released his debut instrumental album "Hot Wired" on Mercury Records in 1997, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. This album has gone on to become the bench mark for telecaster players worldwide. Brent pulled out of the deal with Mercury, as he was reluctant to take himself away from home (and lucrative session work) to promote and tour the album. Mercury made the decision to stop printing "Hot Wired" after the second printing, and when the album sold out, Mercury shelved the masters. "Hot Wired" has become one of the most sought after out-of-print discs on the market, easily bringing in excess of $150.00 for a used copy on EBay and Amazon. Brent: “I have never pursued fame; I just wanted to be known as a musician’s musician, singer and songwriter”
He opted to bypass a chance at possible fame and mainstream celebrity to continue his studio career as a session musician, playing music for other artist's albums instead of his own. In addition, he has composed a catalogue registered with BMI of over one hundred original instrumentals which can be heard with regularity on television programs, movie soundtracks, ring tones, and commercials.
Brent has played on commercials for: Budweiser, Miller Brewing Company, Betty Crocker, Country Time Lemonade, Geico, McDonalds, Dodge Trucks, Revlon, Sears, Michelob, Whirlpool, Ford Motor Company, and Wrangler Jeans, to name just a few. He also can be heard on countless movie and television soundtracks, like the popular television sitcoms: "Friends", "Becker", "King of the Hill", and "Third Rock From the Sun". and the popular opening to NFL Football telecasts ("Are You Ready for Some Football?").
A list of the movie soundtracks he has played on to date includes: 8 Seconds, A Few Good Men, America's Sweethearts, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Coyote Ugly, The Dukes of Hazzard, Everybody's All American, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Fox and the Hound, The Grinch, Home Alone, Home Alone II, Honeymoon in Vegas, Hope Floats, The Horse Whisperer, Indecent Proposal, Life Goes On, Maverick, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, Nadine, Next of Kin, Perfect Witness, Pink Cadillac, Prince of Egypt, Pure Country, Scooby Doo, Son In Law, Something To Talk About, The Thing Called Love, Tremors, Troop Beverly Hills and "W".
Gibson USA promo shot.
In 1996, Brent released “Brent Mason – Nashville Chops and Western Swing Guitar” through Hot Licks Productions. This has subsequently been re-released on DVD by Music Sales. Keeping up with ever changing technology, in 2006 PG Music released the instruction program “Brent Mason – Guitar Star”.
Over the years, Brent’s prolific recorded output and solid reputation has enabled Brent to work with manufacturers, producing officially endorsed signature products. Brent’s iconic workhorse guitar, the silver/grey 1968 Fender Telecaster (as modified by luthier Joe Glaser), was reproduced by Gibson/Valley Arts in the form of the Brent Mason Signature, released in 2003. Designed to replicate the unique pickup configuration and overall style, the instrument has become known for it tonal diversity, build/finish quality and striking appearance.
The Wampler Pedals Hot Wired Pedal.
Brent has also worked very closely with Brain Wampler of Wampler Pedals. Brian has modifed existing pedals and constructing and wiring up Brent’s large (4’ by 2’) studio pedal board. In the search to try and find an overdrive/distortion pedal sound Brent was looking for it became obvious that there was not a pedal available to produce that “sound”. Brian decided he would have to design a pedal from scratch to satisfy Brent’s exacting ear. After many attempts, one day, Brian produced his latest prototype and Brent said “Oh yeah..!! This is it…!”. Soon afterwards, Wampler Pedals released the “Hot Wired” pedal that is exactly to Brent’s specifications. The general release version is the same pedal that Brent takes into the studio on a daily basis.
After many years of working 5-7 day weeks in various studios and missing the buzz of performing live, Brent and four other hugely respected Nashville based session musicians, formed ‘The Players’. Consisting of Brent, John Hobbs (keyboards), Michael Rhodes (bass), Eddie Bayers Jr (drums) and Brent’s old friend Paul Franklin (steel). To date they have released a studio album (1999) with a live DVD following on in 2004. The live DVD features special guests Vince Gill, Shawn Colvin, Travis Tritt, Peter Frampton and many others. The band play regularly in at ‘3rd and Lindsley’ in Nashville as well as foreign tours and other one off festivals.
2006 saw the collaboration of Brent and his brother Randy, to write and release the album “Smokin’ Section”. The album is a personal look and tribute to the music they both love and grew up listening to, it’s more jazz than western swing, and more western swing than country. It is within this album that you really hear Brent’s love for his instrument and feel his compassion to the music he loves. To date, this album contains some of his most soulful, yet technically accomplished playing.
To this day, Brent continues to work at an astonishing rate in studio, at gigs with ‘The Players‘ or solo gigs around the world.