Don Ross has become widely known for a vibrant and eclectic fingerstyle approach. His music borrows from blues, jazz, funk, folk and classical music creating an indefinable style with undeniable groove and proficiency. He shared with the Acoustic Uprising some key moments in his musical evolution and what it means to be one of the key influences of the modern acoustic guitar movement.
AU: Was there a key moment in your evolution as a guitarist/musician? Someone who truley inspired your course?
DR: There was definitely a clang moment for me. I was 14 years old and I picked up a Bruce Coburn album called Night Vision and the very first tune on the album is called foxglove. And I wasn't prepared for it. I thought it was going to be a singer songwriter album and I put it on and it's a minute and 20 seconds, a short little guitar piece and it's sweet as hell. It's an open C tuning. Really brilliant and great right hand technique and everything. I heard it and said 'I want to do that'. I remember the moment just listening to the song and thinking that's fantastic. If I could only do something even approaching that I'd be so thrilled. So I learned the tune off the record, I figured out wow he's in this really crazy low tuning and all these things that it hadn't occurred to me at the time. So yeah that for me was the big moment.
AU: Some people think FingerStyle is more of an approach to the instrument or a combination of techniques rather than a genre. What are your thoughts on this?
DR: Well I think that Fingerstyle is a technique first. But that said it's there's kind of it's kind of a little world unto itself. My feeling always has been that the guitar is a fantabulous instrument. It's an incredible instrument that it's capable of multiple voices. You can play harmonically on it, you can play single note melodies, you can bend the notes which is just so cool. You can make it sound like a voice. You can use bizarre tunings if you want to make it sound unlike it ever usually does. There's all of these different variations on the instrument like Harp guitars, Baritone guitars and Tenor guitars. So it's a world unto itself as an instrument. For me it was less about the guitar and more about music. And the whole fingerstyle thing was a means to an end. It was a way to play the music I wanted to play.
AU: Many of the new generation of modern acoustic players, people like Andy Mckee, Antoine Dufour and Calum Graham refer to you as a key inspiration. How does that feel?
DR: It's very humbling. I get a kick out of it. I used to hear from these guys when they were quite a bit younger. Not that they're very old now but I used to get letters from Andy Mckee, I used to get e-mails from Antoine when they were both in their early 20s and they would tell me you know how profound an effect the music had on them. And it was kind of cool because they eventually became well-known guitar players and even having indirectly or however directly it was, I guess through my recorded music having had an effect on what they decided to do and that they have forged a following. It's really an honour. You know it really is. And same with Calum Graham, I mean I've known Callum's since he was about 14 and he's only 23 now. But I gave him a few guitar lessons when he was a gangly teenager you know, and you could see how committed he was and and then by the time he was 21 he was writing fabulous music. I mean like really good music. I mean who gives a poop it was on the guitar it was just such good music.