In speaking of Lenny Breau, George Benson once said, “Guitar players talk... We talk about the great ones and we always start at the top of the scale...”
If you ever find yourself fortunate enough to be in the presence of great guitar players talking about other great guitar players, you'll quickly realize the conversation is shaped quite unlike anything you've ever heard before. In strange, proprietary tongues, they'll speak of things only they seem to understand, assessing talent in a way that's hard for us mere mortals to comprehend and usually, noting the names of a rarefied few players that even most other guitarists haven't heard of, never mind registering on the radar of John Q Public.
Sam Pacetti is one of those musicians who elicits quiet, reverent whispers when other, great fingerstylists gather around the campfire and talk shop. His 1997 debut album “Solitary Travel” was received to heaps of praise- still, to this day, it enjoys a nearly unanimous five star rating on Amazon.com (if you enjoy fingerstyle guitar and don't own this album, you fail). Shortly after its release, the then 22 year old Sam took Third at the Winfield Fingerstyle Championships.
Sam brings it all together in a way that many other pure pickers do not. He's not just a player or a performer; he's an artist, an expressionist, a conceptualist. Watching one of his shows, you feel almost as if you're being let in on a great secret that no one expects you to keep.
We note the presence of St. Augustine, Florida roots here at FingerstyleGuitarists.com, which is Sam's hometown. There might be a temptation to draw hasty conclusions- to think we're just flogging the hometown hero, but that is absolutely not the case. Quite to the contrary, it was our exposure to Sam and the clearly apparent gravity of his under-appreciated talent that helped to inspire the creation of this site. Albeit unaffiliated, we consider him an honorary founder.
Sam's name echoes through the bars and tourist watering holes of the Southeast United States like legend. He's 'that guy'- the one great guitar players talk about when talking about other great guitar players.
We present Nine Questions With Sam Pacetti.
What are you up to today? Life, music, etc?
A bit of everything...a constant student of the ancient mysteries, an old wanderer looking for ever clearer truth. Traveling more, in search of better latte. Waiting for the arrival of peace on earth. And soon to make a new CD.
After "Solitary Travel" (a ridiculously good album) and your showing at Winfield in 98, you seemed to get low... Conventional wisdom suggests to ride the wave when it's swelling, but you took a different path. Why?
Thats a tuff question really. Hard for me to find the right language to describe it. But in short, I had a life transformative experience in 98, at the same time the "Career" was taking off. That experience woke me up a bit, shook me out of my reverie, and landed me firmly back into the realm of mystery. The discovery was that, i no longer wanted to attain that for which I'd been grasping. So I put on the brakes, and took a different path. Ended up being exactly what needed to happen. In short VI Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici.
You have a pretty intimate connection to Gamble Rogers, who was a fixture on the Old-Florida folk scene and one of the more underrated modern musicians. Mind talking about him, Gamblefest, etc?
Gamble was one of the rarest of individuals. A supremely kind and non-judgmental person, a relentless observer, and uncommonly giving and patient spirit. I was, too young at the time to really grasp what was happening by meeting him...Though he was, thankfully. He saw in me, i suspect, the opportunity to practice the folk process, the passing of tradition orally and musically from the teacher to student. He was so immersed in tradition, cultural mythology and ethnomusicology that to be around him was like having a walking William Blake spouting poetic wisdom and wit. It sounds hyperbolas yeah, but that's who he was, a fount of hard wired philosophical musing and depth with guitar in tow. The GambleFest has become a way for all of us who loved him, to keep his spirit alive and remembered. This year the Gamble Fest continues in downtown St Augustine the first weekend of May...and I'm so totally thrilled to say that Richard Thompson has been confirmed as the main headliner, should be a really good show
Got any good Minorcan jokes? ;)
On the whole minorcans were very somber, demure people who drank heavily and ate lots of fatty foods. However, this one comes to mind. Two minorcan's are digging a hole. One get's out and covers it!
Five Albums... What are they?
1) Joni Mitchell; Blue, Court & Spark, Hejira, Night Ride Home, Turbulent Indigo (that's already five i know)
2) The entire works of Bach
3) Ravi Shankar (Ragas & Talas)
4) Everything Richard Thompson has ever done more or less
5) Brian Eno, Ambient music for airports.
6) Most of Dylan.
Real tough to limit it to five.
Where do you want your music to be in 20 years?
I'm not sure i'll be on the planet in twenty years...certainly no longer than it takes me to fix my spaceship. I take it a day at a time. Mostly it's not the music i'm concerned about, it's the transformation of consciousness.
Anyone with the right capacity for focus can practice incessantly and become technically proficient on any given instrument, but that 'spark' of creativity and expression- that thing which speaks directly to the human soul- seems to be pretty rare; a gift you definitely have. As it pertains to music in general (not just technique), how much do you feel is innate versus learned?
Since we all have the same biology, more or less, it seems we all have access to the same data. I believe deeply, that we can all tap into the same springs or channels of information and bring it forth. Though each of us has peculiar predispositions toward different states of being, so what we are geared toward perceiving, varies vastly from person to person. It seems to be a question of what skill sets a person learns early on. To the degree that one can listen intently, allow themselves to be led intuitively/internally, tune into feeling, letting go of the mind, will set the measure of how deeply they can go into their own well. I've always been pulled toward that which will allow me to feel more deeply, open me up, alter my perceptual field. Techniques and motifs can be learned and studied, but the greatest, most awe inspiring creations will have to issue forth from deep inside...and it's allot more like channeling, you've got to get yourself out of the way, to let in information that you may not otherwise have accessed. Ah, damnit i got caught by my mind again...ah well, next life maybe.
Away from music, what are your passions?
My greatest passion, without question, is transformation of human consciousness. The awakening of the masses from the mind numbing ennui of social conformity, collective distortion, inertia, suffering, hopelessness, and despair, into the realization of every individuals innate limitlessness. This is the reason for this grand experiment, one that's been churning for a long time. Will we come together, collectively throwing off the reins of separation, awaken to our connectedness with all life? Or, will we get an F in the evolution game? These and many more pertinent questions will be considered on the next episode of " As The World Burns!"
On woodchucks and wood- just how much can they chuck?
To adequately answer this question, we would have to consider partial-differential equations that i just don't have the strength or courage to enter into here. Though in my forthcoming book "Woodchuck Run Amukus" i'll go into this with exhaustive detail and research.