LOREN: When I was 4 years old my Dad started taking guitar lessons, and while he was off working I would mess around and try to imitate what he did. So for me it was being exposed at an early age to the instrument by having him playing and me being able to touch and handle a guitar. It didn’t hurt that my parents had Chet Atkins records as well as Ray Charles records spinning on the old Victrola! When I was six years old, my father drove me down to Nashville and took me to the Grand Ole Opry. He left me in Chet Atkins’ office while fetching my guitar, as Chet didn’t believe my father’s claim that I could play Yackety Axe and Steel Guitar Rag. To cut a long story short, I ended up performing those two tunes that night on the Grand Ole Opry, being the youngest instrumental act to ever appear on that famous stage. From that point, our family moved to Nashville, and we went on to tour as a family band throughout the South, including a long stint in Los Vegas. So from an early age I was touring and performing.
MARK: I grew up in a family that was not musical at all. It wasn’t till the age of 8 that my best friend got a guitar, and so I also had to have one. From that day on, I took it to school with me every day, and couldn’t help myself playing it and learning new things. I was hooked from the start, but it took me a while to discover the riches of the musical world as I had to find things all on my own – which is tough growing up in a small New Zealand town with no YouTube! It wasn’t till I visited the USA in 2005 that I discovered finger-style music, and really got sold on that style.
What guitar influences brought you to fingerstyle guitar?
LOREN: Without a doubt Chet Atkins, and then later Jimmy Atkins (Chet’s brother), who I studied with in Nashville for several years as a young kid.
MARK: During my earlier years I was really into Classical guitar, and ended up going to university to study performance classical guitar. So from the start I had a great technical grounding in the finger-picking style. But the first time I heard Tommy Emmanuel, I was mesmerized by the rhythm and groove of his playing. From that point on I became obsessed with the finger-style approach.
Away from fingerstyle, what are your passions?
MARK: I love surfing, free-diving and the outdoors in general. I’m also passionate about coffee, food and brewing my own beer. After living in the USA for a few years now, I’ve picked up the banjo and fiddle too. So lots of passions!
LOREN: Sports for sure. I still play some basketball with my three sons at our home court, and I was an avid baseball player growing up. I think I’m competitive and passionate. I also love trout fishing and can’t wait till spring every year to get back in the woods for half a day. It’s just a peaceful and enjoyable thing for me.
Five albums. What are they?
We both have solo albums, plus we’ve released 3 albums as a duo. Our first duo album came together almost spontaneously - we had been playing non-stop for 6 weeks doing shows together for the first time, and on our last day before Mark flew home to New Zealand, we decided to go into the studio and record an album overnight. It took us 9 hours, but the synergy was just there, and to this day we are still amazed at how good that recording came out! The second album ‘Onward’ was a lot more involved and produced, featuring more vocal tracks and several other musicians. The (original) title track ‘Onward’ won an award for Best Instrumental at the International Acoustic Music Awards (I.A.M.A) in 2013, so our hard work might have paid off there! The latest album ‘Live in Europe’ was recorded during our European tour in April 2013.So three quite different albums really.
Gear Rundown: Strings, Instruments, Mics, etc?
We have a very simple set up – no amps or effects processors. We’ve found that the less equipment we run our signal through, the better and more natural our sound is – plus it makes touring easier! That being said, we do like a warm reverb on both our guitars and vocal channels. The general set-up is two DI’s, and two vocal mics (Shure BETA 87A), straight into the PA system. Loren plays a Maton EBG808TE model guitar, and Mark plays a New Zealand custom- made ‘Madill’ guitar with Maton Electronics. So far we haven’t come across any pick-up system we like as much as the Maton AP Mic. We have an endorsement from Curt Mangan Strings which we like, but we also use Martin and Elixer strings from time to time.
If you could jam with any one artist, past or present, who would it be?
LOREN: Tommy Emmanuel. He always has something new, something different to play. He is so passionate and enthusiastic in his playing and it transfers over to you and takes you to another level. You can’t help being a better player by being around him---simply amazing!
MARK: Django Reinhardt – to me he is/was the most amazing improviser on the guitar. His musical ideas have so much character and personality!
If a random elephant and a random brown bear were converted into an anthropomorphically accurate human version of their animal selves, locked into a bare-walled, white room with each other for five hours and forced to choose between checkers and chess as their sole medium of entertainment, what game would they choose? Would they prefer different games and if so, who would prefer what and why? Or might they agree to disagree?
I think that the elephant being the wiser, slower and more patient creature would opt for Chess, while the Bear would go for Checkers. The bear would convince the elephant that they should play checkers first, but after a short time they would grow board of the game. The elephant would then suggest a game of chess, which would probably last for the remainder of the time.
Fingerstyle duets aren't easy.
You'd occasionally see them from very high level players (Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed, Buster B Jones and Thom Bresh, etc) but it's not something that's 'easy' to pull off. Mind talking about what it's like playing as a fingerstyle duo and the challenges associated with getting all those moving parts to fit together?
MARK: After hearing us perform for the first time, most people assume that we’ve been together for many years, and spent lots of blood, sweat and tears working on our arrangements. The reality is actually quite different. I’ve never played with any other musician who I ‘clicked’ with more naturally than Loren, and I think he feels the same way. There is a real inexplicable chemistry that just happens when we play, and most of our arrangements have fallen into place very easily and quickly. Everything is done by ear (no written music), and there is a lot of improvisation that goes in, which is important for keeping things fresh and on the edge. We both have a very similar approach to music, and really make an effort to listen to each other. At the same time, we also have very different influences and skill sets, so the combination of those things works well. At the end of the day, there does seem to be a magic that happens between us, were the energy of the duo is exponentially greater than the sum of the parts. I don’t understand it fully, but am definitely enjoying the ride!
Question 9 has sort of become our "fill in the blank" question for the artists. Any show dates, shout-outs or anything else you'd like to say?
We always like to give a big shout out to our friend Tommy Emmanuel, who not only has been an inspiration and mentor to both of us, but has also generated a huge interest and appreciation of the acoustic guitar, which helps all of the guitarists out there trying to make a living and build a fan base. We are excited to be going on tour with Tommy for the month of September in the USA opening all his shows and also performing with him!
We’d also like to give a big shout out to our friends in Europe who have helped us break into that market – Frans, Dora, Pasha, Jean-Alain, Monika & Steve, Reinhold and Josef among others. We are hoping to do more in Europe, so please get in touch if you know anyone who might be interested in booking us over there!
We have a busy summer in the USA lined up, and then a big tour of New Zealand in October/November. Keep an eye on our website for the latest tour dates: www.lorenandmark.com