Thomas Leeb is an Austrian fingerstyle guitarist known widely for his very holistic approach to the acoustic guitar. He uses a scratch-board, glued to the surface of his guitar to add rhythmic scratch sounds to some of his pieces. Much of his work is rhythmically complex and meticulously crafted. Thomas shares his history with the instrument and some stories from his inspirational Acoustic Bootcamp in the mountains of Austria.
AU: What is your history with the guitar and what has your progression been like as a musician?
TL: I always say I started playing guitar because I wanted to meet girls. I was like 13 or something. I got an electric guitar, some black ibanez, played Metallica, Guns and Roses and Faith No More stuff but up here on the mountain there’s no drummers no bass players or singers so it was kind of boring. no one wants to listen to solo electric guitar player play by themselves. Then I found the acoustic guitar, there are a few guitar players in Austria that did a bit of fingerpicking and some celtic arrangements and that really… I said 'I want to do that'. There's none of the extended techniques in those players. I got DADGAD and some other wacky tunings and fingerpicking that kind of got my right hand going with having the bass and melody going on at the same time.
AU: Why do you feel the need to make music?
TL: You know if nobody liked what I did and nobody bought albums and I had a job doing whatever, maybe I’d be back in med school I don't know. I’d still do exactly the same thing for myself. Whether people like what I do or don’t like what I do, I mean I'm happy they like it, I'm happy people buy the albums, I'm grateful because I can put food on the table but if people didn’t like it i’d have less time to play guitar but I’d do the exact same thing for myself. Once I get started writing a tune it’s almost like a compulsion... it’s like a crossword puzzle, you have to finish it. Probably most of us acoustic guitar players are slightly OCD and there is a little bit of an element in that… haha. At the same time, Michael hedges I love his quote “It let’s me dream out loud”
Every song is different, but the exploration to come up with a new texture and groove. In a way it’s also self therapy often.
AU: Do you think it’s a good time to be a musician?
TL: I don't think that’s a choice that you make. It just happens. It’s a completely irrational and nuts choice to make because it’s just not smart. Oh, i’m going to become a guitar player and my parents weren’t to happy too hear that. But what’s wonderful now is basically you can produce your own music at home. You can do stuff very cheap and well without having to get signed or basically sell your soul to a record label, a big one. And that’s wonderful so that is something that wasn’t the case 25 years ago.
So I would say ya, now is probably a great time to be a musician.