We sat down for a brief conversation with Anthony Quails, who is part of the family here at Duncan Africa. Anthony has a new album coming out soon, and it is currently in the middle of a KickStarter Campaign, so be sure to go check it out and support him if you like what you hear!
DA: So tell us a little about yourself.
AQ: Yeah man, well I’m a folk singer/songwriter and currently live in Northwest Georgia with my wife and two daughters. I’ve been a songwriter for over 15 years and write for a small publishing company based out of Franklin Tennessee. I began writing songs pretty much the same way that most guys do….to get a girl to notice me! Soon I became disinterested in the girl and more interested in the guitar and writing songs. I would play wherever anyone would listen. It wasn’t until I got involved in Young Life ministries that I found my niche. I started listening to guys like Pierce Pettis and David Wilcox. Those guys could spin a phrase like no other and I began studying their technique.
DA: How about the new album?
AQ: So the new album is titled Before the Bright Lights and is a mix of radio theater and folk storytelling. Think in terms of John Denver. I started working on the album in early 2014 and partnered with the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal. In late 2015 we really hit the studio hard and started tracking what you hear on the final product. When James Smith came on as producer, that was when I felt I really found the final piece to the puzzle that made it all come together. We really tried to make the production fit the theme for each song. Some of the songs even have a slight old time country feel.
DA: Yeah I heard that! Especially on “When There’s a Mountain” and “The Cattleman Song”. Stylistically , your music seems heavily rooted in Americana, Folk, and Story Telling. How do you approach writing within that genre while keeping it fresh and new?
AQ: I’m always searching for a good story. I think a strong narrative and interesting take on an idea is half the battle. Once an interesting title or topic hits me then I usually let that idea dictate the direction of the song. Keeping it fresh or new can be very subjective. I’m not so much concerned with the idea of what is or isn’t in my specific genre, I just try to write the most honest song I can. If the song can move me then chances are they will move someone else.
DA: Tell me a little about how you approach writing a song? Is it unique every time?
AQ: I tend to write on a 75/25 rule. 75% of the song needs to be a story that the listener can relate to and the other 25% needs to provide some type of meat or substance that can bring the moral home. I spend a lot of time meditating on the idea and trying to find the perfect first line.
DA: Who would you say are influences in your music?
AQ: I would say my influences have always been guys like John Denver, James Taylor and David Wilcox. Over the years though I’ve also been drawn to lesser known writers like Andy Gullahorn and Allen Levi. Their honesty and transparency is what I have come to love the most.
DA: Very cool. Do you remember how you came to know about Duncan Africa Guitars?
AQ: Well, some time in 2013 I came across a Facebook sponsored ad for DA and was blown away by the mission of the Society. I emailed them and never expected to get a response back much less from Jay himself! He was so gracious and soon we formed a friendship that I truly treasure. Over the next year he was gracious enough to allow me to become a representative and also a DA endorsed artist. Now, I am also privileged to serve as Donor Relations for DA.
DA: Tell us about what guitars you used to record this album album.
AQ: The album is really all over the place in regards to vibe, sound, feel, etc. But the ironic thing is we really only used a few guitars on the album. For the electrics, we used a Fender ’52 Telecaster RI and a Duesenberg Starplayer on just about every track. For the bass, we used and old Fender Jazz and an old Fender Precision. Then for the acoustics we used a vintage Gibson J50 and a Duncan Africa Selah across the whole album, really. Pretty much any time you hear some finger style playing, its the Duncan Africa. We had access to more guitars, but we just always came back to these over and over again.
DA: Awesome! It What made you go with the Selah? I am sure there were many other guitars in the studio.
AQ: Yeah, there were some really nice guitars, but the Selah offered the perfect blend of acoustic tone I had been searching for on this album. The model I used was an Artisan series that had a Cedar top and Rosewood Back and sides and it just always seemed to fit into the mix flawlessly. The playability also was a huge plus. When tracking and re-tracking it’s easy to experience finger fatigue but that guitar was extremely easy on my hands.
DA: Here’s a question you’ll probably hate. Do you have a favorite song on the album?
AQ: Ha! Well actually my favorite song on the album is probably The Gold Inside. The song is about the California Gold Rush but the idea behind the song is that if we dig deep enough there is something special in each and every one of us. We all have some gold inside.
DA: What advise do you give to aspiring songwriters and guitarists?
AQ: My advice to songwriters is to write and don’t be afraid to re-write. Write for the joy of writing and always be willing to learn. Find some people you really trust and know that will tell you the truth and show them your work. The more you write with the intention of getting better the more you will find it doesn’t hurt so much to go back and re-write. My advice for guitarists is to find a guitar you are comfortable with. The most expensive guitar may not be the best fit for you. Play as many different guitars you can until you find one that speaks to you. Who knows how many songs are locked inside