Van Larkins on breaking boundaries

He’s the fingerstyle guitar virtuoso who’s been making big waves as a solo artist, and Van Larkins is out to continue to break boundaries and cover new ground for the intricate playing style. With a massive itinerary of playing ahead, including the Melbourne Guitar Show, on this particular mission it’s important for Larkins that his music is a shared story.

In the past, Larkins has said that, “Aussies tend to associate the acoustic guitar with genres like bluegrass, country and blues, but fingerstyle covers every genre on the planet… It's the next big thing in the live music industry—people just don't know it yet.” The confidence of his statement says it all—fingerstyle can encompass every genre, which makes his work as much an education for the audience as it is an education for Larkins when he sees how his performances are received.

 

“I think that type of performance is a masterclass in guitar,” says Larkins. “Fingerstyle guitar, the reason why I love it so much, [is that] it might be classed as a genre now but when you define it, it can be inspired by any genre which I think helps it to appeal to a wider audience. That type of performance is really a masterclass in how to perform and break the boundaries of what’s traditionally known as acoustic guitar playing.”

 

Larkins’ technique is a fluid motion of beauty in sound. Some of his extended techniques include using the palm of his hand to create a beat and emulate the sound of a snare drum when he brings his hand down onto the strings, the whole concept meaning he can echo the sounds of a whole band. It’s easy to think Larkins is using a backing track—he isn’t. “I concentrate on original compositions and arrangements of other people’s music,” he says. “I put my own spin on it.”

 

At the Melbourne Guitar show, “the standout event of the year for guitar nerds” as Larkins puts it, he’s looking forward to exchanging ideas and performances with other players. “The calibre of players there is outstanding,” he says. “You get bang for your buck – all the gadgets and gizmos, all the players that are showcasing, and I’ll be representing Tanglewood Guitars as well as doing a couple of performances.”

 

 

His own compositions already stand out and Larkins is sure to leave a mark on Australia. The word needed to be spread further, however, and Larkins has been hard at work with filmmaker and guitarist Drew Roller, who has created the world’s first fingerstyle movie, a documentary called Acoustic Uprising.

 

A fingerstyle player himself, Larkins says Roller was inspired to make this movie after travelling around the world to interview guitarists making their mark at the moment. Larkins makes an appearance on the film, talking about YouTube and how the social media platform has changed the way players learn. “I’ve seen people use gimmicks to boost views online,” he says. “With YouTube and Facebook, you have to pay for views to spread the word, unless you throw a gimmick in there which is where people start using different parts of their body and gadgets. But that’s just for fun, really.

 

“[YouTube] is an infinite library of anything you can imagine, including guitar playing, composition, technique—it’s just a motion now.” Larkins’ mission to maximise the popularity of his genre doesn’t stop there. He’s preparing to move to Nashville in a couple months, confident he’s done enough within his craft to stand out among some of the best musicians in the music-making capital of the world.

 

“I think it will fit because it’s acoustic guitar,” he says. “There’s been a massive wave in the fingerstyle movement in the last few years. I’ve tried to stage through the composition and translate all the experiences I’ve had and the places I’ve been, all those inspirations into a song. The acoustic guitar will help me fit in, but the compositions will help to stand out.”

 

Cinder Moon is out now. Van Larkins will perform at the Melbourne Guitar Show on Saturday August 4 and Sunday August 5.

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