Spiegel's Intent

22 February 2013 | 9:23 am | Greg Phillips

“I am an aggressive player and I wanted a guitar that bounced back at me and the Cole Clarks do that really, really well."

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It was quite a coup for Australian guitar manufacturer Cole Clark to secure an afternoon performance spot for Lloyd Spiegel on The Marriot Hotel's main stage during the NAMM show. Spiegel used his 45 minutes extremely well, with the international music industry audience lapping up the singer, songwriter and slick fingerpicker's fun and energetic performance. The Spiegel vibe even attracted guitar legend George Benson to the bar to see what the fuss was all about.

It's a little known fact that Lloyd travelled the States as a teenager, begging for gigs and earning his stripes in some of the toughest rooms in America. “When I was travelling the States, I was literally hungry. If I didn't get a gig, I didn't eat. I was under age so was using a fake I.D. to get into blues clubs. You learn to connect with an audience quite well. They are your only chance at eating or staying in a hotel that night. Seeing blues legends like Honey Boy Edwards or Luther Allison, you learn about performance, about truly connecting with an audience. Of course you are going to learn musicianship, but you get that from any musician you work with on any level. But the showmanship, people demand a show here in the States. Someone like Luther Allison or Buddy Guy, they have this stage persona that they take on and it is absolutely professional. They can play it at will and I do love that.”

It's been a decade since Spiegel last toured America and the NAMM afternoon had given him fuel for thought to tackle the US market again. “By the time I thought about coming back, I was married, child, and divorced,” explained Lloyd on how life had got in the way of his return. “Then in Australia I started doing really well, and then I did well in Japan, then Europe started taking off. Around that time, George Bush made it incredibly difficult to get a work permit for an Australian. It kind of never really happened. I get weekly emails from people asking when I'm going to come back. Today fuelled me because I remembered what it was like to play for American audiences. I think I am going to have to start looking at coming over and touring again.”

Spiegel's main purpose for this NAMM trip however was to work the Cole Clark booth and spruik their guitars. Lloyd has been working with Cole Clark for around ten years and the company has rewarded the bluesman with his own signature guitar, which is currently in development. “I'm not playing it at the NAMM show but I have the prototype at home. What I am trying to do is make it cheaper... as funny as that sounds. I'm a working-class musician. I want to make a working-class instrument, which is what the guitars are. So I built my dream guitar then found out it had a three and a half to four thousand dollar price point. So I went back and looked at all the little bits and pieces and said, 'let's work on how we make this affordable for the average player.'”

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As the Marriot performance showed, Lloyd injects a lot of energy into his guitar and you'd assume a Spiegel signature model would need to be built for battle. “The most important thing for me is... if I ask it the question, it needs to answer,” Lloyd explains. “I am an aggressive player and I wanted a guitar that bounced back at me and the Cole Clarks do that really, really well. I like a lot of top end on my guitars, almost an abrasive kind of sound. The Cole Clarks sound round and beautiful and I like to maybe fiddle with that a little bit. So I am designing a guitar which will give me my sound. It is based on an FL2AC with a different sensor inside it. Instead of a short sensor on the face, I am putting an extra long one in. It's just a little more responsive to my hands. What actually really made me want to work with Cole Clark was the attitude of a working-class guitar. They wanted to build guitars for the other guy. The fact that they offered me one in the first place... ten years ago in Australia I was absolutely nobody. I'm still almost nobody but a little less of a nobody. Back then I was just playing the local clubs. They wanted to give me a guitar because they decided right from the start because they were building a guitar for a guy who had to plug into a PA that belongs in a museum and play for eight guys who are playing pool and still have the dignity to have control over their sound with a really nice guitar tone. The Jack Johnsons and other people on our endorsee list are always going to sound good. They play with million dollar sound systems and three engineers working around the clock for them. I really like 'the other guy' aspect of Cole Clark.”

Another little known piece of trivia about Spiegel is his popularity in Japan, where he has found a fan base among the local guitar heads. “Japan is like getting off a plane and being on a different planet and it is years in the future,” recalls Lloyd. “I found myself playing to these twenty-one year old metal heads who had never heard blues music before and they think I invented this shit. I did an interview for a magazine over there and they asked me if there were other people in Australia who played this style of music and I just went no! I was still doing my local show in Australia but selling out Tokyo Disneyland. With Disneyland, I got picked up in a limousine, the sound system was the highest quality, everything you wanted backstage, signing autographs. I then flew home, got in the Holden Commodore with my dodgy PA and drove straight to Wodonga, set up and played to twenty people.”

For the rest of 2013, Lloyd intends to tour some more, record two albums and continue his work with the Blues in Schools program, where he is on a self-propelled mission to supply every Indigenous child in Australia with a musical instrument.