Interview: Pat Metheny of DREAM BOX TOUR at Davidson Theatre

Metheny finds joy in recovering “missing” tunes in his Dream Box

By: Feb. 29, 2024
Interview: Pat Metheny of DREAM BOX TOUR at Davidson Theatre
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Interview: Pat Metheny of DREAM BOX TOUR at Davidson Theatre

If you arrive at the home of guitar great Pat Metheny, you may be surprised with what you don’t see as much as what you do.

Metheny, who has 20 Grammys, three gold albums, and is the only artist to win Grammy Awards in 10 different categories, has received a boatload of awards and honors. But good luck finding them.

“I don’t really feel comfortable having things like awards or photos or anything like that around me,” Metheny said in an email interview. “There are certain honors that are unbelievable to me, that I never would have anticipated or expected in a million years. 

“But in general, I don’t really think too much about the things that surround the music - my focus is almost entirely on ‘it’ rather than the things that surround ‘it’. I am always looking to what comes next or what is happening right now.”

What is happening now is his solo Dream Box tour that rolls into town 8 p.m. March 9 at the Davidson Theatre at the Riffe Center (77 S. High Street in downtown Columbus).

Metheny, who was selected as Guitar Player’s Guitarist of the Year in 1983, 86-91, and 2007-16, seems happy there is an audience out there for his music.

“I never really imagined (doing) anything other than what I’m doing, partly because I started so young,” he said. “It has all felt like one continuous thing for me.

“It is pretty much the same for me now as it was when I first started. I just want to understand music to the best of my ability.”

The Dream Box record, which was nominated for the Grammy’s best jazz instrumental album, was almost discovered as much as it was planned. Metheny unearthed a treasure trove of tracks he made over the years and then placed into a folder on his computer.

Metheny gave a second listen to these tracks while he was on the road during his 160-performance world tour in 2022 and decided to give nine songs a second try.

The guitarist said he has enjoyed sharing these tunes during this solo tour.

“Honestly, this current Dream Box tour has been a period of tremendous growth for me,” he said. “I decided to do this tour with a bit of trepidation in that I had never done something quite like this - and it has turned out to be so much more than I ever imagined. I am excited to get the chance to present it there in Columbus.”

Columbus has been quite kind to the jazz guitarist. Metheny keeps a collection of notebooks, detailing each concert he plays, and Capital City has always garnered high marks.

“I have had so many great gigs in Columbus over the years,” he said. “It has always been a favorite place for me for some reason.

“(Keeping a meticulous notebook of the shows) is a good way to stay on top of the details for me. There is a natural tendency at the end of the night if nothing explodes and no one gets injured or anything to just go: ‘well, I guess it was OK.’ By replaying the gig in my mind not long after it occurs and writing some notes about it in detail, I remind myself of things to work on for the next night.”

Pressed on what sort of things he writes down, Metheny said, “Most of my notes have nothing to do with anything except all the reasons I might want to think of going Locrian natural 2 on that minor 7b5 chord rather than straight Locrian…stuff like that.”

If that sounds like an equation from an advanced guitar seminar, there’s a reason for that. Metheny did serve as a professor at the University of Miami when he was 18 years old and at the Berklee School of Music when he was 19.

According to Richard Niles, author of “The Pat Metheny Interviews: The Inner Workings of His Creativity Revealed,” University of Miami dean of music Bill Lee discovered Metheny playing guitar at a club and offered him a scholarship to the Coral Gables, Fla. school. After a week on campus, Metheny confided to Lee that he spent most of his teenage years trying to master the guitar, so he wasn’t ready for the academic rigors of college. Lee then offered him a job teaching the school’s recently introduced electric guitar course. He then began teaching at Berklee the following year.

A professor being around the same age as his students and, in many cases, younger than them could have been unsettling for some. But in the world of music, Metheny’s age didn’t seem to faze the students.

“In this general area of music, and I think this is still true, age doesn’t matter,” he said. “The only thing of concern is the playing. 

“I think I always get more out of teaching than anyone. I find myself saying things I didn’t even know I knew in response to the way a student presents themselves in the music. I rarely get the chance to do it anymore, however.”

Even with all his Grammy success, the jazz guitarist rarely crossed over to the pop music charts. He has had one top 40 single in the United States. His collaboration with David Bowie – “This Is Not America” from the 1985 movie FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN – reached No. 32 on the U.S. charts and was 14th on the British charts.

Metheny’s guitar and Bowie’s lyrics create a haunting vision of the United States: “A little piece of you/The little peace in me will die (This is not a miracle)/For this is not America/Blossom fails to bloom this season/Promise not to stare too long/(This is not America)/For this is not the miracle.”

Almost 40 years after it was released, the song carries poignancy in its message about the divisiveness in the United States.

Working with Bowie was great. He was one of the most brilliant people I have ever been around,” Metheny said. “It is really one of the great protest songs. It has had more resonance in the past six or seven years than ever.”

While the song creates a very pessimistic feel, Metheny is uplifted by what he sees in music now.

“(I’m) very optimistic. Music has a very special place in the scheme of things,” he said. “The culture does all kinds of stuff and music can participate or ignore those rises and falls. With good notes, soul, and serious research into a personal view of what music might offer an individual, anything is possible.”

Photo credit: Jimmy Katz


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