The music industry is full of big names, bright lights, and massive crowds waiting with baited breath to be blown away by the power of live music. And with all of those big household names out there, we tend to forget that there are tons of astonishingly talented musicians on stage making those big names sound even bigger.
Today, we’ll be sitting down with our good friend John Souki. John is a versatile and intimidatingly-talented industry professional -- a hired gun, if you will -- who has been seen on stage with such acts as Chase Rice, Breland, Gavin DeGraw, and Colbie Caillat. I’ve always had a deep interest in these highly sought-after musicians who have spent years working as hard as they can to master their craft, make connections, and find high-profile gigs. Naturally, I was excited to speak with John and find out just how he reached this point in his career.
As always, we started with a little background…
“I was raised in a household of music lovers. My parents got me into rock and metal from early on. My dad played guitar and taught me my first 3 chords on his nylon-string when I was 8 (which was twice my size back then haha). Seeing him pick it up and play songs really inspired me to wanna play and get good at it, but it wasn’t until we moved to the US from Venezuela and turned 14 that I picked up the guitar more seriously. I briefly attended music college right out of high school and started touring with local bands and doing studio work in my city. I got the gig with Chase Rice in 2015…”
A vast majority of players were exposed to music in their own homes at an early age where the captivation instantly ensued. In our younger years we practice constantly and learn as much as we can on our own, and then we begin playing with other musicians. I believe it’s around this time that we start to consider our sound. You get in a room with other players and realize that tone, dynamics, adaptability, and knowledge of your gear are just as important as technical skill.
So what did John’s tone journey look like? How did he find his sound?
“Growing up in a rock-oriented household, I remember wanting to sound like Eddie Van Halen but could only afford a Crate 30-watt combo and Digitech GNX processor when I was starting out haha. It wasn’t until I discovered John Petrucci and Dream Theater that made me want to dive deeper in tonal exploration, so I got an Axe Fx 2 and started tinkering until I got close to what I thought his tone was. Playing country for the last 6 years has reshaped how I find tones, so I started using the 4-cable method with some of my amps (Mesa Mark V:35 and Mojotone Deacon), which yielded me amazing results. The tone-seeking journey never ends!”
I think that last line really says it all: “The tone-seeking journey never ends!” That’s why we’re all here right? There is no limit to gear configurations, amp mods, guitar mods, etc., and while this can get overwhelming at times, it’s important to remember that these options exist to help us do our jobs BETTER.
Now that we know John is something of a gear head, and has a pretty intricate and particular way of routing all his equipment together to produce his final sound...
I wanted to know what parts of his rig he absolutely couldn’t live without…
“I’d say my Kiesel A6X guitar and AX8 are the most crucial parts of my rig. Until very recently, we were using amps, cabs, and traditional pedal boards and I heavily relied on my Mojotone Deacon and Hatteras heads through my custom Mojotone 2x12 as the centerpieces of my sound (and they get plenty of use in the studio!)”
I must say, I’m glad some of our Mojotone gear made the cut...sounds like John is a very smart guy! Speaking of which, John also works in a recording studio called Round Table Recording Company, where he produces and engineers all kinds of recording projects...
“I had been doing my own productions outside the road and wanted to dive deeper in that world. My friend and Round Table co-owner contacted me 2 days before the official opening to co-produce a project for Bubba Sparxxx, and I have been working as a resident producer/engineer there since. Round Table is built on collaboration; everyone has a voice and is a key part of decision-making for collective growth. Joining the team has opened a myriad of creative doors that continue expanding my production knowledge daily. Currently producing a few exciting albums in various genres that I can’t wait to release soon!”
Sounds like a busy dude with a rad life. When he’s not performing incredible music in front of giant crowds, he’s in a recording studio surrounded by creativity and rooted in diverse collaboration.
But with all that time on the road and in the studio, how does one find time to practice their instruments?
How do you continue to broaden the spectrum of your craft?
“Free time is a bit of a luxury these days so all of my practice happens either at shows or in the studio working on projects. Genre variety in the studio has opened up many doors of learning and personally I find it a lot more fun and engaging than running through exercises. This way helps me stay creative and keeps the ideas flowing.”
That’s a really good point. Just being exposed to and involved in all these different styles and working with so many different musicians in various settings has to open literally every door creatively-speaking. It’s easy to get stuck in patterns and develop stylistic habits that are hard to break, but if you’re constantly challenged with the task of adapting to new ideas and new musicians, you’ve essentially found the musical fountain of youth.
We definitely want to thank John Souki for taking the time to chat with us. He has been a steadfast ally in our effort to showcase our gear and find new talent to work with. Check out John on instagram via @johnsouki and also take a look at @roundtablerecording to keep up with all of his work.
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