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The Jeff's Guitar And Steel Blog

Submitted on Monday, February 13th, 2023 - 12:52

Who is Eric Heywood?!

Hello obscure musical table machine massagers,

If you're like me and you mention the name Eric Heywood in average musician company eyes kind of glaze over, and you get remarks like, "yeah I kind of remember Son Volt didn't they have a tune on a Volkswagen commercial?" 

But, if you started playing steel 15 years ago and Nashville and Texas were thousands of miles away, the name Eric Heywood is probably a lot more relevant.

It certainly is to me, as a guitar player who was active in the alt. country scene circa 2005, the records he made had a big impact in that realm of music, and I didn't even know it at the time! Later as I turned to the steel and tried to procure gig's in the remnants of the Alt. Country scene giving way to the burgeoning singer-songwriters, there was a treasure trove of licks and solos to glean from Son Volt's "Trace",  Richard Buckner's "Since" and Ray LaMontagne's chart topper "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise". 

What I found is that he provided a framework of how to operate in a non-traditional country format, which were the gigs that were by and large available to me at the time. He also pushed the boundaries of traditional steel tone. Instead of a dependence on bulky solid state steel amps that provided miles of clean head room, he had more of a guitar players appreciation for subtly distorted to Neil Young like rocking tones. Yes, he played through an AC50 head through a ridiculously huge cabinet. Which would've been a great rig if  1971 Keith Richards stopped by. Here's a cool youtube of that era. Because of these gear considerations, instead of bird-like high register passages, he stuck to the grittier low end and made his steel growl and foment a little destruction. I liked it.

Speaking of tone, half the battle of getting a Heywoodian tone is to subtly overdrive an amp. You could do this simply with any amp by using an Xotic effects RC Booster, I like the old ones or the anniversary re-issue. Turn the gain to 3 o'clock and the volume to 10 o'clock and you're starting to burble and boil. With this method you can still maintain some clean tones if you're on an amp with a lot of headroom. Or you could run your steel through an AC50, AC30 or a Blues JR. My personal favorite was running my steel through an Orange OR35. An amp purchased from Casey James Prestwood (my former employer) previously used during the heyday of the seminal emo band, "Hot Rod Circuit" known for opening up for Good Charlotte for a stadium tour at the pinnacle of the Emo movement circa 2003, but bad management or something put a kabash on the whole deal. Anyway, I don't know if anyone really cares about that but I'll continue, there are only 2 of them in the world and I sold it to a devoted Hot Rod Circuit fan somewhere in Poughkeepsie. It's likely somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard sounding really good at home, but breaking on the gig. Poor sap.

I digress, here's a quick lesson on some Heywood 1st string ideas as well as compilation of all of my Heywood Lessons.

Eric Heywood 1st String Ideas Video Lesson (Intermediate Techniques): A lesson that shows you how to take some classic Heywood moves on the 1st string and move them down and octave to expand your tonal palette.

Here's all my other Eric Heywood stuff!

With Son Volt:

Tear Stained Eye Solo

Left A Slide Solo

Creosote Solo

Creosote Solo 2nd Half

Windfall Solo 1

Windfall Solo 2

With Ray LaMontagne:

Beg, Steal, Or Borrow Solo

New York city's Killin Me Solo

Out On The Weekend Solo

Empty Solo

With Jeffrey Focault:

Horse Latitudes Solo

Starlight and Static Solo

Peter Bruntwell:

You Won't Find Me Solo

Want me to transcribe some more Heywood stuff? Let me know some cool solos or songs I might be missing! Send me an email at jeffsguitarandsteel@gmail.com  

Also, use promo code: Heywood for 1 month free on a pedal steel subcription. Click here to sign-up and enter your promo code in the bottom field.

Keep Rockin!