Acoustic guitar great Peppino D’Agostino discusses his journey as a musician
Few individuals can push the acoustic guitar to its absolute expressive limits. Fingerpicking prodigies, like Laurence Juber, Leo Kottke, and Tommy Emmanuel, are able to create the sound and energy of a full band with nothing but two hands, a modest steel string, and relentless dedication to their craft. Among these master pickers towers Peppino D’Agostino, a man whose remarkable journey to mastery started at the age of 10.
“I remember watching my cousin play guitar, and I was fascinated by looking at his fingers on the fret board and the sound that was coming out of this electric guitar,” D’Agostino says of his first encounter with the instrument. “I loved it.”
By the time he was 18, he was performing original material and covers in front of crowds, but it wasn’t until later in life that he found the influences that helped define his signature sound. “A friend of mine gave me a vinyl by Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Peter Lang, and all the Takoma Records players, and I was really intrigued by the sound of the steel string, and that’s why I started.”
Since that moment, he became obsessed with reproducing the music of his heroes. “Leo Kottke definitely was one of my first influences on the acoustic guitar,” he says. “I remember trying to understand what he was doing … there were no DVDs or books like now—or, you know, Internet. I was using the needle [on the records] to find out what he was doing, up and down with the needle, going crazy as a teenager.”
D’Agostino describes himself as, “a fingerstylist whose music is classical Brazilian Jazz—with a lot of influence from movie soundtracks and traditional Irish music.” Today, he has 45 years of experience on the guitar and his ease with the instrument allows him to create and play stunning compositions. With percussive slaps and deft fingers he creates rhythms and bass lines that saunter and gallop over intricate melodies and quivering harmonics, entrancing the listener.
“Music, in my opinion, is the highest art form because it’s really untouchable,” he says. “You cannot touch music, and it’s still so powerful. I mean, you listen to music and you cry or you laugh, it’s such a powerful medium, the most powerful one. Music has been played for thousands of years at funerals, weddings, you know, played to support people. It has been part of humankind since we were put on this earth.”
D’Agostino has earned critical acclaim—he was voted Best Acoustic Guitarist in 2007 by the readers of Guitar Player magazine—and has cemented his position as a world class guitarist, recently touring with fellow virtuosos Eric Johnson and Andy Mckee. “It was fantastic for me to play with them,” says D’Agostino, “Especially at the end, we played four songs together and it was really magical … I recently played with Laurence Juber and Martin Taylor, and it’s wonderful to play duets and trios.
“It’s fabulous to collaborate with other guitarists, but I also like to play with a drummer like Jeff Campitelli,” he says of his current project. “It’s an interesting combination because of guitar and drums and percussion. It’s quite unusual, it’s beautiful, [and] I love it. I’ll be playing also some solo guitar pieces too, as well as singing a few songs in Italian and English.”
Whether performing in a group or as a soloist, D’Agostino has one thing in mind: “For me, to be a musician is a mission. I have this mission of making an audience feel something. When I perform, the main goal for me is to look [at] them after I play a song and see maybe some people with tears in their eyes, or smiling—for a moment, I took them away from their trouble or from their thoughts. Music is the great helper.”
Peppino D’Agostino plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 603-2294.