As the youngest member of the International Guitar Night project, 26-year-old Canadian fingerstyle guitarist Calum Graham is not a bit worried.
He is touring the world with Django Reinhardt’s great-nephew Lulo Reinhardt and guitar masters, Michael Chapdelaine and Marek Pasieczny. But Graham is also a master in his own right, making history as a teenager in 2010 when he won the Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, performing an original composition and becoming the first teenager to win the competition.
In a telephone interview with The Billings Gazette, Graham talked about the importance of musicians finding an authentic voice and writing songs from an emotional point of view.
“It’s important to have your own voice, find what makes you unique. It’s also nice to collaborate with other musicians. There is a lot to be learned,” Graham said.
International Guitar Night stops at the Alberta Bair Theater on Saturday, Feb. 10 for a 7:30 p.m. performance. The guitarists will also perform Feb. 13 in Helena.
Since its humble beginnings in 1995 in a converted laundromat in California, International Guitar Night has toured internationally featuring guitar composers from around the world.
Graham said the audience will hear solos, duets, originals and cover songs.
“Some stories are woven into the songs. It’s good to talk about them. I do a bit of that during my set. There are a bunch of originals and we do a cover of a Pink Floyd song and ‘Fragile’ by Sting,” Graham said. “It makes for a good mix.”
International Guitar Night wrapped a tour of Europe last year and in 2018 they will continue touring with 25 stops in the U.S. and Canada. After that, Graham will do a solo tour and hit the recording studio. His fifth album, “Tabula Rasa,” recorded with renowned acoustic guitarist Antoine Dufour, was his first to feature his soulful vocals.
"It's challenging and inspiring," Graham said of singing during his concerts. "It's a cool evolution from starting with the guitar, then the harp guitar."
Widely known for his inventive fingerstyle guitar and progressive style, Graham calls his technique a mini-orchestra.
“There is a way to use the guitar to make it one-man band, playing the bass and the melody, two different parts like the piano. It’s a new sound, different than what you are used to hearing.”
Graham has been honing his vocals, performing originals and cover songs, including Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
“There are a lot of moving parts, lots happening. It’s cool to have both the guitar telling the story for some songs and telling the stories with words and melodies. It’s a nice change and contrast for the evening.”
Graham is working on his second album featuring his soulful vocals. After studying with a vocal coach and learning proper technique, Graham said it’s practice, practice, practice – just like learning to play the guitar.