Rock guitar master Andy Timmons reflected on the work of legendary Eddie Van Halen and recalled one particular song and video that got him into his music.
Eddie’s greatness and impact are immeasurable. To this day, new generations of guitar players are still impressed with what he did back in the late 1970s and the 1980s. But according to Timmons, one of the things that was a crucial component of Ed’s music was his personality. As he told Final Resonance TV in a recent interview, an artist’s music is a voice that shows their personality in a different form.
“People’s facade and persona could be very different from the human being that they are,” Timmons explained (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “Some people are more natural, and for me, those are the ones I’m drawn to.”
“Eddie Van Halen is one of those people. Olivia [Newton-John] was one of those people. Jeff Beck was one of those people. You could just tell when somebody’s being real. They’re not having to put on anything.”
“Their music — if it’s a voice, if it’s a guitar playing — they come through their instrument, you know what I mean?”
According to Andy, having this honest approach to music and creating art that’s genuine is the way to go. He pointed out:
“And I think that’s why we’re talking about Ed like we are. There was no facade. There was no divide. It was his pure spirit coming out without bullshit, without trying to be someone. It was natural.”
And it was indeed natural. Sure, it’s impressive to hear a technically skilled lead guitar player. But if it comes with genuine intent, then the music will just feel completely different. But for Timmons, the moment when he really got into Eddie, where he saw his true honest approach, was the “Jump” video. He continued:
“The moment for me — and I’m sure this made people fall deeply in love with him like I did — is the ‘Jump’ video where he is just looking at the camera and smiling, playing this incredible stuff.”
“Not this persona of ‘I’m a rock god, I’m a rock star,’ there’s plenty of that comes through naturally, but man, that little impish smile like, ‘This is so much fun, I’m having a great time!’ And why not show that?”
In addition to this, Timmons also explained the importance of letting yourself show honest emotion in music. After all, that’s the whole point of music and art, right?
“If you know my music at all, you know that I’m not afraid of emotion,” Timmons reflected. “I want that to come through. I want all the stuff that I go through as a human to come through my art, and if that resonates with people, that’s a deep honor. But those are the ones that I am naturally drawn to. And like I say, Eddie just shone in that way — such a deep way.”
In order to really express yourself, you still need proper skills. Your playing technique, music theory knowledge, and general familiarity with your guitar’s fretboard should be up to standards.
What may feel so discouraging for a guitar player, however, is when they realize that they can’t sound like their heroes. But as Timmons also said during the interview, you’ll never sound like Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai. And that’s not a bad thing or something that should discourage you.
“There are a lot of self-defeating things that people tell themselves all the time,” he offered. “That is a really valid thing — if you think you can’t, you’re right! [Laughs] I never left a show feeling defeated or like, ‘Gosh, I’ll never be able to do that.’ I would leave thinking, ‘Well, that’s possible. And I can’t wait to play.’ [Laughs]”
“Some people can kind of get discouraged or whatever, but you’ll never be Steve Vai, you’ll never be Eddie Van Halen,” he continued. “It’s honorable to pay tribute and to learn anything from their body of work — that’s how you form your own identity.”
“But you can’t be them. You’ll never be the shy kid that Eddie was coming from the Netherlands.”
This, of course, goes for any famous guitar legend out there. Apart from Eddie and Vai, Timmons also named Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Albert King as some of the unique-sounding artists that a lot of musicians are often trying to replicate. He continued:
“The same with Stevie Ray. There are plenty of SRV-influenced sound-alike players, but he put it together in his experience — he took Jimi, he took the Alberts and the Kings and all the greats — and it came out very much him.”
“I think that’s what each of our paths has the potential to be if we want to forge our own identity. Maybe some people are very happy to just do their best to step in the shoes of their hero — if it’s making you happy, that’s the perfect thing to be doing. But for those that want to have their own thing, at some point, you have to diversify and let that be your prime influence.”