Pass any seasoned guitarist an empty beer bottle and ask them to play a tune with it. You’d soon realise it’s as good as starting from zero again – so it’s no wonder slide guitarists are unanimously admired among the communities.
“It’s a totally different animal,” says Adam Korsvik. The versatile guitarist is highly respected for his prowess with the slide, and studied it with former Allman Brothers Band guitarist, Jack Pearson. On the stage or in the studio, Adam has collaborated with names like Tom Leadon of Mudcrutch, his brother Bernie from the Eagles, Crystal Bowersox, Devon Gilfillian, Marquee Mayfield and many more.
We chat with Adam about slide guitar, his proudest achievements and touring with Tom Leadon.
What inspired you to pick up the guitar at the very beginning? Who were your guitar heroes growing up?
I remember watching “Ready to Rumble” with my older brother and hearing “Runnin’ with the Devil” by Van Halen. It completely blew my 4th grade mind. I started taking some lessons, but I wasn’t really hooked until my dad showed me two records from his vinyl collection: “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek and the Dominoes and “Blow by Blow” by Jeff Beck.
How did you end up playing in Nashville? What is it that you love about the city?
I came down to go to grad school in music management, but my focus has always been performing. I love that you can hear every genre of music here. The community is very welcoming to everyone.
Tell us about how you picked up slide guitar.
We always had the Allman Brothers Band and Traveling Wilburys on growing up. It wasn’t until college that I got completely sucked into slide guitar though. I fell on my left hand one day, and the only thing I could do on guitar that didn’t hurt was to play slide. After a few days, my hand felt better but I just couldn’t put the slide down. It’s so expressive and vocal.
To an aspiring guitarist who wants to get better at slide, what’s your advice?
Go in knowing that it’s a totally different animal. Put on “At Fillmore East” and steal Duane’s slide licks in standard tuning without a slide, at first. Try playing those phrases with just your ring finger or pinky. Then as you start feeling comfortable with those licks, put on your slide and play along.
You teach guitar as well. Aside from imparting knowledge to your students, what have you learned from your time teaching?
Learning to break down a concept and being able to communicate it to everyone, not just musicians. You gain a lot of patience by being an instructor, too.
What’s your proudest musical achievement to date?
There’s a couple that come to mind, but my first proudest moment would be when I was in middle school and auditioned for jazz band on guitar. The band director told me they weren’t taking electric guitar but needed bass. I didn’t think I could learn bass in a week, so I almost gave up on the idea. My dad encouraged me to step up to the challenge and I bought a bass book to learn to read bass clef and technique. I made the cut for jazz band two weeks later. That moment really paved the way for me to be able to rise to any challenge. I can thank my dad on that one.
You’re currently playing with Tom Leadon (formerly of Mudcrutch). What’s it like playing with someone who’s had such an extensive touring career?
I really enjoy playing with Tom. He knows the lost art of simplicity in a song. It’s also pretty cool to hear stories about incredible artists like Tom Petty, The Eagles, and James Jamerson being told in the first-person. It’s like Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Could you share an invaluable lesson you’ve learned from playing with Tom?
He’s encouraged me to sing vocal harmonies. I’ve never been comfortable with my voice before working with Tom. He told me harmonies are basically just about hitting the note on pitch. Hearing it broken down that simply really made it click for me.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would that be and why?
Steve Jordan. He’s worked with everyone from John Scofield to Sheryl Crow. He has such a solid foundation for groove and his ear for producing is fantastic. Mike Campbell would be up there for me as well.
What MONO gear do you use at home, in the studio or on tour?
My M80 Dual Electric. I can bring my Strat or Tele and SG to any gig that requires multiple sounds.
Why the M80 Dual Electric?
The protection MONO offers my guitars. It’s invaluable. I don’t have to stress about the integrity of my instruments. Only having to make one trip to my car is awesome, too!
What’s next for Adam Korsvik?
I’m always up for the next challenge. I plan to continue working on the road or in town for gigs and sessions. I’d like to pick up pedal steel soon too. Tom Leadon has some dates booked down in Florida to celebrate Tom Petty’s birthday, so check out my website for info!