Classical guitarist Andrés Segovia was performing on TV and Ed Gerhard knew, even though he was just 10 years old at the time, that it was a life-changing moment. "There was something about the sound of it," he says. At 14 years old, he got his first guitar. At 15, he was performing. And so it has been ever since. The Strafford resident is now internationally known for his precise but lush music, and tours extensively in the U.S. and abroad. He won a Grammy Award not long ago and had a guitar named for him, but right now he's excited about his upcoming Christmas concert in Portsmouth, an annual event that Gerhard calls "a warm and comforting experience."
Is it true you never took lessons?
I took three lessons, playing "The Blue-Tailed Fly" and other songs with stupid animal names. I couldn't see where it would get to be fun, so I quit. I bought a chord book and taught myself. I had a well-developed ear.
I've heard you can learn complicated melodies by slowing down a record and just listening.
Yeah, that's never been a problem for me. If you're committed to music and love it, you never have to work at it.
How did you wind up in N.H.?
After high school I drifted around; I was in California for a while, then Newport, R.I. In late 1976 I came to New Hampshire to visit friends and found there was a fantastic music scene here. You could play anywhere, play anything as long as people would drink and stay. The Stone Church was going full tilt. There were lots of good players. It was a wonderful, welcoming place to be.
How do you describe your music?
As instrumental acoustic guitar. It's folk, but I'm definitely not a folkie. It's blues, but I'm not a bluesman. It's always very personal.
What's your aim?
Lately I find myself trying to be as direct as possible with every note, with what I'm communicating. I tend to spend a lot of time clearing away the brush. If the moving harmonies and base lines are too active, they tend to step on the melody. I like to keep the melody exposed. I don't want flashy stuff; I focus on the essential.
How many guitars do you have?
I have a nice little stash of them - about 40.
Is it true you made a CD playing a pawn shop kind of guitar?
I got the idea when I saw crappy, ugly guitars in a music store - it brought me back to being a kid. I bought one and loved the sound, though it's horribly difficult to play. I used a bunch of those cheapos on "House of Guitars."
What do you see in your future?
I'm a live-in-the-moment person; I don't dwell in the past or worry too much about the future. Whatever happens is going to be cruel and unfair. I imagine myself doing this as long as I can. I really love to play.
This article appears in the December 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine