Interview by Andrew Daly
Quinten Hope studied at the legendary University of North Texas School of Music, which led to his first record, Aspects of the Soul, setting the tone for a stellar career to come.
While at the School of Music, Hope performed with the famous UNT Lab Band and wrote compositions that are still performed today. It was Hope’s second record, Start of a New Day, leading to a friendship with Rock-N-Roll Hall-of-Famer and Grammy winner Will Lee, along with Dan Wojciechowski and Bradley Knight.
All three heavy hitters returned to record Hope’s critically acclaimed third record, Reunion, which is his most personal to date. As a longtime Mesa Boogie artist and endorse, Hope focuses on creating definitively huge guitar sounds. Hope’s music was featured in a documentary on the history of Mesa Boogie, and its founder Randall Smith on the Ion Channels series, The World’s Best.
Hope has been a demand in the studio scene and has worked with many heavy hitters in the musical arena. Between performing, writing, session work, and producing, Quinten Hope’s name has become more and more prominent on the “hot list” of players and himself, a highly sought-after talent.
When he isn’t performing with his own band, he’s sharing that perfect tone with his wife, Chaz Marie. Together, they have formed an Americana band and have continued to dazzle audiences. Hope is also working on his own anticipated project, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for what comes next.
During a break from the road, Quinten Hope dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to peel back on the pinion on his hard-drivin’, tone-chasin’ ways.
When did music first enter your life?
Ever since I can remember, so very, very early on. My Dad played guitar, and he was always into music. Mostly rhythm and blues like Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. And he loved country… old outlaw country like Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson.
I wish I could find it… there is a picture somewhere of Willie Nelson holding me when I was about six months old. My Mom and Dad were at Northpark Mall (Dallas’ oldest mall), and they saw a long-haired hippie guy standing over by the doors and it was Willie Nelson. He held me, and they snapped a photo… Polaroid pic. I’m hoping it is in a box somewhere.
When did rock music enter the picture?
Anyway, so, Dad was always playing music throughout the house. The weekends consisted of going to record stores and getting a few records. We would come home, Mom would start cooking, and Dad would blare whatever new records we acquired throughout the house.
Like I mentioned, it was mostly all old rhythm and blues and country. But then I discovered rock ‘n’ roll… Van Halen changed my life. I jumped around in my room, pretending to be Eddie Van Halen for years, using a tennis racket as a guitar. I did this for a while until, one day; I distinctly remember thinking to myself that I needed to really learn how to play because this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had discovered who I was through music.
Can you remember your first guitar?
My folks got me a little cheap guitar, and I learned how to tune it and started figuring out songs and solos out by ear. Just listening to records and then trying to copy what was going on the best I could. That’s all I did. I would get home from school and go straight to my room, put a record on, and start trying to figure out what was happening. The very first song I ever learned all the way through, including the guitar solo, was Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”
So you’re entirely self-taught?
After a while, my folks took me to The Melody Shop, a local music store, and I got hooked up with the guitar teacher there, Bill Malloy. He showed me theory, got me into classical, and helped shape my ear. I would watch him figure songs out in a second. Such a developmental stage for me. All of those guys there were so cool to me. They took me in and treated me so well. They always let me play the Jackson or the Charvel behind the counter—such a great time of my life.
It sounds like you grew up in an extremely nurturing environment.
My folks were very, very supportive. Always positive and motivating. They actually sprung for a Randy Rhodes Jackson for me and surprised me for one of my birthdays. Talk about a jolt of inspiration!!!
We had a big room that was the music room. It was the size of a two-car garage. Dad had a band when he was growing up. This was a band that played the local dances and social clubs and things like that. Mostly All rhythm and blues, Elvis, etc.
As they got older, they disbanded. Years later, Dad got them all back together… all the original members, and they would come over to the house, and they would play all those tunes. By this time, I had already been playing for a good while and had a decent grasp of the guitar and different styles. I sat in with them, and it was a blast and a memory that I’m glad to have.
Is that when you formed your first band?
So, I had an original rock band after high school. We made a good run at things. But, after about three years, it disbanded. I thought to myself, “What’s next?” So, I went to UNT to study music. I have to tell you, that was the worst playing I had ever done in my life.
I was a blues/rock player trying to change everything about my fiber to please the academics of jazz. That’s such an absurd statement, the way it sounds. Music is an expression; it’s internal and screaming to get out of our minds and into the world. Textbook jazz is just a weird thing to think about… even now. Nothing can replace learning by ear, playing with great musicians, and taking risks to keep reaching for something beyond what we are already doing.
That being said, did you come out as a better player?
Well, I went there to be a better musician, not a jazz player. I love music theory. That was such a fun thing to dive into. On the player side, I worked my way up to take lessons with the grandmaster himself, Fred Hamilton. He’s such a great musician and a sweet cat. My first lesson with him was the most important lesson and a reminder of my entire life.
What was that lesson?
We were sitting there in his office, and Fred had this cool long white beard, and he was sitting there, stroking his beard, and he looked at me and said, “I can’t make you play any better. We can talk about ideas and concepts, and we can transcribe solos and analyze them and learn from them… but you have to do the work.”
And then he said, “You have to get with the music you love… get your head between the headphones and absorb the music that moves you. I don’t care if you don’t sound like Wes Montgomery or Joe Pass. You are a rock/blues player, and you just need to take that, apply it, find your voice, and play what you want to hear!”
That was it! That was the turning point. That was the golden rule… I was allowed to be me again. It was okay to play what I wanted to hear! That released me from trying to satisfy academia. That gave me my self-confidence back and set me on a journey to get back to what I love.
Where did you go from there?
It was then that I dove back into Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I guess I lean toward Texas players. I mean, I am a Native Texan, myself. There’s a special magic about it. But I jumped back in. This was when Eric had come out with Venus Isle. That is one of my all-time favorite recordings. Such an amazing example of writing, production, and performance. It stands today as my favorite, and I still refer to it all the time for inspiration. That recording is my textbook.
And how about Stevie?
And all the SRV recordings. The way Stevie recorded his stuff… he was such a powerful soul. The way he could get that across onto tape is absolutely amazing. Like I am sitting in the room with him, and his soul is just opening up. That’s incredibly hard to do and to get across.
It wasn’t hard for Stevie. You have to really pour some magic into it to get that to come across on tape. And he did it… every time. So, that was the defining moment, and those were the two Texas guitar slingers that are my all-time heroes. I listen to them every day and refer to their recordings all the time for tonal ideas, writing inspiration, production ideas, etc. It’s all there.
What do you love most about recording in the studio? Tell me about your latest record.
I love recording. I love hearing the finished product. I love the whole process. The new record has Will Lee on bass, my good buddy David DeShazo on bass, Dan Wojciechowski on drums, Sean McCurley on drums, and Rob Arthur on keys. And then, there are guest appearances from some of my friends and heroes like Brent Mason, Oz Noy, and Monte Montgomery.
How do you approach things while in the studio?
When I am recording a project, I will go into the studio with the entire band… at least the rhythm section. So, for most of this one, maybe half, the rhythm tracks were recorded in New York. Sean McCurley and I went to New York and recorded several songs with Will Lee. Others were recorded here in Dallas at Crystal Clear Studios with Will Lee on Bass, David DeShazo on bass, and Dan Wojciechowski on drums.
So, we will go in, and I will have a song, idea, and maybe a chart, and we will get the vibe going and then hit the red button and then play it down and see what happens. It’s a pretty cool thing because, most of the time, the song will come out completely different than I had intended for it to. That is due to the energy that the band brings to the studio when we are all together.
Will brings amazing energy and great ideas to the songs and makes them come alive in ways that I never thought of. Sean and Dan do the same thing with their amazing grooves. These guys will lay down a groove, and when Will locks in with them, sometimes the pocket is so deep you can’t even get the change out of it!
It sounds as if the rhythm section heavily informs your playing.
There are times when I can just sit back and listen to just the rhythm tracks alone and appreciate the magic that happens between the players. It’s beautiful. After all of the rhythm tracks are complete, I will bring the session back to my studio and start working on guitar overdubs, layers, and tones. That is when I get to play engineer, producer, guitar tech, and guitar player. I get to wear all the hats.
Do you have an approach that you repeatedly go back to?
Sometimes, when I am writing, I will think to myself, “I wonder what Oz Noy would do on this track?” Or “What would Brent Mason do?” So, I carve out a spot on the tune, call them up and have them track a take on it. It’s so much fun to collaborate with the guys that are heroes of mine. It’s pretty surreal. The next track that I will release is called “Let’s Play,” and it features Oz Noy. He does the most crazy, insane, and brilliantly beautiful solo on this track.
It blew my mind when I heard what he did on it. There is a song out right now that I released as a single called “Bomb Diggity.” It features Brent Mason. It’s funny because when I sent the track to Brent, I was already hearing in my head what I thought he was going to play on it. When I got it back, it was completely different than what I expected, and, again, what he did on it was just brilliant.
What sort of gear did you have to work with in the studio? Why did you make those choices?
Amp-wise, it’s always my Mesa Amps. Depending on the needs of the tune, I will use a Fillmore 25, Fillmore 50, Fillmore 100, TC100, or any of my Lone Star amps. I have different cabinets I use depending on what I’m going for. I have a couple of 4×10 Lone Star open backs that I like a lot. One of them is loaded with Jensen speakers that are very cool. I have some closed-back Recto 2×12 cabs and 2×12 open-back Lone Star cabs. Recently I’ve gone back to a Recto 4×12 cab. There is such a special mojo about a 4×12 that can’t be beaten.
So, you’re a true tone-chaser, then?
With all of this, the tonal aspects are infinite. I can get anything from super clean to super heavy and anything in between. A long time ago, before I was playing Mesa Boogie Amps, I was playing Bogner amplifiers, Marshalls, and Tony Bruno amplifiers. I had some vintage Fender amps, like a ’64 Fender Deluxe Reverb and the ’65 Deluxe Reverb, and a ’64 Super Reverb.
What led you to make the switch to Mesa Boogie Amps?
They were all pretty cool amps… until… I was working on the Start of a New Day record. So, I had all these amplifiers in the studio, I had finished tracking every song, and all of the guitar parts were finished. A friend of mine introduced me to Steve Mueller from Mesa Boogie, and we hit it off immediately. Steve is one of the most amazing humans on this earth. He told me about a new amp that they had come out with at that time called the Lone Star.
He let me take one to borrow and try out. I was so blown away! This was everything I was looking for in an amplifier. The clean channel was exponentially better than my Fender amps, and the lead channel has this smooth, buttery, vocal-like quality about it that I had never heard before in an amplifier. I was so blown away that I went back into the studio and re-cut every guitar track using the Mesa Boogie Lonestar. I have used Mesa Boogie ever since.
Do you only use Mesa Boogie?
I’m a Mesa Boogie guy. As I mentioned earlier, I played a lot of different amps, and when I played a Lone Star, I was hooked. I’ve been with Mesa for a pretty long time now. They are family. The Lone Star has been my main amp since it was designed. To go with that, I also use the Fillmore’s. I have a pair of Fillmore 50 combos, a Fillmore 100 combo (with another on the way to make a pair), and a Fillmore 25 head that goes through a Lone Star 1×12 cabinet. I also have a Fillmore 100 head that pushes a 2×12 and 4×10 cabinets—such an awesome sound.
I also bought a ’65 Fender Twin from Eric Johnson a couple of years ago. I am very happy to have that. It’s the best Twin I’ve ever heard and played through. My Fillmore 25 stays mic’d up in my studio. It covers so much ground, and I can make it do almost anything. I’ll also use the Lone Star through a variety of cabinets.
Do you use the same rig live as in the studio?
As of late, my live rig will consist of Fillmore’s or a combination of Fillmore and the Lone Star. I’ll use a pair of Fillmore’s for my stereo clean and A/B those with the Lone Star through a Mesa Recto 4×12 cabinet. The Fillmore handles the cleans, and the Lone Star handles the dirt. This is my favorite setup. Sometimes, depending on the venue, I may just take a pair of Fillmore 50s and run them together.
How about effects pedals?
I don’t use a lot of pedals. But, on my live board, I have delay and a few overdrives for different flavors.
I am using the Universal Audio Starlight. It is my favorite delay. They nail the Memory Man and the Echoplex tones. I also have a couple of Caitlanbread Belle Epochs on the board for when I take out three amps. I will use these on the clean side of things.
I also have several old Memory Man delays. I take them out occasionally. But mostly, these stay in the studio. I have a Warm Audio Centavio. It really is the best Klon clone. They nailed it. I had an original Klon that I bought for $100 from a buddy, and I sold it for $1200.
You sold an original Klon!?
Man, I should’ve held on to that one. Who knew?! But it’s a great pedal. I also have an Analog Man King of Tone, a Mesa Cleo, and a Maxon OD9 on the board. I’ll use the Maxon for solos when I need a little extra gain.
The others are set to sound like a good amp at the edge of breakup and for some boost.
I use a Joe Bonamassa signature Wah pedal. This one has a really cool tone. I also have an old Budda Bud-Wah. That one is very cool, as well. Most of the time, about 90%, it’s just guitar, amp, and a little delay. Pretty simple, really.
Do you engineer all your own guitar parts, or do you have someone else handle that?
I engineer all my own guitar parts. I’ll mic the cabs with a set of Royer 121 ribbon mics paired with SM57s and blend them to taste. Those run into some Warm Audio WA273 mic preamps and then into a UA Apollo 8. For me, that recipe always works. If I’m working on my stuff or working on sessions for other people… it never fails.
When I’m tracking, it’s always guitar into amp. I’ve never liked using any pedals. I’ve tried, and, for me, the amp always sounds best. There is a reason why I play these amps… I love them. I love what they do and how they respond, and how they inspire me. So when I’m tracking, it’s almost always the amp you will hear.
And how about guitars?
With guitars, again, it depends on what I’m going after tone-wise and what the song calls for. Most of the time, it is Opie, my old faithful Strat. It’s an amazing Strat—nothing like it. I used to have a ’59 Strat, and it was pretty great, but Opie is far better. I also have a Collings I35 LC-V that I recently acquired, and it is just incredible.
It’s pretty much one of the most amazing guitars I have ever had and played. It tracks so well and just has this whole other sonic realm that I cannot get with anything else. I have a few other Strats and a Telecaster that I use as well. Sometimes the Telecaster sounds like a beast on a recording when I may not have expected that. If I recall, I think Jimmy Page used a Telecaster on many Led Zeppelin recordings. Now I know why.
Do you prefer vintage guitars or new ones?
Every guitar I have has a purpose. They have their own personalities, and they are named. Like I said, I actually had an all-original ’59 Strat. It was exceptional. It was named The Colonel. I sold it around 2011. Hated doing it. But, whatever. As cool as that was to have a real ’59, I am in love with all the guitars that I have now.
My #1 is a Master Built Strat. It was built by John English at Fender. It was one of the last ones he made right before he passed away. I’ve never played a Strat like it in my life. It is the best one that I have ever played. The neck, the vibe, the resonance, the tone. I could never be without it. I named it Opie. I have had this one for a very long time. It’s the oldest of the bunch. All of the markings on it are all me… my DNA, blood, sweat, and tears. We have many miles together and been on countless sessions, and it is very much a part of me.
I mentioned the Collings I35 LC~V that I recently acquired. Now, this guitar was made for me by Collings. It took two years to get. And it is so magical. It has a vibe that is just majestic. I named it PaPa, after my Mom’s Dad, my grandpa. Collings is probably the best guitar company around. Their quality is above and beyond anyone else, and they are consistent. I’m still blown away that I even have this guitar. Like, it freaks me out just holding it and knowing that I own it. It’s that good.
How about the acoustic side of things?
I also have three Collings acoustics. Two D-2 dreadnaughts and an OM2H. One of the D2s is a gorgeous Sunburst. It’s named Elwyn, after my dad. Then the other is named Puddin, which was my mom’s nickname her family called her. And the OM is named Chaz after my amazing wife. I also have my dad’s 1977 Martin D28. My Mom bought that for him for one of their Anniversaries. It sounds amazing, and I still use it. It’s a great guitar.
Any others of note?
I have another Master Built Strat by Jason Smith. He built that for me about 13 years ago. It’s named Dalton. This guitar has a pretty cool story as well. Then I have a few other Custom Shop Strats. I have a Custom Shop Tele that has some special mojo. It’s named The Crow. It’s black with white binding and a black matching headstock—very cool vibe.
I have a Gibson Les Paul Special. I love P90 pickups, and this one has a growl that sounds like Godzilla coming down the street. It’s called Butternut. And I have a Jimmy Wallace Strat with a Humbucker in the bridge and then two single coils. It’s a really cool Strat. Jimmy is doing some very cool things. It’s named The Jimmy. How appropriate. Those are the main ones. I love all of them.
Tell me about your songwriting approach.
I approach it in many ways. Most of the time, it happens when I am just noodling around at soundcheck or just practicing, and I will hit a lick, and it catches my ear, and immediately I have to stop and record it on my phone, so I don’t forget it. Then I will come back to that later and start to develop that into an actual composition.
Other times, I can just be going down the street, and I will hear a truck. The way the truck is idling at a tone, or a rhythmic value will spark something in the creative side of my mind, and, again, I will grab my phone and vocalize the idea into a voice memo and then revisit it later to try to re-create what I heard and make that into a composition.
Is there a lot of experimentation within your process?
Sometimes I may come up with a chord progression that I really like, and then I have to go searching for a melody. And then there are other times when I will come up with a melody and then experiment with the harmonic structures underneath it. I’ve learned that we need to be open to the energy around us. Hopefully, it’s all positive energy. But we are vessels. We are portals.
Anything can spark an idea at any time. We just need to be open and consciously accepting of all the energy around us. It’s an infinite source of ideas and inspiration. Music and inspiration are everywhere and all around us all day, all the time. I just try and stay out of the way so I can pay attention to what is trying to come to me.
Also, if I hear a song that just speaks to me, more than likely, that will manifest itself into a tune. And I think that’s a great compliment to the artists that inspired us through that song. Writing with my wife, Chaz Marie, is pretty much the same thing. I will come up with an idea, and I’ll record it on my phone, and I will send it to her, and she will write her lyrics to it. Once we have it arranged the way we like, we will go into the studio and lay it down. We are writing new material for our next release now.
What songs stick out most and why?
For me, it’s the ones that bring tears to my eyes, makes the hair stand up on my arm, or give me a jolt of energy where I feel I wanna run a marathon or drive a race car at 165mph. When I listen to Stevie’s “Life Without You,” that first note he hits on the solo literally brings tears to my eyes, and I get all these emotions that just flood to the surface. Every single time… it never fails.
Then there are songs like The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.” The vibe, the droning undertone, the harmonies, the guitar lines, the bass line…. I can listen to that song 100 times a day. It’s the same with Eric Johnson’s “When the Sun Meets the Sky.” It just has this vibe, and it resonates with me.
And ZZ Top’s “I Gotsta Get Paid,” that guitar tone that Billy [Gibbons] gets just makes me wanna get in a car and drive. So many different things can capture my attention. But yes, those are a few that I have to have on my playlist every day of the week. There are many more… probably too many to list.
What moment or moments from your recent sessions stand out most to you?
I think being in the studio in NYC with Will Lee and Sean McCurley. The vibe that we have, the vibe of the city, just the hang with Will and Sean. That was such a cool time. One of the songs that is released now is called “C’mon Girl!” and that tune was written by Will.
He said that he had this tune that he had written and was gonna give it to Billy Gibbons but asked if I wanted to cut it. That was a great honor. It’s such a fun song. It was a blast to record and come up with the other parts on guitar—total ZZ Top vibe. I hope I did justice to Will, Billy, and Texas!!
How about during the sessions in Dallas?
There was a time we were in the studio in Dallas, and we were in between songs and taking a break, eating pizza or something. Will walked into the tracking room and sat down, and started playing around with grooves to find the right vibe for the next tune we were about to track. Dan [Wojciechowski] walked in, sat behind the drums, didn’t look at Will, didn’t say a word.
He started kicking out a beat, and within minutes they had the deepest groove I had ever heard. But they communicated completely through music and groove. Dan knew what Will was doing and just joined in. It was truly a beautiful moment. I will never forget just watching those guys work like that.
It sounds like the chemistry between all involved created some great music.
I think, mostly, as I mentioned, it’s the friendship, the hang, the camaraderie between the musicians. It’s such a beautiful thing to witness when everyone comes together and cares about the music so much. They bring their A-Game every time, and we create something that will, hopefully, inspire, motivate, and touch people in the ways we have been touched by the music we love. Those are moments that are behind the scenes but come across on tape in the form of positive energy and vibes, and great ideas. I love these guys that I get to record and play with. Amazing people.
What has the response to your new music been like?
The response is great. We are getting new fans every day and at every show. The fans we already have are loyal fans and very supportive.
What experiences did you have in terms of touring and promotion?
In terms of shows, it’s a really cool thing that has happened. I mentioned my wife, Chaz Marie; she is the most amazing woman and artist I know. And I know I’m married to her, but music is what brought us together. She captured me with her voice and songs, and persona. I’ve never known or seen a woman that has the power she has, the tone, the command of the stage and the crowd, and the spot-on vocals as consistently as she does. Night after night, it’s flawless.
So, you’ve joined forces?
So, she had her band, The Chaz Marie Band, and I had The Quinten Hope Band. Since we have gotten together, we now combine all that in our shows. So, people are getting the great female powerhouse vocalist and her songs, and they are getting the guitar and instrumental side of things as well. One of our favorites is Tedeschi Trucks Band.
It’s almost like that. Derek and Susan were their own entities, and then they combined into a superpower. That’s what happened with Chaz and me. It broadened our fan base and allowed us to be very versatile and have a lot of fun at our shows. It’s a lot of fun. We just call it Chaz Marie, but it’s still the combination of our writing and performances. And that allows me to still just go out as The Quinten Hope Band.
Does making music in a low attention span world frustrate you?
It used to. Just watching society and the world as a whole just live through their phones and not really have the full experience that my generation had is hard at times. I feel sorry for the people that missed out on it. There was nothing like waiting for a record to come out. The anticipation, the excitement of the announcement of a new record, was almost too much to handle at times. It was so exciting. You had to go to the record store, hope that it was in stock, and then you got all the liner notes and pics.
Growing up, you went home and sat in front of the speakers and absorbed that record. You had to stay in one location to listen to it. That makes a huge difference in how that music affects you and speaks to you and how you absorb it. There are too many distractions these days that take away from that. Technology is great. My generation was born in an analog world, and then it went digital. We got the best of both worlds. So, there was a lot of cool stuff I got to experience that a lot of younger people didn’t get to.
What’s next in all lanes?
Oh man… so much to always get to and develop. So many things. We keep evolving. Always practicing new things and trying to get to the next level. Playing and writing. Always another level to get to, a new sound to explore, a new song to write.
For gear, I am pretty content. The guitars and amps are everything I would ever need, and I am pretty excited about the tones I’ve been getting. Right now, we are writing and recording new Chaz Marie material. We have an acoustic EP coming out later. We have a lot of irons in the fire with performances, writing, recording, and reaching for that next level and platform.
And how about the Quinten Hope Band side of things?
I have about six Quinten Hope Band songs, all recorded and just waiting to be mixed for release. The next one out will be “Let’s Play,” featuring Oz Noy. I’m excited to get these mixed. There are some high-energy tunes, some grooving tunes, and maybe a ballad thrown in there. But I’m always writing. There are tons of ideas that are being developed daily.
So, it’s live shows with new music on the way, then?
Yes. Our focus has been just putting on the best live show that we can and being consistent. Consistency is important to us. It’s like any other business. You don’t want to create a product and have 2 out of 10 be really great. No. It needs to be 10 out of 10. That’s how we approach our live shows, and everything, really.
We give 100% every show. And that is something that we actually hear from our fans, so I guess that’s working. The consistency is also just the love for what we do coming through the music. We love what we do. We love performing for people, and we love writing, creating, and recording our ideas for people to enjoy and, hopefully, find inspiring, as well. I’m excited about the future. I can’t wait to hear it!
Quinten Hope: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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