Photo Credit: Simone Cecchetti



How do instrumental artists connect their music with the broadest base of listeners? For virtuoso guitarist Andy Timmons, the answer is quite simple: You have to deliver top-quality songs above all else. “A good song has to be there right from the start,” Timmons believes. “It has to be something people identify with and find themselves wanting to listen to over and over.”

This is the overriding philosophy that underpins the powerful contents of Andy Timmons Band’s eighth album, Theme From a Perfect World, which is being released via their own custom label, Timstone Records, on September 30. Co-produced by Timmons and his longtime bassist Mike Daane, Theme From a Perfect World features 10 all-new tracks of melodic guitar instrumentals that Timmons hopes will touch an emotional chord in every listener.

“First and foremost, I’m really proud of these songs,” Timmons says. “Some of them don’t even have a guitar solo per se — which is kind of unusual for an instrumental guitar record, but that underscores the importance of the idea that the songs come first.”

Theme From a Perfect World is comprised of 10 toe-tapping and fist-pump-inducing songs that warrant repeat listens, from the driving, rising force of “Ascension” and “Lift Us Up (Something Wicked This Way Comes)” to the crossover pop leanings of “Winterland” and “Sanctuary” to a pair of heartfelt, uplifting elegies, “That Day Came” and “On Your Way Sweet Soul.”

In addition to Daane on bass, Perfect World also features Rob Avsharian on drums as well as original ATB drummer Mike Marine, who appears on five tracks. “I think we’re just scratching the surface, as far as tapping into the music’s emotional content goes,” the guitarist says of the vibe he and his bandmates strove to achieve collectively on this record. “My playing and musical tastes have changed or matured in some way over the years, and here, we’re trying to be impactful emotionally and certainly melodically.”

Timmons — who’s played with the likes of Danger Danger, Kip Winger, Simon Phillips, and Olivia Newton-John — says he wanted Theme From a Perfect World to be both modern and vintage at the same time. “Overall, Mike and I have always been fans of the classic records of the ’60s and ’70s,” he admits, “and there was an underlying credo of trying to live up to the music we loved and grew up with, both sonically and vibewise. That’s been a consistent theme throughout the history of the band. It was always the common thread.”

From the very beginning, ATB knew how to take their influence threads and hone them into something original. “When we first started playing in 1988, Mike, Mitch, and I had maybe one or two original songs,” Timmons recalls. “Our influences were Hendrix and Cream, The Beatles and Tom Petty — but also Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Eric Johnson. Even Bubble Puppy — ‘Hot Smoke & Sasafrass’ is one of my favorite songs! — helped shape our direction.”

The ATB cauldron of originality is especially evident on the explosive title track — call it “Third Stone From the Sun” for the 21st Century — which is particularly poignant for Timmons, who readily acknowledges how some of his heroes were the catalysts for the forging of something new. “That whole track was born from the overriding desire to create music with that feel and those sounds,” Timmons explains. “It’s very much a loving tribute to both Todd Rundgren and Utopia, and it was also intended to be a mashup of King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King and The Who. Rundgren has been a huge influence on me. I’ve met him several times, and I’ve told him that exact same thing. Do you know what he said to me? ‘Well, I hope you got better, because I kind of plateaued.’” 

Timmons chuckles as he recalls Rundgren’s self-deprecating comments, but he also understands the man’s deeper message: “As a technical guitar player, I see what he meant, but the bottom line is, his overriding musical ear is what guided him to play some of the most musically awesome stuff I’ve ever heard. ‘Utopia Theme’ [from 1974’s Todd Rundgren’s Utopia live debut] — which, obviously, our album title is nodding to — is one of the best guitar melodies I’ve ever heard. And on Utopia’s [1977 album] Oops! Wrong Planet, there’s a song called ‘Crazy Lady Blue’ that I think contains his greatest solo. The vibe and the feel of it, and just how bluesy it is in the way the notes lay there — it’s all about his feel and his melodic ear. That’s the stuff I’m drawn to.”

To that end, Timmons often prefers those instances in his own playing where economy trumps flash. “I don’t need a million notes or have somebody try to impress me with how many hours they’ve spent in the practice room,” he continues. “What Todd was doing was connecting with people, and that’s what I want to do as well. It’s fun to hear. I certainly enjoy virtuosity, but only if it serves a much bigger picture and a much broader goal musically.”

That’s not to say Timmons is turning his back on bringing forth the guitar heroics, however. “Like anything, as you mature, your musical clarity becomes more defined,” he notes. “You just gravitate toward other things. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t work on technique at this point in my life. My first solo release in 1994 was a record called Ear X-tacy, and that was certainly a time when that particular genre of guitar virtuosity was winding down after it hit its peaks with Satriani and Vai’s huger successes. As an artist, I was coming in at the tail end of that period, and it was obviously a concern: ‘Well, I’ve got to show what I can do here.’ Certainly I was interested in the songs and the guitar tone and all of that, but it was about the fire in the playing too — and there is a beauty in that. There’s a maturity in the playing of songs like ‘Electric Gypsy’ that still stands up really nicely today.”

The more challenges the ace guitarist tackles as he composes new music, the more he learns — and the more Timmons wants to share his findings with his audience, both new and old. “The interesting thing I’m finding about this album’s instrumental music is while there are some songs that were inspired by just a groove or jamming with the guys in the band,” he reveals, “a lot of the songs are very specifically influenced by life events, be it my life or that of somebody else near me.”

Especially heartfelt was the inspiration for “The Next Voice You Hear,” a song Timmons wrote in honor of one of his most ardent Japanese fans who had fallen gravely ill. “There was a young man named Takesi whom the trio first met over in Japan in 2007,” Timmons recounts. “He had some kind of anomaly where he was in a wheelchair and on a respirator, and he was really somebody who struggles on a daily basis just to exist. You kind of feel for anybody who struggles in this world, to do what they have to do every day just to do normal things. It was sometime last year I got word he had slipped into a coma, and they did not expect him to make it. Whenever I’m faced with that kind of emotion, it inspires me to write a piece of music because of the solace and comfort it can bring in that moment, and what it can be. I literally felt what I was doing may be the last thing he heard, because I was told he wasn’t going to make it. The song just rolled out in the way it rolled out. I recorded a simple demo in GarageBand — which I never do — but I did it fairly quickly, and put it together and sent it over there within a few days. I later got word that in those moments when they played him the song, tears formed and fell from his eyes, and then he woke up. Maybe something in that song struck something inside the guy, and it triggered that emotion.” Timmons pauses, then adds, “He’s still around today.”

That ATB originals like “The Next Voice You Hear” can evoke such deep-seated feelings is prime reinforcement of Timmons’ maxim that he’s able to better express himself more instrumentally than verbally. “Spoken language is a very finite entity, and there are only so many ways we can express a feeling in that way,” he believes. “Whereas the notes within the music and how they’re presented can sometimes strike people a little deeper. The cool thing is, it may mean something specific to me, but it can be interpreted in almost any way by each listener as a very personal experience.”

Like many of us, Timmons is a staunch believer that music is a great healer. “That idea very much resonates with me and what I’m trying to engage in a listener,” he acknowledges. “Music was always that kind of solace for me. I was overall a very shy kid and I spent a lot of time on my own, so music was, in a way, my security blanket. That was where I felt the most comfortable, and the safest. I felt that way even when I started playing music. I so much identified with it because of that foundation and how it made me feel, and the emotional support it was giving me when I wasn’t getting it elsewhere.”

Timmons was able to translate that very foundation into his own playing. “I think that carried through into the expression, once I was learning how to play and realizing, ‘Hey, I’m getting this stuff out through the guitar. What a cathartic, healing, amazing emotional connection this is.’ And it keeps getting stronger. The more you play the instrument, the more you’re in touch with every nuance and feel of every vibration, and you learn how to control that. It’s a very special thing to evolve that part of your playing so highly — the natural path you go on and the maturity that comes with being alive, you know?”

Timmons’ own maturity as both person and player is fully evident all throughout the 10 tracks that comprise Theme From a Perfect World. The bottom line is, Andy Timmons Band music engages its listeners to their very core, with nary a word need be spoken nor sung. “Music transcends all the borders of the spoken word, to where it’s just music,” Timmons concludes. “There is no language barrier. The music goes straight to the listener, and they just identify with it.” Indeed, Perfect World is the perfect marriage between emotion and connection — and it’s a World worth inhabiting and revisiting time and time again.


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