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Lady Antebellum's Slim Gambill in Detroit, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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Jason "Slim" Gambill is doing just fine as the guitarist and occasional co-writer for Lady Antebellum -- one of country's more recognizable sidemen thanks to his trademark two-foot-long hair braids.

But there's more to the story than that.

Educated at the University of Southern California, the Nebraska-born, Colorado-raised Gambill, 42, draws from a substantial palette of music, including rock, jazz and blues in addition to country. He was part of a rock band in Los Angeles, Firstman, and was in the house band for NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daily" before moving to Nashville and joining Lady A.

This gear Gambill has released "Fake Jazz and Theme Songs," a set of mostly instrumental songs that explore markedly different territory than Lady A hits such as "Love Don't Live Here," "Our Kind of Love," "American Honey" and "Need You Now."

Lady A, of course, takes up most of Gambill's time -- especially with a new album "Ocean," on Nov. 15. But he's enjoying an opportunity to give the world a more thorough taste of himself, both on record and with solo dates when the band's schedule allows...

Gambill began playing after his family moved to Colorado Springs when he was eight years old, learning on his grandmother's old acoustic guitar and becoming "obsessed" when he heard Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Jazz and blues, and classic rock, is what got me into the guitar bug and practicing and learning," Gambill, says by phone from his home in Nashville. "It's more kind of home for me, honestly. The fact I'm a sideman in a country band is one of the last things I ever thought I'd find myself doing."

Gambill came to Nashville after working with country singer John Kelley, who introduced the guitarist to his younger brother Charles, then in the process of forming Lady A; On his 30th birthday he was in the studio recording the group's self-titled debut album. "I can't really express what being with Lady Antebellum has done for me," says Gambill, who's co-written the songs such as "Slow Down Sister," "Wanted You More," "Better Man" and "All For Love." "Talk about a great set of coattails to jump on. And musically they're so good, man. They write songs that the world connects to...and they give us enough space to do our thing with them. It's not, 'Keep it passive and mellow, Slim.' That's not their thing. For 90 minutes every night I can throw down. That beats working for a living."

oe Firstman in Los Angeles gave Gambill his "Slim" nickname. "He started calling me that and it just stuck. I have friends who forget what my first name is. My mom still calls me Jason, but that's about it."

The idea for "Fake Jazz & Theme Songs" -- which features guest appearances by the Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin, Hanson guitarist Isaac Hanson and Candace Devine for the one vocal track, "Over Getting Over You" -- was born when a friend of Gambill's asked him to mentor at a student festival during the spring of 2018 in New Mexico. "He wanted me to play some of my own stuff, so I said, 'I guess I could write some music' and cut demos for the house band. One thing led to another, and I just couldn't do it halfway. I ended up making an entire record of my own. It was kind of a pet project that became a passion project. My first solo album was an instrumental jazz record, so this is almost circling back around to where I started."

And the braids? Those were the suggestion of a modern rock band Gambill played with during the early 2000s, which initially asked him to cut his long hair but settled for the alternative arrangement. "I never set out to have a 'thing,' I never wanted to be that guy who's like, 'This is my thing.' But (the braids) got to be my thing, much like the nickname. Sometimes I feel ridiculous walking into a room with Willie Nelson braids, but it's served me well. It's kept me really recognizable."

Slim Gambill performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Cadieux Cafe, 4300 Cadieux Road, Detroit. $10. 313-882-8560 or cadieuxcafe.com. Gambill will also be playing with Lady Antebellum at Stars and Strings, joining Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and others at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. $59 and up. 313-471-7000 or 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.cadieuxcafe.com

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