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Q&A with Billy Gibbons: On the evil of acoustic guitars, making an album during the pandemic and missing cords

Geoff Edgers and Billy Gibbons in late May on “Stuck With Geoff.” (The Washington Post)

Like so many, arts reporter Geoff Edgers was grounded by the pandemic. So he decided to launch an Instagram Live show called “Stuck With Geoff” from his barn in Massachusetts. He continues to do the show, every Friday afternoon, and so far his guests have included Jamie Lee Curtis, Yo-Yo Ma and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others. Recently, Edgers chatted with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: I don't know if you remember this, but when the pandemic started, I was worried I was going to be stuck in this stupid barn forever. So I called you. And you had no guitar cable.

A: Oh, yeah. We had no guitar cord. We had the guitar, we had the amp. Everything was lit up, and I said, “Oh, yeah, there is such a thing as a guitar cable.” [Laughs]

Q: The other interesting thing is that you went for a drive, and then you turned back.

A: I was in Las Vegas. I went for a drive, and for some reason there was a detour that took me back to the strip. And when you see all the lights off, and you’re the only car, not a living soul within sight — that’ll give you pause to head back to the house.

Q: How has this time been for you? You did make a new album, "Hardware."

A: Well, it would have been quite non-illustrious, but the good news was I got a phone call from Matt Sorum and Austin Hanks, and of course we’d been talking about what next? But they said: “We’re going to come collect you. We found a recording studio out near Joshua Tree.” The three of us tiptoed in the control room while we thought we were given a 30-minute inspection, and 30 minutes turned into 30 days, which turned into month after month. And we had a blast making a loud noise.

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Q: I hear you're going to get back and record another record, is that right?

A: That is correct. I’ve got the luxury of leaving one studio and tiptoeing into the next one. I’ll be joined by Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, of course, the famous guy. The man with no beard.

Q: I'm not sure it's true, but I don't know if I've ever seen you play an acoustic guitar. Is there some kind of issue where you fear an acoustic guitar?

A: Yes, I’ve said, don’t bring an acoustic around here. That’s bad luck to me.

Q: What is it about acoustic guitars?

A: Well, if you had your choice between a sailboat and a power craft, don’t bring me a blow boat. Let’s get on and put the pedal to the metal.

Q: As you know, I live in Massachusetts, but I love Texas. I visited Gary Clark there. I visited the great Billy Joe Shaver. And I knew with Billy Joe Shaver that, you know, that we may have voted differently. We never really talked about it, but I didn't care.

A: I’m glad you brought up Billy Joe Shaver. I was asked to read the wedding vows for a Billy Joe Shaver marriage. And after it was all said and done, someone said, “Gee, what a beautiful moment — you let Billy Joe Shaver remarry.”

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Q: Did you wrestle with Billy, or was there some kind of wrestling thing where he cracked a vertebrae in his neck?

A: You’re close. Let me let me back up a little bit. After the wedding ceremony . . . we return to the hotel. I said, “Well, where’s Billy Joe?” And they said, “Look down on the floor.” And he and his buddy were engaged in a leg-wrestling match. And the next thing you know, Billy Joe is tumbling head over heels. Then the next thing I know, he’s vaporized once more. He’s at the dice table. He looked like he was in pain and holding his neck. And I said, “Man, are you okay?” And he goes, “Well, I’m not so sure.” I said, “Well, let me take you to the hospital.” He goes: “Well, yeah, I’m on a winning streak. Can you wait just a second?” But another 20 minutes went by. Finally, I got him to the doc, and they said, “My God, good thing you brought him, man, he’s got a broken neck!” Oh, it’s crazy.

Q: I think we would all agree, you have a very distinctive sound, the tone of your guitar, the sounds you're able to pinch out of those strings. Was there a point in your career where you were like, "Ah, I got it"?

A: The first guitar showed up behind the Christmas tree. I had just turned 13. And lo and behold, there was a guitar and an amplifier and a connecting cable. So all the important pieces were in line. And I struggled with that . . . thing. And then to the day, six months had passed by, and it seemed like I had finally eclipsed the plateau. So my advice to those tiptoeing down that path — give it all you got and wait until that day, the six-month date, comes around. It’ll be a milestone.

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