John Ginty plays rock keyboards for top artists and his own band and always features his Vintage Vibe Electric Piano and Hammond B3 organ for a full-on roots-rock experience
Keyboardist John Ginty is a seasoned rock player, laying down tracks and playing live with the likes of Ryan Adams, Robert Randolph, Citizen Cope, Santana, Matthew Sweet, Jewel, Smashing Pumpkins, and recently a reformed rock-focused Dixie Chicks. As a bandleader, Ginty’s masterful use of Hammond B3 organ and Vintage Vibe Electric Piano take center-stage in his classic roots-of-rock sound. With four award-winning albums to their credit, including Bad News Travels, Rockers, and No Filter, Ginty and company’s songs have graced the charts of both Billboard and the Roots Music Report.
Along with touring and session work, Ginty maintains a robust business recording keyboard parts for artists directly from his home studio: “They send Pro Tools tracks,” Ginty explains, “I record keys and send the completed session back to them.” He does 25 to 30 records a year in this manner. And there’s no shortage of top-tier talent seeking his energetic rock keyboard playing. “I’m recording keyboard tracks in my own studio for big projects like Los Lonely Boys’ new record, and Bob Schneider’s new record. I’ve done some big stuff right out of the basement. I don’t even put shoes on!”
Describing how the Vintage Vibe Electric Piano fits in, Ginty says, “I’ve done at least 20 records that feature the Vintage Vibe piano, because it’s here at my fingertips ready to play as I decide on parts for a song. Some of the artists are even mentioning Vintage Vibe on the record credits along with my name, ‘John Ginty, Vintage Vibe Piano’ because it’s such a unique sound. My clients are loving it.”
“When I entered the music business, one of the first big records I played keyboards on was Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams’ first adventure,” Ginty says, recalling how his in-house recording venture started. “For that 1997 project, they flew me to Nashville for a month. They put me up at the Vanderbilt hotel. We recorded at the famous Woodlands studio, which was an amazing experience. I played the Tapestry Carol King piano on that record. But there were days where I went into the studio and I didn’t do anything. You wait around for your part to happen, and then go home. We took our time, and I got paid great. I was doing maybe 10 to 12 records a year back then.”
“But there were fewer and fewer gigs like that, until I was doing only two or three records a year,” he continues. “And I realized that what was happening was that studios were closing, the budgets were going away, the record deals were going away. People were still making records, but they were doing it in their basement on a computer. And instead of getting a week at the studio, they would get one day, and just try to crush it in there. Instead of coming in for a month and taking my time, it became, ‘Okay, we’re going to cut all the tracks without you, and then you can come in on one day and record all the keyboards for the entire record!’
“So I figured it out. I bought a Pro Tools rig, I bought a computer, and then I got a bunch of old gear, an old console, some old microphones. And I have a B3, a real acoustic piano, my Vintage Vibe piano, a Clavinet, a couple synths, all in my studio. The artist emails me a Dropbox link and then I take my Pro Tools files and I put them in another Dropbox and we’re done,” he explains. “They just send a Paypal payment. It’s a totally different business. But luckily, I was able to adapt to it.”
His Vintage Vibe piano has become as important as his B3 for recording tracks. Commenting on what it’s like to play the Vintage Vibe piano and how the action feels compared to an old Rhodes, Ginty explains, “It’s actually the best part of the instrument, if I really lean on the Vintage Vibe, I can get it to bark like a Wurlitzer. And if I barely touch it, I can have it sound really creamy like an early ’70s Rhodes. If I put the stereo tremolo on, I can make it sound like a suitcase Rhodes. And where Vintage Vibe is unique, where Rhodes actually fail you is the last 10 notes on the high end of the piano. They just kind of go ‘doink’- they don’t really make a tone. A Vintage Vibe will chime all the way up to the highest note on the piano. It rings out. I just barely touch it in the upper octaves and it sounds like a little music box or a little toy piano. Listen to the Dixie Chicks recent live recording of Landslide, you’ll hear it.”
Digging deeper into why he prefers the Vintage Vibe’s piano action and how his touch is translated musically and creates his own sound, he adds, “The touch. You can’t really get the same thing from synths or from sampler keyboards, even if they have weighted keys or velocity-sensitive touch to them. Just the fact that it’s all in how the player works the piano as to how it responds. And so no two guys really sound alike on Vintage Vibe pianos, which is really neat. I lean into it. I learned how to play on an old 50-year-old Knabe baby grand. I hit keys really hard. And so I make that sound like me. And other guys who are more classically trained or whatever and have their own technique, they make the Vintage Vibe sound like something totally different. And then they put the Vintage Vibe in front of Stevie Wonder and he makes it sound like Stevie. The piano really adopts the character of the player.”
Ginty was pleasantly surprised after a recording session for The Courtyard Hounds project-made up of Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer from the Dixie Chicks-when they asked him to tour the world with their reformed band featuring modern song arrangements that rocked. “The first thing they wanted to do when we came in to rehearse was to rock. I see why you hired me!” recalls Ginty, laughing. “They weren’t really interested in playing country music, there was no pedal steel player in the band. We sort of took the approach of the Heartbreakers. So that was right up my alley. It was Hammond B3 and Vintage Vibe electric piano that I played on the majority of the gigs. It’s a wonderful job.”
On a 100-date world tour with them over the past two years Ginty shipped his custom white Vintage Vibe Electric Piano to Australia, New Zealand, and all over Europe. “The Vintage Vibe piano was on boats. It was in the belly of a 747. It went through all different types of climates. It came home and it was 100% in tune! I just can’t say enough about the piano Vintage Vibe makes. It’s so solid and it’s just great for guys like me that are old-school keyboard heads-I don’t really play a lot of synths-I’m a piano and organ kind of guy. Usually you would buy something old from the ’60s and you’d have to fix it at every gig. It’s really hard to keep old Rhodes tuned and really hard to keep them working, they take a beating out there. That’s not the case with the Vintage Vibe. From the very first time I played a gig with a Vintage Vibe piano it was awesome.” Next up for John Ginty and the Dixie Chicks is a musical performance for charity at the “Mack, Jack & McConaughey Gala” on April 12 at Austin City Limits. The concert benefits organizations dedicated to children’s education, health and wellness.
Meanwhile John Ginty is working on new music for his next album and planning to tour his latest band in support of it-get the latest news and more information at: www.johngintymusic.com
About Vintage Vibe
With its team of master technicians, fabricators, and assemblers, Vintage Vibe is the world leader in repair and restoration of electro-mechanical keyboards and the only manufacturer of a complete line of replacement parts for Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos as well as Hohner Clavinets. This unique combination of expertise, talent, and resources led the company to begin manufacturing its own electro-mechanical piano designs in 2009, the Vintage Vibe Piano(tm) and the Vibanet(tm) – modern takes on Rhodes and Clavinet keyboards with improved performance, reduced weight, and sleek new looks. Since then, an ever-expanding group of the worlds’ top artists have been drawn to use Vintage Vibe instruments for recording and performance. For more information on Vintage Vibe keyboards and repair and restoration services, please visit www.vintagevibe.com or call 1-(973)-989-2178.
Vintage Vibe Piano and Vibanet are trademarks of Vintage Vibe. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders. Description and specifications are subject to change without notice.