Tom Quayle

Dawsons’ Guitar Ace Talks Us Through His First 12 Months

It’s been a busy year for Tom Quayle. The respected guitarist, video producer, and all round good egg joined Dawsons in 2017 with a brief to carry on the great work of Lee Wrathe on our YouTube channel.

For many of our readers, the prospect of making a living playing guitar all day would be pretty exciting. And, as Tom will admit, it is pretty cool. Here’s a look at how the past year has gone.

Tom! You’ve been with us a year now. How are things working out?

It’s been a really interesting journey for me. For a start, this is the first full-time job I’ve had since 2004 when I worked in the Virgin Megastore in the classical and world-music section. It’d probably be fair to say that wasn’t a proper job either, so in reality, this is my first truly full-time job.

Dawsons have been great. I still do my touring with Ibanez and can still look after my other interests but this is an exciting job. They gave me a blank canvas for essentially making a fresh start on their channel. Lee had been doing things for a while, and it was fantastic, but I wanted to do things my way.

We’re settled into the rhythm now. We have a huge, custom-built studio space we’ve created from the ground up and it’s a vast sea-change to where we were before. Lee actually christened it ‘Tom’s Tone Cabin’, which is pretty funny.

The outcome is that we have a very defined visual look to all our videos now, which is important. We’re on the right path.

Tom Quayle

Tell us about the day-to-day of your work here.

We aim to produce five videos a week. It’d be possible to do more but we’re aiming for a minimum production standard and it takes time to get these things right. We want consistency across the board; good lighting, amazing audio quality, everything shot in 4K. This all adds to the work-flow but is important for us to get things looking professional.

In terms of shooting, I tend to film the review and then edit in one session as opposed film all five videos and then edit later. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that it keeps everything fresh in your mind, but the other more important reason is that each guitar gets a bit of attention prior to the shoot. This can be minor stuff like stretching strings or adjusting the action, but allowing myself time to do that ensures the guitars feel comfortable to play. This really shines through in the video, and means I can concentrate on playing without worrying about how the guitar feels.

So the videography, and work that goes on in the background, is as much part of the task as the playing and guitar knowledge?

Exactly. It’s hugely important. We’ve all seen examples of videos on YouTube where the ‘presenter’ is a superb player, clearly technically gifted on the instrument, but the video quality is poor, or the audio is muffled.

Nowadays, with YouTube being as widely used as it is, there is so much competition. So players, like myself, and channels, like Dawsons, have to ensure the production standards of the videos are at a really high level or we risk being overlooked.

Tell us a bit about your own style of presenting.

I think the majority of channels in our field can be broadly split into two styles. On one hand, you have the ‘trusted expert’ style, where the presenter is generally accepted as a voice of reason on something. This could be because they’re technically proficient on the instrument, or they have credible experience as an artist, for example. This is where I would like to see myself.

On the other hand, you have the ‘big personalities’, where minor things can be overlooked through the sheer force of the presenter’s character. You like these people, and would quite happily go for a beer with them.

That’s not to say one is better than the other. In reality, the top channels need presenters with a mix of both elements. It’s about so much more than being a good player though. When you’re working with companies, like I do with Dawsons and Ibanez, there is a responsibility to represent a brand in the right way.

What gear has really stood out to you over the past year?

I get as excited at new gear as every other player, so in that respect, I am unbelievably fortunate to be in the position I am. At this moment in time, in my studio, I have a £5k Taylor guitar and a 2019 Gibson ES-335, among other things. It’s really dangerous haha.

The gear that stands out to me, however, is the items which I would realistically use, either for my own work or out on tour. One thing that immediately comes to mind is the Line 6 Helix HX multi-fx pedal. The guys from Line 6 brought this pedal over and it is just so compact.

I’ve got a 35-date European clinic tour coming up and things like airport baggage restrictions are a real consideration for me. I’ve got a huge pedalboard, designed by Daniel from ‘That Pedal Show’ YouTube channel, which is incredible but not exactly built with portability in mind. So the Line 6 HX is fantastic for that and allows me a range of high-quality tones that I can comfortably take in my carry-on luggage.

I’d also say – and this isn’t a sales pitch – the Redwood guitars which sit at the more budget-friendly end of the Dawsons range have impressed me. It’s always the guitars at the cheaper end which surprise me. There are no bad guitars any more. I remember way back when, a starter guitar would cost £70 and it’d have awful frets, be horrible to play and sound terrible. But nowadays the standards of production have improved so much that even entry-level guitars are now of a standard you’d never have thought possible even 10 years ago.

Obviously, with the Redwoods, they’re not going to stay in tune for as long as a high-end guitar, but after a bit of tweaking, I’d have no qualms in using one for live performance. It’s a good time to be a learner, let’s put it that way.

Going back to the day job, it seems there are a lot more avenues open to people looking to work in music than there have ever been. Your role is a great example of that.

There are so many ways for musicians to make a living these days. It’s critical for a guitarist to always be working on his playing, that’s a given, but it’s also now increasingly important for the player to be working on creating the widest possible skill-set they can. Being able to edit and produce videos, being able to design websites, write articles. Understanding technology that doesn’t seem immediately obvious to a guitarist. These days, being ‘just’ a great guitar player isn’t enough.

What’s interesting though, is that none of this existed even 10 years ago. Nowadays a career in music can mean so many things to different people.

So, with your first year done, what’s the plan for the future with Dawsons?

A lot of it centres around our studio and the possibilities we’ve identified to create even more video content in the future. We’re building two new sets too; one is a set which we can bring in more presenters to increase interaction. We might have two or three people on film comparing and contrasting equipment, for example.

The other is a set looking more at the technology involved in music creation and production. Dawsons sells a lot of high-tech gear, so space for us to look more at that side of things is on the cards too.

We’re really excited about the future. With a year under our belts working together, we’re getting a real idea of the things that work for us, and the ways in which we can continue to grow and develop. So there’s a lot to be positive about.