Touring guitarist for Augustana, The Waterboys, Ben Kweller and more. Carefully-considered guitar tracks from a life long fan of carefully-considered guitar tracks. Thoughtful tones, arrangements & skilled engineering.
Me: I grew up in Boston and graduated from Berklee before moving to New York City for ten rewarding years of playing music and hauling heavy guitars and amps across the subway system. Today I live in East Nashville and continue to be inspired by all the amazing art created here. I've been very fortunate to work with a diverse group of gifted major/indie label artists over the years including Augustana, The Waterboys, Ben Kweller, The Damnwells, Morgan Wade, Parachute, Sadler Vaden, Colin Smith, Nicole Atkins, Elizabeth & The Catapult, Hugo, and Rachel Platten among others. Music has catapulted me all over the globe playing rock shows and opening tours for John Mayer, The Dixie Chicks, One Direction, Cheap Trick, Sara Bareilles, Train, The Fray, Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional, Camper Van Beethoven & more. There have been a few TV and film appearances along the way, too that always impressed my mom.
I spend a lot of time writing guitar parts, dialing in sounds and textures and generally consider myself a fan of the song first. Creating memorable moments that compliment the lyric and vibe is the whole thing. The listener should never have to choose where to focus their attention, the vocal is paramount. Start there.
I'd love to hear about your project. Click the 'Contact' button above to get in touch.
- The Waterboys
- Ben Kweller
- The Damnwells
- Nicole Atkins
- Elizabeth & the Catapult
- sadler vaden
- Colin Smith
- Rachel Platten
- Maxine Brown
- Scars on 45
- Michaela Anne
- Matt White
- the sweet divines
- jenny o
- sid khosla
- CONSTANTINE MAROULIS
- Caroline Kole
- Baby Washington
- Tami Lynne
- Kay Hanley
- Kate Earl
- Ari Hest
- Laura Warshauer
- The So and So's
- Dan Layus
- Meghan Toohey
- William Crighton
- Swear & Shake
- Magpie Diarie
- Slow Runner
- Morgan Wade
2 Reviews - 1 Repeat ClientEndorse Jay Barclay
Jay was incredible to work with. He lent two very different approaches to two very different tunes for me, and after receiving the first and loving it, I wore my browser's refresh button out waiting on the second. He brings tasteful, memorable, "for the song" ideas whether you load him up with a specific direction, or let him do his thing with little restriction. The tones are great, recorded well, and easy to drop into your mixes. Quit scrolling and reading bios, you found your guy already.
As a producer I’ve had the privilege of working with Jay (through the web) on two records for different artists. Jay has delivered top-tier guitar parts that support and enhance the arrangements every single time. He’s friendly, approachable, and professional in communications; his instruments, effects, and engineering always sound great. To top it off he writes such damn good hooks. Seriously, if you’re looking for a session player to bring your songs to life, you can’t go wrong with Jay.
Interview with Jay Barclay
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have most of the upstairs at my place here in Nashville to spread out. The space is loaded with guitars, amps, pedals, keyboards, artwork, books and records. Everything’s set up to inspire creativity. I don’t love amp simulators, honestly. I’ll always reach for my pedal board and a choice tube amp, usually a Vox AC30 or Fender Deluxe. The 57 and 121 mic combination works wonderfully, as ever, but I’ve had a lot of luck with impulse response cabinets, too. Pro Tools is my DAW of choice with a UAD Apollo. Focal monitors and Grado headphones.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: This is a broad, sweeping question and depends so much on context. Early to mid-era R&B is my favorite genre to play and listen to. If we’re talking about guitar players, I love Steve Cropper, Nile Rogers, Ernie Isley, David Williams, Scotty Moore, Leo Nocentelli and Eddie Willis, to name a few. Prince! The rockers are huge, too. Andy Summers, Peter Buck, George Harrison, Keith Richards, The Edge, Bonnie Raitt, Lindsey Buckingham, Annie Clark, Paul Westerberg and Mike Campbell. I love Robert Fripp’s work with Bowie and Marc Ribot with Tom Waits. Blake Mills, man. I’ve had to learn some parts he put on records to take them on tour and learned so much in the process. He’s so inventive and tucks these totally left-field hooks into the track that lock in seamlessly with the drums and bass, but his counter-melodies just kind of leap out of the mix in all the right spots. Very inspiring. There are so many more, but I do reference these players a lot. Robbie McIntosh, Marty Wilson-Piper, Gerry Leonard, Chris Whitley, David Gilmour, Duke Levine & Jon Brion. I adore them all. Robben Ford when I’m feeling adventurous. He’s probably the most accomplished guitarist on the planet.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I'll first request the track, tempo and bit rate to set up the session. Then I'll want to know what the artist or producer has in mind, because the more I'm informed, the easier it is to focus and explore specific ideas. Then I’ll simply start playing along until parts reveal themselves. To save everyone time and frustration later on, I do my very best to capture guitar sounds right at the source. Whenever I try too hard to tweak or compensate on the back end, the guitar tone rarely has the same depth and character in the final mix. Once a few sounds and ideas are under my fingers, I can start mapping out the track(s). It’s a long process sometimes, honestly, but totally rewarding! When I work alone, with no producer in the room offering direction or assurance, it’s easy to second guess my instincts and assume I can dream up something better. Anything I feel is pedestrian or predictable sounding gets thrown out immediately. I’ll usually write out the lyric, mark where the mood shifts in the track and do my best to color those spots. Once I have something I'm happy with, I'll put a rough mix together and fire it back for ideas and suggestions. If everyone's happy and excited, I'll go back in to clean up and consolidate the tracks so everything's ready to simply drop in the client's session.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: I’m often sent a very sparse rhythm track to play over. Usually a vocal accompanied by acoustic guitar, bass and drums. This basically leaves the entire vibe and arrangement up for grabs. It takes anywhere from hours to days to crystallize, but it’s so satisfying when it does. The right parts in the right moments. Hard to say if that's my strongest skill, but it seems to be a quality people circle back this way looking for more often anything else.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I try to create little mini events that add sonic momentum to the song. The playing must never, ever step on the vocal though. The listener should never have to choose. That’s the biggest lesson I learned working with Mike Scott, who was one of my heroes growing up. Stay out of the singer's way, but when your moment arrives, you’d better have something great to say, or someone else is getting that spot. The song is paramount and real estate offered to the players is precious. Step up!
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Aside from touring and being called into a proper recording facility every so often, I find myself recording remote guitar tracks from my home studio more and more these days. It’s a very efficient way to work. All my gear is here, there’s no cartage involved. It’s real easy to send ideas back and forth and make tweaks as we go. Obviously there’s no replacing a band in the room with all hands on deck, but that has its compromises, too. Right?
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Command + Z.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I'll never phone it in.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: It rarely feels like one.