Avery Stewart plays as the featured artist at the open mic at The Rookery on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2018. He was backed by Jason Cornish on the drum kit, Josh Lockhart on djembe and Jeff Boman on bass. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Avery Stewart plays as the featured artist at the open mic at The Rookery on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2018. He was backed by Jason Cornish on the drum kit, Josh Lockhart on djembe and Jeff Boman on bass. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A guitar and a few pedals make Avery Stewart a one-man band

Young guitarist can play solo but ‘but it’s always more fun to play with other people’

Avery Stewart can be a one-man band without the Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” clutter.

Instead of knee cymbals and a harmonica holder, Stewart uses an electric guitar, a looping pedal, a delay pedal and an octave pedal, so he can layer multiple tracks to form complete-sounding songs during live performances around Juneau. In recent months, he’s provided music for Kindred Post’s anniversary party, the annual Woosh Kinaadeiyí Grand Slam poetry contest to go along with more traditional sets with the band Lucid Culture or with other musicians.

“It’s an easy way to do background music,” Stewart told the Capital City Weekly. “I’ve been doing the looping for the last two years or so as kind of a way to play music out in Juneau without necessarily needing a band to back me up. I’ve been playing around with effects in general since I’ve been playing an electric guitar.”

Stewart has been playing guitar for the past 12 years, or just over half of the 23-year-old musician’s life.

The various effects pedals allow Stewart to play parts of a song, then loop them to create backing for his lead guitar playing. The octave pedal lets him create a bass line without having to resort to creative tuning.

It’s essentially stacking parts of a song on top of each other until things sound whole, and then riffing over the set rhythm — think laying down studio tracks but in real time.

“I think it’s easier than it looks,” Stewart said. “It certainly takes some getting used to. If you practice it a little bit, you’ll probably surprise yourself how easy you can adjust.”

Stewart said while he knew others used similar setups, the only performer he can recall watching who made use of looping was comic music-maker Reggie Watts.

“Of course everything he does with his voice is otherworldly,” Stewart said. “I think the spontaneity of what he does, the comedic timing is hilarious.”

But he didn’t pore over YouTube videos of others making music with a collection of gear and a guitar.

“I kind of just started,” Stewart said. “I didn’t want to get too much into whatever vein they were going in.”

Influences on his guitar playing and song craft include Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, rock legend Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, and John Frusciante, who is most famous for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers but has also released several more solo albums of spacey, guitar virtuosity.

“When I started playing, I always wondered if someday I was going to be good enough to know if someone would ask who my influences are,” Stewart said while pondering his list.

Making the music

Stewart can play other instruments, but he said he approaches his one-person soundscapes primarily as a guitar player.

“I dabble in other instruments. I would never claim to be proficient at them,” Stewart said. “I’ve recorded with keyboards, and I do a lot of singing and songwriting.”

Stewart said he generally makes loop music in a live setting, but he’s interested in recording it at some point.

“I’d actually like to do a project like that,” Stewart said. “I usually just use it (looping) to practice at home or play out for whoever is interested in something.”

Generally, Stewart’s composition’s are made up on the fly.

“It’s usually totally improvisational,” Stewart said. “Sometimes I’ll have some chord changes that I was practicing earlier in the day or something I was messing around with. I want to deliver something that sounds professional-sounding and rehearsed, but it’s more fun if it’s improvisational.”

Each free-wheeling song is typically composed of one to four loops;

“I try to keep some space in it,” Stewart said. “If I had more than four layers, it sometimes gets too crowded.”

But Stewart can make use of his effects pedals’ multiple channels to bring different loops in and out of the mix.

“That makes them feel like choruses and verses,” Stewart said.

Plays well with others

In addition to playing solo instrumental stuff, Stewart also plays with other musicians too.

He’s a regular in the band Lucid Culture, and for his recent featured performance at the Mountainside Open Mic at the Rookery, Stewart was backed by a couple percussionists and a bass player.

Josh Lockhart played the djembe — a hand-played drum that looks like a lone, cylindrical bongo — Jason Cornish manned a drum kit and Jeff Boman played bass.

While Stewart said it can be nice to play over the set-in-stone rhythms set by looping, he’d rather make live music with other musicians.

“I think the difference is that when you play with people, the rhythm changes,” Stewart said. “You play lead over it, then it might go to a different chord, but when you’re playing a loop, it’s just a repeating or stagnate line. It’s easier in a sense, but it’s always more fun to play with other people.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


Avery Stewart focuses on an improvised composition during the Woosh Kinaadeiyí Poetry Slam, Oct. 20. Stewart often plays guitar with local bands, but he also use a variety of pedals to make a rhythm section of his own playing over which he can play lead guitar. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Avery Stewart focuses on an improvised composition during the Woosh Kinaadeiyí Poetry Slam, Oct. 20. Stewart often plays guitar with local bands, but he also use a variety of pedals to make a rhythm section of his own playing over which he can play lead guitar. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

A tuner, pitch shifter and looping pedal are what allow Avery Stewart to loop his guitar playing to create backing tracks while he plays improvised leads over the music. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

A tuner, pitch shifter and looping pedal are what allow Avery Stewart to loop his guitar playing to create backing tracks while he plays improvised leads over the music. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Avery Stewart on stage during the Woosh Kinaadeiyí Poetry Slam, Oct. 20. With the pedals near his feet, Stewart can provide backing instrumental loops for his guitar playing. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Avery Stewart on stage during the Woosh Kinaadeiyí Poetry Slam, Oct. 20. With the pedals near his feet, Stewart can provide backing instrumental loops for his guitar playing. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

More in News

In this July 13, 2007, file photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Appeals court panel orders review of EPA decision in Alaska

Review concerns decision to withdraw proposed restrictions on large-scale mining near Bristol Bay.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, June 18, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A former Juneau chiropractor who was indicted for multiple sexual assault charges in April was charged with more assaults in early June. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Former chiropractor faces additional sexual assault charges

The former Juneau resident was indicted for five more felony charges early in June.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland appears before the Senate Appropriations Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senators press Interior Secretary Haaland on oil lease pause

Murkowski said she was flabbergasted that Haaland did not address the court ruling.

I have flies with barbell eyes, jig heads, cone heads, bead heads and no heads. I have flies with stinger hooks that trail and long-shanked salmon hooks that don’t. I have red, pink, salmon, fuchsia, cerise, purple, orange, flesh, green, olive, chartreuse, white and black flies made of feathers, chenille, hackle, marabou, flashabou and silicone. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: One good fish

Three is the magic number.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, June 16

The most recent state and local figures.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water was blocked Tuesday, June 15, 2021, by a federal judge in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March by Louisiana’s Republican attorney general, Jeff Landry and officials in 12 other states. Doughty’s ruling granting a preliminary injunction to those states said his order applies nationwide. (AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Federal judge blocks Biden’s pause on new oil, gas leases

The decision is a blow to Biden’s efforts to rapidly transition the nation away from fossil fuels.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Friday, June 11

The most recent state and local figures.

Most Read