"My PRS McCarty has become my number one guitar, hands down. It stays and plays in tune beautifully, is incredibly versatile despite its simplicity. It has a tone of its own, yet can cover all sonic bases when called upon. I absolutely love this guitar!! In an era of mass produced guitars, PRS’s attention to detail is second to none. I play my PRS with pride!"
One of Canada’s premier guitar players, Darren Savard has carved his way into the music scene, not only as a session guitarist, but also as a producer, a bandleader and a musical director. He has made a career touring with some of Canada’s top artists, notably with chart-topping country superstar Dallas Smith.
Darren began his career in the musical hotbed of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Right out of high school, Savard was hired as musical director for live-to-radio local broadcasts and worked his way up through Winnipeg’s competitive – yet nurturing – music scene, to become one of its top calls. By this time, he had gravitated towards the country music genre and was experiencing increasingly high demand as a guitar player for many high-profile acts including artist/songwriter Deric Ruttan (Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Tim McGraw). In a relatively short period of time, Darren’s musical expertise circulated through the national scene, and he found himself in the “first-call” position as a session and live touring guitarist.
In September 2011, after having finished a long weekend of multiple house band gigs at Canadian Country Music Week, Darren caught the eyes and ears of Dallas Smith. They quickly joined forces and Darren became the lead guitarist and bandleader for Dallas, and still remains in that role to this day.
Having put together numerous large scale tours during his tenure with Dallas Smith, Darren proved himself as a capable music director and producer. These skills led him to be asked to be the music director for the Canadian Country Music Awards national broadcast as well as the producer for many up and coming country artists. Between touring, Darren fills his schedule with session work, both in large studios and in his home studio. He has become part of a handful of producers’ signature sound, and enjoys the challenge of recording guitar in a modern setting.
PRS: You’ve worked extensively in the studio as a session guitarist / producer and perform live regularly, you’re also the Music Director for the CCMA awards. Of these roles, which do you find the most joy in as a musician?
DS: These roles are equally gratifying in their own ways. I would say as a session guitarist and producer, it’s more of an “in the trenches” approach where I get to be hands on with all aspects of the music, which I absolutely love. The music director job requires more of a management approach. It’s a fast paced job that requires a lot of organization and it calls for a different kind of creativity. When you’re dealing with a producer and an artist on a session, you become a servant to the song and call upon those skills. When you’re dealing with a broadcast company, a director, a producer, a mixer, multiple artists and managers, you become a servant to their needs and ultimately their vision and try to facilitate the best representation of the product as possible. It’s all very fun and challenging, and I truly love it all.
PRS: In addition to the previously mentioned roles, you also serve as the lead guitarist and band leader for Canadian country star Dallas Smith. How did this relationship come about?
DS: Dallas approached me in 2011. I was actually in a house band at the CCMA awards, and he walked right up to me after the event and asked me if I’d like to be in his band for his new country project. He previously had had a huge career with his rock band Default and was making the transition over to country. We’ve since become the best of friends and he’s built quite the country career. I’m just lucky to have been along for the ride!
PRS: Who were the initial influences that inspired you to pick up the guitar in the first place, and where do you find inspiration these days?
DS: First and foremost was my grandfather, who was a Chet Atkins/Duane Eddy type of player. There are home videos of me as a 3 year old child, sitting in front of him playing guitar, completely captivated, while holding my own plastic toy guitar.
Nowadays, I’m really into guys that push the envelope. Ian Thornley from the Big Wreck is one of my favorites...what a monster player! A few others that I really dig into when I need some inspiration are Michael Landau, Lyle Workman, Mark Lettieri, and Plini. I’m also a huge Joe Satriani fan. I actually find a lot of inspiration from drummers too. There’s something to the physical discipline of drumming that I find, when applied to the guitar, can be very inspiring from a technical standpoint.
PRS: Life as a lefty is that much more challenging as a guitar player. Would you say being a lefty has in any way shaped your sound as far as technique and gear selection are concerned?
DS: Being a lefty has definitely limited my guitar buying over the years!! I’d likely have double the amount of guitars I have now if I was a righty!! It has taken me until now, 15 years into my career, to feel like I have found a nice diverse collection of guitars. Although, I have to say, when I got my McCarty, that guitar proved to me that true versatility is achievable in one guitar. I’d be lying if I said I use all my guitars equally.. because 95% of the time, I grab the McCarty. Whether for a part on a session, a bar-gig-jam band, or as my main guitar on tour.
As far as sound and technique, being a lefty is not much different, except it’s a mirror image of the right handed guitar that looks “normal”. I will say it has made teaching guitar, in certain instances, easier. My students could stand in front of a mirror and it was like watching me play the part in front of them.
Sharing the lefty thing with Hendrix, McCartney, Dick Dale, Doyle Bramhall II, Albert King, Kurt Cobain and countless others is pretty cool. I don’t consider myself anywhere near any of these artists, but it’s cool to think that they felt the same urge to flip the guitar over and play it comfortably as I did when I started playing.
PRS: We know you have a beautiful left-handed McCarty, do you currently have or desire any additional PRS models?
DS: I’ve been lusting over PRS Guitars for years. Although I do absolutely LOVE my McCarty, I’ve always had an affinity for the Custom 22. That guitar just seems to be a beautiful combination of classic specs with a definite voice and versatility of its own. I have to say, I’ve watched most of Paul’s interviews on YouTube and I’m fascinated by his approach to guitar building and the details he’s passionate about. When the “21 Rules of Tone” subject came into question, he had me hooked!
^ Live photos courtesy of Tom Pratt.