Interview with Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player (Part 1)

This was originally posted on a site geared towards new and unsigned musicians. Eshac has seemed to have gone defunct since this was originally posted in July 2013.

Imagine yourself as a six year old kid, sitting in a theater and suddenly the lights dim. In the darkened room, you can feel the anticipation buzzing, and the electric excitement crackling through the room like bolts lighting shooting from the sky. Without warning you hear a big, deep booming voice echo, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash.” His voice resonating through the whole room. The spotlight comes on to show Mr. Cash on stage, and the music begins. This was Troy Stewart’s first musical experience, and one he says has vividly stayed with him throughout his life.

After his exposure to Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash family, his interest in music began to grow. Troy’s mom purchased his first guitar, and gave him free rein to rummage through her records. After playing those records over and over, he began to spend hours in his room exploring songwriting, figuring out his own way of putting lyrics, chords, and melodies together like a jigsaw puzz
It wasn’t until he was in his teens that he began to play in bands, that he really got his start in music. He recalled his start at the age of 14, and how he got his start in the Music Industry, “At 14 years of age I was living in a very conservative, religious and depressed part of the country. My family was part of a extreme evangelistic church, this is also where I went to high school. There were a total of 35 kids in the high school and 7 in my graduation class. We were very limited in options or activities through school but music was something that was free and always available, all you needed was an instrument, so that is what I focused on. I had started playing drums at this point and put a band together with a friend who played guitar. We would play together every chance we had, writing rock songs and doing the guitar/drum duo thing. Eventually a whole band was formed, writing, rehearsing and playing shows was my entire existence.
By the age of 16, I knew that making music my career was what I wanted to do. At this point it was something that I had to do because it was what I did day in and day out. Music was what made me happy and still does.
After high school, I hung out playing in bands for a couple years then one day I decided I was going to focus on playing guitar full time so I traded my drums for a guitar, an old 60′s Orange Matamp and matching 4×12 cabs (which I still have), put them in the back of my truck and drove 2,000 miles to the west coast. I played in bands around San Francisco for a couple years then headed to Los Angeles. I played in bands up and down the sunset strip and worked really bad temp jobs. One of my roommates at the time was a sound engineer and had just picked up a gig touring with a band across the U.S. He told me they were looking for a guitar tech for the tour and asked if I would be interested. I didn’t even know what a guitar tech was and after it being explained to me I thought, what…I can get paid for doing that? I did the tour and it turned out that I was pretty good at it (with help from some very cool veterans on the tour who took me under their wings and showed me the ropes). After that tour the phone just kept ringing with offers from other bands. I would tour as a tech, save money then come back to L.A. and play in bands. I always let it be know that I was not just a tech but also a player, eventually I was playing in bands I was touring with. I was then able to work as a tech as well as a session player. It’s been a strange and long path but everyones path is different.”
After being hired as a Guitar Tech for the U.K. based band Snow Patrol, his side project The Windsor Player would begin it’s infancy on the tour in support of their 2008 album “A Hundred Million Suns.” Troy played some of his demos for Snow Patrol’s Front of House Engineer, Marc Carolan. Marc immediately loved them, and asked Troy if he wanted to come and do some recording at his studio in Dublin on a mini break during the tour. The song “Big Texas Sky” would come out of those days. Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian provided his services for drums, since he was playing percussion on the tour, and Marc enlisted the services of a friend on bass. Troy would continue to tour with the band, and write his songs along the way.
In early 2010, Troy joined the collaboration that would end up becoming Tired Pony. Made up of extremely talented musicians and skilled writers, the environment was a creative stronghold that would inspire Troy to create the The Windsor Player. It is made up of members from the Tired Pony sessions, and other musicians who Troy had met and worked with over his years as a Session Player and Guitar Tech. “The members for The Windsor Player came together via a “Build it and they will come” mentality. I was extremely fortunate and blessed with all the musicians who gave their talents and time for this record. Years of touring, meeting musicians, making friends and just asking all came together at the right time.”
The inspiration for his band came from the 8 days of recording for Tired Pony, and seeing how Tired Pony Member and Producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee, approached his work. That catching the first instinct of a musician is very important. This would come in handy when Troy would begin to flesh out the songs he had written and collected over the years. When it came to recording and collaborating with other musicians he had this to say, “None of the musicians were allowed to hear any of the songs before doing a session, except for Jote Osahn who was flying over from London for 10 days to record. Jote, who plays for Elbow, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and played violin, viola and cello as well. She obviously needed the songs prior to the sessions but everyone else came into the sessions blind. No two musicians played together at one time during the recording process, I wanted to tap into every musicians natural playing and instinct. Everyone had only about 3 passes for their parts on every song and Gregg Williams and myself would comp and edit each session. I think this approach gave the songs a feel that it was a live band playing together.”
As the recording process continued to develop, Troy would find himself more and more inspired. Often leaving long sessions, only to go home and write new songs. He would find inspiration from the sessions, musical styles he loved, his own life, and from a desire to create a record he would want to listen to. He found himself leaning towards a more Americana/Country tinged album, as it was just organically what would stem from his way of writing. The other portion of that is the instrumentation that he likes to hear and then use. He is a huge fan of piano, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and strings, classical and fiddle style violin. These instruments would help fatten up the Americana tinges on the record. The album plays around with the lines of different genres.
“I think the diverse sound of the record comes from my love of many different styles of music and very much from collaborating with the other band members, letting them do what they do. Melting heavier electric guitars with acoustic instruments and using effects and unconventional methods to create and twist the sounds was something we very much embraced. This is something I also learned from Jacknife Lee while working on the recording ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. He taught me that there are no limits when recording, if you can think or come up with it…you can record it!”
After the recording was finished it came time to mix and master the record. Troy was unsure as of how the record would sound when it was all completed. He had this to say about it, “The finished sound of the record was a very big and pleasant surprise. It was much more than I could have envisioned or hoped for. This is due to the brilliant musicians who played on the record, Gregg Williams incredible engineering skills and Dave Friedlander doing an amazing job mixing.”
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