JARED SCHARFF - Saturday Night's Alright (Morning Too)!

In just a scant few years, guitarist Jared Scharff has garnered a lifetime's worth of experiences in the music business.  From his time on a major record label and extensive studio experience as an in-demand session cat, to his dream gig with the Saturday Night Live band , he has always remained focused, professional and optimistic about what he is doing. 

When you were at NYU studying music, your band at this time, Carbondale, snagged a major label deal on RCA records. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?

That whole experience was eye-opening. Just seeing the process from unsigned struggling band and what it took to get to a place to be signed was interesting enough. Showcasing for labels, recording a major label record that cost $500,000, no exaggeration, working with 3 different presidents while at the label, touring and playing shows for nobody, fighting with band mates constantly, and finally, being dropped. Definitely learned a lot about how I wanted to conduct business moving forward and became way more humble and wiser regarding the music industry.

From there, did you start The Royals? Are The Royals still together?

Yes and No. I started writing and recording my own solo material. I played every instrument on the recordings. That was always a dream of mine. I wanted to do that like (Dave) Grohl and (Paul) McCartney. That generated a little bit of buzz in the NYC scene so I started to put together The Royals. We rocked for a few years and once I got the SNL gig we started to slow down. We are not together anymore but everyone in the band is playing in major label bands now so everyone is out there!

Who are some of your musical influences, and what drew you to them?

They have constantly changed as my tastes have changed. It started with a Kirk Hammett (Metallica) phase as a kid, then grew into grunge (Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins), then my classic rock/blues phase, probably the most influential of all with Clapton, Hendrix, SRV, Warren Haynes, followed by Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead), Bill Frisell, and eventually rock/pop style of guitar playing. All of these people all really shape my sound and style. I play a lot of different styles as a player. All of these players drew me in for certain aspects of their style. For example, Clapton to me was the epitome of making a guitar sing with just one note, whereas I was inspired by Hendrix' creativity with sound and sheer ferocity, Frisell for his delicateness and gorgeous soundscapes, Johnny Greenwood for his super fresh part writing in a rock format and pedal usage, SRV for his blues chops and phrasing/intensity, etc. I basically took all these little traits in and formed them with my own style.

What are your 3 desert island cds?

Sigur Ros “( )”, Bill Frisell “Good Dog, Happy Man”, Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland”

How did the SNL gig come about?

I was recommended by the previous guitar player there and I auditioned with a ton of guitarists just with the bandleader Lenny Pickett. Got a call back after that, where I played with the entire rhythm section. Then, I just got the call.

What's your typical week like, and does Lenny Pickett typically lay out what you'll be playing for the current week's show?

My typical week is working on songs with my production team “theSinglesClub” (Ed Note- this is all one word) in NY or my writing team “The Sophomores” out in LA every day. We do all kinds of Top 40 stuff working with major label artists mostly. Then I usually just stroll in on Saturday morning for 11am rehearsal with the SNL house band.

In the SNL band, you have to be able to produce a variety of different sounds effectively. What is your pedalboard like these days?

I am so stoked with my pedalboard for SNL. I really found a great bunch of pedals to cover a wide terrain of sounds. I am using the Pedaltrain 2 and have a bunch of boutique pedal makers like Analog Man, Keeley, Xotic Effects, Jon Cusack, SweetSound, Real McCoy, TRex, and Home Brew Electronics on there. Nothing too out there since the material is a little more straight ahead. Got an ultravibe, trem, wah, distortion, booster, delay, chorus, fuzz, etc. I also use my 65 amp Monterey as a two channel amp so the majority of my work is done with that!

You recently played at the Rainforest benefit as a house band musician, what was that like?

That was INSANE! I never thought I would be in a situation playing Carnegie Hall with Sting, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Debbie Harry, Lady Gaga, and Shirley Bassey! The house band for that gig was also a dream. I sat next to Nile Rodgers in the guitar chair. That alone was thrilling. I hung a bit with Sting and he is a great dude. I got to play “Dancing in the Dark” with Bruce and communicate with him on a musical peer level. Pretty amazing. I'm still excited about it!

Are you typically a single coil guy? I've noticed you play Strats and Teles mostly on the show. What are some of the axes you prefer?

I do lean towards single coils... I just love them. I play a Fano JM6 and a Strat, sometimes a Nash, sometimes a Fender on SNL. I also have a James Trussart Tele over there as well. At home and in the studio I mostly use a Strat and my KLH Tele. I do love humbuckers as well, I just don't own any yet…. one day! But I am not a collector by any means….up until the SNL gig, I had 2 guitars and borrowed amps for gigs in NYC. Now, I have a bunch more, but they are all scattered. Three live at SNL, one at home in NYC, one in LA, one at another studio in NYC. My favorite pieces of gear thus far are my Nash Strat, Fano JM6, 65 amp Monterey, and my old ElectroHarmonix “Memory Man”.

How about vintage gear?

Absolutely. It's certainly a dream of mine to have some vintage guitars one day though I don't have any yet. I want to get a ton of them… Growing up a classic rock lover you can't help but dream of the guitars and amps that made those recordings and love shows magic. Gear was made so well back then. Nothing like the sound of a vintage amp and guitar. Nothing!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: East Coast guitarist/songwriter Tom Guerra recently released a double album with East Coast Mambo Sons entitled “Heavy Days” which is being met with critical acclaim. For more info, see www.MamboSons.com