Aaron Guest | Polecat

Tell us about your history playing music. Where did it kind of start for you? How did that morph into where you are now with the band?
Yeah, I’ve been playing music most of my life. Started with the piano when I was four years old. There was a piano in my parents house and I kinda started plugging stuff out by ear that I was hearing and my parents put me into lessons. Did the whole classical thing, did a lot of ragtime stuff and a whole bunch of improv stuff. My parents wanted me to play in the church actually, was on of their goals when I was a kid. Learned a lot of my chords and how to get around the keyboard really well that way. Then of course when I was in high school, piano is no longer cool in high school and I started playing the guitar. Lots of friends in the church I grew up in played guitar so they taught me chords and that’s where I learned how to sing and sing harmonies and all that too. Then college came around and I started getting involved in bands; I learned how to play the drums and play the bass guitar in some other bands as well. That was kind of the metamorphosis of all that. Then as far as how Polecat came around, when I started really writing music was in my early 20s. I wrote a lot of ambient stuff using looping pedals and all that. I was really into the ambient thing for years. Then when I started getting more into acoustic guitar, rhythm playing, that folk, Americana kind of sound, came out really easily for me. I started just writing, writing, writing, writing all the time. Was very influenced by groups like Trampled by Turtles, kind of like the modern bluegrass kind of sound. The rest is history really. I just found that, that was were I could write the best and write the most. It’s just really fun to sing and play with an acoustic guitar. Much easier for me than with a piano or on the drums or on the bass. That’s were that started.
What sort of advice do you have for new or beginning artists?
You’ve got to love it. You got to really love it because you’re not going to make much money, most likely. You’ve got to make sure that the people you work with, the people you play with, that there’s a mutual respect. That you love their playing, they love your playing. Just as importantly that you can get along with them because you’re going to spend a lot of time with people that have nothing to do with playing music. In a van, traveling, up late nights. All kinds of crazy, stressful environments that just happen when you are a professional musician that most people don’t really think of. It really does help, you surround yourself with players that you respect as musicians and as people.
What are some of the, maybe not so obvious rewards or motivations for you playing for a living?
Man, well there’s … it’s hard to describe it if you haven’t done but the feeling on stage when things are going right is pretty unbeatable. Being able to create moments with a small group of people on stage and then affecting those moments on your audience. Whether isn’t 20 people or 2,000 people. When it’s right, it’s so right. It’s just really cool to create this community. Even if it’s just for a few hours. To be a part of these memorable events is just always very rewarding. The reward to make some money and do what you love is pretty great so that’s what I’ve been doing here for about ten years. It’s been really cool. You get to work with all kinds of people and for me I’ve been able to play lots of different instruments with lots of different bands. Then with that, many different styles of music. To be able to get better constantly with different forms of music has been a great reward for me.
Was there a specific point in time or maybe an occurrence where you had this realization this was something, that playing music, being a professional musician was something that you could do for a living and something that you wanted to purse?
When I was in college, up here at Western Washington in Bellingham, I had a buddy that was very involved in the music scene and we played together a lot. I had a lot of encouragement from him. I remember one very specific moment where he kinda pulled me aside and he’s like you know, you know that we could do this. You know that we could be professional at this. We’re good enough to do this, you’re good enough to do this. I remember that because growing up, I’ve always played music. It’s very rare to be completely encouraged by family and by friends to pursue music as a career because it’s very challenging to make that so. A career in arts is not a valued as it should be, I believe, in our society and our culture. Our American culture is definitely put your head down and work for the boss and get some health insurance and you’ll be fine. I never quite tried to subscribe to that, at least not yet in my life. I say having the encouragement of my peers was huge, in my college years. That would be one point that I would look back on. Overall, it really just like, this is what I’m good at and this is what makes me really happy. I’ve just been slowly plugging away. I don’t think that necessarily it’s like an instant decision. It was more like this is something I’m going to try out and keep plugging away and getting better at. Here I am now.
Is there a resurgence of people appreciating the arts and music or is it something that’s fading away? What do you see on the road?
I’ve been lucky enough, especially with Polecat, to have killer music lovers as fans. Music lovers, kinds of festivals, sometimes on the jam, kind of hippie side of things, which has been awesome. For those crowds it’s about the music, it’s about the throwback, it’s about the love and the feeling all that comes from. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a lot of those kind of people. As far as generationally, I would say I’m 30 now. The more that I travel I would say 18 to 21, it’s already a completely more technologically advanced generation than when I was 18 or 21. I think we’re all seeing music is much more technology based and less acoustic instrument based. Art and design of course are much more technology based. I do believe that there’s plenty of amazing creativity, that’s always going to be channeled through whatever that medium is for the generation. Overall I would say much more technology is happening but at the same time there’s the whole Mumford and Sons movement. It has definitely brought a lot more love of acoustic instruments. Whether or not that movement is upholding the folk tradition is a different subject. I think it’s ever-evolving and I think as long as creativity is encouraged, something’s going to come out. I think people have to be creative in some way.