“At a recent live streaming concert sponsored by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) at San Diego State University, McLaughlin’s unorthodox technique of placing both hands on the fretboard produced a unique and surprisingly big sound, as if there were multiple guitarists on stage. His music was deeply rhythmic and fluid, his new age compositions intricate and uplifting. Recently, ABILITY’s Paula Fitzgerald spoke with him about his long journey back to center stage.
“Paula Fitzgerald: Tell me about the accident that changed your life.
Billy McLaughlin: In 1998, I was on my way to a photo shoot for the cover of my second album for Narada Records when I fell on an icy sidewalk. I dislocated the middle finger and ring finger on the hand I used to play my fretboard. When we finished the shoot, I needed immediate physical therapy because I was leaving in just a couple of months to start a back-to-back, 50-city tour to support the release of my new CD. This tour included a lot of television and radio performances, as well as interviews. I managed to rehab in time so that I didn’t have to reschedule any of the dates, but I still noticed stiffness in my fingers that I associated with the injury.
After the second leg of the tour, the swelling had gone down and my fingers felt normal, but I started to feel something was out of balance. I was still struggling with a couple of my more virtuosic pieces. When you’re playing solo guitar concerts, it’s very embarrassing to have a slip-up here and there. After talking with colleagues and mentors, everyone said, “Gee, Billy, you’re the hardest-working guitar player out there. Take a break. Take a couple months off and let your hands rest.
Read this article in its entirety at ABILITY Magazine.