Los Angeles Guitarist Spotlight Matt Hornbeck

1. When and why did you start playing?

I was into music at a very early age.  My mom showed a little piano when I was six and I got to where I pluck out melodies, but I lost interest and stopped.  When I was 10, the Beatles Anthology documentary was on television.  My folks made it a point to have me watch it with them.  I remember getting twigs from the yard and started drumming on pillows, baseball gloves, pots and pans.  I tried to learn from watching videos of the Beatles or whatever music videos where on.  Eventually, my folks got me a drum set and I started playing.  When I was 12, I started hanging out at a music shop downtown.  The owner said I should learn guitar and he started showing me stuff.  It was fun and I thought it would make me look cool.  Haha!

2. Which instruments do you play? 

My workhorse equipment for The Replicas Music:

American Fender Strat strung with d’Addario 10’s.  I play through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe with a Vintage 30 speaker or a Roland Cube.  I use Rockett Pedal Overdrives (The Blue Note and the Flex Drive), a Morley Little Alligator volume pedal, a Cry Baby Wah and a Line 6 m9.  Nothing really fancy, but neither is a shovel and hammer.

3. What was the first tune(s) you learned?

More Than a Feeling” by Boston.  I only learned opening chord arpeggios.  I knew that and a pentatonic “box” scale for a month.  Drove my folks crazy playing the same thing over and over.  I use the word “played” very loosely.

Stop blaming your gear and go make some music!

4. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

Jimmy Page because he played in Led Zeppelin, my all-time favorite rock band.

George Harrison because he could write some of the most honest lyrics as well as record melodic guitar solos that everyone can sing by heart.

So many great players.  Hendrix, David Gilmour, Angus Young, Allman Brothers, John Scofield, Wes Montgomery, Wayne Krantz.

My latest obsession is Jack Pearson, who I saw last time I was in Nashville.  I felt like a kid discovering guitar all over again.  Incredibly versatile and soulful.  He just oozes musicality, even he’s just noodling around.  Gorgeous tone and plays with zero pretension or ego.  He can do it playing a boutique guitar or a $90 Squire, which is what he was playing when I watched him.  It’s lesson to everyone: stop blaming your gear and go make some music!

Dean Parks and Tim Pierce are also inspirations in how they’ve been able to lead successful careers as session players.  They’re playing spans an incredible range of styles and artists.  Also very nice people.

Mark Letteri of Snarky Puppy is another player that inspires me.  He’s got a voice on the instrument and I’m so happy for his success.

Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably have a whole new list of players.  Ha!

Classic rock, baby!

5. What’s your favorite era of music?

70’s Classic Rock.  Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, early AC/DC and Van Halen, Doobie Brothers, etc.  If you could combine this with the Beatles post-Rubber Soul and Jimi Hendrix, you’d had have the lion’s share of my favorite music.

6. Cake, Pie or Ice Cream?

Blueberry Pie with Ice Cream.  But I’m always down for free cake!

7. Favorite non Network Show?

Last Man On EarthHouse of CardsBreaking Bad was my fav before it went off-air.  I also love Bill Burr‘s Monday Morning Podcast.

Indie Music inspires Matt too!

8. Best undiscovered band?

Angela Parrish!  I love playing her music.  Incredibly heart-felt lyrics and honest vocals.

I also worked with a guitarist named Andy Waddell recently.  Some of the more interesting and challenging music I’ve gotten to play.  I’d love for more people to know about him.

Amp Trio is another band of incredibly talented players that I was lucky enough to play with during my time in Texas.

9. Describe your first instrument.

 It was a beginner Harmony acoustic guitar.  It’s still with my mom.  The fretboard is all pressed in from where I was playing way too hard starting out.  Frets are getting all rusted.  That said, it still playable.  It might outlive us all!!

Wearing out Cassette Tapes

10. Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

Yes.  Lots of tapes growing up.  CD’s were around, but tapes were more affordable. All the Beatles records.  “Dark Side of the Moon.” “Queen Live at Wembley.” “All Things Must Pass.” “Who’s Next” “Traveling Wilburys.” “Whatever and Ever Amen.” I remember wearing out 311’s “Transistor” back when I was heaving into drums.

11. Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD’s?

See answers #5 and #10.  🙂

12. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

I try to just roll with them.  I used to freak out a lot more, and then I realized that just made matters worse.  I watch great quarterbacks throw interceptions, and the best ones just shake it off and go back out and play like it didn’t happen.  I try to have a short memory, for good things and bad things.  I figure the more I relax with mistakes, the better position I am to recover from them.  “Take lemons and make lemonade” type thing.

I also realized that being upset effects more than just yourself.  Handling mistakes well also makes for a better playing environment for everyone playing.  The drummer doesn’t have to look at me going, “Jeez!  It’s bad enough this guy is sucking, now I have to be his life coach/therapist and calm him down?!?!?!”

Practice Practice and Practice some more!

13. Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?

Sometimes if it’s a next level thing for me.  Recently I had to do a recording session for a movie.  It was my first session through the Musician’s Union, so I was very nervous that whole week leading up to it.

Cover gigs and wedding don’t phase me as much now because I’ve done so many of them that I know how to handle most situations on the fly.  Most of my gigs now I’m very relaxed.

As far as competitions, I haven’t really done much formal competition.  More so in school.  There is a saying that goes, “Every performance is an audition.”  So in that respect I’m always trying to get better.  But in my professional career, I’ve never finished a solo and had to wait to see whether or not I was getting voted off the island.  “Sorry Matt, the French Judge gives you a 5 out of 10…maybe next year.”

14. What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?

Just keep stepping up to the plate.  One hour on stage will teach you more than ten hours in a room by yourself.  The more onstage playing you do, the more productive and focused your practicing will become.  It will highlight what you really need to work one.  It’s important to make mistakes and learn how to recover from mistakes in a way that people don’t notice.  The only way you get better at that is by putting yourself in that situation.  Try to play out as much as you can where the stakes are low.  It’ll never be perfect.  It’s almost like you make enough mistakes and fail enough times to where it doesn’t scare you anymore.  Then you’re free to really focus, dig in, and have fun.

It’s been said that there is a quota of wrong notes you have to get through to get to the good ones.   I’ve been playing music for 17 years now and I’m still waiting on the “perfect show”.

So get out there kids and play some wrong notes!!!!

He’s a pro in every sense of the word!

15. Do you read music?

Sure do.  Opens a lot of doors.  Professionally and personally.

16. How often and for how long do you practice?

When I’m good about it, I try to put in 2-4 hours throughout the day.  My practice routine now is much more improvised now versus a more regimented study that I was doing in school.  I practice reading, transcribe, and address any technical shortcomings I’ve noticed in my playing on gigs or sessions.  I also try to work on doubles a lot: dobro, mandolin, hammered dulcimer.  It’s a lot, so I just make sure I’m prepared for upcoming gigs and then grab whatever else I can with any extra time I have.

Some days I have time, other days I don’t.  I play most days, so that helps me maintain where I’m at if I can’t sit down and practice.

17. What do you practice – exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?

It was a lot more exercises when I was starting out.  Not so much anymore.

An advantage of teaching at Musicians Institute is that I get exposed to a lot of new players and music through the students.  I also get to revisit a lot of basics through teaching them, which helps me refresh my mind on those things.

Lately I’ve been practicing playing rhythm changes through all 12 keys.  It takes a lot of focus and I find that when you play over the same changes for an extended time I get sick of the same usual licks/patterns.  That forces me to stretch and try to find new ideas to make it feel fresh for me.  I also have a few originals I’ve been writing that I practice.  I have a knack for writing things I can’t play.  Haha!  So that’s always good to work on.  As far as a hard tune, lately I’ve been shedding “Dolphin Dance” a lot.  Beautiful tune.

18. How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?

Well, I don’t have a mate or a child (that I know of) at the moment.  Haha!!  So much for balance.

Music is my main job and at the moment it is taking up the lion’s share of my time and energy.  I do a lot of different things: play live, record from home, teach, transcribe lead sheets for bands, etc.  It’s like a portfolio.  I’m always trying to balance all my revenues streams so that at any given time, something is coming in.  Ideally I’d love for something to take off like session work or maybe a cool tour, but for now I’m happy with the variety.  It keeps me sharp.

19. Why do you like playing weddings?

I enjoy the variety of music.  Playing weddings when I first got out of college taught a lot about playing different styles.  It’s helped me a lot now when I need to be creative in a recording situation.  It really expands your sonic “tool kit.”

The musicians are great people and players.  Also, if I’m being honest, they pay well.  It’s a great job and I’m thankful for the work.

20. Describe the perfect wedding set list.

Let me direct you to the band leader who will be happy to take your question.  Ha!

The most common set list is one that allows people to talk and chill early in the evening and then gradually builds to dancing and letting lose by the end of the night.  So jazz starting out and usually Journey by then end.  It’s quite a lot of ground to cover!

It all boils down to what makes the groom and bride happy.  If they’re not happy, the band leader isn’t happy, which trickles down to me, the side man.  I like lots of different kinds of music, so I just want to be playing the kind that makes the environment a fun one to work in.

21. Favorite Venue for to play Live Music Entertainment?

I like Calamigos Ranch in Malibu a lot.  I’ve done several weddings there and I feel like I’ve only seen a fraction of the spaces they provide.  It’s overwhelming in a very cool way.

22. Dream Gig?

I want Angela Parish to blow up so I can play her music all over the world!

Paul McCartney or Ringo.  Lucinda Williams.  Jack White.  John Scofield.  I’d love to play with Snarky Puppy or something like that allows you to have a voice and improvise.

23. Name:  Matt Hornbeck

24. Website:

25. Training: Morehead State University.  BM Jazz Studies.  North Texas University. MM Jazz Studies.

26. Favorite place for breakfast?

Denny’s.  $4 value slam for the win!!!  If I need to impress someone and show off how fancy I am, I’ll take them to Aroma’s in Valley Village.  Ha!

27. Favorite LA venue to hear Live Music Entertainment?

So many.  Hollywood BowlThe TroubadourHarvard and Stone (wink).

28. Why do you enjoy being a part of The Replicas Music Family?

Because Veronica and Mike are great people to work with.  I feel appreciated and respected in my job.  It’s not getting any easier to make a living in music in this day and age, so I’m very thankful to have the opportunity make a living playing music.

If you would like to hear Matt play in person or to hire our Corporate Wedding Live Bands, call us at: 323.691.3883 / 908.420.5607

Photos of Matt by VeroFoto

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