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Advice > Industry Interviews > Q&A With Session Guitarist Steve Lukather

Q&A With Session Guitarist Steve Lukather




Copyright Bobby Borg 2003, 2008


On the topic of sessions, you can’t ask for a better musician to interview than guitarist Steve Lukather.  Recording approximately 700 records over the last 22 years, Steve has worked with “everyone who is anyone” such as: Miles Davis, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson—not forgetting his work as a member of the multi-platinum rock group, Toto.   Here’s what Steve had to say about his experiences in the studio:


Steve Lukather:  It’s hard to break in.  I was in the right place at the right time.  I had lots of friends that put themselves on the line for me and I showed up and did a decent job.  You need to have a good sound, be chameleon-like, and be able to fit right in.  Your personality has a lot to do with it too.  I’ve seen great players come in with an attitude and people are like, “lose this cat.”



Q: What accounts for having long- term success?


S.L: Word of mouth is the only way to do it.  If you play on a hit record or play a solo that sticks out, people will ask, “who is that guy?”  When I joined the group Toto, our reputation as a band led to producers hiring two or three of us at one time.  We sounded like a band full of young guys instead of a bunch of old session guys.  You begin to form relationships with producers that will hire you on everything they do over a period of time.  I did everything that Quincy Jones recorded between 1981 and 1985.



Q: Do you read music?


S.L:  Yes, you have to have some knowledge about what’s happening unless they hire you for your particular style, and that’s more of a specialist thing.  That doesn’t happen that much in the session “scene.” 



Q: So, is there room for creativity or is someone telling you what to play? 


S.L: A good producer has an idea of what he wants, but your interpretation is important.



Q:  How about equipment?


S.L:  All you need is a guitar, an amp, and a couple of stomp boxes to offer some variety to the sound.  I use a studio rental company that sets up all of my stuff and maintains my guitars.



Q:  Are you Union affiliated?


S.L:  I was a member and it turned out to be the biggest waste of money. I mean, I guess it was helpful earlier in my career because the union goes after any employer that doesn’t pay you. The people I work with now are not going to screw me and I don't really have to worry about their pension fund either; I've done pretty well for myself. Note: readers should know not that current union members include: Metallica, Alanis Morissette, Quincy Jones, Melissa Etheridge, Kenny G., Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Stevie Nicks, Axl Rose, and many more.



Q:  Is it difficult for a session player to make the transition into being an artist?


S.L:  If you’re a good singer or a good instrumentalist, and you write good songs, then you could probably be a good artist.  The advantage is that you make enough connections if your in the studio scene long enough that people will give you the time of day.  I was lucky because I’ve done it all.  Now I’m making the step towards producing albums and other stuff, because after awhile you hit a brick wall—you can only be the number one session cat for so long.



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Warning: This material is copyright registered by Bobby Borg ©2003, 2008. All rights reserved. If you copy material from this web site, for use in any printed or electronic media, please ask permission of Bobby Borg first by email at All credits, links to, and copyright notices must be posted.



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