January 30, 2012

Jersey Boys’ Guitar Man, Miles Aubrey

January 30th, 2012

By Pamela Singer, Jersey Boys Blog Special Correspondent

Okay friends, here’s the music trivia question of the day:

“Who draws the crowd and plays so loud
Baby it’s the guitar man
Who’s gonna steal the show
You know, baby, it’s the guitar man”

Music aficionados will recognize David Gates’ iconic 1972 Bread lyrics, but Jersey Boys’ fans know the real answer here is Miles Aubrey. Currently starring as Norm Waxman and others on Broadway, Miles is that rare trifecta of talent: an accomplished musician, singer, and actor. You might say Miles is, well, ubiquitous. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Miles about his musical background and successes, his many guitar endorsements, and his favorite instruments and songs.

Pamela Singer: Great to see you Miles. To say that you’ve been busy lately seems like an understatement. Congratulations on everything, especially your new endorsements.

Miles Aubrey: Thanks, Pam. I’m really grateful to have caught the eye of some amazing guitar companies, and am proud to help promote them.

PS: I think most Jersey Boys fans will be surprised to learn what a prolific career you’ve had as a musician, aside from your accomplishments as an actor. Can you talk a little about the role music has played in your life?

MA: Sure. Music has been the major part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Oklahoma in an artistic family, where I was surrounded by music. My Dad is a Music Professor (currently at Ole Miss), my Mom is a fantastic singer and pianist, and my older brother is also a very talented musician who could have easily pursued it as a career. From a very early age, I was playing piano and learning theory. Of course, once I picked up a guitar, everything changed. Guitar has been the love of my life and main endeavor ever since then.

PS: How old were you when you started playing?

MA: I was eight, and learned to play on a $30 guitar my parents bought me. Little did I know, my life would never be the same again!

PS: Did you take lessons?

MA: No, I was self-taught. I’d come home from school every day and practice for hours, listening to records over and over to get the solos down. I went through a couple of cheap electric guitars, but always had my eye on a Les Paul. I wanted one so badly that I got a job as a busboy at 13, and did get that Les Paul.

PS: Very impressive! For those of our readers not familiar with Les Paul, can you talk about his significance to a musician, budding or otherwise?

MA: Les Paul is one of the most important names in guitar and music recording history. He’s one of the pioneers of the electric guitar, basically inventing the first solid body (not hollow) electric guitar. He also invented multi-track recording, another huge contribution to the music industry. While there are a ton of choices available these days when choosing a guitar, the Gibson Les Paul is still the gold standard to me. Players like Jimmy Paige, Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Neal Schon, and Chet Atkins, to name a few, are famous for using this iconic instrument.

PS: Pretty heady stuff for a 13-year- old! Were you simultaneously getting started in theater?

MA: I studied theater at the University of Miami, and got my Equity card after several shows at the North Shore Music Theater. After college though, I felt that my musical side was calling me back. I went to Nashville to focus solely on my music, and was there for the next 12 years.

“He can make you love
He can make you cry
He will bring you down
Then he’ll get you high
Somethin’ keeps him goin’
Miles and miles a day
To find another place to play”

PS: Why is Nashville called the “Athens of the South”?

MA: Nashville got the nickname in the 1800′s, due to its high number of universities. It was also the first major southern city to create a public school system. After that, Greek inspired art and architecture began popping up, including a life-size replica of the Parthenon. Of course, most people know Nashville as Music City, and rightly so. Between the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and all the record labels and studios, it’s a perfect name.

PS: Can you talk about your experience there?

MA: It was amazing! I played lead guitar for, and toured with several major acts in country music, Sherrie Austin among them. I’ve been fortunate to play intimate clubs like Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe, as well as to festival crowds of 40,000. When I wasn’t on the road, I’d do session work and try to keep one foot in the local theater scene. Performing at the Grand Ole Opry was certainly a highlight, probably the most special stage I’ve ever performed on. Being in Nashville gave me the opportunity to hone my songwriting skills, both individually and in collaboration with Grammy nominees and hit writers such as Greg Barnhill, Georgia Middleman, Jan Buckingham and Steve Williams. Of course, Nashville will always hold a special place in my heart, since it’s where I met my wife Erica (also a singer and actress). Nashville is certainly where we’ll end up later on.

PS: Nice. Speaking of Erica, her vocals sound gorgeous accompanying the original songs on your website, www.milesaubrey.com.

“Night after night who treats you right
Baby, it’s the guitar man
Who’s on the radio
You go listen to the guitar man
Then he comes to town
And you see his face
And you think you might
Like to take his place
Somethin’ keeps him driftin’
Miles and miles away
Searchin’ for the songs to play”

PS: Fast forwarding a bit, what brought you back to New York City after all that time in Nashville?

MA: In 2006, I was offered my first role on Broadway in “Ring of Fire”. Up until then, I had no intention of leaving Nashville, but Broadway is not something one easily turns down. Sometimes, the best laid plans work out in a different and even better way. Erica was already up in New York City getting her Masters at NYU, which was another great reason to move.

PS: Right. And how appropriate that your first Broadway role was in a show about one of the most famous artists to ever come out of Nashville.

MA: Exactly, and if I hadn’t been in New York City then, I likely wouldn’t have gotten the role of Norm Waxman in the First National Tour, then eventually on Broadway.

PS: It was a sign! How long have you been playing Norm, et al?

MA: I was on the tour for about 21 months, and have been on Broadway for 3 1/2 years. It’s been great.

“Then you listen to the music
And you sing along
You want to get the meaning
Out of each and every song
Then you find yourself a message
And some words to call your own
And take them home”

PS: Do you actually play the instruments during the show?

MA: Yes, I play guitar on eight songs and drums on four.

PS: Let’s talk guitars here. How many do you own?

MA: I have four: my 1983 Les Paul, a Taylor acoustic, a Fender Stratocaster, and my newest one, a Ron Kirn, which I’m really proud of, as it was custom built for me. Ron’s guitar replaced my old Telecaster -style guitar, which I recently sold to the 2nd National Jersey Boys tour.

PS: Who knew?! Can you talk a bit about the significance of having someone custom make an instrument for you?

MA: Sure. Obviously, it’s quite an honor to have a guitar custom-made for you, or be asked to endorse a quality product that you’re proud to use. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to endorse several guitar gear companies: Taylor, Markley strings, Wampler pedals, and now Ron Kirn. Ron built me a really special guitar out of re-claimed wood from an Otis Elevator factory from 1830. It’s by far the finest Telecaster I’ve ever had.

PS: For readers not familiar with Ron Kirn, can you tell us a little about him?

MA: Ron is a boutique guitar builder from Jacksonville, Florida. He’s been doing this for about 25 years, and is a true master craftsman. His guitars are all handmade, and each one is a unique work of art and history. He’s got a beautiful gallery of custom guitars on his website, www.ronkirn.com.

PS: Yes, the guitars on there are incredible. There’s also a great quote of his, “To get old, you have to start young, and I can recall once upon a time being young”!

MA: Also, while most off-the-shelf guitars are made from ash, Ron uses mostly re-claimed wood, such as pine.

PS: What would be the difference?

MA: The key here is really the age of the wood, meaning that the resins in the wood have solidified or matured enough to greatly improve the guitar’s tone. Pine is also a lighter wood than ash, and has been making a comeback lately in guitar circles.

PS: Who knew guitars were so complex?!

“He can make you love
He can get you high
He will bring you down
Then he’ll make you cry
Somethin’ keeps him movin’
But no one seems to know
What it is that makes him go”

PS: Let’s talk some favorite things here. Favorite guitar?

MA: That’s like asking about a favorite child! The Les Paul will always be my favorite, but I play the Ron Kirn Telecaster the most often.

PS: Favorite song?

MA: “Secret of Life” by James Taylor.

PS: Favorite guitarist?

MA: I’ve got several, in no particular order: Eric Johnson, Brent Mason, Scotty Anderson, Jeff Beck, Brad Paisley and Robben Ford.

PS: Favorite experience as a Jersey Boy?

MA: Oooh, that’s tough, as there have been so many: Performing on The Tonight Show and at the Tony Awards, meeting President Bush and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and singing The National Anthem at sports stadiums. Wow, thanks, Jersey Boys!

PS: All incredible. What can your fans look forward to in 2012?

MA: I’m going to continue to write and record music in my home studio, and work on several CD projects. People should check my website,www.milesaubrey.com , for all the latest news. Of course, you can see me eight shows a week at the August Wilson!

PS: Thanks, Miles. It’s been great talking to you. See you at the theater!

“Then the lights begin to flicker
And the sound is getting dim
The voice begins to falter
And the crowds are getting thin
But he never seems to notice
He’s just got to find
Another place to play
Either way
Got to play
Either way
Got to play”

Here’s where the Bread song is not quite right, friends. In the case of Miles Aubrey, the voice is getting stronger and the crowds remain huge. For both Gates’ Guitar Man and ours, the song goes on.


  1. Well done, Pam, as always. Clever use of the Bread song. Who knew that Norm Waxman could be so interesting when he’s not shaking people down? I had no idea that he had spent so much time in my home state of Tennessee. Nice pictures too. Regards, Charles

    Comment by Charles Alexander — January 30, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  2. Another fine article, Pamela. You just keep goin’ and goin’…kinda like that little bunny on TV! Love the pics, too! It’s great to see some of the other cast members get some acknowledgment for the integral part they play in Jersey Boys. Didn’t know that Miles plays his instruments live in the show. How cool is that? I also think it’s great that some of these actors are also excellent musicians and showcase their musical abilities outside the show with showcases, cabarets and charity benefits. Bravo!

    Comment by Gary — January 30, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  3. Nice interview, bro!!

    Comment by Jory Aubrey — January 30, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

  4. And Aubrey was his name…

    Paging stubbleyou for a parody…


    Comment by Ted Hammond — January 30, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

  5. What a wonderful article, Pamela. I had no idea Miles was so incredibly talented. It was so interesting to read Miles’ takes on the different types of wood. Being an accountant, I have two clients that are suppliers of musical instruments, and we even need to check that “endangered” wood is not being used (yes, plants can be endangered as well as animals). The other surprising thing I’ve learned over the years is that musical instruments, except for keyboards, have remained largely unchanged over the last half-century, and even become more valuable as time goes on.

    Best wishes to Miles. He has an awesome future ahead!

    Comment by Howard — January 31, 2012 @ 12:17 am

  6. Great article, Pam! I love the way you interspersed the Bread lyrics. I really felt as if I got to know Miles and that’s the mark of a great interview. Also loved the pics!


    Comment by Jana — January 31, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  7. Wonderful interview. I’ll never forget Miles’ performance during the “JB sings Hall & Oates” benefit. When he played those first few notes on “Sara Smile”, I had goosebumps, it was thrilling. I’ll never be able to look at Norm Waxman the same again.

    Comment by Tiggerbelle/Linda — January 31, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  8. Ted, between Pam’s cleverness at coming up with a song about a guitar man with the line “Miles and miles away,” and your matching her with “Aubrey” by the same artist, I think I better sit this one out — though I must say the first song that came to my mind was “Listen to the Man Play the Boss Guitar” by Duane Eddy.

    Miles’ contribution to the success of Jersey Boys cannot be underestimated. The fact that some of the instruments are played live onstage by the actors themselves adds so much to the musical excitement of the show, truly making it the “rock concert within a Broadway musical” that so many critics have praised it for being. It makes a difference, and the audience can tell.

    Thanks for a fun and informative interview, Pam! It was very interesting learning about Miles’ impressive musical background and experience.

    And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story: Duane Eddy’s backup band in the early ’60′s, the Rebels, included a musician named Larry Knetchel, who continued to record with Eddy even after leaving the group. He later joined with David Gates and became a member of Bread, where he played the guitar solo on – you guessed it – “Guitar Man.” ;-)

    Comment by stubbleyou — February 1, 2012 @ 4:04 am

  9. I’ll have to pull out one of my Four Seasons CDs out of my 5 disk CD changer, and have a listen to “The Best Of Bread” again. I’ll see if I can come up with some more “Guitar Man” lyrical references.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — February 1, 2012 @ 10:09 am

  10. Just make sure you research ‘Guitar MAN’ and not ‘GitarZAN.’ You might come up with something by Hank Majewski. (Is it true he changed his name to Ray Stevens, for business reasons?)

    Comment by stubbleyou — February 2, 2012 @ 1:46 am

  11. Stubbleyou, I’ve only gotten a handle on Pop Instrumentals in the last few years. Duane “Twangin’” Eddy did have a unique sound. “Because They’re Young” is a classic.

    Vinnie Bell is another great guitar innovator who, like his friend Les Paul, expanded the limits of guitar sounds, and rivaled Ravi Shankar in sitar developments. His watery guitar sounds are on CTMEOY and other unique FV4S studio sessions, and his sitar on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, I believe.

    It’s great that Miles Aubrey can continue to build on and honor the guitar innovators and styles.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — February 2, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  12. Thanks everyone, for the nice comments. This was a fun interview, and I learned alot as well. Ted, very impressive that you referenced that Bread song. I’ll cop to owning the Best of Bread album, but thought the song was ‘Audrey’, not ‘Aubrey’ !!. Steve,I thought of ‘Guitar Man’ for the thematic similarities to Miles’ story. Only after I pulled the lyrics did I see ‘miles and miles away’. Who knew?? It was a sign!!

    Comment by Pamela — February 2, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

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