Guitarist/Composer George Fetner Plays Tapp's Songversations Series

Jasper Intern Bradley Dountz Learns More about Guitarist and Composer George Fetner leading up to his July 11 Appearance at Tapp's Songversations Series

George Fetner originally started to play piano when he was a kid, then his family moved and that was when he decided to pick up the guitar.

“I had a summer where I just didn’t know anybody so I taught myself a bunch of stuff,” Fetner said.

This got him to start studying the techniques of musicians like The Dave Matthews Band, but it was his piano origins that still clung to his musical sensibilities. Fetner has a strong affinity for classical, chamber, and orchestral music, which has led him to compose more classical pieces on the guitar and in other outlets even as he pursues “popular” music at the same time.

“It’s always a balance for me; that’s just a big balancing act between wanting to do the rock stuff or focus more on composing,” Fetner said about his musical direction.

It wasn’t until he went to the University of South Carolina, when Fetner got to study under and become influenced by composers like John Fitz Rogers and Reginald Bain, that he really hit his stride.     

“In different ways, they’re very concerned with timbre and orchestration,” Fetner said. Rogers does more classical music while Bain does more electronic music, but Fetner connected with both, and the diverse lessons helped him grow as a musician. He has composed both classical and electronic music for musicians to perform in such far-flung places as the Netherlands and Italy.

“It was cool to go over there and work with musicians, most of them were American who had come over, too,” Fetner said about his time working in Europe. 

This past March Fetner released his latest album Some Things We’ll Change, a cozy booklet of acoustic folk ballads that call back to greats like Paul Simon and James Taylor. Fetner recorded the whole album by himself, a process which helped his perspective on music as a whole grow in a new way.

“It takes a lot of objectivity, a lot of cleansing your ears, your palate, to kind of go back and go ‘What am I listening for? Does my voice actually sound good? Is my timing right?,’” he explains. “I’m sure if I listened to it now I would find so many mistakes in it.”

This isolated way of working, of personally trying to be so many different elements to the recording process was something Fetner was glad to do, but he thinks he knows what truly makes music so important to so many people.

“Music is collaborative in general; I have been classically-inspired [and composition-driven], but music is meant to be performed, it’s meant to be heard. Up until 100 years ago you experienced it once and if you wanted to hear it again you had to wait until somebody was gonna perform it again. I still think that’s part of our DNA,” Fetner said.

That’s what makes his performance in Songversations on July 11th so special. After going to past Songversations, this will be his first time performing there as well.

“It’s pretty fun. It’s kind of a cool thing, I wish more solo shows would be like that where people could just yell stuff out,” Fetner said.  “Any chance I can get to do this format where it’s just me and the guitar and I’m super exposed and gonna mess up and kind of see what happens, I’m excited for that part of it.”

After Songversations, Fetner’s band, George Fetner and The Strays, will be recording a new EP in August, but he still loves to compose for other people.

“Just in the past couple of years, I’ve gotten comfortable with or more okay with the fact that every time I’m in the middle of something, I wanna do the other thing,” Fetner said. “Trying to continue to just write and just try and get better at it, that really is all that I ever want to do.”

The performance will be at Tapp’s Art Center on July 11th at 7 p.m. and will be co-hosted by Fetner and poet/arts organizer Al Black.