Fans and fellow musicians might have forgiven Ian Moss for taking a break to recharge the batteries between a national stadium run with Cold Chisel and a four-month-long solo tour.
But the legendary Australian guitarist put on his inventor’s hat and flew to America.
Over the past two years Moss and friend Peter Walker, of Fomofx, have developed an electronic whammy bar.
It’s called the Virtual Jeff and can be fitted on to any electric or acoustic guitar that has a pick-up.
The pair took their creation to the 2016 NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants) and were awarded Best in Show.
“I’ve just been to Anaheim as an exhibitor, in partnership with friend Peter Walker, who was actually a guitar player and producer of the very first Cold Chisel album,” Moss explains.
“We won Best in Show at NAMM recently, so that’s pretty exciting stuff.
“Peter and I had already been fine tuning some foot pedals for myself, whether it be A/B boxes or routers and stuff.
“Then Peter came across DigiTech’s Whammy pedal and saw that it had a MIDI port on the side.
“Being a computer programmer, the light bulb went off in his head.
“The limitations of the Whammy pedal, it’s a pitch-bending pedal, is that it only bends pitch in one direction.
“That’s where it started, with a couple of door handles from Bunnings and a couple of peg springs.”
There’s something very powerful about one bloke and an instrument without using any tricks at all.Ian Moss
Moss says the development of the gear he uses on stage never stops.
“I try to keep things minimal and compact, but I’ve got a few essential ingredients and am always trying to refine,” Moss says.
“Amplifying acoustic guitars is never easy.
“I’ve got a beautiful Avalon U5 DR which makes the guitar sound about 100 feet wide, as opposed to one foot wide.
“A bit of compression, delay – I’m arguing the toss as to whether to get into what every other solo artist is getting into now, and that’s looping.
“It’s something I wouldn’t want to overdo, but just use as a feature for a couple of songs.
“There’s something very powerful about one bloke and an instrument without using any tricks at all.”
Moss’ upcoming solo tour is in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his Six Strings release, his successful live acoustic album recorded in Sydney’s Sandringham Hotel.
The setlist featured his solo hits Telephone Booth and Tucker’s Daughter, Chisel hits like Bow River and Saturday Night, and covers of classics like Catfish Blues and Purple Haze.
Before his Six Strings performance, Moss had rarely visited the acoustic guitar as a performer.
The musician says stepping away from the comfort of performing with a full band was his biggest learning curve.
“It really keeps you on your toes, you’ve got to come out and get intimate, but maintain and exude a lot of energy,” Moss says.
“You haven’t got four or five other guys helping you do that, so it’s a big workload.
“But it’s an enjoyable workload, and just as intense and just as enjoyable as playing to 18,000 people at Hope Estate.”
Moss admits that he took to solo acoustic gigs out of necessity, as demand in Australia’s live music scene shifted towards intimate shows.
“When I got my first electric guitar I thought: ‘Goodbye to acoustics forever’,” he recalls.
“But then I got dragged kicking and screaming into acoustic land because that’s what the market dictated back in the early 2000s when the whole unplugged thing came along.
“Pub venues were dying out and acoustic venues were springing up, so you had to get onboard or fall by the wayside.
“But those first couple of times I played acoustic, I’d hit the first downbeat of the first song and I’d look around to check the bass player and drummer hadn’t forgotten to come in.
“So it was quite scary and nerve wracking, but healthy nerve wracking because you had to find a new way to play the song.”
At the front of the Moss’s mind during a solo show is the delivery of each song’s narrative.
“First and foremost for me is the story of the song and the lyrics, I make sure I’m well aware of what the story is all about,” Moss says.
“I’m trying to deliver that story as best as possible.
“I feel like if I’m nailing the emotion and intent of the story, then everything else is going to follow.”
The Six Strings Classics tour will bring Moss back to the Hunter in late March, hot on the heels of his December visit for Cold Chisel’s mammoth show at Hope Estate.
“All the [Chisel] shows were fun, we had a great run - the band played really well,” Moss says.
“The band got on well, we got some good numbers through the door.
“I guess by the time we got to Hope Estate the band was incredibly match fit by then, that would have given that show an edge.”
If his touring and Virtual Jeff commitments weren’t enough to keep him busy, Moss has also been quietly working on a new studio record.
“About sixteen months ago I trotted off to Nashville, the city of songwriters,” he reveals.
“I had a whole bunch of ideas for songs and came back with a swag of great material, and spent a large part of last year working with Peter Walker on the arrangements.
“The arrangement is king.
“We found a gap in the Cold Chisel touring schedule last year to put down some backing tracks, so there’s the beginning of an album.
“The Six String tour goes through to July, but they’re just Friday and Saturday which gives me plenty of time to come back to Sydney and keep working on this new album.”
But Moss doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about the new record.
It’s not country.
“Straight away you’re back peddaling and defending yourself – ‘oh, you went to Nashville, you must be doing a country album’,” he says.
“That’s just complete crap these days.
“Sure, that’s traditionally what it was and that side of it is very strong but it is everything there – any style of music you like.
“It’s just somewhere songwriters have gravitated.
“My background is blues-based rock with a hint of old soul jazz.
“But mainly focusing on good songs that people can sing along with, delivered with a bluesy edge.”
With 42 shows locked in for the “Six Strings Classics” tour, it’s clear that Moss’s passion for music has not diminished over time.
The performer says the call of the stage is as loud as ever.
“B.B. King did it right up until he died a couple of years ago, Eric Clapton’s still doing it,” he says.
“It’s something I’ll have a passion for right until the very end.”
Ian Moss will visit Cessnock Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, March 26.
For tickets head to www.cessnockperformingartscentre.com.au or phone 4990 7134.
Alive has one double pass to give away.
For your chance to win simply fill out the coupon in Friday's Maitland Mercury (February 12) and return it to our office by noon on Wednesday (February 17).