Foo Fighters’ guitarist Chris Shiflett on his solo career, finding country music and love of his instrument

Chris Shiflett’s place in the music world is well and truly cemented by his position as part of the Foo Fighters’ guitar armada, but that only tells part of the story.

Beyond his day job, Shiflett is an extremely talented artist in his own right, with his own musical voice and body of work. His latest record is West Coast Town, a ten-track collection recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb. The album features Shiflett on vocals and electric guitar, and Cobb on acoustic guitar and percussion, backed by an all-star team of studio musicians.
One thing that really stands out about West Coast Town is that while it’s not a ‘guitar nerd’ album, it’s definitely a guitar album – in the sense that the instrument is really served up on a silver platter. “I really wanted to make a guitar record,” Shiflett says. “I love lead guitar and I love all kinds of guitar.
“I grew up with rock music, but the guitar playing in country music is probably one of the prime things that has drawn me to it over the years. A good guitar lead in a song can be a shift in the energy that bumps it up right when you want it to be bumped up. I love a fast lead here and there. That really went out of vogue for a long time, at least in rock music, although it’s come back.”
Shiflett’s approach to country feels very authentic, but it wasn’t a style that he came to fully formed. “It’s been a slow progression over a long time,” he says. “It definitely was not something that happened overnight. You’d probably be surprised to see what I listen to when I’m by myself. I listen to a lot of mellow, country-flavoured music and I really have for a long time. It drives my wife and kids nuts because they hate it. But if I’m in charge of the stereo that’s where I’m headed.”
Shiflett says he can’t overstate the impact that Dave Cobb had on the record – he tweaked all of the songs, making them stronger and better than they began. “He’s an interesting guy to see in the way that he works. He doesn’t listen to your demos ahead of time. He listens to them right before you record them and then he reacts to them in the moment. He works very fast and he has a quiet confidence to what he does that makes you feel reassured in what you’re doing.”
Robbie Turner also adds some magic to the record. “That’s the first time I’d ever met him,” Shiflett says. “I was well aware of his work and I asked Dave to line him up because I knew Dave had worked with him a bunch on various things.
“That was the one request I made for musicians. Dave put together everybody on the record but the one request I had was that Robby Turner played pedal steel on it. He’s a master of that instrument – and that is a crazy instrument to be a master of. You can spend a lifetime on that thing trying to get something out of it and still suck, but he’s a master. I own a pedal steel but I would never say that I play the pedal steel. It’s in the garage with all my ‘good intention’ instruments like my mandolin and my banjo.”
Shiflett’s main guitar for the record was a Gibson Non-Reverse Firebird from 1968, along with Cobb’s 1953 Fender Telecaster and 1963 Fender Esquire. “I brought a bunch of guitars with me and then wound up mainly using one of them,” Shiflett says. “Cobb’s got such a great collection of gear. Any great guitar you want, any great amplifier you want, he’s got it. I’ll know that for next time: if I make another record with him I’m not bringing anything with me.”
By Peter Hodgson

Chris Shiflett’s West Coast Town is out now via Cooking Vinyl.