In-the-moment inspiration probably will determine much of the set list. The crowd’s vibe may determine the rest when Kade Puckett, the 2013 National Fingerstyle Champion guitarist, performs at The Harlequin Theatre Feb. 23 in Columbus.
“I do like to have a sense of humor about what I play and, within the melodies, not always playing everything exactly right,” Puckett said, speaking from a recording studio in Linton, where he lives. “And I really kind of like to have a jam party, with a lot of songs kind of stuck together.”
Watch his clips on YouTube and you will see him mix Chet Atkins’ country sound with funk and rock and just about anything else that teases his musical imagination. His approach? No real rules, no real boundaries.
“I don’t like being stuck to any one thing,” he said.
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Which explains why he never composes a set list. For fun, though, he sometimes has opened with an opening group’s set list left behind before he takes the stage.
That’s also why he will drop a Van Halen rock tune right alongside, say, a Pat Matheny jazz number — and offer a mischievous smile to let you know that he loves the freedom of his wide, instrumental universe.
As a self-taught, full-time musician, he plays nightspots, restaurants, weddings, you name it. He does so with his manager-wife, Timberly Ferree, at his side, frequently taking a ribbing from the stage.
“Oh, she likes some of the perks of the job,” he likes to say with a chuckle.
“While I’m playing, she sometimes gets a free meal.”
Harlequin operator Robert Hay-Smith caught the 45-year-old Puckett a few months ago at the now-defunct Pines Room Tavern and Muddy Boots Cafe in Nashville in Brown County.
“I was very impressed with his virtuosity, especially having heard Richard Smith (another fingerstyle champion) at the Harlequin,” Hay-Smith said.
With no advance warning, Hay-Smith casually asked from the audience if Puckett could play “Nuages” by guitar legend Django Reinhardt. Puckett not only immediately performed that number but quickly followed with a flawlessly rendered Reinhardt medley.
“He’s so very entertaining and so very likable on stage,” Hay-Smith said. “He’s also a consummate musician who always seems to be picking out the melody. He’s simply brilliant.”
The vocalist and guitarist, known as Pickin’ Puckett, seems unimpressed with himself. Maybe because his introduction to music surfaced in jam sessions at home with his fingerstyle-playing grandfather, father and pianist mom.
“Maybe that’s why I’m so down to earth,” he said, responding to a query about his giftedness and humility.
His fingerstyle method involves playing a bass line and a melody line at the same time, much as a pianist does. If that sounds slightly different on a guitar, consider his different first name that rhymes with Jade. His grandfather was named Norman. So is his dad.
“And (my mother) really didn’t want me to be Norman III,” Puckett said.
So he features a unique name and a unique ability amid national fingerstyle competition that sometimes also includes global players from Japan to Turkey. Yet, Kade Puckett seems perfectly happy in his own world, on his own terms.
Who: 2013 National Fingerstyle Champion guitarist Kade Puckett of Linton. Plays everything from jazz to country to rock to blues and more.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23.
Where: The Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus.
Tickets: $15 is advance, available online at kadepuckett.brownpapertickets.com. Also at the FairOaks Mall office and Viewpoint Books in downtown Columbus.
Information: 812-343-4597 or theharlequintheatre.com.