Undeniably recognized as having one of the world’s most gorgeous voices, Celine Dion surrounds herself with the best musicians. Her guitar slinger, Andre Coutu, has provided her much appreciated musical support for the last 12 years. Quite obviously a man of fabulous taste, his main guitar has been an Anderson Classic since ‘96. Perhaps a little anxious whether Anderson-lightening could really strike twice, we received this letter from him the day after his 2nd Anderson arrived.
Editors Note: Andre is an extremely nice guy. To get the full bouquet of his interview, imagine a charming French-Canadian accent.
Hello Tom, Roy and everyone,
I received this new Hollow Drop Top Classic yesterday... Amazing!
What a great guitar! It really plays like a dream. I used it right away for the show last night! This guitar is so well built! There is so much attention to every detail and it was adjusted perfectly—exactly the way I like it!
What’s remarkable and comforting is that it plays as well, if not better, than my old favorite Anderson—which I still enjoy a lot. I would say the sound of this new Hollow Drop Top Classic is a bit richer overall—due, I guess, to the woods, the hollow body, and also the pick-ups, which are all a bit different. Those pickups are exceptionally good! The solid maple neck is just perfect! It feels like heaven! Really, I'm so impressed!
What is going to happen now is that I'll use the Swamp Ash guitar in Eb, since we have a few songs in that tuning, and the new one will stay in standard tuning. I'm really glad because it's going to be a lot more consistent like this. I won’t have to re-tune and I’ll be playing an Anderson on more songs that ever so I’ll always have that great Anderson feel!
So, thank you so much and keep on going on the good work!
After over a decade of touring, Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas has opened a facility especially for Celine so all those who want to see her in person can experience the show of their lives. We caught up with Andre and asked him to share some of his vast knowledge gained through his years of experience.
TAGW: So what is Celine really like? You can tell us, we won’t say a thing to anyone—probably.
Andre: Celine is a really, really nice person. She is absolutely great to work for—couldn’t be better.
TAGW: That is impressive from someone of her stature. How did you get to play with her?
Andre: Mego (Claude LeMay), who is her musical director and piano player, had me sub in quite a few times and then asked me to officially join the band in ’92.
TAGW: Where was the band playing at that time?
Andre: For a year or two we did a lot of local gigs, mainly throughout Canada’s Province of Quebec, and opened for Michael Bolton in the states for two summers in a row.
TAGW: How did you first learn of Anderson guitars? Did we come to you in some sort of prophetic dream that changed your life forever?
Andre: Not exactly. While the band was on the road with Michael Bolton in ’94, his guitar player, Chris Camozzi, had a beautiful Bora Bora Blue, Drop Top Classic. One night he let me try it and that was it. That same year I also met Tim Pierce. He had two of them. After we talked Anderson, I knew I had to have one!
TAGW: Who were your main musical influences when you were growing up?
Andre: Oh, a lot of people. I was really into Steve Lukather, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Michael Landau and Joni Mitchell but I also liked some pop music like Toto, Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers, which has really helped me for this gig. I listen to so much stuff now. I think you have to listen to a lot of stuff if you want to be really good. I am also a really big fan of L.A. Studio guitar players like, Larry Carlton, Tim Pierce, and Jay Graydon. Lately I have been listening to Ry Cooder and a guitar player form Cuba named Manuel Galban, who has a new album out called Mombo Sinuendo—its awesome!
TAGW: At what age did you realize you were musical and want to become a guitar player?
Andre: My mom says that I was singing before I was talking, but I guess every musician’s mother says that. Seriously though, I played piano and took lessons for a while but I kept saying all the time, “I want to play guitar!” So around 11 or 12 years old my parents bought me my first guitar, a classical-style acoustic. I started taking lessons and learning to read music but I would come home doing rock, singing pop songs and trying to improvise. A little while later I got an electric. It was a Japanese-made copy of a Telecaster Custom. I loved that guitar so much that I would fall asleep with it in my arms.
TAGW: Do you ever fall asleep with your Andersons in hand—not on stage we hope?
Andre: Hmmmmmm... Now that I'm a married man it's a little bit more difficult. But falling asleep on stage…that could be a problem.
TAGW: Where were you born and where did you grow up—in Canada?
Andre: I was born in Chicoutimi, a nice little town northeast of Quebec City. When I was around 20, I moved to Montreal and studied guitar at the university with a great guitar player named Jean-Marie Benoit, who was the number one session player in town.
TAGW: Your first Anderson was a 6120 Orange, Swamp Ash Classic. How did you find the sound of that guitar?
Andre: I would say that it is tight and controlled and cuts very well through the mix but is still very musical.
TAGW: Your new “Andy” is a Hollow Drop Top Classic with a Maple Top/Alder backed body and a solid maple neck. What do you hear as the sonic differences?
Andre: To me this new one sounds rounder. Also, it is extremely resonant—maybe that’s because it’s hollow. It is quite fat and has lots of sustain! I really dig that guitar!
TAGW: Are your two guitars each suited to different kinds of music?
Andre: The cool thing about this new guitar is that it is very similar in many ways to my other Anderson so switching between them is very consistent and comfortable. I now keep the Swap Ash tuned down to Eb for the songs we do with a dropped tuning.
TAGW: What was your first professional gig?
Andre: I was a freelance musician in Montreal. I did studio work, played live and did a lot of TV Shows.
TAGW: So you had played with quite a few of artists before Celine?
Andre: Yes, it really improved my reading and taught me how to manage quickly on many different kinds of songs.
TAGW: You and the band used to tour all over the world. What is it like to have one giant gig in Las Vegas and have people come to see you?
Andre: I think it’s great! I did ten years of touring and we had such a good time—sold out shows everywhere and traveling to many awesome cities. But now I get the chance to be home, closer to my family and, like you said, people are visiting us. It is different but very interesting. The show is evolving all the time. We learn new songs and add new stuff to the show on a steady basis—so it is a good mix of consistency and stimulation.
TAGW: How dominant does the musical director want the guitar parts to be?
Andre: They always have to be at the proper level for the songs to sound their best. I think the live show is mixed with more guitar than you hear on the records though. But, of course, it's Celine that people want to hear.
TAGW: What amps have you found that most effectively allows your sound to project throughout a large arena?
Andre: I'm still relying on my old rack with separate preamps and power amps. I believed it remains a great way to get a wide variety of sounds and I really like using mics in front of cabinets. There is this magic about miking things up!
TAGW: Did you see an increase in female fan mail once you became an Anderson Guitar Player?
Andre: Without a doubt! That’s why, when I found this gorgeous, slightly used, Sparkle Silver, Cobra S Special with 3 Soapbar-style pickups at Atlanta Music Brokers, I asked them to send it to me.
TAGW: I think we have only made one of those outfitted exactly that way. Is this the one?
Andre: That’s it!
TAGW: Perhaps we can do a follow-up on that guitar once you receive it. How do you and Celine get along?
Andre: Very well, she is a real sweetheart—always nice to everybody, very happy and a lot of fun to work with!
TAGW: Yes, but can you talk to her about important things?
Andre: Sure, I mean, I try not to bother her all the time because she's a very busy lady but she always takes the time to listen to everyone.
TAGW: Would she be willing to let you stand in front of her for the first two songs of the night while the camera man gets a close-up on your guitars and the Anderson logo...or have we gone too far?
Andre: You know what, she would not mind at all, but bear in mind that no camera guy is going to go on a guitar instead of Celine!
TAGW: What strings do you use?
Andre: I know you are using the Elixir Guitar Strings on your instruments and so do I. I just think those strings are wonderful because they keep their tone so much! Before Elixirs, I use to burn my strings out really quickly and the sound of them was dead but with the Elixirs, the tone doesn't change. They are a great improvement to my sound. In fact, I was waiting for that kind of strings for so many years.
TAGW: Could you explain the rig you are running live please?
Andre: Sure, I've got two preamps that I can select between, a Custom Audio 3 + SE, that I like a lot and a Marshall JMP-1, to cover the mid-gain sounds. Then it goes to a few rack effects, a Quadaverb II, Intelliverb, Boss SE-70 and an SPX90. All that goes to a mixer and splits to a Mesa/Boogie stereo power amp and out to a 4x12 Marshall cab with Celestion vintage 30s. I also have a few stomp-boxes before the preamps, a wah, a Dyna Comp, a Phase 90, a Voodoo Lab chorus (lots of fun!) and a Micro Vibe. I've been using the same rig for many years. It works well for me and I'm just use to it.
TAGW: If you could give one gift to the world to the world, what would it be?
Andre: Peace! Peace, happiness and music!
Editors Note: Andre received the Sparkle Silver Cobra S Special and couldn’t wait to share his joy. This is a happy guy!
• MODEL: – Hollow Drop Top Classic
• FINISH: – Tobacco Burst with Binding
• BODY WOOD: – Quilted Maple Top with Alder Back
• BODY WOOD BACK COLOR: – same
• NECK WOOD: – Maple
• HEADSTOCK COLOR: – Natural
• NECK BACK FINISH: – Satin
• NECK BACKSHAPE: – T/A Standard
• NUT WIDTH: – 1 11/16ths with Locking Nut
• SCALE LENGTH: – 25 1/2-inch
• FRETS: – Heavy—Exclusive Anderson Stainless Steel
• BRIDGE: – Sunken Floyd Rose
• TUNING GEAR: – Split Shaft
• HARDWARE COLOR: – Gold
• PICKGUARD: – Pearl White
• NECK PICKUP: – SA1R
• MIDDLE PICKUP: – SA1
• BRIDGE PICKUP: – H2+
• SWITCHING: – Switcheroo—for almost infinite sonic combinations
• PICKUP COVERS: – N/A
• PICKUP RINGS: – N/A
• STRING GAUGE REQUESTED: – .010-.046
• DESTINATION/LOCATION: – Artist