Jason “Slim” Gambill never thought he’d play in a country band, let alone an incredibly successful one like Lady Antebellum. “Never in a million years did I imagine this,” says the Omaha-born, Nashville-based picker. “I never saw myself being a sideman, especially in country. But this isn’t a traditional sideman gig, because all the people in the band are really close friends. A couple of members have been friends since junior high school. Our drummer is [vocalist] Hillary Scott’s husband. It’s not like one of those situations where some guys pass an audition and then get locked into a tour bus together for a couple of years. The members of Lady Antebellum have been in each others’ weddings!”

Before moving to Nashville in 2007, Slim lived in L.A. for years. (“Everyone calls me that,” he says. “Even people who insist they’re going to call me Jason are calling me Slim after 20 minutes.”)

“My forte has always been classic rock, soul, and R&B,” he explains. “I was always in rock-and-roll bands, and since I wasn’t around country artists, this direction never occurred to me.”
At least not until Slim befriended and toured with singer/songwriter Josh Kelley, whose brother, Charles Kelley, would go on to form Lady Antebellum. “Charles used to come out on the road with us and sing a song every night,” Slim recalls. “We got to be really good friends.”

Slim was soon bouncing between LA and Nashville: “Charles would call and say, ‘Slim, you’ve got to come out to Nashville. We have this little project together and we need a guitar player.’ Almost on a whim, I just threw all my gear in the truck and drove to Nashville one day. Next thing I knew, they’d signed a deal, and that ‘little project’ became what it’s become.” Slim went on to perform on Lady Antebellum’s sessions and tours and has songwriting credits on their smash albums.


Both onstage and in the studio, Slim relies on four different Yamaha guitar models. “When you called just now,” he says, “I was sitting here with my black SBG, just rocking my face off. That thing is a rock-and-roll machine! It’s a surprisingly versatile guitar, but at the end of the day, it really wants to bring some heat, so I let it.”

jasonFor sheer versatility, Slim straps on an AES1500. “I’ve got one at home, for studio use, and another on the road. The one on the road is a semi-custom thing. It’s white, but with all black hardware, including a black Bigsby tremolo. I call it the storm trooper guitar, because it looks like a storm trooper from Star Wars. It’s great for cool, crunchy rhythm parts, like on our song ‘Love Don’t Live Here.’ It sounds fat and warm, but it also has this cool high-end quality. It can have a real psychobilly vibe, but I also use it to play downright jazzy things. I used it a lot on our Christmas record, which has a whole lot of big band stuff.”

A recent Yamaha acquisition is his singlecutaway Pacifica. “I got it made up like a 1965 Shelby Cobra,” says Slim. “It’s Guardsman blue, with a double white racing stripe down the middle. And everything else is all chromed-out. My goal with that was to make it as versatile as possible, so I could use it for just about anything. It can go from Stax-style R&B to rock and roll at the flip of a switch. I’ve been using it on our recent stuff, including our latest single.”

Another go-to instrument is Slim’s Yamaha LL26 acoustic. “I take that one on the road with me,” he says. “It sounds crisp, shimmery, and punchy. It’s not bottom-heavy or boomy. It sits right where an acoustic guitar needs to sit, which is great for playing in an eightpiece band onstage.”

“These guitars are real workhorses,” says Slim. “Man, they just do everything.”

The fact that a player with rock roots secured a foothold as a leading Music City guitarist reveals something about changing country music tastes. These days, a country hit is likelier to feature brash rock riffing than the clean-toned twang of vintage country.

“Modern country music has a lot more rock and roll, with a lot of Southern rock influences,” notes Slim. “The traditional style is still there, and that’s awesome. I can fake it okay, but it’s not my forte. But fortunately, the way I play happens to fit a lot of what’s going on in Nashville right now. And the funny thing is, my style fits in better in Nashville than it ever did in LA. When I finally moved here, I was like, ‘Where has this place been all my life?’”