Pat Metheny is a talker. True, his fame is tied up in his identity as a guitarist, but trust me when I say that even the slightest mental nudge will set Metheny down a conversational path, philosophizing about artistry and music. It’s evident after spending even a few minutes watching old interviewers featuring the fretboard surfer, and it was no different during this conversation that was, ostensibly, centered around his latest effort, Road to the Sun.

Road dropped in early March, but the PR buzz around Metheny’s album — specifically in classical music circles — has been buzzing since late 2020. See, the 20-time Grammy Award winning guitarist and composer is a “jazz guy” (though if he were to have the floor, he’d let you know he isn’t a big fan of such distinctions), so even the suggestion that he’d “go classical” was enough to fuel the hype machine.

Road to the Sun is an album in three parts: there are two new works composed by Metheny and performed by guitarist Jason Vieaux and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, respectively; and a finale featuring Arvo Pärt's Fur Alina, featuring the 42-string fingerwork of Pat himself. Naturally, our conversation had its roots in this latest project, but it ultimately morphed into an exploration of musicianship, artistic philosophy, and what music really is.

Here are some highlights from that conversation:

The “Great” Guitarist (or Lack Thereof)

If you spend enough time with Pat Metheny interviews, you’ll inevitably run into his argument that the guitar doesn’t have a single standard-bearer that students of the instrument have to “figure out.” Let’s see if that assessment holds up in the 2020s.

Pat Metheny

Metheny On The "Great" Guitarist


On Defining “Genre”

From the first excited whispers to voluminous announcements in my inbox on release day, the Road to the Sun narrative went something like this: “Jazzman Pat released a classical album.” But to hear him tell it, he was surprised with that distinction once the album was released, and he finds those distinctions… kind of dumb.

Photo of Pat METHENY

Listen: Metheny On Defining "Genre"


Honestly, when people start talking about genre, I don't know what they're talking about. Part of that may be because of my growing up it was music on records.

Keeping the Band Interested

When you’ve got a bunch of talented musicians working together in an ensemble, a major part of the “bandleader” job description is keeping everyone interested and challenged. Bored musicians do not make for a pleasant listening experience.

Pat Metheny

Metheny On Keeping The Band Interested


New Music Entering the Spectrum

An exchange in which we talk not only about the usefulness (or futility) of categorizing music, but how music can be considered differently decades after its release.

Pat Metheny

Metheny On New Music Entering The Spectrum


How Pat Listens to Music

Turns out, there’s a whole lot of music that exists, and it’s impossible to listen to it all. Many of us might have some kind of system for music discovery, provided we even have the time for it. Things look a little different for Metheny, though.

Pat Metheny

Metheny On How He Listens To Music


About Arvo

Road to the Sun ends with the only track featuring Metheny-as-musician: an interpretation of Arvo Pärt’s Fur Alina, performed on Metheny’s signature 42-string Pikasso guitar. Pärt has a bit of a reputation, for better or for worse, as a “living legend” of a composer (by some counts he’s the most performed living composer), so it only made sense to ask Pat about his relationship to the Estonian composer’s music.

Pat Metheny

Metheny Talks About Arvo


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pat referenced a lot of music and artists in an hour and 10 minutes, (thankfully) without much regard to the rules of time and space. Some would say this playlist is all over the place. I’d say they’re wrong — it’s just Metheny’s musical mind map on any given weekday afternoon.