The Man Behind The Music

We speak to Chiswick's rising star Justin Sandercoe

Related Links

Justin Sandercoe Album Launch is on February 28th 2010 - 7.30pm at Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, W12 7LJ



Sign up for a free newsletter from


Rising star Justin Sandercoe, otherwise known as Justin Guitar, is to release his debut album Small Town Eyes on February 28th.


The Chiswick resident made a name for himself over the internet, when his free guitar lessons received more than 58 million hits on Youtube, teaching the world how to play guitar, and asking only for donations.

Having taught artists such as Katie Melua and Cathy Dennis to play guitar (and even touring with Katie for three years), and taught and written courses for The Guitar Institute, Justin certainly knows what he’s talking about.

Justin is one talented man – not only does he write and sing his own tunes, as well as the guitar, he also plays the mandolin, bass guitar, harmonica, lap steel and percussion.

Here we find out more about the man behind the music....

How many years have you been playing guitar?

I began playing when I was around 6 years old on a ukulele, but I was eager to get playing guitar as soon as possible, always getting excited when I saw someone playing guitar or there was one shown on television. At my primary school children had to prove their musical ability by learning recorder, so I spent a summer holiday working through the recorder book the school provided, and when the next year started (aged 9) I was allowed to start learning to play the guitar.

My first teacher taught us basic chords and notes, but never played more than what we were due to study, so I spent the next summer holidays practicing all day every day with the idea that if I practiced a lot I would get better than the teacher! I learnt many songs and started to learn to use my ears to work out pop and blues songs off the radio and LP records.

The teacher was impressed with how much I had learned, but he always knew a lot more than I did. It inspired me to practice even harder. I started a band with a drummer that year and we did our first gig at the end of primary school leaving party.

When did you start teaching guitar?

I started teaching when I was 12 years old. I didn't know a lot, but I found I could explain things easy to other local kids (and some adults too!). I didn't charge very much, but it gave me a little money that I could spend on getting my own private lessons!
This continued while I was at high school and when I reached college (aged 16) I started teaching at a private music school, The Hobart College of Music, teaching 2 or 3 evenings a week.

When I finished college I was accepted to The Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music to study classical guitar, which I financed by teaching at Elisabeth College (where I had been a student the year before).

Why and when did you move to London?

I moved to London in 1996 after receiving a grant from Arts Tasmania, who paid me to come to London to study. I chose to study at The Guitar Institute (now called the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, ICMP) where I was awarded the "Student of the year" award. I started teaching there 2 years after finishing my studies, and although I don't have time to teach there regularly any longer, I am a visiting faculty member and go in and teach masterclasses.

I found the move scary and exciting and it took quite a while for me to make new friends and get settled, but after my year was up I decided that I would stay a bit longer and try my luck in the UK music scene.

When did you start

I first registered the name in July 2003, I was learning how to build web sites so I could make them for bands I was playing with, and decided to make a teaching site to advertise myself as a private tutor. When I noticed that there were nearly 100 people a day using the site I got quite excited by the idea and started adding more and more content.

But that said, the site did not start to see large numbers of visitors until late 2006 when I started adding video lessons, and visitors went from 100's a day to 1000's!!

Why did you make free?

When I first started doing the free lessons I got a lot of thank you emails from people that wanted to learn to play guitar but could not afford lessons. I thought it was a great way to give something back for all the joy that music has given me, so I decided to run it as a free site.

I get emails every day from people across the world that appreciate the free lessons and that inspires me to keep it free. I really feels great to be able to help so many people share the beauty of music.

How many lessons are on the site?

At last count it is over 350 lessons. Most lessons contain 10 minute videos (although there are some shorter videos). It works out to be about 60 hours of video...
How many views have you had on YouTube?

I have two channels on Youtube, one for lessons and one for songs. The combined views for both channels is well over 58,000,000 - yep... 58 Million!! wow... that really spins my head! ;)

What live experience have you had?

I was playing in many different bands from an early age in many styles, rock metal bands, blues bands, funk and jazz bands. A few years after my move to the UK I joined The Counterfeit Stones (a Rolling Stones tribute band) with whom I played over a thousand gigs across the UK and Europe. In 2005 I joined Katie Melua's live band and toured with her extensively for 3 years and played some amazing concerts including Live Earth and many major TV and radio appearances.

All the while I was out performing my own music at the singer-songwriter clubs around London, it was sometimes odd to play a huge arena with Katie someplace in Europe and then come back to London and play in really intimate club doing my own thing. But I must admit I much prefer playing smaller venues and making connections with people who come to see me.

Tell us a little about your own music.

Although I am obviously a guitarist, my true love is writing songs. I have spent the last 6 months making my own album, to be called Small Town Eyes, which is released on Feb 28th 2010. It is a collection of songs, with very little fancy guitar playing. It is vocal based acoustic pop drawing influences from bands like Wilco, Neil Young, James Taylor and Neil Finn. More info on that can be found at

Who played on your album?

I've been really lucky to work with some outstanding musicians and many of them were happy to come and play on the album. I had Henry Spinetti (Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Procol Harom) come in to play drums and Tim Harries (Steeleye Span, Bill Bruford, Eddi Reader) playing bass. Kenny Dickenson (KT Tunstall, Natalie Imbruglia) played some great Wurlitzer and Tina Grace (Nitin Sawhney) and Pete Cunnah (D:Ream) helped out with some backing vocals. It was a real honour work with musicians I admire so much.

Do you write your own songs?

I wrote most of the songs on the album on my own, but I did some co-writing too. I love writing with other people, speeds up the endless pontificating about words that I tend to get into when I'm on my own. Forevergreen was written by me and Katie Melua and legendary guitar player Jim Cregan (Rod Stewart Band). I also pulled out an old track called Into The Blue which I wrote with a young ladfy called Polly Scattergood (Mute Records Recording Artist) quite a few years ago. A couple of songs were wrtitten with pop legend Pete Cunnah (D:Ream) who has the studio next door to mine and he was great to have around and gave me lots of great advice. Lovely guy. And one last co-write with a cool girl called Emily Phillips who co-wrote the lyric to Cutting Out - which had started life as an instrumental and she helped get rid of the block I had on the words for that one.

What do you do when not playing guitar?

Outside of music I practice Wing Tsun kung fu, rock climbing, mountain biking and until last year I was a keen skydiver (but I had a couple of scares and have retired!). I spent Christmas scuba diving in the Red Sea and am looking forward to my next trip home to Australia where I will spend some time diving the Great Barrier Reef.

Because music is my love as well as my job I play a lot more than my girlfriend would like! It's a blessing and a curse. I tend to choose hobbies where there is no time for musical thoughts, things that occupy my whole mind and give me escape from melody!


February 15, 2010