x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Madonna's guitarist feeling the Abu Dhabi heat

We speak to Monte Pittman as he sits outside on the patio at an Abu Dhabi hotel, trying to acclimatise himself for the shows.

Monte Pittman, Madonna's guitarist. Photo Courtesy Grapevine PR
Monte Pittman, Madonna's guitarist. Photo Courtesy Grapevine PR

It is a typical Hollywood story; an aspiring musician leaving his hometown and heading for the bright lights to continue his burgeoning music career.

When Texan Monte Pittman, 36, arrived in Los Angeles in 1999, his plan was to find a band and continue working on his collection of self-penned metal and acoustic tunes. He figured the best way to meet fellow musicians was working in a music store selling guitars and becoming a guitar teacher.

Then everything changed with one phone call. “His name was Nathan, I think,” Pittman recalls. “He said he wanted guitar lessons for his boss.”As it turned out, Nathan’s boss was none other than British film director Guy Ritchie, married to Madonna at the time. Not long after, Pittman was giving lessons to Madonna herself, and a few months later, he was offered the slot of Madonna’s tour guitarist. “I don’t try to think about it like that,” he chuckles. “If I do then I guess I will freak out about it.”

Pittman is speaking to us outdoors, on the patio of the Abu Dhabi hotel where he and Madonna’s backing band are staying. He explains that getting acquainted with Abu Dhabi’s blazing heat as much as possible is the best way to prepare for Madonna’s debut performance tonight.

He was not the only one with that idea; Madonna’s musical director, Kevin Antunes, is also outside “for a walk”. “This is by far the biggest show a lot of us have ever been in,” he states. “I mean, this time around, Madonna is walking up the stage right to the sound board. It is really something.” Pittman has been the pop queen’s axeman of choice since 2001’s Drowned World Tour.

The MDNA world tour will be his eighth jaunt with The Material Girl. He says rehearsals began in secret locations before Madonna’s latest album was released.

This meant listening to the songs under strict guard.“It was me listening to the song on this one iPod and then the iPod goes back into this case and is locked up,” he recalls. Pittman says Madonna will showing off the guitar skills he taught her.

“Those who saw her before will see how much she evolved when it comes to playing,” he says. “You rarely see that with other pop artists.”

sasaeed@thenational.ae