PHOENIXVILLE - World-renowned Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel will be making his Phoenixville debut during his 2004 U.S. Tour for a sold-out show at the Colonial Theatre tonight at 8 p.m.

Emmanuel said he's played in Pennsylvania numerous times, but never made it to Phoenixville.

"I've played in Philadelphia quite a few times but never in Phoenixville," said Emmanuel. "The people who're putting the show on, The Point, chose the venue and suggested it would be a good place to play. I used to play at The Point, two shows a night. Someone there told me about Phoenixville and I wanted to play in a place where my following could come."

Described by the legendary Chet Atkins as "the greatest guitarist on the planet," Emmanuel lists him and several other artists as his influences.

"There are so many influences in my career. I started listening to Chet Atkins and Dwayne Eddy in my early years, and they were huge in my mind," he said. "Later on, I've started following songwriters such as Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder. I don't study other guitar players though. I follow my own way and make my own music. I have an open mind to all kinds of music, classical to jazz to country, all different types of music."

Born and raised in Australia, Emmanuel said he started playing guitar professionally at the age of four, after learning to play by ear without formal instruction. After touring the Australian outback with his family, he moved to Sydney in his teens to pursue a professional career as a guitarist.

"I've been playing for 45 years now. Although I know how to play the drum and bass, the guitar is my main instrument," said Emmanuel. "I always liked the sound of it. I picked up on it when my mother began playing music around the house all of the time. It's been an instrument that's constantly present in my life. Once I started it, I realized it was much more than just having fun. It was my calling."

Currently based in both Germany and Nashville, Emmanuel said he goes back to Australia from time to time, along with trips to England to visit his two children who live with their mother.

"I meet up with Australians everywhere I go," he said. "With every tour I go on, I'm learning more and more about the world during my travels. Every day is yet another adventure for me.

"I do three tours in America and then two tours in Germany. In the distant future, I'll probably end up back in Australia. I have a lot of work to do and am playing in places that I've always wanted to go. I'm trying to put out a trail of M&Ms for all of the other young Australian guitar players to follow."

Emmanuel has toured and worked with artists including Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, Jerry Reed, Joe Walsh and the late John Denver. Singers Olivia Newton-John, Al Jarreau and Sheena Easton have also recorded songs written by Emmanuel. With four platinum and three gold albums to his credit, Emmanuel is touring to support his latest release, "Endless Road."

"My new release is currently available at my Web site and at shows," he said. "It hasn't been released yet in the United States. We're working on that right now. The CD contains 17 tracks of original music that should please those who've followed my music."

Despite the constant touring, Emmanuel said he enjoys playing before a live audience.

"I'm probably having a lot more fun than the audience is," he said." I'm trying to play at my best, and there are nights when the shows are different. Each of my shows are interesting, playing in front of people is something I love to do, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

"I don't work from a set list. I just play how I feel, some fast songs, some medium songs, and I try to take the audience on a musical journey with me. I started experiencing with sliding bass lines and that's how I came up with my version of the classic, 'Blue Moon.' People tend to think that I'm using a backing track or using any pedals. I don't need a lot of technology, I just use a reverb and an amplifier. I like a natural sound with my music. I'm trying to get a big acoustic guitar sound, but it has to come from within, not a whole lot of pedals to make a sound."

One of Emmanuel's signature closings includes a musical rendition entitled "Tom's Drums," to which he simulates a drum solo by using his guitar and various parts of his body.

"It kinda happened out of necessity. My brother was playing electric guitar one night while I was on acoustic," said Emmanuel. "He broke a string, and so he said to me, 'Take it.' It was during the climax of the song, and I began banging away on the guitar. Then I broke a few strings, so I started smacking the guitar, which sounded like a drum. I began working on that sound and it turned out to be a solo. I try to get different sounds from my guitar. That's why I have a permanent mark on my forehead from the mikestand."

Tickets for the Tommy Emmanuel performance at the Colonial Theatre, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, are sold out. For more information, contact the Colonial Theatre at 610-917-0223. For more information on Tommy Emmanuel, visit his Web site at www.tommyemmanuel.com.

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