Hi all, I’ve started working on Patreon Lessons focusing on my influences as a Pedal Steel Guitarist, Electric Guitarist and as a Slide/ Lap Steel player. I understand not everyone plays all these instruments so I’ve set a realistic Tier system so people don’t feel like they are missing out. Here are a couple of example videos below and if you like what you see, head to http://www.Patreon.com.CJHillman to subscribe. Full videos include a step by step description of the part.

I’m honnord to be awarded the AMA U.K. “Multi Instrumentalist Of The Year” 2019 ! I was awarded this in 2017 too and appreciate everyone voting for me for a second time.

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Playing Pedal Steel Guitar with Robert Vincent on the “Old Grey Whistle Test (For One Night Only)” on BBC4, hosted by Bob Harris.

As a side note i realised i’m the last person to play Pedal Steel Guitar on the show! Enjoy!

“UK Instrumentalist of the Year” 2017 – CJ Hillman


Voted for by fellow musicians and AMA members, its an honour to receive the AMA UK 2017 instrumentalist of the year award! Thank you to all that voted -CJ

I’m Back!!

Due to domain name problems! my website has been down for a couple of week but, now its back.

Since my last Post i’ve been to California to work with Joe Purdy on his latest album, back to the UK to work with Billy Bragg, Emily Barker’s Band (consisting of The Dreaming Spires & Ethan Johns) at the AMAUK Awards show. And recently a small tour with Lauren Housley that ends later this week!

I will throw back to some of this stuff here but, I also want to share a little recording i made with my old Akai reel to reel player. I’m trying to get some ideas for a Steel Guitar album, any comments welcome!


Happy New Year

Happy New Year!


I have been a bit absent on here over the past few month due to keeping busy (which any musician can be thankful for). I’ve been fortunate enough to play two brilliant shows at London’s Union Chapel with Billy Bragg and then head to Scotland for an amazing pre-xmas tour… I will re-cap on this in a later post.

I have also started a new Blog for my Photography. Over the last few months i’ve been getting back into film Photography to cut down on the amount of pictures I take and to get some better shots.

you can check them out right here: https://the35mmlife.wordpress.com


Stay tuned as I also have some great news coming soon…

Does Pedal Steel make you old, or keep you young?

I’ve been playing Pedal Steel Guitar for nearly 7 years now. Over those years I like to think that I’ve learned quite a bit about other players past and present and about the different Steel Guitar styles these people have brought to popular music.

Surprisingly, to me, it was only the other day I thought of a question… does playing the Pedal Steel Guitar make you old or, keep you young?

Where I live in London, England, I am very much in the minority… about as rare as a Harp player. So when I took up this instrument at 21, a lot of my friends had the idea that I was an old man trapped in a young persons body… I mean who else listens to Country music and wants to play a bizarre instrument! In the realms of university bands (Funk/Jazz & Pop) instrument anyway!

Maybe they we’re right. I do like old vintage stuff and it seems everything has to go 20 years before I accept it but that’s another story.

After university I found my niche playing in “Americana” type bands and with singer songwriters up and down the country, mainly for free until I got the job with Billy Bragg. I was 24/25 at the time and going on a 7 week tour of America was an incredible adventure! If that doesn’t make you feel young then you may as well give up!

Playing this instrument comes with another set of problems though. The weight of these things usually varies from 21kg upward! The lightest one I own is 21Kg and with a flight case comes to 28kg! (I don’t want to even think what my Fender Double 8 weights!) Recently I found myself with severer back problems, which I have been battling with for months and seeing an Osteopath over. Its getting better but the pain was debilitating for a short while.

When sat at the steel its easy to loose posture when concentrating on a part. Its easy to hold fingers 3 & 4 of the bar hand too ridged which seems to give you arm problems. The shoulder pains under my shoulder blades I think may be from holding a knee lever over for entire tunes to play the B6th tuning on my Universal Pedal Steel.

Obviously lifting the Steel into cars a few times a day and after you’ve done that, you’ve got to get that Fender twin in too.

So is it worth it? Well… yeah!

Being such a rare instrument its has a lot of demand in the right circles. Lately I’ve been listening to BJ Cole’s “Transparent Music”. BJ has got some great credits to his name from Elton John “Tiny Dancer” to Groove Armada.

In the 90s he worked with Indie artists such as Richard Ashcroft and more experimental mainstream music such as Bjork. He still continues to work with younger artists such as First Aid Kit and Ethan Johns on shows. This isn’t just the case here. Even in the USA Greg Leisz , notability one of the busiest Steel Players around plays with Sara Watkins and records steel for Miranda Lambert. There are many more examples out there.

It seems for now that this relatively modern instrument has had a revival in popular music with the “Americana” Genre, not that I’m saying it ever went away but right now it seems to be a good time to be a Steel Guitarist. Obviously your as young as your mind or body lets you act but, I think its safe to say that if you keep a fresh repertoire of ideas, don’t pigeon hole yourself musically and can still bare to lift it into the car! Pedal Steel will definitely keep you young.

The last Billy Bragg show of the summer…

Woke up this morning and made the long drive back from Brighton to Manchester. The reason why was to play the last show of the summer with Billy Bragg at the Together The People festival.

We had a great show with a great audience. It’s always a pleasure to play a gig like that and a nice end to a great summer of shows. It was also great to catch up with Billy and hear about the shows he’s been playing with Joe Henry in Denmark and to talk about the next run of shows starting at the Union Chapel, London and heading up to Scottland for a short tour. 

I also took the opertunity to head to London on the way down to pick a peice of Pedal Steel Guitar history… Let’s just say Sneeky Pete would be proud. 

Stay tuned to hear more about this and shows. Don’t forget to check my out Instagram, Facebook and Twitter too!


How to turn a Pedal Steel into a Hammond Organ 

Today I’ve been working on a little mod for my Strymon Lex. An amazing guitar pedal and perfect for the Pedal Steel Guitar! I wanted to make a switch to change the speed of the rotary effect and after a few tries and burnt fingers, got it right!

A big thanks to Pedal Steel master Jon Graboff for helping me out with this one. I noticed he had made one in an interview back in 2011. He kindly gave me a lot of advice on this project.

Here’s a raw example of what it does. Feel free to comment or message me about it.

Catching up…

I should have started a News Blog a while ago. I’ve been very fortunate to tour a lot of places over the last few years and i’ve never really attached it in any way to my website! So, on this day off in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. I thought i’d take a break from look out at sea and make a start.


The last couple of months have been busy. Lately i’ve been doing Solo shows with Billy Bragg, hitting up the UK festivals and theatre shows. Before that i was touring with Joel Raffael and his guitarist Terry Ware, playing U.K. shows and a great gig in Paris. With both of these artists (and the Jason Serious Band) I ended up playing 6 shows at Maverick festival, Suffolk, again! That was such a great festival and if your into Americana/Country music… make sure you go next year. In between tours I was asked to play Guitar for Nugent and Belle for two Robert Plant supports and lately working with my friend Lauren Housley, playing shows and Radio sessions…

IMG_1738(with Joel Raffael, June 2015)


(Nugent & Belle, July 2015)


(Kendal Calling, Billy Bragg, August 2015)

As for the immediate future, I’ll be finishing of shows with Billy Bragg and then into the studio to record a some Steel guitar tracks, amongst other things for other projects. Follow me here or, on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to see updates.