Carl Verheyen is one of the cats that I’ve worked with over the years that made a lasting impression on me. I equate his personality, in a lot of ways, with what it takes to make it in the music business where perseverance is key. He doesn’t rest.
The first time we worked together was in August 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. At that particular time we had just introduced a new process of “blueprinting” courses and, for whatever reason, we had none for Carl’s course. Carl and I had a laugh over it this last trip because we almost cancelled that first shoot, and to clarify, he was totally prepared. Not having a course blueprint just meant we lacked our internal process document or layout for what the curriculum was going to cover. The blueprint maps all of the elements that make up the course structure, and with some guys, when you’re under a time crunch and don’t have that structure, can spell disaster. It also felt more critical that week because we were out of our comfort zone – we were only in town for the week for an industry show, so we had rented a room at Studio Instrument Rentals (SIR) just east of Music Row. When in Nashville, we love to catch some studio time with artists that happen to be in town. But because it was going to be our first course with Carl and we didn’t have a blueprint, we were concerned. Sounds silly now, and of course it went on to become one of TrueFire’s most highly regarded courses of all time, SWAT Blues!
During that first shoot, I remember being impressed with Carl’s KILLER work ethic. Let’s talk a moment about that for a minute, because in my opinion, it’s one of the understated aspects of “making it in the music biz.” “Making it” is commonly compared to some fairy tale where artists play a damsel in distress. The big record exec plays a valiant knight and “finds” our artist to chariot them off to the world of rock stardom, right? No way! These guys put blood, sweat and tears into their vocation, developing a rock-solid work ethic and vision. It’s often forgotten how hard these entrepreneurs have to work to find ANY amount of success. You make a small gain, you repeat. I’m just scratching the surface, but it’s just like starting any other business. Except this “fairy tale” has a twist in that all too often, that knight in shining armor is actually the bloodthirsty villain in disguise. But I digress and that’s another topic.
This time around Carl shot two new courses set to launch in early 2016. There’s SWAT Sessions: Country, where he takes you through his approach to ten burning, chickin’ pickin’ solos over a variety of country style backing tracks. Plus, SWAT Sessions: Jazz Rock is its counterpart in fusion. Carl’s unique twist of hyperspace-like intervallic leaps and wicked sense of melody make him a blast to study, and his personality and wealth of stories from the road make him a blast to hang with in the studio. The thing I always come back to is how hard he works when he’s with us.
Every time I work with Carl, it’s made more clear that he is no stranger to the “hard work = success” model. The guy actually keeps a daily creative journal of every lick he plays. He notates them in standard notation so that he stays sharp on his composing and note-reading chops. What a concept? He “works out” his creative muscles every day, capturing the ideas he comes up with, and who knows, maybe when he needs it, he actually digs in and finds inspiration from some of those forgotten licks of genius in an otherwise road-blocked session? That’s triple duty for his effort right there. Who does that? Carl does and it’s a proven system. The man has clearly played with some of the greatest artists both in the studio and on the stage. During one of our breaks I witnessed him writing a tune for an upcoming record he’s cutting, and that was to fill the time it took me to make technical adjustments in the control room. He didn’t ask for one break. He just doesn’t rest.
In the studio, it’s my job to push people. If we need to keep going, recording late in the day, I’ll be the guy who introduces you to your new caffeine addiction. I might have to be the one to call an end to the lunch break so we can get back to work. Carl? Nope, this is one artist who pushes even me to keep moving.