The Navy has its SEALs, the Army its Rangers, the Marines have their Raiders, and law enforcement has their SWAT. All comprised of select individuals, trained to the max, able to withstand the harshest of circumstances and overcome any obstacle that comes between them and their objective.
The society of guitarists is largely a peace-loving, easy-going community, but we too have an elite force of players who are frequently called upon to perform above and beyond. This is a far smaller number of individuals than any of the aforementioned special forces groups; perhaps less than even a dozen players walking the planet today.
The only way to earn this badge and gain acceptance into this elite group is to first be fortunate enough to have been born with some kind of supernatural music gene. Discipline, conviction, intense study and thousands of hours of practice are the next requisite steps.
Then put it all to into play across 25 or more uber-successful years of session work playing on hundreds of records, movie soundtracks and TV shows just to make sure you’ve conquered every genre and sub-genre of music.
Just for good measure, while you’re doing all that session work, compose and produce your own music and maybe even gig steady as lead guitarist for a top band playing stadiums.
Hone all those requisite technical skills and creative acumen to perfection and only then will one earn their way into this elite group of guitarists.
I’m lucky enough to know just a couple of these elite players and Carl Verheyen is one of them. He can play anything, and play it to perfection. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, with the biggest heart, always with a smile on his face, and always eager to take on any challenge.
A true testament of a musician’s talent is how his peers regard him. Robben Ford calls him “a REAL guitar player.” Joe Bonamassa calls him the “master.” Albert Lee is “amazed by his versatility and technique.” Steve Lukather says, “He can do anything.” I could fill the page with dozens of similar accolades from other top artists and guitarists and so, If you’re not already familiar with Carl, I urge you to immediately add him to your “must check out” list and tune in to “one of the best players of our generation.”
I asked Carl to participate in one of my quasi-Proust interviews just to give RIFF readers a peek at the man behind the music. I’m thankful he had the interest and time to do so. Listen to one of his records while reading this!
TF: Why guitar? What is it about the instrument that resonates with you?
CV: First and foremost it’s the sound. Tones from both electric and acoustic guitars inspire me to higher levels of playing. There’s the pure joy of hearing that sound in the air. Then there’s the fact that it can be played solo or with other musicians. It can accompany itself or a voice, standing or sitting. And the fact that, unlike the keyboard, the audience can see what you’re playing which I believe has a lot to do with its continued popularity.
TF: If not yourself, who would you be?
CV: Not sure, but my son wishes I was Floyd Mayweather.
TF: Your favorite food and drink?
CV: Anything that doesn’t eat or drink me first. Artichokes, Italian food when I’m in Italy and oysters with that red wine vinaigrette.
TF: Name the three most important things you learned — and now practice — about earning a living as a guitar player?
CV: 1) Whenever you pick up the instrument, play your very best. Every gig is important. 2) Learn every style you can. Nothing you learn on the guitar will be bad for you or hurt your playing. You’ll be infinitely more hirable if you can play more than one kind of music. 3) I always make sure I devote some of my practice time to the next thing I have coming up. If it’s a sight reading session, I pull out some music to read through. If it’s a solo acoustic show or a CVB concert I practice that material.
TF: Your favorite motto?
CV: I WILL NOT SUCK!
TF: Your favorite heroes in fiction?
CV: Moby Dick, Colonel Klink and Agent 99
TF: Given all the negatives about the changing business landscape of the music business and how tough it is to sell records etc. What are the positives about the current evolution of the music business?
CV: If you have a business model and figure out a “now what” plan after you’ve recorded your music, you have a much better chance of recouping your expenses now that there are so few record companies involved. It’s back to being a cottage industry that you can control because the middle man is out. I believe that the CD and vinyl will be around for a long time as it’s still something the audience can walk away with after a show.
TF: Your idea of happiness?
CV: A great tone, a great audience and a nice red wine in the dressing room after the show.
TF: What do you dream about? Literally and professionally?
TF: With the changing landscape of the music business, what do you do today to maintain your career as a musician?
CV: Under the banner of “solo artist” there are many income streams that have become available. Besides the obvious performing outlets as a soloist, with a band or with another group of players, there is a solid merchandise income stream. As a guest on other artist’s records, I can play sessions above and beyond the typical sideman work. I’m often asked to produce records of other artists. Then there are the educational outlets. I teach private lessons, master classes and rhythm section clinics all over the world while on the road. And of course, online educational outlets like TrueFire have become another way to reach people and pass the musical knowledge down to the next generation.
TF: The natural talent I’d like to be gifted with (other than music)?
CV: Cooking! I’m only good with the barbecue.
TF: In life or in music, what one thing have you learned that you’d like to pass on to our readers?
CV: In music you never stop learning and growing. Jeff Beck and Joe Zawinul come to mind as role models. Never stop working on your music. Only write lyrics when you have something to say and never play in front of a paying audience anything less than perfectly sober and in total control.