"I think what you have to do to pull off having a career in the music business is to not aim for stardom, but to aim for making a living. If you're strong enough, stardom will come, you know what I mean? The chances of being a Stevie Ray Vaughan is one in a million, but the chances of making it in the music business, living comfortably, providing for your family, and doing what you want to do for a living - if you have any talent at all - you can do that. It just takes hard work." ~ Carl VerheyenCarl Verheyen has released his 13th solo album, Mustang Run on his Cranktone record label, and he's getting ready to head off to the UK and Europe for an extensive tour that will keep him busy until Thanksgiving (it's now the middle of September). He's one of the last of the true A-list session players in Los Angeles, been a member of classic rock legends Supertramp since 1985, records his solo albums in the best studios in Los Angeles, finds himself finally drug into the world of home studios and Pro Tools, and yet he can still be found in his basement on a Saturday morning giving a personal guitar lesson.
For Carl Verheyen it's all about maintaining a proper balance of hard work, and passion for that work. He seems to have found that balance, in his life, and in his work. After reading what he has to say in our conversation, perhaps you, like I, may be better able to accomplish that in our own lives:
Carl Verheyen: "Yeah, I've got 42 concerts to do over there coming up - I'm leaving on the 22nd, and I don't get back until November 16th. It's a real long one!"
Carl's on his way to London to kick off a spate of tours to promote Mustang Run, and he's taking with him legendary bassist Stu Hamm, and drummer John Mader (one of the first call drummers in San Francisco). I asked the guitarist how much rehearsal they were planning before their tour. His answer speaks volumes about the degree of preparedness that Verheyen achieves with his experience, knowledge, and work ethic:
Carl Verheyen: "We've had two full rehearsals that were about four hours each. Stu's already done a tour with me, and a lot of local gigs, so he's pretty down with it, but I want to put in a lot of new tunes.
"John Mader, on the other hand, has never played the music, but I've got an intern who's been making charts of all my songs. I've got real detailed, penciled out scans that I give people, but now I've gotten into the 21st century with Sibelius software, and I'm working a guy that comes over once a week, and I give him three new songs to work on, so he's taking my pencil sketches and making them into PDF files that are just beautiful and easy to read.
"It's all the live versions, not the old studio versions, where we might have a new ending now, or a new section where we don't have a keyboard solo - so it's just fantastic because I can e-mail a guy a chart, and maybe an mp3, and he's able to learn it. John Mader ams very prepared, he was amazing at the rehearsals.
"We've got one more rehearsal, then we have a festival here in Glendale, then we're going to play the Baked Potato, another warm up gig, and then we hit the road.
"So, they will have done two shows before we hit London. I think that'll be good enough, they're great musicians.
"I've got my latest record, Mustang Run, and we'll try to do four or five of those, and then I'll do a song from each of my past CDs. I've got a lot of them, I have eleven CDs of new material, and some CDs of older stuff, but I try to do something representing each record because it's representing each period in my career.
"So, that'll be fun! Talk about rehearsing, when I first joined Supertramp back in 1985, they're a bunch of English guys, and they're those kind of garage players that get together and hash it out, right?
"Well, I was into the records, made myself charts, and I came to the first rehearsal knowing every single part I was to play - knew the songs inside out.
"We had had a vocal rehearsal talk down thing, where they say, 'You sing this part here, and you've got the C natural here, and you go up to the Eb there, so I had all my parts figured out. I showed up to the first rehearsal really, probably ready to do the gig that night. And we rehearsed that stuff for six weeks!
"Four weeks at A&M Records in the big room where Soul Train used to be filmed, and then we did two weeks at Zoetrope Studios to do the whole lights and production rehearsal with the crew, and putting the lights and films together - it was just amazing to me, because I was able to read music, and write out everything.
"I was telling them, 'I think you're flat on the bass there.' It was really eye opening, because it was just a different way of doing things. Then slowly, but surely, I sort of trained those guys that they didn't really need to spend all that money on rehearsals.
"I mean, I enjoy it - it's fun to go down there and work with your gear for eight hours, and hang out, and eat catering, but you just don't need to do that. You could do it in a week, max - with all the lights and everything."
Carl Verheyen is big on learning, big on doing the work that gets and keeps a musician ready for any situation. He's not only been a lifelong student, he's also a very capable instructor. He's done instructional DVDs and videos, he's taught guitar at the college level, written several books and a great many articles, and he's still on the road doing seminars at place like Sweetwater Music, where he was flying to in a few days to do a class. I asked why he put so much time into the education side of his craft:
Carl Verheyen: "I have a real strong commitment to pass it on, to pass on the knowledge.
"Because my mentors in the past would do the same. In the '70s when I was trying to learn how to play jazz, and learn how to play over changes, learn standards, reharmonization and chord voicings, voice leading, and all that stuff, I got in a band with this famous jazz guy's wife. Ron Escheté.
"Ronnie was kind of a fairly close neighbor, and his wife - he didn't want to be in a band with his wife, 'You just bring your gig problems to bed.'
"He said, 'You want to do it?' and I said sure, but the cool thing was that I would go over to his house and hang out, and say, 'Hey, your wife wants to play Here's That Rainy Day. I know it in the key of G, but she wants to do it in Eb - I've put my changes in, but they don't really sound good, what do you think?'
"He'd start showing me ways to do it, just basically free guitar lessons that went on for years, and boy, I got so much out of it! We would listen to Bill Evans piano version and learn that, then we'd listen to Coleman Hawkins phrase the melody, and all those ways to do it.
"So, it was a great education, and I feel the need to sort of pass that on, too.
"The guy I was teaching yesterday when you called, he flew here from Germany to take a lesson. That's a commitment, he wants to take as many lessons as he can before I leave town, and then he goes home. He's coming back Tuesday for another two hour marathon!"
One concept that Verheyen espouses that has truly resonated for me as a player, is that of what he calls ornamentation. In a nutshell, it basically describes how all guitarists (musicians, in fact) are using the same vocabulary (or notes), regardless of the style in which they play. The differences lie in how the guitarist uses those notes, their phrasing, and their sounds to adorn their art:
Carl Verheyen: "Yeah, when it comes to learning different styles.
"When you think about it, we're almost playing the same notes when we're playing bluegrass, country, blues, rock, jazz - I mean you phrase differently, you get a different sound, the slightly different way you put notes together. But, in terms of what notes you use, often times they are the same.
"In other words, if I see an A minor, if I'm playing jazz I might have a little more freedom than something like country music, or something like that, but it's all about the ornamentation of the style and phrasing."
One thing that separates Carl from a great many players of great technical acclaim is that whether he is playing classical guitar, breakneck country licks, or through sophisticated jazz changes, what comes out is the passion, the love for the music that always comes through in his playing:
Carl Verheyen: "Oh man - that is definitely true!
"I think there are certain styles that are going to be real for you. You know what I mean? Then there will be certain styles where you've got to do it for a living. The blues, country, jazz, rock, they are all very real for me.
"I think I learned the ornamentation of the styles more from just listening to records, and listening constantly than from transcribing stuff. I've done my share of transcribing, writing out exactly every note the guy played in a solo - I filled a binder with transcriptions back in the '70s, and early '80s, then I took off a different path, but I'm sure that was good.
"Now, a good thing to do is when you are in a hotel room somewhere, put on YouTube and try to transcribe a solo, or a melody without your instrument. Use it for ear training and try to write it down.
"I've done that on a rainy day in some town, or a town I've been to so many times that I don't need to go out there and see it again. Just hang out in the hotel room for an afternoon, and try to practice that way. It's pretty cool!"
Mustang Run is Verheyen's latest album, and it's one of the best guitar records you'll find in 2014 - he's gathered some of the best players in the world (Simon Phillips, Stu Hamm, Jim Cox, Chad Wackerman, Jimmy Johnson, to name but a few) in some of the finest studios in Los Angeles, and in an age where we've grown accustomed to guitar records that start in one spot, and stay there, he filled this record with stylistic variation, layers of sophisticated composition, and world class performances. I had to ask whether an album of such high conceptualization was, indeed, highly conceived:
Carl Verheyen: "Well, one of the things I really enjoy is a record that bears repeated listening.
"So what I did, before jumping into it, conceptualizing and all that, I started to think, 'Let me just go to my record collection and pull out ten records that I listen to over and over again. Because a lot of records, you buy them, you listen to them for a week or two, and then you file them.
"But, there are records in there that I have heard almost every six weeks for years, and I wanted to figure out why. I think a big part of it is just melodic content, and the texture of it.
"So, for instance, there's a record by Pat Martino called We'll Be Together Again, and it's just him and a keyboards. He's just got a Fender Rhodes player padding these chords, and it's all just pretty much ballads. One tune in the beginning he wrote, and then there's bunch of standards. His playing on there is so deep, and so brilliant that you can listen to it over and over again, and dig it!
"So that was one of them, but then, I love Mississippi Queen by Leslie West, and I like Croosroads by Clapton, Black Market by Weather Report - I'm talking about the entire albums, these are just the key songs. I'm going through, and I'm going, 'Why do I really want to keep coming back to this Tower Of Power album?
"Then, I had this little D8 machine made by Korg, which is a hard disk recorder - I've since graduated to Pro Tools - I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the home recording thing, which I don't really want to be a part of, but, you've gotta do it!
"I'd rather record my records at Sunset, or Capitol, and I will, I continually will, The Village Recorder, etc... The great tone rooms of Los Angeles.
"But back in the day, I had this little Korg D8 - it's really fun for me to layer guitars, and guitar parts and sounds. I really, really get off on that, and I believe the harmonic structure, and the way the harmonic structures line up when you're using EL-34s will be different than when you use 6V6 tubes, so I get into all that depth, and 'Here's some lipstick pickups on this Danelectro guitar for these twelve bars here, and then the Rickenbacker twelve string will come in for that little tag line, and then two acoustics will be banging away up here - one with a capo on the seventh fret, and one open. That kind of stuff.
"I think that is the state of the art of rock guitar, or of guitar oriented records, because we've heard everyone shred for days, and those aren't really the records I want to hear over and over, those sort of shredding records. You know what I mean?"
When you hear Mustang Run, you will definitely hear what Carl means - it's a very dynamic recording that keeps pulling you in with layers of great instrumentation, intriguing style segues within tunes, and maybe the thing I like best is that he's not running out of licks and tricks five minutes into an instrumental, it's fresh until the end:
Carl Verheyen: "And that's what you'll be able to listen to in five years, or I will!
"I'll go, 'That holds up, that's pretty cool. Where as a lot of my buddies and friends will make a record for $5,000 start to finish, recording everything in their bedroom, and man, that's just not going to hold up for me.
"I look at my life and career - I'm putting the time every day into my instrument. So I want a guy engineering that's put the time into his - mic'ing instruments, EQ, distance mic'ing, and I'm never going to be that guy. I don't have the time, or the desire. But, I want to hire that guy to get my sounds on tape."
More and more, I'm hearing artists talk like this, and along those lines I'm hearing more records that are utilizing true producers, engineers, and sometimes even tape:
Carl Verheyen: "That's great, I'm glad to hear you saying that because the record business has sort of collapsed, and I feel sorry for the young kids, because I did have record labels for my first eight or nine records, and while I didn't make much off of them, except for touring off of them and that kind of stuff.
"It's hard to be your own record company when you're just starting out. You almost need people to do that for you, and contract people to handle your distribution, and of course, your online stuff, the PR stuff, servicing radio, and all that stuff. It's very expensive when you're starting out - it was very expensive for me, but I found out that by having my own record company, I'm recouping on my records so much faster. It's like within a year I can recoup, and then it's gravy for me. Which makes me able to make another record!"
One of my favorite tunes on Mustang Run is called Julietta & The St. George - the song seamlessly shifts between fusion to funky blues into power chords then progressive rock, and it manages to make these changes with grace and precision, there's never a stumble or an abrupt switch. I asked about how it all got put together:
Carl Verheyen: "Well, I was working on that - the funk on that song is coming from the acoustic guitar, which I thought was a different kind of way to do it, but I'd written that opening thing, and then the piano player, Mitch Forman, who's a really brilliant player - he's such a good sight reader, he goes, 'You know, I could double this,' and once he started doubling it, it reminded me of some of that Mahavishnu Orchestra with the acoustic guitar and Jan Hammer, and I said, 'Wow, that's great!'
"Then it goes into the power chord deal, then it goes into the funk section, then the keyboard and I both play solos on that set of changes, and then it goes back into the opening.
"I'm a guy who keeps a musical diary on paper.
"I've been keeping a licks book on paper since the '70s. It's mostly for musical improvising ideas. Like, a great line for G7, I'll write it down. Sometimes I'm writing down a great line for Amin7 and I'll go, 'This is so melodic it could maybe be a song.'
"I think I came across that little funk lick in E7 and C7 on that song, Julietta & The St. George - I came across that lick on acoustic guitar, wrote it down, and then one of my ways of practicing with the lick book is to open to the blank page, and try to come up with something and write it down.
"My third way of using that musical diary concept is, 'Got nothing going on today, I'm going back ten pages and see what I was working on six weeks ago, six months ago, two years ago, whatever it is, and I just open to that page and go, 'Wow, this might be a thing I could use in this current song, maybe I could get to this, because this is pretty strong.
"That was almost like slicing and dicing - hooking up pieces of pre-composed ideas, and seeing if I could slot them together some way, and that's one of my favorite songs on the album!"
Continuity is one of the things that makes Mustang Run such a compelling record - even when things are changing stylistically, Verheyen is always clearly in command, and he doesn't run out of gas going into the stretch. It's an album that is tong for the duration, a relative rarity these days:
Carl Verheyen: "Well, that's a very nice compliment.
"The concept of the lick book for me has been like this - years ago, I read where Chick Corea said, 'The best of s are only improvising 30% of the time. The rest of the time we're stringing together things we've worked out, ideas we know.'
"So, when you listen to Corea play the piano, you just go, 'Oh my God, this guy has a fountainhead, he never repeats himself, it's all new material!' And that's 70% worked out? That means I've got work to do. I better come up with some more lines for Bbmin7!
"So, that got me to thinking, and got me writing, and I had some great guitar lessons back in the '70s from a guy named Joe Diorio. He was really, really influential in that - he's this little old guy, and he says, 'Write everything down, man!' And I said 'What do you mean, Joe,' and he opened up this closet where he had this stack of notebooks of music paper, and those are his ideas. He had a lifetime of them by then. So, I've got about twenty-five lick books in the closet now, too, from over the years. It's just kind of an outlet.
"I was over at Robben Ford's house, and he and i were jamming, many years ago, and I said, 'Man, how do you catalog your musical ideas? They are so great, so many good ideas.' And he goes, 'Well, when I get a good idea, I just push this record button here on this cassette player, and it's all wired up to what I'm doing.' I said, 'Wow, then what do you do?'
"He goes, 'Well, when the tapes full on one side I flip it over and record the other side.' I go, 'Duh, then what do you do?' He goes, 'I take it out, and I put it in that box over there.'
"Across the room was like a box that a TV set would come in - not a flat screen like today, but a huge box like an old TV, or a washing machine would come in. And it's brimming with cassette tapes! I say, 'Do you ever listen to that stuff?' He goes, 'Nah....'
"So, it like, what's the use? Maybe you have a song idea, it's five cassettes ago, and you could dig through it, but for me, having the notebooks always open on my music stand - it's like a musical diary. You can go back to page one, or page fifty. I look at it like Duke Ellington said, 'If you're a songwriter, you need to write something every day, even if it's only two bars.'
"So, it's kind of sitting there - I like that guilt trip, like, 'You'd ought to get over there and write down couple bars. And then, I might remember something I played two days ago that was cool, that I hadn't gotten around to writing yet.
"And I don't bother with tab - I think tab is for pussies.
"I write notes, and on top I write the position, and below the staff I write what finger I use, and I've got a notation for bends and slides, stuff like that - so, I can always go back to the exact vibe I had when I first did it. I think that's really important, and it helps me deal with music on the written page, which is always good when you're doing a movie session, or a TV show, or a jingle or something. You're always reading music, so that's also good."
Another song on Mustang Run that has captured my ear is Spirit Of Julia - it's a slow, gospel tinged blues that does everything the blues is supposed to do, and it avoids the pitfalls that corrupt so many blues rock efforts. It's melodicism carries you through the whole tune, and it never gets bogged down in cliches. I asked Carl what tools he used for the job, and how and why he selected them:
Carl Verheyen: "That was at the very end - I had recorded eight songs, and then there was a little jam that went into Mustang Run, so I had nine in the can.
"So, then I stepped back from it, and kind of analyzed it, and said, 'What does this record still need?
"I thought it needed those kind of gospel changes - I'm a big fan of Ray Charles back in the '50s. There is this triple album I have called, The Birth Of Soul, that's so great, it's one of those albums I listen to all of the time.
"I was checking it out, and he uses a lot of those gospel, right from the church progressions.
"A lot of it, theoretically, you're on the I chord and you make it to the IV chord, sharp IV diminished, I over the V note sixth dominant, and II, V, I kind of thing. So I was messing around with that kind of stuff, and this is what I came up with.
"This woman, Julia, was a dear friend of ours who got a brain tumor, and was dead in less than a year, just shocking how that can happen to people. Her husband is still a dear friend, and a bass player.
"So, I started to write it, and right from the very beginning I knew I was going to use this old Gibson ES-335 I have. It's a '66 or '67, right in that era, and I've got this 1966 Marshall JTM45, and that's a really fat, warm, almost dark sounding amp that coupled with that 335, either front pickup, back pickup, or middle - it's a secret weapon. You know what I mean? It's one of those things that you can just pull it out anytime, and it's going to kill. I wrote that song with that voice in mind."
I wasn't too shocked to hear Carl mention Ray Charles as a possible influence on this tune, because the minute I heard it, the Hammond organ reminded me of the days when Billy Preston was Charles' organist:
Carl Verheyen: "That guy is Jim Cox, and he's an old friend who has played on all but one of my old records, except for the solo acoustic guitar album I did.
"He's currently out with Robben Ford, and he's been doing Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett - this guy is so strong, he's arranged strings at Abbey Road for Aerosmith records, he's a brilliant keyboard player, and one of the best organists I've ever met. He just has this concept that's so deep - a lot of guys just fire it up, and sound like they're at the ball park, haha!
"But that kind of gospel-y, R&B meets rock thing, that's a real art form. And, you never have to mix him, you never have to ride faders - you set a level and he takes care of the rest. He takes over, and you don't have to mix him, you're done.
"There is an interesting thing that happened.
"Simon Phillips was playing drums, and I remember my chart was a little convoluted - it goes back to the top, then it goes back down to here to the coda, and he got to a certain point in the tune, and he thought it was the end, so he kind of does a cymbal swell, and the bass player, Cliff Hugo, who's with me in Supertramp, Cliff does a little pickup to telegraph to him that it ain't over - so, Simon kind of rolls his eyes, but he doesn't stop, and it turned out to be a magical moment where it's almost like a false ending, but I've got a little solo coming!
"Anyway, it was a cool take, and it was at the end of the session where we had done Fusioneers Disease, which took a lot of time to get. We only had about fifteen minutes to a half hour to finish before Jim Cox had to go to Capitol Records, and play on a Robbie Williams record, and I had a session, I was on the evening session for the same Robbie Williams album. It was so funny - 'Can we get this in the amount of time we have left? I don't think so, but let try,' and we did!"
Knowing that Carl is a vintage guitar amp collector and connoisseur, I had to ask what gear he would be taking across the ocean to use in the UK and Europe:
Carl Verheyen: "I've been touring over in Europe since 1997 and throughout the years, I've either shipped or bought, or Supertramp has shipped gear over there.
"I have a little warehouse where I have a couple of re-issue Fender Twins, the blackface Twins - you turn them up to about 4 or 5, and they start to really come to the party! Then I've got a stereo 4X12 cabinet for my dirty sound, and a 100 watt Marshall, and a Dr. Z SRZ65 that is sort of my wet/dry, dirty/distortion sound. I've got a couple of guitars, I've got an SG, and a Strat, and an acoustic guitar.
"The only thing I travel with is my pedal board, which is universal to both rigs, and my signature LsL Strat. What happens is that my tour manager will come by the warehouse, and pick that stuff up, Stu's got a bass rig over there that's in my little warehouse, and John Mader is going to have a set of drums delivered to the first gig. I've got a drum set or two over there, but he uses another brand, so....
"I've made it pretty comfortable - it's easier to tour over there for me than it is to tour the states. They want me to play two theaters down in Florida, but I can't really do it financially with my own gear yet. To get a guy to drive it all across the country in a rented van, and to pay him every day, and pay the gas - it's easier to fly the band over there, do it with a back line, and fly home. I just did that in Tulsa, Houston, and Austin, with back line stuff, and flew back.
"The states are rough - when we do a West Coast tour, we get all the way up to Seattle and back, and expenses are so high! We rent one of those Mercedes Sprinters that's decked out for touring bands, but at the end of the day, if you break even, you're doing all right."
Keeping all of his vintage gear up and running, and his newer equipment in tip top shape is essential to a guitarist as busy as Carl, and I wondered just who was maintaining his flock:
Carl Verheyen: "My guitar guy in LA is Norik Renson - he's been out on the road a lot lately, he did McCartney, Sting, Loggins & Messina, he does a lot of tours.
"I asked him to do Supertramp, but he was actually too busy. But he's a great local guitar tech.
"The LsL Guitars, which I have three of, I jet take them back to the factory where they make them, and say, 'Hey, can you do a level and dress on the frets, or tell me what's wrong with this or that.
"As far as amps, Myles Rose is my tube amp guru. In fact, he and I were going to get together this morning, but I've just got too much pre-production stuff to do. There's this festival coming up, and they want it to be largely acoustic, so I need to get in there and see how many acoustic tunes I can get together that I can play with Stu, and John, and see how we can work that into the set. Myles is my guy.
"If there's something I need like a power cord put on, or stuff like that, I use a guy named Billy Yates - he works at Truetone Music in Santa Monica."
About his LsL signature guitars, I know that Carl isn't the kind of guy to simply have his signature on the headstock, so I enquired as to what he brought to the table for LsL, design wise:
Carl Verheyen: "Basically, I'm a Strat guy, and I've got about thirteen Strats, but I have three old ones.
"The qualities I like about the '58 Strat is the woodiness and the weight; the qualities I like about the '61 Strat are the way it really rocks - you can play a low C# on the fifth string at the fourth fret, and its just got this incredible tone that doesn't mush out, it's a nice open sound that doesn't get mushy, with plenty of sustain and saturation. Then I've got this '65 Start that's gorgeous for rhythm guitar - it's real stable, and tunes up real well.
"If you kind of analyzed all that, and made the neck like the '61, the weight like the '58, 7.3 pounds which is fairly light, and then we took the back pickup from this guitar, the middle from that, and we measured them and had them wound from that. Then, I've got this special thing that I do with the wang bar, where if I pull up on it, my G string goes up a minor third, my B string goes up a whole step, and my E string goes up a half step - so I've got these three intervals to play with with the bar, and we set them up like that.
"Then I have them do slightly different things with the tone controls. I take the middle knob, and make it the neck and middle pickup, and the back knob is the back, or bridge pickup. I think that's the only thing Leo had wrong was that the back pickup could really use some tone attenuation, some tone control, which he didn't have, so I like to be able to roll some tone off on that sometimes, and get some great combinations with the middle - you can get some great distortion tones that way."
Well, if you've made it this far, you probably have a grasp of the notion that Carl Verheyen is a man who knows what he wants, he knows how to get what he needs, and he's done the work to prove it all, so I would be remiss if I failed to ask him what type of advice he would have for aspiring guitarists, or even old guitarists like myself, who can always learn some new tips, tricks, and wisdom:
Carl Verheyen: "There are so many people who want to go straight to being Stevie Ray Vaughan - I've given master classes at places like the Musician's Institute, and you'll see a guy who has a Telecaster, and it's totally done with flames to match the flame tattoos on his arms, he's got this haircut going, who's all ready to be a rock star, but he can't play!
"You see these guys, and you just go, 'Are you kidding?' You got all that together first? His image is dialed, but not his music - he can't even find a B7 chord.
"I think that what you have to do to pull off a career in the music business is to not aim for stardom, but to aim for making a living. If you're strong enough, stardom will come, you know what I mean?
"The chances of being Stevie Ray Vaughan is a one in a million, but the chances of making it in the music business, and living comfortably, providing for your family, and doing what you want to do for a living, if you have any talent at all, you can do that. It just takes hard work.
"I know there are a lot of people I've met who are musicians, even professional musicians, because they don't want to get up in the morning. They want to play on a club gig, and then get up at one o'clock in the afternoon, but man, I'm up and at my computer working it every day. That's a whole part of it, the whole business side of it.
"But, as far as my advice to a young player?
"I'd say you have to learn everything you dig, and keep expanding what you enjoy. If you're a metal guy, you should check out country music, and find out how bad assed those guys are, what incredible chops it takes to do that. If you're a country guy, you should check out what it's like to play over changes, and not just the changes to Cannonball Rag, but serious changes, like Coltrane tunes, and stuff like that. Just so you can float all your boats - work on your time, your tone, your reading, playing over changes, your feel, all these things.
"I also believe that practice should be, and I've been thinking about this a lot lately, practice should not be compartmentalized.
"In other words, you shouldn't say, 'I have an hour to practice, I'm going to work on ten minutes of sight reading, ten minutes of classical guitar, ten minutes of country... No, I think that if you're interested in a Chet Atkins song, and you really want to get that under your hands, just do that for three days, until you own it. But then, you're going to be completely sick of Chet Atkins, and you're going to want to work on your Albert King lines and licks, and transcribe one of those tunes. Then, from Albert King, you might go to Albert Lee, or some classical piece you want to get under your hands, but I think the key is to stay enthusiastic, stay interested, and keep the desire up, not, 'Oh boy, I have to go in there and sight read, because I suck,' you know what I mean?"
Wrapping things up, I asked Carl what he has in store after he gets back from across the ocean, and into 2015:
Carl Verheyen: "I've got an acoustic guitar album in the can!
"I came out with one in 2001 called Solo Guitar Improvisations, which was mainly acoustic, though there were a few tunes on solo electric guitar, but no overdubs until the last tune - I overdubbed like seventeen, eighteen guitars, and Eddie Kramer was my producer, so it was very fun to put this little suite together.
"So, I've had people ever since asking me, 'When are you going to do another acoustic record?'
"So over the last four months or so, I've put one together - I had an engineer come down, we were doing it some studios, but then I got this Pro Tools rig, and we did the rest here. It's prefect for solo acoustic guitar because I've got this great sounding room with a wooden floor. We did it, and I've got that in the can, I've even got the photographs done, but I think I'm going to hold back until the first part of January, because if you put an album out at Christmas along with Madonna, lady Gaga, you just get swept under the carpet.
"I'm trying to elide how to promote it - I do these solo concerts where I do about 50% acoustic, and I'm really into solo Stratocaster. So, I'm trying to figure out how to sell that record. Anyway, it'll be fun - keep stuff in the pipeline, that's my plan!"
Thanks to tube amp guru, and all around great guy Myles Rose for his assistance in setting up this interview!