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INTERVIEW: BLUES PHENOM QUINN SULLIVAN (08.11.18)

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Quinn Sullivan is no ordinary 19 year old.  Although he enjoys things that most kids his age do - hanging with friends, taking his car out on long drives, and relaxing at the beach, he is most at home on the road playing his guitar for adoring fans all across the country.  Quinn picked up his first guitar at age 3 and never looked back.  He is considered by many blues aficionados to be one of the most gifted guitarists to hit the scene in the last 20 years, and is blazing his own unique trail that few (if any) can keep up with.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Quinn prior to his show at The Rose in Pasadena on August 11th, and walked away with a unique perspective on his ascent into a musical stratosphere that legends like Buddy Guy, B.B King, and Carlos Santana live.   And even walking in the rarefied air of these legends, Quinn comes across as one of the most humble and down-to-earth guys you would ever meet.  That's what makes this guy special and sets him apart from the all rest in this crazy world we call rock and roll. 

 

So sit back, kick you feet up, and enjoy Hunnypot's exclusive interview with blues guitarist extraordinaire - Mr. Quinn Sullivan.

 

 

 

Matthew Belter:  Quinn, tell us and tell our listeners how you got started in music.

Quinn Sullivan:  Well, I got started in music really when I was a little kid. I was like 3 years old and my parents had a lot of music going in the house.  The big ones at the time for me were The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, and The Allman Brothers. Those were like the bands that my parents were playing for me.  I had these huge headphones that I used to plug into their stereo and just listen to all these albums and just got familiarized with all this incredible music.

Quinn Sullivan:  And so, I think when I was around 4 or 5, I started to take lessons.  But when I was 3, they gave me my first guitar and it was a little First Act acoustic guitar that they had given to me (I think for one Christmas or something like that). And I basically took it and ran with it, you know? And when I was like 5, I started taking lessons and that was truly the beginning of everything for me.

Matthew Belter:  What was it like for you performing on stage for the very first time?

Quinn Sullivan:  It was very exciting. I used to do these Beatles tribute shows in the New Bedford, Massachusetts area where I live.  We used to show up and play these cool Beatle tribute shows around town and I'd have like some family and some friends playing with me. And we used to dress up and do the whole bit, you know? I was a huge John Lennon freak, so I would dress up and I had all of the outfits and Beatle guitars. I used to borrow other peoples' Rickenbacker’s just like Lennon used to play.

Quinn Sullivan:  I guess my first time on a stage was playing at this John Lennon tribute show at this little club about 15 minutes from my house. Funny enough, they did this thing called channel 56 which is like a local TV show from back in 2005, and they did a story on me. And that was kind of like my first introduction to TV and all that. So, they filmed some of that first show and you can find it on YouTube which is cool. 

Matthew Belter:  Who would you say are some of your early influences? Again, you mentioned a few of them already, but who helped shape the musician that you are today?

Quinn Sullivan: A bunch of different people. There's a lot of different artists that really influenced me to what I do today.  I guess some of them would be people like Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon.  Eventually, it would be people like B.B. King and Buddy Guy. But the first early influences were those people that I just mentioned.

Quinn Sullivan:  And they were just so influential.  My parents were really the reason why I knew about all these people because I was just a little kid. But they just had all these records that they were just keeping in the house and just playing when I'd wake up in the morning and we'd just hang out because I wasn't obviously in school yet. So, they would just play me different things and I gravitated towards it. 

Matthew Belter:  Was there one guitarist that jumped out at you as kind of bucket list moment where you're like wow, I'm on stage with this guy or gal?

Quinn Sullivan: I think it was when I got to play with Carlos Santana for the first time. That was really a bucket list moment for me because I used to watch him when I was 3 or 4 years old on TV and I would be mesmerized by his playing and songs.  Playing with Buddy Guy is also amazing, but I didn't necessarily grow up listening to Buddy's music until years later when I was around 8 or 9.

Matthew Belter:  What was it like for you to your latest record, Midnight Highway, at the legendary Blackbird Studio?

Quinn Sullivan:  Well, Blackbird Studio is incredible. I mean, Nashville itself is an incredible city for many, many reasons but obviously music being the number one reason. And for me it was a dream come true to walk into a studio where so many legendary records have been recorded over the years. So, it was like a dream come true to go into a studio that has such amazing records coming out of it, you know

Quinn Sullivan:  And it was inspiring for me too. It was really inspiring to walk into that studio in particular. We recorded it at Studio D, that was the name of the studio in Blackbird. Some of the tracking was done at a couple of other studios in Nashville, but our mainstay was Blackbird. So, it was a really great experience for me anyways.

Matthew Belter:  How do you feel that Midnight Highway was different than 2011’s Cyclone or 2013’s Getting There?

Quinn Sullivan:  I think it's a more mature album for me. I think it's more exciting. I like the songs a lot more on it. I had a lot more input with the songwriting part of it which I'm getting more heavily into now as I continue to grow as an artist.  Also, I'm starting to make music that's more inspiring now (more so than my previous albums) because as a kid you don't have that much experience. You do experience a lot but you don't experience as much as you do when you get to your later teens, early twenties and you start growing more as a person and going through different things.

Matthew Belter:  Is there, are you thinking of changing anything up with your upcoming fourth release?

Quinn Sullivan:  Yeah. I think there's gonna be a lot of different elements and vibes on the new one. I haven't even started recording it yet but I've gotten a few of the songs written so far. So I'm really super excited about the direction that I'm going into and it feels like me. It feels like something that I'm proud of and something that is inspiring to me.  I'm also writing with a lot of different people now - different people around the country. So, I'm excited about it, for sure.

Matthew Belter:  What's it like for you touring with Buddy Guy, who is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time?

Quinn Sullivan:  Oh my God. You know, it's funny. I was just having dinner last night with Buddy. We're here and we're playing The Coach House tonight in Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano - Buddy is the man. He is the true meaning of a hardworking musician that has spent their whole entire life working on and perfecting their craft - truly what Buddy Guy is. 

Quinn Sullivan:  And he's a person with a lotta, lotta, lot of love and knowledge and admiration for people and being on tour with him for going on now 10 years has been an absolute dream.  I first heard Buddy when he played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.  That was the first time I was introduced to him playing. And then we met him a few years later and he's now become my mentor and the guy that's really the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing now.

Quinn Sullivan:  And forever, for the rest of my life and the rest of my career, I’ll keep telling that story because it’s so relevant in my life. Because if it wasn't for Buddy, I wouldn't really be playing on the stages that I'm playing on now and I owe a lot to him for that.  

Matthew Belter:  Looking back, is there anything you think you might do differently based upon the limited experiences you've had so far in the music industry so far?

Quinn Sullivan:  I think I have a lot more growing to do for sure. I'm only 19. I have a ton more growing to do as a writer, as a guitar player, as a musician. There's still music to be discovered that I haven't discovered yet. I think that's the fun part of it because you never ever stop learning. That's always been interesting and fun for me as an artist and as a performer to always be listening to new music and new sounds because to me, it never gets old. No one ever stops releasing music so you're always on search for something new.

Matthew Belter: What do you like doing outside of music to help you unwind and escape from the kind of day to day grind that you have?

Quinn Sullivan:  I love a lot of different things when I'm home.  I mean I love normal 19 year old kid stuff. I love just hanging out with friends, going to the beach, things like that.    I love driving, I love cars, I've had my license for a couple years now, so I just love detoxing a little bit from the road and just taking a nice long drive to the beach or whatever. Just kind of normal stuff. I'm a laid-back person when it comes to stuff like that.  I don't get too crazy.

Matthew Belter:  So outside of blues, what would we hear you rocking out to while taking one of your long road trips?

Quinn Sullivan:  Man. I mean, it would be surprising to some of my fans I think, but I love Drake. I love this new guy called Khalid - He's great. I love a lot of pop music. I'm a huge pop music fan.  Most people think I'm just a blues lover and blues listener but I really don't listen to much of that when I'm home. I like listening to a lot of other stuff. And obviously people like John Mayer and Ed Sheeran are a huge inspiration to me, guys like that.

 

Matthew Belter:  This next set of questions are “one or the other” questions.  We’re gonna put you on the spot, ready?

Quinn Sullivan: Ready!

Matthew Belter:  Guitar Legends - Steve Vai or Joe Satriani?

Quinn Sullivan:  Steve Vai.  I don't listen to either of them, but if I had to choose one I'd choose Steve Vai because he used to play with Frank Zappa and I'm a huge Frank Zappa fan - so Steve Vai all the way.

Matthew Belter:  New Bedford Restaurants - Slice by Slice or Ma's Donuts?

Quinn Sullivan:  I'm gonna have to go with Ma's Donuts.

Matthew Belter:  Music Cities - Austin, Texas or Nashville, Tennessee?

Quinn Sullivan: Ooh, man. Nashville, Tennessee.

Matthew Belter:  Sports Teams - New England Patriots or the Boston Celtics?

Quinn Sullivan:  New England Patriots.

Matthew Belter: Key Influencers - B.B. King or Buddy Guy?

Quinn Sullivan:  Buddy Guy, all the way.  I love them both dearly. I don't mean any harm in that but Buddy I have to say, I can't throw Buddy out. So Buddy Guy for sure. 

 

Matthew Belter:  On behalf of all our Hunnypot listeners here in Los Angeles I wanted to again thank you, blues guitar virtuoso Quinn Sullivan, for taking time to join us in the Hot Tub today. We look forward to seeing you perform on this coming Saturday at The Rose in Pasadena and you always have an open invite to hang with us at Hunnypot if you’re in Los Angeles.

Quinn Sullivan Very cool. Thanks for having me!   I'd love to come out.

Matthew Belter: We’ll hold you too it Quinn.

Quinn Sullivan:  Very cool, man. Take it easy, Thank you so much.

 

For more information on Quinn Sullivan, his 2018 tour, or his latest release, "Midnight Highway", click HERE

Matthew Belter

Editor - Long Beach

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