'Blues is the music of everyday life'

Feb 15, 2015, 08:30 IST | Ananya Ghosh

Says 15-year-old guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan, who is in India to perform at the Mahindra Blues Festival

Quinn Sullivan from New Bedford, Massachusetts looks like any other 15-year-old. But what makes him stand apart from the kids his age is that he is a guitarist who already has two albums to his credit.

Quinn Sullivan made it to the Ellen DeGeneres Show as a child prodigy at the age of six
Quinn Sullivan made it to the Ellen DeGeneres Show as a child prodigy at the age of six

The Blues prodigy has performed with the likes of Eric Clapton, BB King and Buddy Guy at iconic venues including the Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks. Now he is India-bound for the Mahindra Blues Festival. He will perform today with his regular collaborator and mentor, the six-time Grammy winner, Buddy Guy.

Early beginnings
Sullivan was exposed to music at an early age, as his father was a drummer. At three, he got a little First Act guitar for Christmas. He started taking formal guitar lessons two years later. A huge Beatles fan, the first song he learnt to play was Blackbird.

Things changed when he stumbled upon his father's DVD of Eric Clapton's 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival. "I first heard blues music when I saw Buddy play Sweet Home Chicago with Eric Clapton, Hubert Sumlin and Robert Cray at the Crossroads Guitar Festival. His showmanship and style inspired me immensely," says Sullivan.

In 2007, a chance encounter with Buddy Guy changed the young artiste's life forever. "I met Buddy in person when I was eight years old. He came to play at the local Zeiterion Theatre in my hometown.

My dad knew some people at the theatre and got us backstage to meet him. He was the most generous man I ever met. I had my squire fender strat for him to sign and he asked me to play a few licks to see if I could play. After I did, he just said, "You be ready when I call you!" And he kept his word.

Performing with legends
Quiz Sullivan on how it feels to perform with the legends of Blues music and he replies, "These are the people I have looked up to since I started playing guitar. To be able to share the stage with them is a dream come true for me. Sometimes it all seems unreal!"

He reveals that apart from Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Hendrix, Frank Zappa and David Gilmour have been his greatest influences. The artiste admits that he loves listening to all types of music. "Bands such as the Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, and Alabama Shakes are bringing back great rock music and modernising it into today's world. Today's pop scene is great as well."

However, he is quick to add that Blues music is his favourite genre. "To me, it's the soundtrack of everyday life—a life everyone has lived without even knowing the music behind it," he smiles.

Sullivan is excited at his debut performance in India. He says, "Buddy says it's an experience of a lifetime to perform in India. I'll play original stuff from my last two records, and some of my all-time favourite covers."

However, the young guitarist ensures that his love for the Blues doesn't hamper his studies. "This year I'm doing the courses online. So, it's easier. I can do my schoolwork even while on the road. I love English and History, but I'm not too crazy about Maths and Science," he laughs.

Quinn Sullivan will perform at the Mahindra Blues Festival at Mehboob Studios, Bandra,
today 9 pm onward

For tickets: Log on to www.bookmyshow.com

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