Arts and Entertainment

Q&A: Carl Verheyen, Supertramp guitarist

In the case of Carl Verheyen, the label “guitar virtuoso” fits like a glove.

But there’s no one-man show in store when Verheyen, proclaimed one of the Top 10 guitarists in the world by Guitar magazine, takes center stage Nov. 14 at the San Juan Community Theatre.

This time, the L.A.-based guitarist, who’s making his fifth appearance at SJCT, is bringing his band along and the show promises to be a musical tour de force.

Verheyen is perhaps most widely-known for his work with the British band Supertramp. He’s toured off and on with the former pop supergroup for nearly 20 years since taking the place of that band’s founding lead guitarist, Roger Hodgson, in the mid-1980s. But trying to pigeonhole a guitarist as gifted and as highly sought-after as Verheyen, who’s played with the likes of Christina Aguilera, B.B. King, the Bee Gees and Dolly Parton, into one musical genre or another would be like trying to lasso the wind. There’s just so much more.

Verheyen and his band mates — long-time bassist Dave Marotta and the band’s most recent addition, drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr., who previously backed Carlos Santana’s band — will be performing tracks from his most recent CD release, “Trading 8s,” when they take the stage Nov. 14 as part of the first leg of a two-week tour of the West Coast. “Trading 8s,” Verheyen’s 10th studio recording, features contributions from many of the most highly-acclaimed guitarist of the day, such as Robben Ford, Albert Lee, Steve Morse and Joe Bonamassa.

Verheyen spoke with The Journal on the eve of Saturday’s performance:

Journal: There’s a song on your latest CD, “Highway 27,” with Joe Bonamassa, that sounds like it could be right off Jeff Beck’s “Blow by Blow” album. What inspired that track?

Verheyen: “Highway 27” is the road I take from my house in Topanga Canyon to the beach. Topanga Canyon is only about 35 minutes from Hollywood but it’s got a slightly more rural vibe to it. I love driving that road early in the morning. There are certain songs that are just driving music and that’s what I had in mind when I wrote it. It does have a fusion feel to it and I think “Blow by Blow” is a good comparison.

Journal: What make of guitar is your favorite?

Verheyen: The Fender Stratocaster is ground-zero for an electric guitar for me. I’ll take one on the road with me no matter what. They’ve been making it now for 50 years with really no changes because, in my opinion, they got it right the first time.

Journal: Who were your favorites when you were young?

Verheyen: It was guys like George Harrison and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds that really hooked me at first. But once I heard Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who I consider to be real guitar virtuosos, that really put me over the top. And then when I heard jazz music, so much more opened up for me musically.

Journal: How did Friday Harbor become a regular venue for you?

Verheyen: I have a dear friend in Friday Harbor who I’ve known since the second grade. We were playing a show in Seattle some years ago and we just decided to go up there and see how it went, and the first time we played there we played to a sold-out theater. I love the islands.

Journal: You’ve got a new recording, a new drummer and a tour coming up. What can we expect on Saturday?

Verheyen: You’ll see the CV band like you’ve never seen it before. Right now, it’s the best it’s ever been.

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