Honestly, what drives us to do any of the things that we decide to do? Why do some of us play music where others don’t? It’s simple really; it’s passion. It’s also passion that drives those who love music to make it their entire life. Carl Verheyen is a great poster child for this.
Just your average off the block kid who grew up in Pasadena, California and got his first guitar on his 10th birthday, in 1965, and then went to guitar lessons the very next day. He would, and still does, practice guitar every day and learns something new all the time. His influences are none other than one of the best possible bands he could have chosen: the Beatles. George Harrison would be this mans reason for choosing this lifestyle.
Verheyen plays all sorts of styles of music such as virtuoso, country, jazz, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, you name it. His early influences were Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield. “I tried to be as good as I could,” he said when asked what would motivate him to play. Sometime between 1974 and 1975 he was jamming with a friend when his friend opened up a book and said, “Let’s play this song.” Verheyen could play the first chord, which was an F chord, but not the second, a D minor 7 flat 5.
He didn’t even know what that was and then he heard 25 different voicing of that one chord. He said that he “needed to go down into that valley and learn” and so he studied jazz for the next six years. While driving down Laurel Canyon and Riverside Drive he heard an amazing Joe Waltz song on the radio and had to pull over to the side of the road and just listen and admire the song. After hearing an Eagles tune, “Those Shoes,” it made him re-evaluate rock ‘n’ roll.
He’s been a studio musician for more than 30 years because he is into all styles of music. When asked how he would compare his first album with his latest one he said, “The first one sounds like someone trying to prove something. Now, I don’t think in terms of proving anything, so now it’s just more like if I feel the honesty is there, then there’s a reason to record it. I try to be really honest in my musical vision.”
Speaking of visions, I wondered what some of the things he’s seen while on tour, so I asked him. His favorite place is Nimes, France when he toured with Supertramp and they performed at this amazing Roman coliseum that has been around for almost 2,100 years. “I’ve seen the full moon rise from between the arches of the coliseum.” He said the exhilaration you feel when performing in front of crowds as big as 180,000, where the front row knows the words to all your songs, is amazing. “It’s different to do your own music in front of 5,000 people, when the entire spotlight is on you.”
Lyrics are a big part of a musician’s life. What inspires them to write the words they do? What made them think of that one song? How did they come up with the theme for their album? “I can’t really write lyrics unless I got something to say. I carry around a notebook in my car and call my home answering machine and ask my family what they think of my lyrics. I walk around in Europe and lyrics come to me. Touring is emotional, and all my emotions come spilling out. Here you are in Paris and there’s this high emotional and excitement level.”
Verheyen’s latest album is called Trading 8s. My favorite song in this album is called “On Our Way.” It’s all music with no words. When I listen to it, I feel this surge of emotion just come rushing up and out and it feels wonderful. It’s like swimming in a spring where the water is crystal clear and clean and there’s a waterfall somewhere off in the distance and a stream trickling off into the river down the road and you hear all these sounds and it’s just perfect. An artist could try to capture the moment in their paintings or drawings, a writer could try to portray the image in their writing but none can do what music can. Music has a magic of its own.
Coming to a close on this amazing interview, I asked him if there was anything he would like to convey to his audience and here is what he has to say to all you musicians out there: “If you’re a musician and you want to be a professional musician, besides learning the style of music that you love, learn all the styles. Learn everything you dig and more. Then you’re infinitely more hirable.”
The Carl Verheyen Band will be performing on Nov. 21 at the Baked Potato in Studio City.