Carl Verheyen was six years into honing his craft as a professional jazz guitarist when a Joe Walsh solo on “Those Shoes” made him “question his existence” and his musical path.
“It was like the clouds opened up and said, ‘You must learn everything you dig,’” he said. “And that’s what got me into studio work.”
Verheyen is a jack of all trades, who as on-call studio guitarist can play everything from Chet Atkins to Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, He’s well known as the lead guitarist of British rock band Supertramp. He’ll stop Tuesday in Sacramento at Harlow’s Nightclub with the Carl Verheyen Band.
“With Supertramp, I just have to start playing ‘Give a Little Bit’ and 200,000 people stand up,” he said. “(At Harlow’s) the weight of the evening is on my shoulders, and I have to win these people over before the first song is even over.”
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The guitarist began playing rock at 11 years old. By the time he was 18, he was strumming and singing on stage five nights a week in his hometown of Pasadena. He wandered down the path of solo guitar work, into jazz, and then into the studio.
Studio work on soundtracks from “Seinfeld” to “Star Trek” has helped pay the bills and honed his skills as what he calls a “well-listened craftsman,” but he said he values the creativity and freedom of being an artist.
“As a studio musician, your job is to bring to fruition the musical vision of someone else. As an artist, your job is to bring your own vision to light,” he said. “I came to a certain point in my life where I said, … ‘there’s a deeper reason I started playing the guitar when I was 11 years old.’”
Now, Verheyen – seemingly ubiquitous in the music industry – creates, produces and performs in the studio, in big arenas with Supertramp , in more intimate venues with his own band and even in classrooms. He teaches advanced electric guitar “in the style of Carl Verheyen” at the Thornton School of Music at University of Southern California, and he leads master classes and workshops on multiple continents, has authored instructional books and has produced instructional DVDs and CDs.
Teaching, Verheyen said, is an integral part of his career.
“It’s important for professional musicians and people like me to pass (our musical knowledge) on to the next generation, otherwise they’re just gonna be typers and make music on computers,” he said. “There’s just something about using your hands to make beautiful sound that’s so rewarding. If you can spark that in someone else, it’s just so wonderful.”
Verheyen also offers in-home lessons in Los Angeles. His pupil list has included John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Valentine of Maroon 5 and Daron Malakian of System of a Down.
“It’s just kinda cool that they go ‘Yeah, I’ve achieved a certain amount of success in the music industry, but I can always get better,’” he said. “Everybody’s got something that they could do to get better, including me.”
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento
Information: 916-441-4693, www.harlows.com