Star Scene: Quinn Sullivan

QUINN SULLIVAN PHOTOGRAPH BY Griffin Lotz

Quinn Sullivan’s scene is serene – when he’s “not performing or doing music, which is 95 percent of the time”. The American guitarist/singer-songwriter states: “My scene is I like hanging out with friends, I like traveling a lot, I like going on day trips with people. I’m an outdoors kind of guy. I love trees. I love walking around and venturing out, checking out food, I love to cook, I’m getting more into that now. And I love photography as well.”

The child prodigy just celebrated his 18th birthday with “a few friends and some family” describing it as “fun” and “awesome”. Whereas most eighteen year olds are just starting out in the music industry, Sullivan is an expert, having released three albums to date and having played with the who’s who in the blues industry.  Sullivan has shared the stage with Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Bonamassa, just to name a few.

“I hope I’m an inspiration.”

In fact, not only has he shared the stage with Buddy Guy, Guy took Sullivan under his wing. Sullivan explains: “I can’t even describe how cool it is to be friends with Buddy and have him mentor me for all these years. It’s been almost ten years now. I first met him in April 2007 at Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford Massachusetts where I lived, and I walked in with my little guitar and amp.  And he was a genuinely nice guy, and he didn’t have to be, he’s Buddy Guy he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to. But he was genuinely nice and I respected him for that because I didn’t know what to expect – I have never met him prior to that. So when I first met him, he was really cool and I played a few notes for him and he called me up on stage the same night. Then we kept on going to see him and the rest is history.” Sullivan continues: “I don’t know what he ever saw in me; I never really understood what he saw that he really wanted to grab on to and really promote and help out. Apparently, he did see something. I’m forever grateful for that.”

 

Sullivan has so many standout moments but “Crossroads 2013 at Madison Square Gardens was a really big moment” for him in his “career so far”. He states: “Crossroads was on top of what anyone would want to do in their career. It was just such an amazing time, meeting different people, seeing people play and also playing at the festival with people who also consider me their peer which was really cool; really inspiring. They didn’t have to treat me anyway; I’m a 13-year-old kid walking in there, I had no business being there, but somehow I was.

“I have no plans to tour Australia but it is definitely on my bucket list. I really really would love to go down there, so I hope so soon.”

Buddy really want me to do it. I was dying to go to it, never mind play at it. So as a 13 year old kid that was a big moment and I feel very honoured to say that I played at that.” With meeting his heroes, Sullivan states: “I’ve been very blessed. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how artists can be. Luckily, I’ve been treated pretty good by people. I’m waiting for that one person that’s a complete d-bag. Hopefully that won’t happen.” At times, Sullivan didn’t realise the impact some of the artists had until later. This is the case with Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. Sullivan explains: “Billy is a really cool guy. The first time I met Billy was at a rock n roll show they did at the Gardens and I was Buddy’s guest, and I was hanging out there and Buddy introduced me and I was like 9 years old at the time. So I knew who he was but I hadn’t listened to ZZ Top and all the stuff he was doing.  Years after that, I started to listen and realised that he was one of the coolest people ever. I got to meet him a few years after that. And we just played together to India last month. It’s really cool to play with a guy like that that’s been around for so many years and has had so much happen and he’s just the real dude. He’s the real deal. He’s a very nice guy, just nice to everybody; he’s a really genuinely kind hearted person. Very cool. Very awesome experience.”

Being surrounded by all these blues greats hasn’t limited Sullivan’s music tastes nor narrowed his creativity with his own songwriting, especially with his latest release, Midnight Highway. He states: “I still listen to the same people that I listened to when I was 5, but I think it’s evolved a lot. I listen to a lot; from pop music to r’n’b to a little bit of rap, a lot of rock’n’roll and of course I always go back to blues. I like people who tell stories in their music, in rap, like EMINEM, he’s inspiring. With pop music, I love Ed Sheeran right now, he’s my all time favorite of people to listen to. And you go to my music library, that’s one of the first things that pops up on there. So it all kind of moulded into one (with this new album).”  

Sullivan’s sound in food form is “a cross between bbq, on the grill cooking up stuff, pork and ribs, that would explain the rock/bluesy type of thing and then, clean it up with some cake …”

Sullivan continues: “I had a lot more to do with the songwriting, and a lot more to do with the creative ideas on this latest album. When  I was making the other two albums, I was basically a little kid; I was only 11 12 13 14 at the time. I didn’t know as much as I know now about how to approach certain things, about being in a studio and work with people. So it definitely taught me a lot from making two records before this one because I knew what direction I wanted to go in and what I had to do to achieve that. And I think a lot of this album has changed because the previous records had a lot of blues and stuff and this one kind of came out to be sort of like a cross of pop stuff and then still have your rock stuff. I’ve always been influenced by pop and wanted to play both. I thought long and hard about it.”

MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY is out now. Grab your copy HERE

Quinn Sullivan has been a music professional for more than half of his young life.

Midnight Highway is a song that takes you on a journey from start to finish. The song was written and produced by the great Tom Hambridge and the idea of the song fits perfectly into what my life is like at the moment. I immediately fell in love with the song because I related to the message that it sends out, which is the fact that no matter what, you have to keep moving and growing on whatever path you choose to take. Quinn Sullivan.

 He’s shared the stage with Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Los Lobos, The Roots, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi and Joe Bonamassa, and he opened for B.B. King, who later invited him to play his treasured “Lucille” guitar. He has performed on concert and festival dates throughout the United States – including storied venues such as The Hollywood Bowl, RFK Stadium and Madison Square Garden – travelled overseas – performing at both the Montreux Jazz Festival and India’s Mahindra Blues Festival – and played several editions of the Experience Hendrix Tour, backed by Jimi’s original bassist Billy Cox.  Quinn has also appeared on national TV, with guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Oprah, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Conan and twice on The Ellen DeGeneres show.  Yes, Sullivan has packed some extraordinary experience into his decade-long career, and that’s even more remarkable when you consider that he’s still only 17.

His third studio album, Midnight Highway, was produced by multi GRAMMY® winner Tom Hambridge – who also does double duty as Quinn’s studio and road drummer – and will be released on March 24th, 2017 (Mascot Label Group/Provogue). The album is yet another milestone in Quinn’s extraordinary journey, which began with him jamming with the kids music combo Toe Jam Puppet Band at age three, appearing on Ellen when he was six, and being taken under the wing of blues legend Buddy Guy at age eight, whose protégé he remains to this day. Midnight Highway was recorded primarily at Nashville’s prestigious Blackbird Studio with some of the greatest players in Nashville, including many of the same musicians who played on the Buddy Guy albums that Hambridge produced. These include bassists Michael Rhodes and Tom Macdonald, guitarist Rob McNelley, and keyboard player Reese Wynans, a veteran of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble.

Tom Hambridge calls Quinn “a sponge who soaks up everything that’s around him,” adding, “he’s listening all the time and he just so happens to be around great artists. Every time he plays, it’s a little deeper. Buddy Guy is, of course, his mentor, so he channels Buddy’s over-the-top reckless abandon.”   That’s completely understandable, as Buddy has, more than once, advised Quinn, “Just go out there and show them why you’re here… make them remember you.”

Off stage, Quinn is well aware of the unique opportunity he’s been afforded and is very focused on music as an ongoing pursuit. He contrasts his experience with many of his contemporaries’ – “They’re struggling to come up with what they’re going to do when they’re out of school, but I’ve decided this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.”

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Grab MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY HERE

About Mary Boukouvalas 700 Articles

Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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