Spending 30-plus years with progressive pop/rock legends Supertramp would certainly be enough to define guitarist Carl Verheyen’s career, but it’s really just a fraction of his musical outpouring. He’s also an accomplished solo artist who just dropped the superb new melting pot of a project “The Grand Design,” a star studio musician responsible for the guitar sounds on countless TV shows (“Seinfeld,” “Cheers,” “Happy Days,” “LA Law,” “Married With Children”) and major movies (“Star Trek,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Ratatouille,” “The Negotiator”), plus scored album credits with artists as diverse as B.B. King, Cher, Brad Paisley, Christina Aguilera and The Bee Gees.
Verheyen is such a consummate pro that he’s even given guitar lessons to the legendary John Fogerty and members of Maroon 5, while also being ranked “One of the World’s Top 10 Guitarists” by Guitar Magazine and “One of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” by Classic Rock Magazine. With so much on his plate, it’s no wonder why planning an extensive tour doesn’t happen all that often, but as the Los Angeles A-lister tells Chicago Concert Reviews in advance of a show at Reggies on June 5, the pieces all finally fell into place for this fascinating guy with a guitar.
I really respect musicians that realize “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” No matter how long you’ve been playing or how famous you get, there is still worlds of stuff to learn.
What accounts for the four year break from touring so extensively with your own band?
Carl Verheyen: My band tours constantly, but for financial reasons, we have a difficult time getting back east. It’s easier to tour Europe than it is to get all my personnel, gear and merch across the country for an extended run. I’ve reached a point in my career where I only want to do it right, and that means not renting “back line” gear or using what the venue has to offer. I want every show to sound like us!
How would you describe “The Grand Design” in a nutshell?
Verheyen: My last two studio records have been instrumental, a solo guitar recording and an instrumental band recording. This time out I’m getting back to my normal fare: vocals on guitar-rich songs. The textures and layers of tones augments the music, which is mainly accessible blues rock and Americana.
Give us a sneak preview of the new show and tell us a little bit about the all-star band that will be joining you.
Verheyen: A few cover tunes by my heroes like George Harrison and Bob Dylan, some insane jamming by three guys that listen and play off each other intently and a lot of fun! Dave Marotta on bass has been in the band for many years. Both he and drummer John Mader have enough credits to fill the entire article, but between them, they’ve played with everyone from Steve Miller to Phil Collins.
What are some of your most memorable concert experiences you’ve had in Chicago over the years?
Verheyen: I remember playing at the Rosemont Horizon with Supertramp back in 1985 and enjoying the sound in that big wooden hall. A few fellow musicians and friends of mine were in town playing with singer Melissa Manchester and we all got together after our respective concerts to tear up the town! We were young and needed zero sleep.
What is the best part about being in Supertramp and what projects are you most proud of?
Verheyen: The guys are all such old friends, I’d have to say the camaraderie. The 1997 tour has a wonderful double live record that chronicles a night at the Royal Albert Hall in London called “It Was The Best Of Times.” I also really enjoy the album called “Slow Motion.” Another favorite is “Some Things Never Change.”
Why do you think the group’s music has resonated with so many generations at this point?
Verheyen: The songs have become standards. And my theory is that songs that stick around for generations do so because they work. Harmonically, melodically and lyrically, they simply work.
What is the likelihood of Roger Hodgson ever coming back to the band?
Verheyen: Very unlikely at this point.
You’re also a first rate session musician with countless album, television and movie credits. Do you have any favorites that stick out from the bunch?
Verheyen: I enjoy the big orchestral movie sessions, especially when I’m a featured soloist with 105 guys backing me up! But record dates are fun because of the creativity entrusted to the rhythm section. It’s exciting to shape a song from the ground up.
How do you approach giving a guitar lesson to someone like John Fogerty or the Maroon 5 guys considering they’re also such big stars in their own right?
Verheyen: I really respect musicians that realize “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” No matter how long you’ve been playing or how famous you get, there is still worlds of stuff to learn.