The world had heard him long before he played at the Crossroads festival 2013. He first attracted attention when Ellen Degeneres featured him in her show; he was just six years old then. Oprah Winfrey did the same a few years later and a new guitar hero was born who swears by good old blues. Get your hands together for Quinn Sullivan – a 15-year-old guitar prodigy who is going to satiate the blues-hungry audience at Mahindra Blues Festival on February 14 and 15 in Mumbai.
So, what is so special about him? If that is what is bothering you get hold of Buddy Guy’s Grammy winning record Skin Deep. Put it on and listen to the track Who’s Gonna Fill Those Shoes. Quinn’s licks for sure are going to make your mind stroll in one of the many narrow alleys of Chicago in 1950s.
With two studio albums in his kitty, young Quinn doesn’t sound amateurish with a Fender Stratocaster. From Jimi Hendrix’s vibratos to BB King’s legatos, he has mastered them all. And when he is going to open for Buddy in India on February 15, he is just “going to go with it and take it all in”.
“When I think of India I think of a great culture and great people. I am so excited to go there,” says Quinn.
The Getting There star found stardom as early as six. From Lollapalooza to Austin City Limits Festival, Quinn played his blues where it mattered but never let fame get into his head. “I think to myself, you can never reach an ending point as an artist. You’re always striving for more and more each day and I think being so young, I have a whole life to experience that. Right now I’m happy and can’t wait to see what the future holds,” he says.
Quinn’s mentor is 78-year-old polka dot-wearing blues musician Buddy Guy. “I first met Buddy when I was 8 years old. I got to go backstage to meet him and he was the coolest, most generous man. I had my squire fender stratrocaster for him to sign and then he asked me to play a few licks to see if I could play. He then said ‘you be ready when I call you’ and the rest is history,” says Quinn.
Quinn has been a regular at a lot of Buddy’s gigs and has also shared the stage with guitar greats like Eric Clapton and BB King. “You can’t really put into words what playing with those guys are like. Those are the people that I watched and heard and looked up to since I started playing guitar and to be in their company and to be able to share the stage with them is just a dream come true for me. It sometimes doesn’t feel real,” he says.
At a time when electronica is ruling desktops and iPods, how did blues hooked this 15-year-old? “I first heard that music when I first saw the Eric Clapton’s crossroads guitar festival in 2004. I saw Buddy come out and play Sweet Home Chicago with Eric, Hubert Sumlin and Robert Cray. That’s when it hit me that there was something different about Buddy, his showmanship and style just drove me right in right away,” says Quinn.
He has an enviable repertoire of blues, but when asked what to expect from him on February 15, the Cyclone player quips, “You’ll just have to see.” And see we’ll.