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7 Questions w/Sean McGowan

1. What Henriksen Amp do you play and what settings do you use?
I’m pretty much using the Bud for almost every gig now. It’s amazing. I have an early test model, and it sounds great for every type of gig: solo guitar, acoustic, archtop jazz, and more. I’ve flown with it many times (I check it in the gig bag so I can bring my guitar on board) and have even hauled it to the top of Colorado mountains on chairlifts in snow – no problem! I usually leave it flat but will adjust the EQ slightly if necessary, for example if the room is heavy with carpet and low ceilings, I’ll boost the highs and the opposite for open, hard spaces. I’ve used the DI out to the house PA many times successfully. The XLR isn’t too hot and sound-people really like it. The only effect I use is a reverb pedal in front if the room and/or song needs it. Though I’ve used the Bud’s onboard reverb plenty, and it sounds great.

I also have an older JazzAmp Convertible that I bought in 2007 back when the shop was in Evergreen, CO. I had just moved to Colorado from LA, and had heard great things about these new amps. I decided to visit the shop and immediately fell in love with the sound of the JazzAmp – it was the perfect balance between the flat response and pristine clarity of a good PA system, but without any sterility, and the great vibe and tone of a good vintage tube combo. Now if I have a louder gig, I’ll run the Bud into the 10” JazzAmp cab, usually flat, with some effects if I need them.

2. What instruments do you play?
Just guitar, and I mostly play instruments built by Brad Nickerson in Asheville, NC. I have four of his guitars that I use for all live gigs and my recordings: a 17” Virtuoso traditional archtop with a Fralin pickup I’ve had for years. My latest solo guitar recording features a 15” Solstice archtop (fully hollow but no F holes, and braces carved right into the top) that sounds amazing and never has feedback issues. That guitar has a TV Jones T-Armond pickup (bridge model) which sounds beautiful. I also have an acoustic of Brad’s and a really unique solidbody called the Ogre, which is backwards for “Ergo”, and is an extremely comfortable guitar to play, and sounds great. I’ve had those since the ‘90s, and use them for a lot of fusion/R&B gigs.

3. What styles of music do you play?
I enjoy listening to and playing all different styles, truly. My recordings have all been in the solo acoustic & archtop realm, but have explored different genres from jazz standards to originals to Thelonious Monk & My Fair Lady. Over the years, I’ve done a ton of rock/pop gigs, solo acoustic, and now mostly straight ahead jazz gigs here in Denver.

4. What, if any, warm ups do you do before a gig?
I try to warm up my hands and body through a variety of stretches and light exercises, and also try to clear my mind to be in a creative state before the gig. I don’t usually play too much before a show – it’s better if I’m in a good mindset. If anything, I’ll just play some simple chords or a little groove to get my hands warmed up.

5. What’s the most interesting (good or bad) gig you’ve ever played? Give us the details.
I’ve been fortunate to have played a bunch of really musically satisfying gigs with amazing musicians. Those are certainly the most fun and rewarding. Obviously, we’ve all experienced really bad gigs in crazy situations, super negative musicians, getting hosed by the venue – all of that. My jazz trio was once hired to play the first (and last?) International Theramin festival, which featured something like 25 theramins playing tunes like “Summertime” simultaneously – that was pretty out! But I got to meet Bob Moog there, which was wonderful, so there’s always an upside!

6. Whats the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten at a gig?
Well, if someone offers you any Rocky Mountain Oysters, politely decline.

7. What’s your favorite place to play (country, state, venue, anywhere)?
I love playing anywhere! Obviously, it’s nice to play in a beautiful setting with superior acoustics. I actually prefer to play in smaller rooms/venues because I feel more connected with people, which is especially important being an instrumentalist.

*BONUS: If you could eat one Crayon from a box of 64 what color would it be?
Hmm, Tumbleweed and Cornflower chased down with a fine Colorado microbrew!