Guitarist Insider: Brian Tarquin

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GUITARIST INSIDER: BRIAN TARQUIN

Multi-Emmy award-winning Brian Tarquin is an established top-rate composer/guitarist/producer. Through the past 30 years, he has enjoyed Top 10 radio hits in several formats such as Smooth Jazz, NACC Loud Rock & CMJ’s RPM charts. His music has been heard by tens of millions on a plethora of television and film scores such as CSI, Ellen, Extra, TMZ, 60 Minutes, Sex and the City, 20/20, SNL, Godzilla, Seinfeld, Cheers, Charmed, Good Morning America, The Watcher (Keanu Reeves), Desert Heat (Van Damme), The Sender (R. Lee Ermey), and National Lampoon’s Repli-Kate (Ali Landry) to name a few.

 

He has won 3 Emmys for “Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series” and has been nominated for an Emmy 6 times. In 2022 & 2023 the Josie Music Awards nominated Tarquin for “Musician of the Year (Guitar)” and “Music Producer of the Year.” Additionally, in 2023 the Josie Music Awards nominated Brian Tarquin & Heavy Friends: Brothers In Arms for “Instrumental Album of the Year” and “Music Video of the Year” for “Speed of Sound” featuring Joe Satriani. In 2019 Tarquin received a Global Music Gold Award for his release Orlando In Heaven for “Best Album.”

 

Three years in a row (2016-2018) Tarquin received “Best Album of the Year” nominations from the Independent Music Awards for his releases: Guitars for Wounded Warriors, Orlando in Heaven, and Guitars for Veterans showcasing his guitar prowess alongside such world-class shredders as Steve Morse, Larry Coryell, Billy Sheehan, Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses), and Chuck Loeb (FourPlay) to name a few.

 

In 2006 SESAC honored him with the Network Television Performance Award. Tarquin has graced the Top Billboard Charts with such commercial releases as This is Acid Jazz, Vol. 2, Sweet Emotions, Smooth Jazz Radio Hits, and Bossa Brava: Caliente on Instinct Records, followed by several successful solo jazz albums which charted Top 10 at Smooth Jazz Radio R&R and Gavin charts with such hits as “One Arabian Knight”, “Midnight Blue”, “Freeway Jam”, “Darlin Darlin Baby”, “Tangled Web”, “Rainfall”, “Charlemagne”, & “Riders On The Storm”. Brian has appeared on 50 releases, has 38 million streams on Pandora, Spotify & Apple, and sold over 140,000 records in his career.

 

In 2023 Tarquin released the extraordinary album entitled “Brothers In Arms” featuring such iconic musicians as Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore (UFO), Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns N’ Roses), Alex De Rosso (Dokken), Travis Stever (Coheed & Cambria), Jeff Duncan (Armored Saint), Johannes Weik (Son of a Bach), Gerald Gradwohl (Tangerine Dream), Chris Haskett (Henry Rollins Band), The Budapest Orchestra. The Album topped the metal radio charts peaking #7 on the NACC Loud Rock charts and #11 on the Metal Contraband charts. Brian Tarquin, a one-man army, composed, produced, and performed all guitar melodies, solos, bass, and rhythm guitars, and used session drummer Reggie Pryor. The album features exclusive songs inspired by those military soldiers who have fought for their country.

 

In 2017 Tarquin composed, produced, and performed on two top 20 charting radio albums for Cleopatra Record’s Orlando In Heaven, which was #6 on the Relix Jam Band Charts and Band of Brothers, which was #21 on the Metal Contraband Charts. Orlando In Heaven was a special project featuring an incredible cast of musical virtuosos playing their hearts out for the Pulse victims in Orlando. Both albums showcase such world-class players as guitar legend Larry Coryell, Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Trey Gunn (King Crimson), Jeff Watson (Night Ranger), Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses, Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake), Gary Hoey, Tony Franklin (Jimmy Page), Chris Poland (Megadeth), Hal Lindes (Dire Straits), Will Ray (The Hellecasters) and Phil Naro (Talas).

 

In 2006, Tarquin opened his own boutique record label called BHP MUSIC/GUITAR TRAX RECORDS, specializing in instrumental guitar music. The label releases the Guitar Master Series featuring legends: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Allan Holdsworth, and Zakk Wylde. Simultaneously he built Jungle Room Studios where he records many of the releases for his record label. Jungle Room is an extensive analog/digital studio located in the beautiful New York Catskill mountains featuring a classic 1980s British Trident 24 recording console with analog tape machines such as Otari MTR 90, an Ampex 440c, and a plethora of delicious analog gear!

 

Brian’s weekly NPR radio show called Guitar Trax on WFIT 89.5FM on the Florida Space Coast is streamed on www.wfit.org. He hosts in-depth interviews with world-renowned guitarists every Monday night from 10 pm to midnight. 

 

 SUCCESS INSIDER Q&A:

 

  1. What led you to a career in the music industry?Growing up in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s there was a plethora of great guitarists to choose from and guitar music was king! I started out being really influenced by the British invasion guitarists as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page & Jeff Beck, and then moved on to Jimi Hendrix. “Are You Experienced” was unreal and really spoke to me because I was immediately attracted to instrumental guitar music. I always loved Jimmy Page’s tone and solo in the middle of “Heartbreaker”, it was the “Eruption” of the day. 

 

In the early-mid 90’s I really liked the funky jazz grooves coming out of Britain during the 90’s, which they called Acid Jazz. Artists like The Brand New Heavies and Ronny Jordan who were using urban back beats with jazz changes really got my attention. So, I sent a studio demo of a few tracks to a couple of labels, and I was signed by a New York record label that specialized in Acid Jazz called Instinct Records. They even took one of the songs from the original demo I sent them called “Arrow of Truth” and placed it on the album The Best of Acid Jazz Vol 2, which hit the top 20 Billboard charts. Then for my first two albums with them, “Last Kiss Goodbye” and “Soft Touch” they sent me to London to record with a producer who specialized in this type of music. It was a wonderful experience that resulted in several top 10 radio hits in the Smooth Jazz format, like “One Arabian Knight”, Freeway Jam” (Jeff Beck remake), Crazy Horse, Darlin, Darlin Baby, and Tangled Web. This was a moment that changed my musical life you could say as well as a pure feeling of musical affirmation!

 

  1. What attributes do you have that make you a good fit for being a successful guitarist and composer? I have always been an extremely creative soul. My creativity just runs in my blood because my mother Pema Browne was a modern artist in New York City in the 50’s & 60’s. She had a painting exhibition at the 1964 World’s Fair in the Greyhound Pavilion and her abstract painting Ambush In November is part of the permanent collection of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. My father, Perry Browne, was a big band radio disc jockey in the ’40s & 50’s and worked with the comedy team of Bob and Ray in Boston. So, he was always playing jazz records in the house like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and even hipper guys like Jimmy Smith and Howard Roberts. In turn, I was always exposed to some sort of instrumental jazz music at an early age.

 

I use the guitar as a paintbrush on a canvas to evoke emotions. For example, stylistically using a clean ES-335 tone through a Fender amp paints a very different picture from that of an overdriven Les Paul tone through a Marshall cabinet. Guitar has always been my main instrument because I could relate to all the wild sounds that could be made from the instrument. Jimi Hendrix was always one of my favorite guitarists because he was such a trailblazer. He was a universe ahead of everyone else. Not a lot of people know this, but Hendrix had jazz influences in his playing, like the Wes Montgomery octaves. But because of the overdriven tones, Jimi’s octaves sounded massive like in the song “Third Stone From The Sun”. In fact, that is where I learned how to play octaves by listening to Hendrix, years before going into jazz and even knowing about Wes Montgomery. 

 

  1. Who or what inspires you? When Jeff Beck came out with his fusion solo albums Blow By Blow, Wired & There and Back I knew that was my path in life. But when I heard Jeff Beck Live with the Jan Hammer Group, that was one of the best moments. Jeff’s tone on that album is the best I have ever heard of him. Live songs like “Freeway Jam”, “Blue Wind” and “Full Moon Boogie” are trail-blazing performances by Jeff. In fact, I recently had the honor of working with the violinist on that album Steve Kindler for an upcoming release. Steve was originally in Mahavishnu Orchestra and is on “Visions of the Emerald Beyond”, later replacing Jean Luc Ponty in the band. And of course, another big influence was Eddie Van Halen who exploded onto the scene with that first album.

 

All these influences laid out the blueprint for my career and the road I would take in my journey with music. Artists like Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Van Halen, and Pat Metheny made me realize how to create a song and tell a story with instrumental music. It’s been a fantastic journey! The sounds I heard when I was a teenager and what I learned from those recordings are still in my head and being used in my music to this day.

 

  1. Describe your ideal audience. Woodstock 1969.

 

  1. What do you think about the music industry of today? A very different world, more of an amateur profession at this point. For one, the music style of the world has changed completely now. We live in George Orwell’s futuristic world where everything is programmed and the government controls society. The IT department runs the music industry now, not the creatives. Today the younger generation has bought into the idea of making music on their iPhones and laptops using premade musical loops and plug-ins to alter their vocals. Cut and paste, hit the space bar, alter performances – all this has changed the way people create music if you want to call it creating. Somehow it seems no one wants to practice actual instruments any longer, as society’s attention span has grown ridiculously short. So, the result is less than star quality and very unforgettable. Hence, no more Rock Star caliber performances, recordings, or tours.

 

  1. You have supported several non-profits during your career. What are some of the current projects you want to shine the light on? I have 3 ‘Heavy Friends’ releases: “Guitars For Wounded Warriors,” “Guitars For Veterans,” and “Brothers In Arms.” The whole series was created to honor our service men and women and of course veterans. I have always had a special spot in my heart for military veterans. I feel they have always been forgotten in our world and taken for granted. I remember seeing homeless Vietnam veterans living in the subway and streets of New York City where I grew up in the 70’s. It was a disgraceful site because at that time no one seemed to care about veterans. So, I wanted to draw as much attention as I could to veterans’ needs, and what better way than through music!

 

My father was a World War II veteran serving in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1946 along with millions of other soldiers. He told many stories of his comradery with his fellow marines and how they all looked forward to the GI Bill. So, in college back in the 80s, I joined the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) for a while, serving a short stint in the military and doing basic training at Fort Knox. Even though I didn’t stay in the service, I have always had a deep respect for the men and women who serve. 

 

  1. What do you consider your biggest challenge? Instrumental music is very difficult to get across to the public because there are no words or lyrics that they can relate to in the track. I always like to make the music thematic, describing some sort of story to the listener. This helps a lot to keep their attention and interest in the song. I learned this craft during my Contemporary jazz solo artist days, seeing how people reacted to my music, both radio music directors and listeners.

 

  1. If you could invite any three people (alive or passed on) for a dinner party who would they be?Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Larry Coryell

 

  1. If you could switch careers for a day, what would you choose? I would never switch careers I’m living my dream.

 

  1. What is the most important tip you would pass on to another person just getting started in the world of music? Two of the best attributes you can have are persistence and motivation. Also, prepare for a lot of rejection, it’s just the name of the game. To be in this industry you must be very thick-skinned and not be discouraged from criticism. Listen everyone knows there is always a better musician, actor, writer, or composer in the world than themselves, but there is such a thing as timing. We all have heard music at some time in our lives and thought “Man, I can do that better”, but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that the other guy got the gig – right place, right time. 

 

Another important factor is to know the music business and understand how musicians, composers, etc. are paid. Early in my career I worked at record companies in radio promotions, finance, and business affairs, and learned the business inside out. I was hungry for knowledge on how to make money from being a recording artist and composer. So, I understand cross-collateralized royalties, recoupment, and reserves being held. I always thought if you are going to be an artist in this industry you should be required to work in it for at least a year before you sign any kind of deal. That way you are well informed of any decision you make regarding signed agreements. I even wrote a couple of books on the topic, “Insider’s Guide To Music Licensing” (Allworth Press) and “Survival Guide For Music Composers” (Hal Leonard). The whole reason I wrote them is I found most music business books were written by lawyers and are written very pretentiously. So, I wanted to write one in plain simple English terms for the average musician.

At the end of the day, contrary to popular beliefs, success is not equated to being the best or the fastest gun, it’s about being there at the time they need your talent. That’s why I say “Tenacity” is your best weapon!   

Keep up with Brian Tarquin at https://www.briantarquin.com/

 

National Parks Arts Foundation

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