Young-Un’s: Andreas Varady Interview With Jazz Guitar Life

It’s good to practice with a metronome because it’s helps your timing. It’s important to do nice comping for other people and do different types of soloing and not just one style. Also it’s important to always be nice to other people and other musicians and to always be humble.

Andreas Varady

Chances are, if you are a player, student, or fan of Jazz Guitar, you have seen and heard about the young phenomenon Andreas Varady. He’s not only become an Internet sensation thanks to his many videos on youtube playing with the likes of Martin Taylor and his own group, but he’s also become a touring professional, and at the age of just 13, the world is indeed his oyster. In this interview, Andreas speaks about his beginnings, his influences and other insightful areas of Jazz Guitar performing. A wonderful read from an exceptional young talent.

This interview was conducted via email in the Summer of 2010. You can find more information on Andreas by visiting his website at www.andreasvarady.com

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JGL: How old are you?

AV: I’m 13.

JGL: At such a young age you are already quite accomplished as a performer. How old were you when you first started playing guitar and how did you get into Jazz?

AV: I started when I was 4.  I was listening to my dad play guitar and I really liked the sound of it. So my parents bought me a guitar.

JGL: How old were you when you did your first gig and what was it?

AV: I was about 10 and it was maybe in Cork when I first moved to Ireland.

JGL:  Your website bio states that you have been taught by your father Bandi Varady and that you mostly play by ear. What were the kinds of things your father taught you and how did you get your ears attuned to the Jazz vocabulary?

AV: My dad taught me some different songs and then we practiced them together. First I listened to Django Reinhardt and tried to copy his style. Then I heard a George Benson CD and started to try to play the sorts of solos he plays.

JGL: How disciplined has your musical education been? Do you practice everyday and what is your practice regimen like?

AV: I usually practice every day for about two hours. Me and my dad pick a tune and then we work on it together.

JGL: Which guitarists do you listen to on a regular basis.

AV: I like listening to George Benson, Bireli Lagrene, Louis Stewart, Andreas Oberg and Martin Taylor.

JGL: How did your CD “Questions”, co-led with Irish drummer David Lyttle come about?

AV: Well I wrote an email to David when I was 12 saying that I would like to play with him one day. I’d never met him but always heard his name. He wrote back and said he’d set up some gigs. So we started playing and then recorded the CD last summer. We had Michael Janisch on bass and my dad on rhythm guitar. David’s my mentor. Before I met him I mostly just busked in Limerick.

JGL: I remember another young guitarist by the name of Julian Lage holding out from recording his own CD until he felt ready. Did you have any doubts or insecurities about releasing “Questions” at such a young age?

AV: Not really. I didn’t think about it. I just really wanted to do a CD.

JGL: Do you compose as well?

AV: Yes I do. I’ve written a few tunes. There’s two on the CD.

JGL: Because you are such a young phenomenon on Jazz Guitar, is there are any pressure from outside influences, like agents, promoters, and record label people, trying to capitalize on your young age? Or are you left to do with what you want to do on your own terms?

AV: Not really.  I just do the things I want to do. My parents take care of everything else.

JGL: Do you go to school or do you do home schooling? And what grade are you in?

AV: Yes I go to school. I’m in first year in my secondary school.

JGL: Given that your life is kind of different from most kids your age, do you feel that you are missing out on being a kid?

AV: No because I do everything kids do too. When we do a tour David always takes me to do cool things like go-karting, fun fair, toy shops.

JGL: As mentioned, you have accomplished a lot for your age. You have a signature guitar made for you by Tokai, you are an endorsee of D’Addario ‘Chromes’ strings, you have performed at many Jazz Festivals in Europe, AND you have played with international guitar heroes such Louis Stewart, Andreas Oberg, Frank Vingola, Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor, who recently featured you as a guest on his ‘Spirit of Django’ show at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, not to forget TV and radio features. First of all, how amazing is that!! Secondly, could you briefly talk about how these associations came to be?

AV: It’s really amazing to play with those guys because they’re really good players and really famous. I always see new cities and travel. I met most of all of them through David Lyttle. He had some of them touring in his band. I met Martin Taylor at the Sligo Jazz Festival. My friend Eddie Lee organizes the festival and told Martin about me. Another friend Nigel Martyn told Tommy Emmanuel about me and then I was a guest on his show when he came to Ireland.

JGL: What was your first professional gig?

AV: My first big gig was the Derry Jazz Festival with David Lyttle. I did other smaller gigs and busked before that.

JGL: To date, what has been your most memorable experience(s)?

AV: When David came down to Limerick to meet me and play with me for the first time.

JGL: Have you had any bad experiences?

AV: I’ve never really had any bad experiences.

JGL: Do you see yourself continuing Jazz Guitar as a profession?

AV: Yes. All I want to do is play the guitar.

JGL: What do you have planned for the near future?

AV: In February I play with Torsten Goods. He really good and he’s a great singer. I like the style he plays and everything. I’m playing at Ronnie Scott’s in March. I’m so happy to play there. All my favorite guitarists played there and it’s the biggest gig for me so far. I’ve lots of cool things this year.

JGL: Do you have any other interests that you would like to pursue other than Jazz Guitar?

AV: I’d like to be a champion in skateboarding. I’d also like to be a bass player. Sometimes I play drums.

JGL: Do you listen and/or play other music besides Jazz?

AV: I listen to hip hop and rap. I like Q Tip and guys like that.

JGL: I think it is safe to assume, after listening to you play Take Five, that George Benson is an influence. What other guitarists are you most influenced by as a Jazz Guitar player?

AV: Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Bireli Lagrene, Louis Stewart, Martin Taylor, Andreas Oberg. But my favorites are George Benson, Bireli Lagrene, Martin Taylor and Louis Stewart.

JGL: Do you remember that first “aha” moment that made you realize you wanted to be a Jazz Guitar player?

AV: Not really. It so long ago and I’ve always loved music.

JGL: You play with another young musician, David Hodek, a very nice drummer, who I believe is your age or a little older.  Do you have any friends or peers around your age that play as well as the both of you?

AV: No. David is 13 as well and I love playing with him. We’re really good friends because we both do the same things like videos games and we both like jazz.

JGL: Since most of your playing and performances seem to include adults, do you ever not get taken seriously because of your age?

AV: No, but sometimes it’s hard for me to play jazz clubs because I’m only 13.

JGL: What kind of advice has the older generation given you?

AV: It’s good to practice with a metronome because it’s helps your timing. It’s important to do nice comping for other people and do different types of soloing and not just one style. Also it’s important to always be nice to other people and other musicians and to always be humble.

JGL: On your youtube video titled “The Chicken”, you pretty much rock out with a solid body guitar and some processed overdrive. Is that a style you enjoy playing and do you see yourself continuing on in that type of playing?

AV: No I just like that sound and it suited the music. That video is quite old. I never really play like that any more. I prefer a warm jazz sound.

JGL: Speaking of YouTube, you have a large number of video clips which I’m sure help get the word out about you as well as providing a visual for new fans. What other ways are you promoting yourself?

AV: I don’t really do that. I have a website but I just do gigs and people hear about me from the gigs.

JGL: What would you like to work on guitar wise in the years to come?

AV: I would like to work on better solos and just keep getting better. I’m working on solo guitar like Martin Taylor.

JGL: On YouTube I have noticed that you have used a variety of guitars, what kind of gear are you using regularly and what would be your dream set-up?

AV: I have a few different guitars. My favorite is the Tokai. I just use a basic amp. I have D’Addario Chromes. I don’t really mind how it’s set up as long as it sounds good.

JGL: Do you have any advice for young musicians that you would like to share?

AV: Just to try to practice playing by ear and listen to lots of music.

JGL: Here’s a question for your father, if he doesn’t mind answering. Bandi, I noticed that you have a younger son named Adrian who sounds like he’s going to be an awesome drummer one day. I realize that you are a musician as well, is this why you have very gifted children musically? Is it all genetic or is it a combination of hard work and good parenting skills?

Bandi: Our children are musical but it’s a combination of hard work and talent. Music is part of our life in our family. We always listen to music.

JGL: Thank you Andreas for taking the time to respond to these questions for Jazz Guitar Life. You must be having an awesome time and I wish you all the best for the future. I look forward to following your career in the months and years ahead!

AV: Thank you Lyle.

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The Young-Un’s series features young and promising Jazz Guitar players who may one day make a mark within the Jazz Guitar community.  If you know of such a player or student who is below the age of twenty, please contact me to let me know for a possible feature on Jazz Guitar Life.

Please consider spreading the word about Andreas and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this interview amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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