We spoke again with long time Henriksen enthusiast and supporter Sean McGowan to catch up on his current projects and learn a little more about him.
1. At your level of play, you have many amplifier choices. Why do you choose Henriksen?
First and foremost is the sound, which I feel is the best out there. I just love the tone these amps produce, and this is coming from someone who has owned several vintage amps over the years. Henriksen Amps have a unique voice, yet they are neutral and really allow the sound of the guitar and player’s technique to shine through. People have a hard time believing that there aren’t tubes in these amps, yet they sound so warm and lush. You can really hear and discern all the notes in a complex chord voicing, for example. Plus, the EQ, XLR out, and other features are more powerful than on any other guitar combo amp.
Tying for a close second would be portability and reliability. Both the Blu and Bud amps I currently use can fit under a plane seat or be checked without worry – I’ve done both – and their light weight and small size make them a dream to carry across town, up and down stairs….even on gondola rides to the top of Colorado mountains! For most jazz gigs, I’m using the Blu with the Ray extension cab, which sounds incredible (and weighs nothing!) For acoustic guitar gigs where I need two channels, I use the Bud, with or without the Ray, depending on the size of the venue and P.A.
2. What work/material are you most proud of?
Well, I’m constantly working and practicing, trying to improve various aspects of my playing and writing. But I do have five solo guitar CDs (all available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby) that represent my playing and interests: https://store.cdbaby.com/
I also have several educational materials available that I spent a lot of time creating that I’m very happy with. Hal Leonard has published two books from String Letter titled, Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar Essentials and The Acoustic Jazz Guitarist, plus a brand new book of transcriptions from my recordings, which I’m very proud of (https://www.halleonard.com/
Here’s a link to videos I’ve done with True Fire, a great educational company based in Florida: https://truefire.com/search/?
Mostly, I’m extremely proud of my students at the University of Colorado Denver, who work hard developing their music and careers, and are producing some really great creative work. (Sean McGowan | College of Arts & Media)
3. What work/material would you have liked to approach differently in retrospect?
I think part of the process for every musician is learning to come to terms and be at peace with a recording or work after it’s finished. For me, it’s difficult to listen to a recording I’ve done right after it’s produced; it takes me some time to warm up to it and accept the choices I made at the time, rather than wishing I’d gone about this or that a different way. But I think learning to trust yourself and the choices you’ve made is part of the learning and growth process for all musicians and artists.
4. Musicians tend to favor one creative outlet over another, if just slightly. Do you consider yourself a stage, studio, or compositional player primarily?
You know, I think I enjoy them all about equally. I understand that some prefer the stage to the studio, or sitting in a quiet room and writing, but I don’t think I’d be happy just playing without the recording component, and/or without the creative component of writing – and for me teaching is also something that has become integral to my enjoyment of the musical landscape now. So really I enjoy all of these elements as part of a whole.
5. What makes you the most comfortable while you’re playing?
My sound, definitely, and being able to hear accurate dynamics and textures on stage or in the studio. And that’s why Henriksen Amps work so well for me – if something’s just a little bit off for me in a given room, I can tweak and adjust the EQ, which is much more powerful than on a more traditional amp’s EQ section, and I get exactly what I need to feel inspired and play confidently. Most of the time I leave the settings flat, but the control is there when I need it. It’s really important to trust everything in your signal chain: your guitar, the pickups, a great cable, effects, and finally the amplifier.
6. What’s the best compliment you can receive after a performance?
I think music should be a positive experience; there’s plenty of negativity in the news media, and troublesome things people have to deal with. If I can help make someone feel good or inspired – whether it’s listening to one of my recordings, coming to a concert, or interacting in a studio lesson – I feel rewarded and honored to be a part of that experience. If someone is uplifted or has an enjoyable experience while they were listening – that’s the best compliment I can receive.
7. What’s the funniest thing someone has said to you after a performance?
As a parent, I remember how hard it was to get a baby to go to sleep sometimes. A woman told me once after a gig that her daughter constantly struggled with falling asleep, but the only thing that seemed to work was when they put on my River Coffee CD. Now most musicians may not want to hear that their music makes people fall asleep, but I took it as a huge compliment!
You can learn even more about Sean and his work on his website, www.seanmcgowanguitar.com