Hey Shredder

7 questions for guitarists

Sean Leahy

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Sean Leahy by John Margaretten

Sean Leahy by John Margaretten

The Sean Leahy Trio celebrates the release of their great studio debut album tonight, April 27, at Slim’s in San Francisco, CA as part of the 2nd Annual Guitarmageddon Blues Ball.

Sean Leahy rarely courts the spotlight. He’s more interested in laying in the cut, doing what he can to elevate the proceedings, and generally keeping an attentive eye on where he can nuance the music at hand towards the better. His style as a guitarist harks back to the 70s – packed with muscle and strut – but sheered of that era’s machismo excesses. Leahy has taken the attitude and tone of the vinyl heyday and combined it with the sharpness and brevity of the 80s, a power pop consciousness that makes him a descendent of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and the six-stringers that made Thin Lizzy swing back in the day. Yet for all his classic rock echoes, Leahy is a modern kid with a lot more to show off than many folks who’ve only seen him in support roles over the past few years may realize. To get properly schooled one needs to dig into Darkness & Light, Leahy’s just released solo studio debut with his ace rhythm team of Daria Johnson (drums) and Mark Calderon (bass). He brings the same kind of attentive focus he exhibits onstage to this studio effort helmed by producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine, Coyote Hearing Studio), offering up a tight set of should-be-singles that run the gamut from raunchy to surprisingly tender. It’s damn fine album, and a damn fine way to meet an under-sung musician from the rich SF Bay Area rock scene.

Here’s what Mr. Leahy had to say to our guitarist survey.

Favorite effects pedal? Why?
I don’t use a lot. Love my line 6 delay! My vintage ProCo Rat distortion is prize possession, but I’ll go with my vintage MXR phase 45. It’s a secret weapon for sure. It has a shorter sweep for a more subtle effect that adds a lot of depth to your tone, especially in a trio format where it’s easy for the guitar to sound a little one dimensional.
Tastiest guitarist — i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing — currently working six-strings?
Well, he’s well-known amongst my peers, and mostly known for his songwriting but Garrin Benfield is by far one of the tastiest guitar players I’ve ever seen, especially the way he uses his looping effect. It’s a sight to see for sure if you never have!
A guitar solo I never get tired of listening to is…
Duane Allman’s intro solo to “Statesboro Blues” on the Fillmore East record. It’s so lyrical, voice-like and passionate! It’s a perfect example of a musician tapped into pure expression, transcending the boundaries between the head, heart and hands – no simple feat!
Preferred brand of axe? Why?
Ooooooh, tough one! I’m pretty much a Fender and Gibson snob. But if I had to pick one it would have to be a Fender Strat (more specifically my `77 black Strat). Best guitar for crystal clean tones. So comfortable and inviting to play, and has a wide range of tonal possibilities that are easily accessible in a hands on situation. And built to last too! They can take a good beating and bounce right back.
AC/DC, The Beatles, Radiohead or The Byrds – which one gives you the biggest guitar boner? What makes them SO sweet?
No brainer – AC/DC!! First rock band I was introduced to (age 10) and first concert (age 14). The riffs, the solos, and the smart simplicity combined with power and belief! And lyrics about drinking, fighting, and stealing your girlfriend! Unabashed rock bravado at its finest!!
One lesser known guitarist folks should check out is…
Daniel Castro. He’s a Bay Area blues/R&B legend. Don’t know how much he’s got out there to check out, but if you’re in the SF Bay Area you should find a way to go see him. He’s the real deal!!
What aspect of being a guitarist always makes you happy?
The community of loving, mature (and immature!),creative and dedicated folks that I have been blessed to have found myself a part of as the result of years of hard work. Kinda cheesy answer but it’s the truth.