The hard work it takes for a musician to transform from a humble beginner into an established professional often goes ignored. Guitarist Kevin “Blake” Goodwin put in the hard work, and it is paying off.
I interviewed Blake to find out what he did to prepare for the 2015 Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition. He has studied with several guitar masters and made some new friends along the way. It clearly worked, as he took 1st place in the competition and won a Furch G21SW-C from Stonebridge Guitars along with a spot on the Stonebridge Artist roster.
Henry Nam: What was your experience like at the Canadian Guitar Festival?
Blake: I can honestly say that I had no expectation of winning, or even getting to compete. I somehow managed to win 1st place.
Most amazingly, I entered the competition as a stand-by contestant (since I signed up late) and wasn’t guaranteed a spot in the competition when I arrived. A competitor didn’t show up, and by default, I got the opportunity to play.
Winning the competition, particularly over some of the best artists I have ever heard, was beyond my wildest dreams. Beyond the birth of my son, it has been the single-most exciting moment of my life.
Henry: That’s amazing! Beyond that strike of luck — because clearly, luck didn’t have everything to do with the win — what do you think led to your victory? What has this past year of preparation and musical growth looked like?
Blake: In an attempt to jump start my career as a solo artist, I entered the longest running Guitar Wars competition in San Antonio this past May, and placed 3rd.
In June, I attended Joe Satriani’s G4 Experience in Cambria, California to take a number of master classes. The G4 masters included Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, Guthrie Govan of The Aristocrats, and Mike Keneally. The experience was exceptional. The influence of Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes (guitarists from Animals as Leaders) can definitely be heard in my music.
I followed up after G4 by taking private guitar lessons from Javier Reyes when he was in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. He took the time to listen to the songs I prepared for the Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition and was a great encouragement to me. He was excited when I won.
I also attended Andy McKee’s Musicarium held at Big Indian Resort in New York. This opportunity allowed me to perform and interact with some of the most notable musicians in fingerstyle guitar including Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Stephen Bennett, and Billy McLaughlin. I also met fellow musicians that I now call friends. The experience was fantastic. There’s nothing quite like being encouraged and supported by fellow musicians.
Henry: Agreed! The feeling of community between fingerstyle guitarists is always astounding. Everyone is very supportive of each other. It’s something we love about working with the progressive fingerstyle community. On that note, what projects are you working on now? What follow-up efforts can people expect?
Blake: I am currently working on my first album which is scheduled to be released next summer at the 2016 Canadian Guitar Festival. My family and I are currently building a professional recording studio in a newly constructed building in our backyard. We’ve given great attention to the acoustics during the design stages and it will be outfitted with the very best professional recording equipment. Completion is expected around Thanksgiving.
In the interim, I am concentrating on writing the music for the album. The material will feature fingerstyle guitar along with a huge soundscape of electronic ambiance that may surprise listeners. My new Stonebridge BAR24CR will play a huge role on the album, leading the way with choppy grooves and beautiful low end notes. This will complement the background melodies creating an intense journey.
I have secured one of the top audio production people in the industry, Misha Mansoor (from Top Secret Audio), to mix the first song. If we are both pleased, it will go on the album and he’ll mix the remainder of the album. Immediately following the album’s release, I plan to go on a 10-week tour of the U.S. east coast and mid-south.
A music video is currently in the works to accompany the album’s featured song, “Dracula’s Requiem.” It’s a storied composition of a harrowing journey through drug/alcohol addiction that ends with hope and redemption. It’s an important song to me since I’m an advocate for those who struggle with addiction. The music video will be filmed at the historic Crescent Hotel and Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Henry: That’s very admirable of you to use your music to bring attention and support to those who are in need of it. As a discerning artist, what was it about Stonebridge guitars that caught your attention?
Blake: When I won the G21SW-C from Stonebridge at the Canadian, I quickly realized how amazing Stonebridge guitars are. The Stonebridge opened a new door of tones I had not previously experienced. It expanded my creativity and approach to writing music. I would characterize it as “inspired creativity”. As fate would have it, this prize-winning guitar was meant for me. I am very happy with it to say the least.
Shortly after gaining complete confidence in the guitar, I reached out to Stonebridge about having a baritone built for me. After going over specifications I had in mind, Roger and Luke suggested a baritone which they felt suited me. I trusted them and ordered the BAR24CR.
When the guitar arrived, I quickly put it through a rigorous test. The very first chord I played sustained for over twenty seconds. I did not know a guitar could even do that. I was so impressed that I actually recorded the test and posted it on my social media accounts. No one could even challenge it with their own instrument.
In my past experiences with baritone guitars, my low end chords would sound muffled due to the tuning. Well, not this one! The cedar top design adds to the clarity of the instrument, and it was exactly what I was searching for. All of my tapping, thumping, and chords are now crystal clear.
Stonebridge is clearly the market leader in guitars, and I look forward to honing my craft with these beauties. I have written a lot of new material on the BAR24CR and the G21-SW since acquiring them. I can’t wait to showcase both of these amazing instruments on my new album.
Henry: Well, thank you for sharing your experiences with us! We hope that other artists will be inspired by your story and will work as hard as you have to create an interesting and thriving career!
You can follow and keep up to date on Blake’s projects and upcoming album here:
About the author:
Henry Nam is US Artist Relations for Stonebridge Guitars International. Based in Washington DC, he composes and performs as Sheltered Turtle on his custom, Stonebridge S22CL-C and a G22CR-C. In his free time he enjoys swimming, archery, board games, and hiking with his Great Dane/Rottweiler puppy, Hiccup. (You can follow Henry on Instagram | YouTube | Facebook | Twitter).