Guitarist Quinn Sullivan Talks Salvation

Quinn Sullivan - Promo shot for Salvation - Photo Credit ©Jim Arbogast
Quinn Sullivan - Promo shot for Salvation - Photo Credit ©Jim Arbogast

June 2024 – We’ve been following the career of blues guitarist Quinn Sullivan for some time now. He first made the scene on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the age of six after being discovered by fellow blues guitarist Buddy Guy. Buddy took Quinn under his wing and mentored Quinn for years; often seen opening shows for Buddy and recording his first album at the age of twelve. The kid had chops and it didn’t take long to realize there was a long career ahead for Quinn Sullivan.

Now 25, Quinn is set to release his fifth studio album, Salvation, on June 7th, 2024 via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. He graciously took time out of his busy touring schedule to sit down with DBM’s Pix Meyers and talk about the making of the new album, a side project with Trouble No More, gear, and finding inspiration after a tragic loss.



Digital Beat Magazine: Hi Quinn. How you doing?

Quinn Sullivan: I’m good. How are you?

DBM: I’m good, thank you. So you and I have actually met before. We sat for an interview back in 2018 at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY when you were opening for Buddy Guy. 

QS: I do remember that very clearly. Nice to hear from you again.

DBM: So are you ready?

QS: Let’s do it.

DBM: You’re getting ready to release your fifth studio album Salvation via Mascot Records on June 7th. Let’s talk about this new album. This album is really personal for you. Would you care to elaborate on that a little more for our readers? What inspired you to make this album?

QS: Absolutely. Yeah. So, unfortunately, not to get too sad for a minute, but I lost my mom a couple of years ago unexpectedly and this record is for her and inspired by the strength that she has given me over the last 24 years of my life, you know? I went into the studio shortly after it happened. I didn’t really know what kind of record I wanted to make but I knew that I needed to get out of the house and go make music! That’s really all I know how to do when I’m at my best or when I’m at my worst, you know? So, I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I met with producer John Fields and songwriter Kevin Bowe. We were having a lot of conversations about life and just about various different things and in the course of the conversations we co-wrote the song “Salvation (Make Me Wanna Pray)”. That became the first session I ever did for this new album. It’s a song about finding hope through tough times and through those tough times, you hopefully experience good things and love from other people. So that was kind of the theme that kept resurfacing every time we got together to write a song. It became the theme of the album. Hope and love and things like that, you know? Especially when dealing with a tragic loss. Just trying to remain hopeful in life. I will say it’s not really a concept album in the sense that every song is about that…there’s songs about love and about heartbreak and about relationships. But I think like what the album means to me, though personally, is truly that hope; that salvation.

Quinn Sullivan in Indianapolis, IN. (2022) - Photo by: ©Pix Meyers
Quinn Sullivan in Indianapolis, IN. (2022) – Photo by: ©Pix Meyers

DBM: My condolences concerning your mom. I can really relate. I lost my mother very unexpectedly as well and understand that drive that you kind of go through when you’re lost for a minute and trying to find yourself within the grief; how to move forward from that loss. That is what finally kicked me into getting serious with my photography career. My mom liked to take pictures at concerts as a hobby (you didn’t need credentials back then) and so that was kind of my way of honoring her. She inspired me to get in the pit and get serious about photography after kind of dabbling in the industry for years. So I can really appreciate that inspiration. This being your 5th studio album, how is this album different from prior recordings that you’ve made?

QS: I think this record, as a whole, just feels like the most me that I’ve ever felt before making a record. I think the songs and the lyrical part of it and the musical part of it, too, just all came together very serendipitously –  I felt like everything sort of came together perfectly, you know, as perfectly as it could for me at the time. With the last few albums I feel like I’ve shown a lot of different sides to me as an artist. I’ve gone down different directions as far as, like what genre. I kind of categorize myself…what I’ve come to realize is that I’m inspired by lots of different genres and lots of different styles of music. I don’t really have one particular genre that I categorize myself as. I’m kind of just a guy that loves a lot of stuff and makes music that he’s inspired by. So I think this new album showcases that! I think it’s just a little bit more cohesive and concise in the sense that I think that all of these songs I can identify with on a personal level. I had a lot of involvement in the writing process on this one too. So, you know, I just think every single time around I try to just go deeper and deeper on the music and find a way to learn something every time that I make a record.

DBM: I love this new album. Congratulations. It’s wonderful. It’s interesting you talk about the different genres because I really hear that a lot in this album. I think it flows well from beginning to end. At first, I thought the album would be very solemn considering what originally inspired you to make it, but man there’s a lot of bangers! (laughs). I hear a little Santana influence; I hear a little John Mayer. I hear some Seventies funk. It’s just a great album. Again, Congrats. So, when you and I spoke in 2018, you were just 19 years old at the time and we discussed your writing process and what inspired you at such a young age. Now, at 25 do you feel that process has changed much?

QS: You know, it’s funny. I think it’s kind of the same…I don’t really feel like I have changed much when it comes to how I do it and how I begin a song. I think for me it’s always been music first. You know, some people I’ve noticed like to write a lot of things down. They like to kind of take certain excerpts like they’re a poet or whatever and they turn that into a song. But for me, it’s always been the music that inspires me to then write about a situation or topic. So that’s really how it starts. Most of the songs on the new album were songs that I had started or had most of the music for and then would bring it to Kevin Bowe and John Fields and then together we would write these songs. So I think that’s kind of what it is for me. I mean, it all kind of depends on if I’m writing with somebody else and who I’m writing with that kind of forms the way you tend to lean towards when writing. So yeah, I think it hasn’t really changed much. It’s been kind of similar in the way that I do it every time.

DBM: So you have mentioned John Fields and Kevin Bowe a couple of times. John Fields is a very famous record producer who’s worked with the Jonas Brothers, P!nk, Miley Cyrus, and Switchfoot to name a few. Kevin Bowe has written hit music for fellow blues musicians Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and even Etta James. How did that collaboration come about?

QS: So I was kind of in the middle of just figuring out who I wanted to work with. I had a wish list of people that I wanted to try to get in a room with and write with. And John was one of those people. I originally discovered John through a friend of mine who turned me on to John because they’re friends. I had my manager reach out to his manager (who were also friends which was kind of a coincidence) and get me a writing session with John. That was the first connection. So, I flew out and met with him for the first time in October of 2022; which was the first time we ever met or been in a room together. At that time, I really didn’t know much about him. It was kind of a cold meeting…a “let’s see where this goes” kind of thing. There was no pressure or any motives other than seeing if we could connect musically. We ended up really connecting strongly musically. We had a lot of the same influences and a lot of the same inspirations musically; and he’s so talented and so diligent about the details of what he’s doing. I learned a lot about production. I learned a lot about engineering. I just learned a lot through watching him work because he’s such an efficient person. He really doesn’t take a lot of time to dilly dally; just doesn’t waste a lot of time. He’s very like “let’s just get this done and get this going” (laughs), you know, that’s just his mindset. So, I went along with it and I ended up really enjoying the process. It took a few months to write (with us going back and forth) but once we had all the songs that we wanted to record, it was about a two week process to get the album completed. So, that was really, really cool.

DBM: Like I said, it’s a great album! I can’t wait for your fans to hear it. You recently collaborated with the band Trouble No More. Were they your backing band on this album? And if so, will they be joining you on the road for the tour?

Quinn Sullivan opening for Beth Hart (2022) in Indianapolis, IN. - Photo by: ©Pix Meyers
Quinn Sullivan opening for Beth Hart (2022) in Indianapolis, IN. – Photo by: ©Pix Meyers

QS: No. That’s a whole separate thing. So Trouble No More happened about a year ago, as I’m friends with a couple of the people in that band. My agent actually started this band and they were kind of instrumental in the early version of this band. There was a couple of versions of the band and a couple of members had been in and out of the band over the last few years. I think they’ve been a band for about three or four years now. I’m the newest guy in the line up. And so, yeah, I’ve done like three or four shows with the band now and it’s great! I mean, it plays homage to The Allman Brothers Band; but we put a little bit more of a modern spin on some of the songs while still staying true to the original music at the same time. It’s really fun. And it’s been really fulfilling for me creatively because I grew up listening to The Allman Brothers. They’re by far one of my favorite bands of all time. So it really is something nice to step into and kind of get away from the solo career for a while and focus on something else. It makes the solo career part of it actually way more fun and fulfilling. Because I go out on the road with those guys and do a few shows, and then I’m like, I wanna play my stuff again and I can do that too. It’s always kind of balances it all out so you’re not doing too much of one thing. It’s also the first time that I’ve been part of a band on a professional level. It’s really been fun for me.

DBM: So, who will be in your band on this tour?

QS: Yeah, so I’ve gotten to become friends with so many incredible musicians over the years that you have great connections with. The bad part of it is that really great musicians are always in demand and they have a lot of work being offered to them throughout the year. So it’s hard sometimes to nail a group of people down for more than a week. So I’m using a few different (newer) members in the band. A guy by the name of Eric Robert is going to be playing keyboards and singing. A guy by the name of Aaron Sig will be playing on drums. Then Kyle Spark will be joining on bass. They are all really great musicians and I’m really looking forward to playing with them and getting some shows under our belt this summer.

DBM: I can’t wait to see it. So speaking of the tour, you have several dates at City Winery locations across the U.S. How did that co-collaboration come about?

QS: It was interesting. We were trying to find the best situation to hit a lot of new markets and territories that I hadn’t been to yet on my own. We figured out the best way to do it was to do it at City Winery because they’re a venue that already has a built in audience that a lot of people tend to go to around the country. So we figured out that it would just make sense to do it that way. So the majority of the shows will be at a City Winery for this tour. There are a handful that won’t be at City Winery; but most of the shows are – it’s gonna be a ton of fun. I’m just really looking forward to playing this new music live. That’s really one of the main reasons why I love to make music is so I can go out on the road and build new lives with each song.

Quinn Sullivan – Tour Dates

June 6 – Portland House Of Music, Portland ME
June 7 – City Winery, Boston MA
June 9 – City Winery Loft, Philadelphia PA
June 12 – City Winery, Chicago IL
June 13 – City Winery, St Louis MO
June 16 – City Winery Loft, Philadelphia PA
June 18 – City Winery, Atlanta GA
June 22 – Funky Biscuit, Boca Raton FL
June 28 – City Winery, Pittsburgh PA
June 30 – City Winery Loft, New York NY
July 20 – The Music Room, West Yarmouth MA
Aug 1 – Roots Rock Revival, Big Indian NY
Aug 2 – Daryl’s House Club, Pawling NY
Aug 3 – Daryl’s House Club, Pawling NY
Sep 21 – The Music Room, West Yarmouth MA
Nov 16 – The Music Room, West Yarmouth MA

DBM: So that’s one of my next questions. What’s the road like at 25? You still a fan? What do you look forward to most being out there?

QS: Yeah, I love it. There’s things about it that are extremely difficult, I can’t lie. It’s not the most glamorous time at all. But, what I will say is that you kind of just build. I mean, I’ve built a really beautiful community over the last decade of my life. And I’ve been doing this professionally since I was, like, 12 or 13 years old, so I’ve been doing it for a while. You hope that you get bigger and bigger as the years go on and more people know about your music and you have better opportunities to do other things. But the actuality of touring doesn’t really change. It kind of stays the same, you know…You hit the same rest stops, you hit the same cities. Similar venues. I mean, nothing really changes. It kind of feels second nature to me. It just doesn’t really feel like anything new is really happening. It’s just kind of like you’re just going back to the same sort of areas that you’ve been going to for 10 plus years. I’m lucky enough that I feel like I’ve done this for so long that I feel already equipped on what to expect. I will say though, it’s always a new experience. Every time that you step into a venue, especially with this new record, playing new songs live. That’s really when it feels like it’s a new thing; when you’re releasing a new record and you’re playing songs that you haven’t played yet live. That’s what makes it interesting; to see what’s working out there, you know?

Quinn Sullivan at The Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY. (2018) - Photo by: ©Pix Meyers
Quinn Sullivan at The Palace Theatre in Louisville, KY. (2018) – Photo by: ©Pix Meyers

DBM: So for the gear junkies out there, what’s your set up going to be for this tour? Are you still playing your Paul Reed Smith Silver Sky? Do you have any endorsements currently in the works?

QS: So I don’t have any official endorsements currently in the works. I’ve had loose relationships with many different guitar companies over the years. But I’ve never had an official endorsement as of yet. But there’s always something trying to be worked on and trying to get accomplished. I have a lot of friends at Fender and PRS. So there’s a lot of love there for sure! As far as guitars go, I just got a new Gibson SG a couple of years ago and that’s kind of been my main guitar, to be quite honest I’m always gonna be a Fender guy at heart. I think the Fender Stratocaster is my desert island guitar, for sure. (laughs) But as far as bringing in the Trouble No More part of my life the SG has been fitting in super well because that music is so Gibson oriented. So that’s been a fun new tool that I’ve been able to acquire in the last couple of years. And as far as amps go, I’m still rocking a Fender Deluxe Reverb. Sometimes I’ll rock a Vibrolux Reverb. But mostly it’s just one Deluxe Reverb. As far as pedals go, I do like a fuzz and a couple of overdrives and maybe a delay.

Quinn Sullivan (2018) - Louisville, KY - Photo by: ©Pix Meyers
Quinn Sullivan (2018) – Louisville, KY – Photo by: ©Pix Meyers

I’m never too crazy. I’ve never had a crazy big pedal board or anything like that. I try to keep it pretty minimal and as simple as I can. There’s a couple of these songs on the new album that require some different kinds of sounds. So I definitely will be thinking about that. But I try to keep it as minimal as possible so I don’t really have to think too hard about it when I’m on stage playing.

DBM: So we just have a couple more questions for you Quinn. Your long time mentor, Buddy Guy, is currently out on his final tour at 87. Do you have any plans to make a performance on his last ride? And do you hope to still be on stage at the age of 87 considering you started at such a young age?

QS: That’s a great question. I don’t have any set plans to go on stage with him, but if the time presents itself, I would love to do that. It would be really fun. I haven’t seen Buddy in a few years. We talk every now and again but once covid happened, we kind of separated for a while and then, you know, things started to kind of come back I was doing other things and making my own stuff. We kind of just got away from it all, but yeah, I would love to see Buddy again and I would love to play with him of course. Mainly, would just love to see him again at some point. It would be really nice. And regarding if I would ever do this at 87? I think time will tell. I mean I think the way I’m feeling right now, I think so. I mean, I don’t know what else I would be doing. (laughs)  I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to see some of The Rolling Stones coverage. They’ve been on tour the last month or so and they’re still rocking and at 80 years old and still sound so fantastic. So I think if I can still do it; if I’m healthy enough. I think there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be doing it. As long as I can be creative, I’ll do it.

DBM: I think any of us can hope to have that kind of energy that (Mick) Jagger and Buddy display at that age. I mean, I’m tired now and I’m a half their age (laughs).

QS: It’s pretty incredible.

DBM: So last question. I ask everyone that I interview…what is currently on your playlist? What are you listening to at the current moment?

QS:  That’s a great question. I will actually have to go into Spotify because every time people ask me what I listen to, I have to double check because it’s all over the place….(checking his playlist)

DBM: When we spoke in 2018, you were really into the Marcus King album Carolina Confessions and Hozier’s newest single with Mavis (Staples), “Nina Cried Power”.

QS: Very, very cool. And you know, it’s funny. I’m still really into Marcus. He just put out a new record that I’m obsessed with; I love it a lot. So that’s been on the playlist. And Maggie Rogers. Are you familiar with her? I’ve been listening to her new album a lot. She’s incredible. Let’s see what else… I’ve been listening to a lot of different kinds of music. I sometimes just put on instrumental music too. Sometimes when I’m just in the house hanging out I don’t listen to rock and roll. I’ll listen to other things like some cultural music and jazz stuff. And a lot of Steely Dan recently. A lot of Steely Dan.

DBM: That’s all I have for you today, Quinn.

QS: All Right. Well, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure.

DBM: Best of luck on this new album! Like I said, I’ve really enjoyed checking it out. I definitely appreciate you taking the time to sit with us tonight and taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with our fans.

QS: Of course. Anytime. Thank you so much. And we’ll see you out there. Hopefully, we’ll get back to Indianapolis at some point real soon. 

Quinn Sullivan - Salvation Album Art compliments of Provogue/Mascot Label Group
Quinn Sullivan – Salvation Album Art compliments of Provogue/Mascot Label Group

Salvation (Track Listings)

  1. Dark Love
  2. Salvation (Make Me Wanna Pray)
  3. Rise Up Children
  4. Don’t Wanna Die Today
  5. Once Upon a Lie
  6. Better In Love
  7. Leave No Love Behind
  8. I Can’t Stay (And You Can’t Go)
  9. Nothin’ Gonna Change My Mind
  10. Eyes On Me
  11. Half My Heart
  12. Eyesight to the Blind (Bonus Track)