Checking in with Richie Kotzen

March 22, 2011

EVER WONDER WHAT SHOWS, tones, and gigs influenced Richie Kotzen? So did we, and he gave us a little insight. —MB

What were the most life-changing concerts you saw in your formative years and why?

Stevie Wonder and George Benson. They were two separate concerts but both were in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, at a really cool venue with a circular stage that made for a very interesting perspective. I was 12 years old and really into music. The soul thing was huge where I grew up and those concerts really got me going. They inspired me to play music. I don’t know what it was specifically, but it was a certain feeling coming from both artists at the time that made me want to play and be in a band.

What guitar tones did you hear that made a big impact on your sound early on? What about now?

Van Halen’s tone was the first big impact, then Stevie Ray Vaughan’s. As for modern guys, I like what Jack White is doing with his playing and with his various tones. I also saw Smashing Pumpkins recently, and Billy Corgan and his guitar player had some really cool things happening tone-wise during that show.

What was the toughest gig you played as a kid and what did you learn from it?

I don’t remember having any tough gigs as a kid, but there have been plenty as an adult. Oftentimes you are battling the elements— poor sound, bad acoustics, maybe even being booked in the wrong venue for your kind of music. I think experience teaches you how to deal with those situations. What I have learned to do is rather than saying, “I can’t do this,” is to find a way to adapt to the situation and play off of what works.

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