Now Hear This: Stef Burns

January 10, 2014


AFTER BEING IMPRESS ED WITH STEF Burns’ rendition of “Surfing with the Alien” at the 1988 Bay Area Music Awards show, Joe Satriani soon helped change the course of the guitarist’s career. In 1991, when Epic A&R person Bob Pfeifer wanted one more guitarist to join Satriani, Steve Vai, Mick Mars, and Vinnie Moore on Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid album, Satriani suggested Burns.

“They needed someone to lock in,” Burns recalls, “and locking in became a discipline of mine early on—keeping the tone nice and even, and staying right on the beat, but not too robotic. I became more known for my solos, but it was the rhythm guitar that got me hired.”

Burns—who has played with Sheila E., Berlin, Y&T, and Michael Bolton—performed regularly with Cooper until 1995, and then joined up with Italian megastar Vasco Rossi.

“Thanks to Joe, I’ve had a whole Italian life for the last 15 years,” says Burns.

The versatile guitarist now performs with Huey Lewis and the News, and just released his first solo album, Roots & Wings, as the Stef Burns League.

“For my solos, I draw from singers or the saxophone, and I use my fingers and my Fender Custom Shop Strat’s vibrato and volume control to make the guitar sing, instead of playing bluesy rock licks,” says Burns. “While improvising, I often think of the melody in my head right before I play it. You have to rely on your gut and your ability, and fly by the seat of your pants.”

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