Interview: Vernon Neilly

Jorge Medeiros: How did you come up with the idea to do a tribute CD to Stevie Wonder?

Vernon Neilly: I have always admired Stevie Wonder as an artist, his writing, singing, production
values, he is a musical genius. Anyway I talked with my friends Greg Howe and Kiko
Loureiro about the idea of doing this and they both agreed it would be a great
project to do, so that's how it basically started. Then I got in touch with the
rest of the guys and asked them what songs they would like to record, and they all
picked what they wanted to submit for the CD.

Jorge Medeiros: What can you say about all the versions on the album?

Vernon Neilly: Although the songs on the CD are identifiable, they are all new arrangements of Stevie's work, there is something different in the arrangements that make them
sound unique and original from the recordings that Stevie did years ago. Everyone
put their personal influence on the songs they recorded, so this what makes the
recording very exciting.

Jorge Medeiros: Did you work on the arrangements,or only in the engineering area?

Vernon Neilly: When I do a project like this, I give total creative liberty to each artist because
I want their personal flavor as an artist and producer, not mine. If I wanted to
dictate the creativity of the music then I would have just done the whole project
by myself, but this is not what I wanted. I wanted each artist to bring their
special talents to give the recording objectivity and diversity. This is what makes
the project very exciting and interesting, because you are getting different
interpretations from each artist perception, this is what I love! So I handled some
editing and post production things, and I oversaw the mastering process because
there are different genres, but the CD still has to sound like the same project.

Jorge Medeiros: How did you first get in touch with Brazilian guitarists?

Vernon Neilly: The first person is my good friend Miguel Mega who has recorded on both of my award
winning, Billboard Top 10 charting "G-Fire" CD's. I contacted Miguel in 2002 at the
referral of one of my friends who loved his music, after listening to his music I
liked it too, so I invited him to play on my CD "G-Fire". We thought that we should
do some shows in Brazil, so Miguel set them up, I came to Brazil for the first time
in 2003 and we did a tour together doing the music from "G-Fire", and his solo CD

I returned a few months later to Brazil for Expo Music and played at
Expo for Tagima, and Peavey Brazil. During this Expo I met Kiko Loureiro, Carlos
Tomati, Edu Ardanuy, Rafael Bittencourt, Frank Solari, Marcelo Barbosa, Silas
Fernandes, Juninho Afram, Faiska, Andre Martins, Felipe Andreoli, Alex Martinho,
Ricky Furlani, Sydnei Carvalho, Big Gilson, Pepeu Gomes, Wander Taffo, Joe Mograbi,
Mozart Mello, and pretty much all of the top guitar players in the Brazilian guitar
community. From there I developed personal relationships with all of these guys,
but especially Kiko, Frank, Tomati, Edu, Rafael, Andre Martins, Marcelo, and of
course Miguel!

Jorge Medeiros: Tell us about your equipment, guitars and effects.

Vernon Neilly: Well I have been playing for many years now and I have many major company
endorsements, both in the US and Brazil so I have lots of equipment. I have several
different set ups for live playing depending on the size of the club or arena.
Mostly though I am using my Meteoro amp (Cristalino) with either my 1978 Mesa
Boogie Simul Class IIC, or my 80's Yamaha TC 100 that was designed by Michael
Soldano, so I am running these amps in stereo, and all of my amps are tubes!

I have
several pedal boards but mostly I am using live the one with my Ernie Ball volume
pedal, my Onerr "Fat Boy"or Morely "Bad Horsie II"wah wah, that goes into my Aphex
optical compressor, into my Seymour Duncan "SFX-03 Twin Tube Classic", into my
modified by Keeley Ibanez TS-9, into my Boss PS-5 harmonizer, into my old Boss CE-2
chorus, into my Electro Harmonix Mini POG, into finally my Digitech Digital Delay,
and Boss DD-6 Delay running stereo out.

I have many guitars but I am using mostly
my "Tagima VN-1" signature guitar that was designed by me, and strings are my
Giannini signature"Power Strings" that were developed for me by Giannini after 2
years of testing, they are great, amazing tone, and they last a long time. If
people want to see more of my gear and guitars they can go to my website and go to my gear gallery. For this Stevie Wonder recording I
am using only my Tagima signature guitar, my Digitech "Talker" for the voice box
sounds, and for soloing my Xotic AC Booster pedal.

Jorge Medeiros: What style are you into in your solo career,as a guitar player?

Vernon Neilly: My style is really diverse because my influences not only on the guitar, but
musically come from classical, rock, metal, R&B, jazz, fusion, pop, so all of these
elements are showing up in my playing. Starting out I listened to a lot of Hendrix,
Jeff Beck, Led Zepplin, Santana, Yes, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, Journey, Van Halen,
Toto, Prince, Earth Wind & Fire, George Benson, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Queen,
Cameo, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Dokken, so you see there
are influences from everywhere. The best way I can describe my music is fusion with
groove, because it takes elements from many musical types and are fused together.

Jorge Medeiros: I think Boosweet Records gives you freedom to create and to record
whatever you like. Can you elaborate on that?

interview pic
Vernon Neilly: Well Jorge, that was the whole purpose when I started my label after being signed to
a major record label deal before, they are always wanting to put you into these
classifications which I really hate. To me there are only two types of music, either
good music or bad music! I do not like a song because it is labeled jazz, or pop, or
metal, punk, if the song moves me whether it is classical, rock, R&B that is what is

So yes, having my own label gives me the creative freedom to be able to
record what I want to record, and this is very important for me. For example this
Stevie Wonder project, if a major label was going to handle it they would not know
how to market it because it is not just one kind of music, but my label has much
experience in doing this now. I think that it is pretty boring to listen to one
style of music from the start of a CD to the end, and you see this in even heavy
metal music where they will incorporate ballads to give the listener a break from
the heavy grind of the guitars, bass and drums, to something softer and more
melodic. Extreme's "More Than Words" is a perfect example of this. I am interested
in music that is creative, that's is full of expression and passion, it does not
matter the genre. I love to work with artist like Kiko Loureiro who understand this
as well, Kiko can shred with the best of them, but listen to "Beautiful Language"
from "No Gravity", Miguel Mega's "Wooded" on the "G-Fire" CD, heavy and breathing
fire, then "Rice And Beans", just taking the listener to a different place.

So I
like to give artist this creative freedom to express their music from their hearts.

Jorge Medeiros: What are the most inspiring things that move you to compose and to play?

Vernon Neilly: There are many things that inspire me, it could be what I heard someone else
playing or singing, it could be a personal experience, the motivation and
inspiration come from many different places. Sometimes I just get an idea from a
certain phrase or riff from the guitar, or sitting down at my piano and playing, it
just varies!