When contacted for a phone interview one day last month, acoustic guitarist Michael Gulezian had been up all night answering more than 400 “happy birthday” greetings on Facebook. It was important to him to respond to each and every one.
“It’s a sweet problem to have,” meeting and making a personal connection with many of his fans, he said.
Gulezian returns to Moab on Saturday, July 25, to perform a concert at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North. Local musician Scott Ibex will open the show, which is sponsored by KZMU Community Radio.
Gulezian is known for his solo acoustic instrumental guitar-playing and was the youngest artist ever signed to the legendary Takoma Records, which was founded by one of his mentors, the late fingerstyle guitarist John Fahey.
Although famous for his instrumental music, Gulezian later began adding lyrics to his songs, and started singing at his performances to engage more with his audiences, he said.
Whether it’s an instrumental piece or a song with lyrics, Gulezian’s music is open to personal interpretation, he said. Even a familiar song may sound new because of Gulezian’s arrangement of the tune – “it’s like hearing it for the first time,” he said.
Ninety-five percent of what he plays is original material, Gulezian said.
“Some songs just come to me, from start to finish,” he said. “It’s like a gift from God. One minute there’s nothing, 10 minutes later there’s a gorgeous song that I didn’t write. All I did was receive it.”
Gulezian grew up in Arizona after his Armenian parents moved from the East Coast when he was 6. His family surrounded him with music.
“My mom would sing Armenian folk songs around the house all the time. She had a beautiful voice,” Gulezian said. His dad was a musicologist who often played music from different parts of the world, and from various time periods.
Gulezian began teaching himself to play guitar when he was 6 years old. As a teenager, Gulezian listened to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, rock 'n' roll, a little country and a lot of bluegrass. He’s a big fan of Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss; Michael Hedges and Fahey are also huge influences.
Gulezian will soon release his seventh album – not including compilations or collaborations – as an independent artist.
“So there will be a lot of music that no one has ever heard before,” Gulezian said of his upcoming Moab concert.
Although he's world-renowned as a top-notch classical guitarist, concertgoers can expect to hear a variety of sounds on Saturday.
“Sometimes it’s really driving, almost like a rock energy I bring to the solo guitar,” while other songs are inspired by nature, Gulezian said.
“I grew up in the West; when I stop on a bluff, the sky opens up, the dry desert wind has an eternal quality that gets into the music. A lot of my music is influenced by landscapes of the American West.”
Ibex considers him to be one of the world’s best guitarists.
“Michael Gulezian has been one of my biggest musical influences,” he said. “The opportunity to perform with him is a real life dream come true. His ability to fuse soul with technical mastery – it’s absolutely spellbinding. It’s high art.”
Ibex said his own solo acoustic songs tend to feature techniques that blend tonal harmonics, percussion, fingerstyle and slide guitar.
“The best thing about solo acoustic music is the experimental and creative fusion that the genre encourages,” Ibex said. “Artists like Michael and myself are always pushing the envelope.”