I remember back in 2008 when ‘Guitar Idol’ was first announced – it was marketed as the world’s top event for instrumental guitarists to perform, gain exposure, and launch a career in the music industry. I was 18 at the time, and thought it was the coolest thing ever! I even submitted an entry to the competition, but unfortunately, did not progress to the finals. Although I’d always remain aware of Guitar Idol, I kind of wrote off my own prospects of ever getting all the way to the world finals.
After I released my instrumental album, I ended up shooting a couple of ‘playthrough’ videos – essentially, guitar-based music videos of the songs. Not long after I finished this project, I noticed that Guitar Idol was being set up for another round. I thought “what the heck,” and submitted my video, figuring that since I had already gone through the trouble of producing it, I might as well give it a shot!
Months passed, and I figured my video had simply gotten lost among the thousands of entrants. In October 2018, imagine my surprise when I was messaged on Facebook to find that I had been selected as one of the Top-7 finalists, and invited to perform at the live final in London, England! This was huge. I had never dreamed my playing would ever reach a platform of this level. I excitedly said yes, and booked my travel. I had never even been to England before, so the prospect of travelling all the way around the world, to perform instrumental music that I had composed, was absolutely mind-blowing.
After getting settled at our hotel, we arrived at the 100 Club on Oxford Street, in London for the live final. The 100 Club is a historic underground venue, that has seen the likes of AC/DC, Metallica, and many others perform there. I had a chance to chat with the other 6 finalists – Diego Godoy, Dimas Andrade, Francisco Torres, Paolo Zorba, and Caca Barros (Carlos Arcay was the 7th finalist, but unfortunately could not make it). All of them we incredibly nice people as well as great musicians.
When my name got announced to perform my tune, I was very nervous. I briefly introduced myself as Matt from Canada, and made an awkward joke about having trekked through the snow to make it to the live final, which drew some scattered (perhaps sympathetic) chuckles. My song, despite being 7 minutes in duration, seemed to be over in seconds. I scurried off the stage, still in disbelief that I’d made it to such an event. The night was capped off with an amazing set by Saints of Arcadia, the band of head Guitar Idol judge Nick Jennison. Seeing him perform was an absolute display of virtuosity, and very inspiring. After the set, all of the 6 finalists got on stage to improvise lead solos with Nick, and judges Lee Wrathe and Phil Short (the previous year’s winner). An amazing end to an amazing night. The winner was announced, and it was Paolo Zorba from Brazil. A well-deserved win, and while it felt a bit deflating initially to have travelled the world and lost, I counted myself genuinely lucky for the experience. Two days later, we trekked back to Vancouver, Canada.
The Guitar Idol experience was absolutely a career and personal milestone, and while I didn’t bring home the hardware, I am very excited for what lies in store for the future!