Songwriter Profile: Quinn Sullivan

A Gracious Talent, Buddy Guy’s Protégé

Guitar phenom Quinn Sullivan has transformed from Buddy Guy’s protОgО at just eight years old, reemerging with his new album Wide Awake, following an 18-month “covid cocoon.” Sullivan’s first record in three years showcases his evolution into a bonafide pop artist and songwriter, with performances set to kick off this month.

 Raised in New Bedford, MA with music-loving parents— including an experienced drummer for a father—Sullivan was immersed in the sounds of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. Picking up his first guitar at age three, he began visiting his local zoo to play along with The Toe Jam Puppet Band each week. Regular guitar lessons began at five and Sullivan performed live at a local radio station at age six.

Sullivan first learned of Buddy Guy on a DVD of the Crossroads Guitar Festival (a birthday gift from his father) and was blown away by his showmanship and presence, insisting on seeing him when he came to town. Backstage and hoping for Guy to sign his Squier Stratocaster, he was asked if he could play it, resulting in Guy calling him on stage to play the last half hour of the show. Sullivan has been leaving jaws on the floor ever since, admitting that, “When you're eight years old, you don't really understand how impactful that's going to be. I look back on it now and I realize that was the moment that propelled me on.”

Continuing to sit in on Guy’s shows, Guy asked eight-year-old Sullivan to play on the Skin Deep album, and he toured as Guy’s opening act, playing his own sets at the Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits festivals at age 10. By 12, Sullivan had released his debut album on Guy’s label, working alongside producer Tom Hambridge. Crediting Hambridge with his artist development, song creation and overall guidance, Sullivan worked with him on his first three albums (Cyclone, Getting There and Midnight Highway, the latter reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Blues Chart). Sullivan has also performed with Carlos Santana, B.B. King and Joe Bonamassa, and has played the Crossroads, Mahindra Blues and Montreux Jazz Festivals.

With a refreshing humility and passionate dedication to his craft, the greatest gift along Sullivan’s journey (apart from mentorship from Buddy Guy) has been his parents’ strategic pacing of his career. Hitting the talk show circuit at a very young age, they took time to let him develop naturally, allowing Sullivan the space to get more comfortable, rather than getting overwhelmed by the industry machine. “A lot of people ask me what it felt like being in front of a massive audience and playing at such a young age,” says Sullivan. He shared that it all happened very gradually and “felt very normal. Every year increasingly got better, but there was not a lot of pressure added on.”

Sullivan’s latest project was co-written with his new producer, Oliver Leiber. “I really started to become a songwriter over the last 18 months,” reveals Sullivan. “Once I lived a little life and was able to study it, I started to come up with melodies and lyrical ideas.” Always trying to develop and get better, Sullivan is proud of getting to showcase more of himself as a solo artist, wanting to put all his influences together to create his own sound, while remaining “very deeply grateful for people I've met, shared the stage and played with over the years—it shapes you as a person and musician.

“I couldn't be an asshole when I was 10 because my parents wouldn't have let me act that way,” says Sullivan. “I really didn't have any space, or time, or energy to act that way. I always had to be on my toes and I think that's a very healthy way to be.” Observing Guy and Santana delivering 150% every night and giving the audience what they came for, regardless of the day they were having, Sullivan stresses how important it is to “keep that sort of humility and always remain grounded.”

Contact Jon Bleicher, Prospect PR, [email protected]

Experience Quinn Sullivan at quinnsullivanmusic.com