This early exposure to the difficult musical idiom of bluegrass allowed Andy to develop his phenomenal technique and superb all-around musicianship. Andy played in a family bluegrass trio that traveled to different festivals where he was always surrounded by great players.
Andy fondly remembers those days and states, “It’s funny, but I actually still consider mandolin my main instrument.” Constant musical activity soon had Andy participating in various bluegrass and country music competitions and winning the top prize wherever he went. At the age of 16, Andy finished second at the world championship mandolin contest in Winfield, Kansas.
It wasn’t until two years later that Andy took up the electric guitar. Although having played the acoustic guitar besides the mandolin, the electric guitar was a whole new instrument but Andy took to it like fish to water and soon Andy was playing along to songs that featured studio legends like Mike Landau, Dan Huff, Brent Mason, and John Jorgenson.
It wasn’t until Andy was 20 that he started becoming aware of rock virtuosos such as Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. The musically curious and open-minded Andy took in the music and playing of these great players and started to incorporate these influences into his own developing style and sound.
Starting his session career at the age of 18 on the acoustic guitar and the mandolin, it wasn’t too long before Andy started getting calls for his electric work. Andy reflects on those days: “I was totally in the dark when it came to rock guys like Satch and Vai and that style of music. On the other hand, I had already been playing Django Reinhardt and Charlie Parker tunes, so I came up very backwards compared to most guitar players.”
At the age of 22, mere 4 years after taking up the electric guitar, Andy entered the Guitarmeggadon national guitar competition that was sponsored by the mega music retail chain Guitar Center. Needless to say, Andy won the competition amongst a field of some 3400 contestants. Andy adds: “It’s funny; I didn’t even want to enter. My buddies entered me as a joke. I was lucky enough to beat out over 3400 good guitarists.”
With about $10,000 of the prize money from winning this mega competition, Andy felt it was his duty to thank the one person who got him started on music and made him into the player he is today. Andy spent the prize money to get a custom-made Martin D-45 acoustic guitar for his grandfather. For Andy, he still didn’t feel it was enough: “I still don’t think there is anything I can do that will ever show my gratitude towards him for showing me how to play.”
Shortly after winning the contest, Andy became a founding member of the band Down From Up - a modern heavy rock outfit based in Knoxville, Tennessee. The band recently released its first album titled ‘From Ashes To Empire” and immediately went on tour to support the album opening up for 10 Years (Universal/Republic). Other credits in Andy’s career include touring with various acts ranging from country artist Billy Dean to Christian metal band Disciple. Andy has just released his debut solo instrumental record that features renowned guest artists such as Jeff Sipe, Stu Hamm, Adam Nitti, and Lester Estelle. The broad range of genres covered include fusion, rock, metal, and acoustic bluegrass.
Edited by JP7Nomad on 28 Jan 2010, 02:00
Suhr’s bio on their website
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