On the Back Porch with Blues Prodigy Tallan Latz

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Tallan Noble Latz is the 11 year old blues guitar prodigy who’s star just shines brighter with every passing month. We first caught wind of Tallan’s growing greatness years ago when he was packing Wisconsin bars at every gig he played. Since that time, he’s shared the stage with guitar virtuosos from Buddy Guy to Joe Bonamassa to the late, great Les Paul himself. He was featured in the youth showcase at the International Blues Challenge, he’s made an appearance on America’s Got Talent, and has been on Rachel Ray, The Early Show, The Today Show, and BBC… just to name a few! Tallan is one of those rare souls who’s talent and charisma is well beyond his age, and we were thrilled to have a seat and chat with him!

So you just got back from Texas, right?

Yeah, it was Dallas, Texas!

Tallan Latz on America's Got Talent
Tallan Latz on America's Got Talent

Cool. how was it?

It was very fun. I think that was my 3rd or 4th time being down there.  What we did down there was shoot some instructional videos for kids. Well, I shouldn’t say just for kids, but really for anybody who wanted to learn how to play the guitar.

How’d it go??

It went really good. We were a week down there so…

I’ve been watching you for years, since somebody was telling me about this 7 or 8 year old kid that was playing blues and blowing people away up in Wisconsin, and I’ve been curious for years… How’d you get into the blues?

Well, since my father and my mother really listen to classic rock like Led Zeppelin, stuff like that, and they really never knew about Stevie Ray Vaughan and stuff. and I guess you could say god told me that -well somehow I got into the blues all from God. God told me.

Hey, that’s cool! So what inspired you? Did you just pick up a guitar one day? How’d you learn?

Well, what inspired me… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen G3? With Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Well, I saw Joe Satriani playing and I thought “well if a grown up can do it, maybe a kid can do it!” So I turned around to my dad and said “dad that’s exactly what I want to do.” And ever since then I’ve been playing guitar.

Hey, man that is awesome. So how old were you when that happened?

I was about five. No, I got a drumset at 3 but after a couple of days they were toast because I played the heck out of them. Then at four or four and a half I was playing a miniature sized guitar? Like an acoustic guitar? And I filled that guitar all up with stickers and you can still see where I wore it out. I played that a lot.  That’s what I had at four. Then for Easter, I had three choices: an electric guitar, a remote control boat or a new bicycle and I chose the guitar!

Cool.

Just imagine where I’d be if I chose the remote control boat or the bike!

You’d probably be a world class biker, I guess!

Or I could be in BMX or something.

So you said you saw Satriani and got inspired to play…. Have you ever met him?

Actually, yes! I’ve met him twice. The first time was right down in Illinois, and we have a friend, Louie Zagoras, who back in the day, played with him.

So did you tell him this?

Yeah! And he was old buddies with him and somehow we got to go and I got to meet him. I have an Ibanez, one of his guitars, one of the signature models. I got him to sign it and stuff and it was really cool! He was a very humble dude.

Did you get a chance to tell him that he was your inspiration? What did he have to say about that?

Yeah, I said “Hey, man you got me started and I watched you on G3. I follow you on there and I watch you on Youtube!” then he’s like “I watch you on Youtube too!!!!”

How’d that make you feel!?

Pretty good!

So I know not just Satriani, but I know you’ve met and played with some of your biggest heroes, which is pretty much a dream cone true for almost anybody. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

OK, well, I’ll tell you a few of them. The first one was Walter Trout. I was playing at the time, on a Strat, an old beat up one and stuff. He was just playing in Rockford [Illinois], which was about two hours away from us. And we just popped in, and I met him and he was in the back room before a show. And then I  got to play with him and we jammed to a song that I still play with him today! So I got to play with him, and if you ever see the guitar, on the back of the headstock, I’ve got his signature.

Then, there was another one. I got to play with the late great mister Les Paul.  That was on his 93rd birthday. What happened, was there is this place called Discovery World, which is right next to the art museum in Milwaukee. But they contacted us about doing something for Les Paul, because they were having an exhibit. And they brought us in the first time to look around and stuff, and I did a TV interview for the upcoming Les Paul event. We went back when Les Paul came into town, because at the time he wasn’t, and I got to meet Les Paul! Then Les had me play some for him and he says “you passed”, because I think it was supposed to be a little audition and he says “you passed”. So I got to play with him for the Les Paul 93rd birthday party.

Wow! Nice!

Tallan Latz on the Early Show
Tallan Latz speaking on the Early Show

Yeah, it was awesome! It was on TV and stuff, and if you look closely, I was actually the only one from Wisconsin on there. All of the other players were based out of New York or New Jersey, because he was based out of New Jersey. And actually, a funny story, we went to New York for a TV spot. While walking around NYC we were looking for the place Les Paul played at every Monday? I can’t remember the name of it… [The Iridium Jazz Club, NYC]. Funny thing is, we went to a diner, ate, and when my dad asked where it was they said “Yeah! Come with me! It’s actually right downstairs!” So we got to go see where Les Paul played, checked out the place and went back to the hotel. And it turns out, we missed him by a day. I think we came on a Tuesday and he went on on a Monday.

Then I got to play with Jackson Brown, Johnny Lang. Another story was, the Today Show was doing a thing on me and they did bits and pieces of us at our house and clips and stuff of me playing and me doing what I would do on my free time, because I have this mini chopper that I ride and stuff. So they showed me riding on that and they showed a clip of me and Buddy Guy playing! They had him doing an interview and stuff, and next after that was Johnny Lang, and so he was there and I got to play with him on his bus! That was really cool for me.

So who was the most fun to play with out of everybody?

I’d have to say they were all real fun, but I couldn’t choose one. But they were very fun to play with.

That’s fair! Can you tell me about your biggest influences? And how they’ve made an impact on you?

OK, well some of my influences are Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Frank Marino, Johnny Lang, Eric Clapton, Albert Cummins, Walter Trout, Anthony Gomes and Chris Duarte.

Then, like, Chad from Nickelback and Joe Bonamassa. The list just goes on and on.

Sure, sure. So what have you learned from these guys?

Well, to stay humble and don’t get a chip on your shoulder and stuff.

So I’ve seen a lot of videos of you playing on TV and you’ve got this really cool blues-hard rock thing going on that just blows away the crowds. Tell me about what makes your style “work”, so to speak? What makes you you?

I have to say, when I pick up the guitar, it just brings me into a whole other world. I mean, I have a black out. I can see stuff, but I just kind of black out. I imagine I have nobody there and I’m just playing for one person when I’m really playing for everyone. And I just play and do my best. It comes from the heart and it also comes from God.

That’s cool. I like that. So you competed on America’s Got Talent not long ago… You’ve been on the Today Show — even Rachel Ray! Everybody, it seems like, wants to know what’s going on with Tallan Latz! Tell me a little about your experiences lately!

Well, I’ve been on a lot of TV shows, such as America’s Got Talent, Bonnie Hunt Show, Rachel Ray, the Early Show, the Today Show, WGN (a local thing in Chicago). I’ve been on a few shows up here and I mean, I’ve been on a lot of TV shows!

The first time I went on a TV show, I got nervous. I wasn’t familiar with the TV business, and the first time you always get a little nervous. But when I played on, for instance, WGN; That would have been one of my first shows and I didn’t really know what to do so I just played and got interviewed and, you know, did my best on it! It was a little nerve wracking at first but I got through it.

What have you been doing since? You mentioned that you’ve been doing videos to help folks learn guitar and stuff like that. Tell me about your projects? What have you been up to?

Well, I just got done shooting some instructional videos for a company called Dangerous Guitar. They are an online guitar instruction website, my videos will be live in April at dangerousguitars.com We also put together with them a new series called the Young Guns Instructional Series that will be books and DVD’s, that will be out later this year.

I also just got back from a tour of Denmark.  I was over there and got to perform at 3 festivals while I was there.  It was an awesome experience.

I also just got done putting together an all new band for this year and we’re getting ready to head into the studio to record a CD.  Things are exciting right now.

So tell me! You’re 11 now… What do you want to see in the future with your music? Where do you want to go with this?

Well, I want to do this for the rest of my life and keep this the only job I’ll ever have to do!

Pretty plain and simple! “I don’t want to do nothin’ else!” So tell me about the blues, man! Tell me about the blues!

Well I certainly do like it, but I should say I’m kind of guitar-driven blues, so I do a little rock and blues at the same time. We do it combined. So at beginning of my set it starts blusey and the end of the set, it gets more rock.

I like the blues these days. I’m really like a fan of the old delta blues and stuff. Robert Johnson, or have you ever heard of Eric Sardinas? I’m a fan of his. That’s old delta blue style and stuff. I really like the old stuff… some of the new stuff too, but if you kind of combine them together you get something really cool. I mean, I listen to a lot of things, like I’ll listen to a little Robert Johnson. I play “Crossroads” by him. And, I also like to play a little southern rock like Skynyrd. “Simple Man”. But really, blues these days, I mean I’m sure enjoying it!

Gosh, you’re an unusual case, in a really really good way! People your age don’t tend to like the blues, and you’re talking Robert Johnson and if someone would play that for a lot of ten, eleven year olds they’d think you were crazy!

I think that it’s because, well, I just like the blues because of what the feeling brings and how you can just fall away and do stuff, like create your own -You get your own feeling in the blues. And I mean in rock, if you look, everything that came out of music really came from the blues. And, I think kids don’t like it because not many kids will listen to it a lot.

Yeah, some of my friends will like hip hop and pop. I mean, I’m a fan of pop. I’ll listen to a bit of it, but they’ll go from pop, metal, rock country and not really much are in like… ok, I haven’t heard one that’s into the blues.

You’re smart, dude.

Ha! Thank you very much.

So what else do you like to do, Tallan? Besides guitar?

I like to play basketball. I’ll play football in school and it’s two hand touch football. I’ll go fishing, but I haven’t gone ice fishing yet again this year. I’ll go biking and stuff.   I like to shoot my bow and guns. And I’ll watch the Military Channel. My favorite division is the Marines, and I know a friend that is in the reserve Marines and he gets deployed in 2012. He’s armed with an M-16 machine gun and a 9mm. He says the gun is like 26, 27 pounds without any ammunition in it, and once you add the ammunition, you multiply that and it’s almost 50 pounds! And you’re running and walking with that. Man, I would hate to be in that Platoon!

So what do you think about what all these people are saying about you? They say you’re a prodigy and an amazing guitarist… What do you think about all of this exposure you’re getting?

Well, I do enjoy it and I wouldn’t call myself a prodigy. I’d leave that up to the people, but I do enjoy it. And it’s very fun.

You’re doing things a lot of people of any age still can’t do and that’s cool. Real cool. You’re somebody that a lot of people look up to, and in that respect… what advice do you have for people who are starting out or trying to get better?

Well, no matter what you do, follow your dreams and don’t let anybody tell you what’s right or wrong. Follow your heart and do whatever your heart tells you. Don’t let anybody tell you what’s wrong or right.

Also, I was gonna say… Follow your dreams. And whatever it is, from music to sports to business, or whatever it is, do whatever your heart tells you.

Tallan, it was just great talking to you. We’ve been following you for a lot of years and we’re happy to be talking to you! We’ve got a lot of faith in what you’re doing. Thanks a lot for talking with us.

Yeah I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with me. It was very good talking to you, too!

For more information about Tallan, please visit: www.tallanlatz.com

 

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