Michael Lee Firkins (born May 19, 1967) is an American electric guitar player, whose sound fuses bluegrass, country, blues, and jazz elements, into his distorted rock sound. He is noted amongst guitarists for his prolific use of hybrid picking at high speeds.
Michael Lee Firkins
|Born||May 19, 1967|
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Genres||Bluegrass, country, blues, jazz, rock|
|Labels||Shrapnel, Nuerra Records, Magna Carta|
Firkins was born in 1967, in Omaha, Nebraska, to musician parents; his father was a lap steel guitarist and his mother a pianist. He started playing acoustic guitar at age eight. Though mostly self-taught, he also took lessons at a local Omaha music store. Learning the songs of the times, Firkins was influenced by the guitar stylings of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath.
By 1979, Firkins had a Gibson SG and a Fender Princeton Reverb. Now wielding an electrified tone, he played in local bands and in church from the age of 12 until 18. In 1985, Firkins started touring the country in cover bands. Unsatisfied with only playing other artists' songs, he eventually went back to Omaha and began teaching guitar.
For the next few years, Firkins's musical influences were expanding. Virtuosos like Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Albert Lee and Danny Gatton were among the list of new favorites. As Firkins continued to enhance his chops, he recorded a five-song demo [recorded at rainbow recording Studios Omaha] of instrumental guitar tunes that showcased his guitar playing. The demo was sent to Shrapnel Records, resulting in a record contract and subsequent release of his first album.
In 1990, Firkins released his self-titled debut album. This release showcased Firkins's encyclopedic knowledge of bluegrass and country licks. With the strength of this album and the help of an international advertising campaign from Yamaha guitars to promote the company's Pacifica models, Firkins's first release sold more than 100,000 copies. This well-received album also landed him the top spot in the category of “Best New Talent” in a readers' poll in Guitar Player magazine that year. He was also hailed as “One of the Most Influential Players of the Next Ten Years” by Guitar for the Practicing Musician. Firkins's music was also popular in Europe, as Firkins won the Edison Award, which is the equivalent of a Grammy in the Netherlands.
Firkins went on to release three more records for the Shrapnel label. His sound would go on to incorporate even more diverse music styles, specifically jazz, as shown in a cover of Duke Ellington's “The Mooche” on Firkins' third album, Chapter Eleven. Cactus Cruz was his last recording for Shrapnel in 1996.
In 1997, Firkins recorded Decomposition for Nuerra Records. An album composed of covers, Firkins pays tribute to some of his earlier influences, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix.
In the early 2000s, he teamed up with fellow virtuoso guitarist Gabriel Moses for a side project titled "Dose Amigos" which has been most frequently compared to the likes of Tenacious D. Both guitarists incorporated elements of bluegrass and heavy metal at extremely high speeds, with humorous themes. The project showcased Firkins and Gabriel's original technique of emulating a slide guitar with the use of the tremolo arm.