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Sound Circuit

Guitar gods

7/30/2014

James Biehn will perform at Covered Bridges Winery in Winterset on Aug. 2.

James Biehn will perform at Covered Bridges Winery in Winterset on Aug. 2.

It doesn’t matter what profession you’re talking about, whether it’s sports or roofing or writing or sales, every successful person can be broken down into two categories: those who became successful because they flat-out worked harder then everyone around, and those who seem to pick things up naturally — the people who are born to do what they do. For the ones who are so goddamn gifted at it, the thought of them doing anything else is ridiculous. It’s easy to see which category James Biehn falls into.

“I think it all comes down to being wired for what you do,” he said. “I read interviews with some really technically gifted guitar players and read stories about them working eight hours a day on projects, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy really deserves it more than I do.’ ”

Biehn practices, of course. He works hard at what he does and has earned every bit of success and accolade that has come his way. But it’s easy to see that he also simply views the guitar in ways that 99 percent of us never will.

“I have understood the guitar way more than anything I ever have in my life,” he agreed.

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Biehn started playing guitar in earnest when he was 12. His parents had tried getting him involved in the instrument much earlier in life, but it didn’t take. Few things do at that age, no matter how naturally gifted.

“My parents (got me lessons) when I was 5, and that lasted about a month,” he recalled. “I remember the guitar instructor getting upset because I wasn’t practicing. But I was 5, you know?”

It didn’t take much longer for Biehn to come around, however. And it was on the final day of his sixth grade year that a high school talent show sparked what would become Biehn’s life-long passion.

“I saw these kids playing on stage,” he said. “They played “Wipeout” and “Tequila.” And it was like, ‘I’ve got to at least try this.’ ”

He picked up the guitar that summer and hasn’t put it down. Like most young men, he cut his teeth on classic rock and guitar-driven power numbers (he still counts Aerosmith as his favorite band), but his influences can be traced to six-string deities from Santana to Trey Anastasio.

“For me,” he said, “it’s just been about listening to so many great players, and whatever has stuck, stuck. When I play, I can still hear the echos of what I grew up on.” CV

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