LAST month, Andreas Varady attended his manager Quincy Jones’ 80th birthday party in Las Vegas, met Will Smith and Chris Tucker, and shared a limousine with jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky.
Recently described by Jones as being “possibly the best young guitarist in the world”, Varady will tour Asia this year with Jones’s Global Gumbo All-Stars, and hopes to sign a contract with Verve Music Group.
“You have dreams and then there’s [bigger] dreams. This is one of them. It’s really big,” says Varady, who will sit his Junior Certificate exam in June at St Nessan’s Community College in Limerick.
“I feel like it’s going to be a really good journey because of working with these guys now. I can’t wait. I don’t have any worries really. They signed me because of who I am so I can just be myself.”
At Jones’s party, Varady and his parents Bandi and Beata rubbed shoulders with Whoopi Goldberg, Patti Austin and Michael Caine, and Varady performed Quincyology, a song he composed for Jones’s birthday.
“It was amazing. It was like a dream when we went to Vegas, I felt like we were in a film. When we were sitting with all the big stars and celebrities, I had to ask my husband ‘How did we get here?’” says Varady’s mother, Beata.
“The times have changed for Andreas now. Every month he’s developing. When we signed an agreement with Quincy, everything changed very quickly. He’s immediately with all the big celebrities. His career went from [down] here to [up] there,” she gestures.
In his music room at his home in Limerick, Varady shows me a cabinet of souvenirs and awards that he has collected over the past few years. There are awards, bundles of programmes from festivals he has played at, neat folders of newspaper clippings, and even a Bobble-Head Ray from a recent appearance on the Ray D’arcy radio show.
“My mum’s crazy about collecting things like fliers from the festivals and newspapers from the beginning,” says Andreas, showing me a mini statue of Liberty that he collected after winning a scholarship to attend summer school in Skidmore College, New York.
Having moved to Ireland with his family from Slovakia in 2007, Varady has enjoyed huge success. Largely self-taught, he started busking with his father, Bandi on the the streets of Limerick and Cork, before Irish drummer Dave Lyttle noticed him on YouTube and began to mentor him. The duo collaborated on Varady’s debut album Questions, which reached number three on the iTunes charts. Since then, he has played at gigs all over the world including the Montreux jazz festival, appeared on the cover of Guitar Player magazine, and was the youngest person ever to headline at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.
In 2012, he moved to Germany with his family for 10 months to work with a German booking agent, and they have tentative plans to relocate to Los Angeles later this year.
“I love Ireland very much but the record label and management are in LA. It’s hard to do a 10-hour flight every time there’s a business meeting,” he says.
Still performing in the Andreas Varady trio (with his 11-year-old drummer brother, Adrian, and his father), Varady’s earliest influences were Django Reinhardt, George Benson and John Coltrane. His tastes have changed to include Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Common and Justin Timberlake, and he describes his own compositions as being a mixture of “modern jazz and hip hop”.
“My influences are not just jazz musicians. I like every musician, from rock guitar to jazz players,” he says.
“I only practice when I want to practice, which is actually all the time,” says Varady, who composes songs and records them on his phone before showing them to his father and brother.
Like any teenager, Varady is obsessed with his phone, tweeting and using Instagram daily. He loves fashion and styling his spiky hair, playing video games and basketball, and watching non-stop episodes of Everybody Hates Chris . He shows me his Spalding Limited Edition Chicago Bulls basketball, and gets excited when RTÉ follows him on Twitter. Currently studying for his Junior Cert, he is kept firmly grounded by his brother and sister.
“They say ‘don’t flatter yourself’ when I come back from playing a concert,” he laughs.
“Andreas is ok, he’s fine. He’s the same as when he started. He’s just a lucky boy, he was in a good place at a good time,” says his mother, Beata, who is looking forward to the imminent move to LA. “I’m really excited and would love to live there. I think it will be easier for Andreas.”
There are sounds of giggling from the kitchen, where Adrian, Bandi and Andreas sit watching the ice hockey world cup.
“I knew that Andreas was going to be something special. He must be a big star because he was born for that and he has worked so hard.
“He’s not doing it because I want him to play music. He can’t live without his guitar. It’s part of his life.”
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