Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 4:00 pm | Fair 77º


Sounds of Rising Star Haddon Cord Resonate with Legendary Guitarist

The 18-year-old Santa Barbara resident will perform Friday at the Lobero Theatre with her producer and mentor Carl Verheyen

For a young, up-and-coming musician, when guitar legend Carl Verheyen — best known as the guitarist for legendary British rock juggernaut Supertramp — jumps in your musical corner as your producer, it’s sort of tantamount to Burgess Meredith agreeing to train Sylvester Stallone in Rocky.

In other words, you know that you’re getting a comprehensive schooling from someone who has been around the block a time or two, has a keen eye for talent and who isn’t going to pull any punches.

That is the situation in which 18-year-old Santa Barbara resident Haddon Cord finds herself. And with the biggest concert of her life looming large at the Lobero Theatre this Friday, the rising star says she is ready to come out swinging.

With a sound that is a self-described “happy medium between pop-rock and country” (a la Taylor Swift), the talented songstress and graduate of Cate School in Carpinteria remains confident in her decision to take a year off after high school to focus on her music career.

“I was set to go to school at Sarah Lawrence College last year in New York, but I decided that I really wanted to take a year off to follow my dreams,” the Boise, Idaho, native said. “It was a very intense decision, because no one else that I knew was doing what I was doing, so it was a gamble, but I just knew that for my own peace and happiness, I had to go for it.”

So far, the gamble has paid off, according to Cord.

“I cannot tell you how happy I am that I did this, because I have come so far already, and I know that I will never have any regrets about it,” she said.

Of course, when Verheyen is your producer, going for it is less of a gamble and more of an informed career path.

Verheyen has been playing guitar for 40 years, and he has been a member of Supertramp for 26 years. He has released more than 10 studio albums with his eponymous band. He has been named one of the top 10 guitarists in the world by Guitar Magazine. Every time he’s on the road with one of his bands, Verheyen says he’s handed a half-dozen demo CDs, most of which are comic fodder for the tour bus sound system.

But there was something about Cord’s sound that caught the attention of the multifaceted music man.

“It was the songs themselves,” said Verheyen, who performed as a featured soloist at the 2009 Academy Awards. “The songs seemed to be coming from a real place, lyrically, but I also felt a depth there that you don’t hear a lot these days, and that was nice as well.”

For Cord, that depth began at a very young age. When she was just 5 years old, Britney Spears burst onto the pop scene to set the precedent for everything that the distaff teenager dreamed of being someday.

“I became obsessed with Britney Spears, and wore little belly shirts like her … I just wanted to be her,” she said.

Her sophomore year in high school, Cord began plucking her first guitar, and things seemed to fall into place from there. During her senior year, she played a coffeehouse-style gig in front of a crowd of high school peers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. From that point on, Cord knew that creating music and performing in front of crowds of screaming fans was what she was born to do.

At 7:30 p.m. this Friday at the Lobero, Cord has the opportunity to live the dream that she has nursed since childhood — to be a rock star on a big stage. In a benefit concert for the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s Keep the Beat program, she will open for the Carl Verheyen Band, and rumor has it that as an encore, Verheyen and his band plan to join Cord on stage for a comprehensive demonstration of her burgeoning musical chops. Verheryen sees it as a privilege to help an incipient group of artists make their mark in the right way.

“I believe that the next generation should really be encouraged, and we should really get them out there playing, and getting that feedback musically,” he said. “They should be playing instruments rather than typing on the computer.”

Cord says she draws inspiration from The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and even George Gershwin, leaving the classically trained ballerina with a tuneful pedigree that far exceeds her years.

Cord and Verheyen recently completed a four-song EP, which will go on sale Friday at the duo’s concert at the Lobero. While opening for a prolific rock-and-roll legend like Verheyen is certainly an impressive coming out party, both Cord and Verheyen maintain that it is just the beginning.

“After you have your fun in the studio, then you have to concentrate on what I like to call the ‘now what’ factor,” Verheyen said. “So, I think that’s the next step for Haddon: She has to realize that the hard work starts now.”

Cord seems to understand her mentor’s admonition quite well.

“I just hope that people connect with my music. I’m not stopping anytime soon, that’s for sure; I’m going full throttle,” she said. “Hopefully people will be hearing more from me very soon.”

Click here for information and tickets to Friday’s show.

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributing writer.

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