Today for all Dire Straits fans we have an amazing interview with Wes Leurs, a young guitarist, singer, and songwriter who can inspire you to start your own music career. However, we communicated with him, and he told us great stuff about him and his career. Down below are all the questions from the interview that we did with Wes and his music story, we share with all the fans, also here are some videos that Wes made it. Enjoy!
Can you tell us something about yourself, who is Wes Leurs?
My name is Wes Leurs and I am a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and big Mark Knopfler fan. I am currently studying to become a primary school teacher. But my biggest hobby is music.
How old are you, where do you live and where are you from?
I am 18 years old and, I am from The Netherlands. Born and raised in a town called Elst, and I am still living there.
Are you a professional musician and do you have a music career?
No, I am making music purely because I love to do it. I write and record my own songs at home, and put them online for you to listen to. I would love to make a full studio record one day and just see how that will work out. But currently, I am just performing with my band called ‘Stone Edge’. We have some gigs from time to time and we rehearse every week but for now, it is nothing big.
When and why did you start playing?
I believe that was in 2010, my dad would play some little tunes on his guitar from time to time. And one day I asked him if he could teach me a few chords and so he did. From that day on I took the guitar up to my room and just started to practice and play songs.
What instruments do you play?
The main guitar I use for playing live, recording, and practicing is my black Fender California Stratocaster from 1998. I own two acoustic guitars, one red Fender Sonoran on which I write a lot of my songs and a Yamaha APX-6 on which I learned and practiced a lot when I just started.
What was the first tune(s) you learned?
I believe one of the first tunes I learned was ‘Malted Milk’ by Eric Clapton. I heard some cover of it somewhere, so I looked it up. That was the first time I was actually listening to the blues. It got me in a certain way so I started playing the licks and the solo Clapton plays.
We can see from the videos that you are a really good guitarist, when and where did you learn to play guitar?
Thank you very much! Basically, I am self-taught. My father taught me a few chords but from then on it was all practicing and learning by myself. Looking at live versions of my favorite songs and paying attention to what the guitarist plays. Through that way, I learned the most.
Which famous musicians have you learned from?
Obviously, my biggest inspiration is Mark Knopfler. I always fingerpicked on my acoustic guitar, and when I borrowed an electric guitar (which is now mine) I noticed that the acoustic songs I played didn’t translate that well on an electric. But then my dad let me listen to ‘Sultans of Swing’, and boy that was a turning point for me.
I listened to it for days and watched the famous ‘Alchemy’ version, which blew me away. I looked very carefully at what Mark was playing and just tried to replicate it. He fingerpicked on his electric guitar and that worked enormously good. So that is basically where my love for Dire Straits started.
From then on I started to learn almost every Dire Straits song and even the songs from Mark Knopfler’s solo career. I saw him twice during his Tracker tour in 2015. That was an amazing experience. Other musicians that I have learned a lot from are J.J Cale, Eric Clapton, and John Mayer.
Who are your musical influences?
The artists I mentioned above are definitely my musical influences, you can hear a lot of their influences in my own playing and my songs. But I am also a big fan of Randy Newman. He is a brilliant songwriter and an amazing piano player. Unfortunately, I can’t play piano that good, but he absolutely influenced me by his satiric writing. I wrote a song called ‘My Life On The Farm’ in which I tried to write like Newman. He gets into this character he created and let the character speak through the song. A thing that Knopfler does often as well…So I guess you could say every musician that I like leaves a mark somewhere in my own music.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Next to writing songs, playing guitar, playing with the band, and listening to music, I like to spend time with my friends and my girlfriend.
Do you perform in public?
Yes, from time to time I play in bars and pubs with my band. Which is great fun. We like to get out more often and get our music out there but now it is just pubs.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I would say the best thing to do at that moment is laugh at it, go on, and try to do it better next time. People don’t seem to notice it that often if it is a little mistake. I try not to make them of course and pay good attention to what I play. But yeah of course it happens.
How often and for how long do you practice?
I wouldn’t know exactly…I want to play every day. And sometimes that is for a few hours a day and sometimes it is just 10-15 minutes because I have other things to do. But playing is very important to me and I try to play every day.
Do you have a formal music education?
No, not really. I am mostly self-taught but last year I had some guitar lessons which helped me with some music theory.
What kind of music do you like and who is your favorite music bands/artists?
Mostly Soft Rock, Blues, and Pop. But I can listen to other genres as well. Some of my favorites next to Dire Straits are Randy Newman, J.J Cale, John Mayer, Racoon, and The Rolling Stones. It differs really… I even listen to Daft Punk from time to time.
About Dire Straits, when was the first time when you listened to a song from them, which song was that and when was the first cover version that you made from Dire Straits?
I mentioned the situation where I first heard ‘Sultans Of Swing’ above. That must have been in 2012. The first song I covered with my band was ‘Sultans Of Swing’. Just because I was so into the song and my bandmates liked it too because it has so much energy live.
The first song I’ve covered with His Mark On Us was ‘What It Is’ which got shared on Facebook and immediately we got thousands of views and comments which blew me away really. People really liked the cover. Some even said it is better than the original which is the best and most beautiful compliment you can get when making a cover like that. So that was a big push for us to make our next Dire Straits cover which turned out to be ‘Single Handed Sailor’ which Dire Straits Blog shared back then. Which was great as well. Thank you for that.
What are your favorite classic songs from Dire Straits?
Definitely, Sultans of Swing. It is the song that got me into Dire Straits and into Knopfler’s playing. But there are so many great songs that I can mention. A lot of the songs I love are not that well-known. For example, one song I always have liked is ‘Solid Rock’ of their ‘Making Movies’ album. It has great transitions from the intro to the verse which I always have liked. The live versions are excellent as well. Other Dire Straits songs that are my favorites are ‘Telegraph Road’, ‘Down To The Waterline’, ‘Six Blade Knife’, and ‘Industrial Disease’. Also, I am a big fan of their live versions. Each Dire Straits tour has great versions of their songs which differ from each other.
How many cover versions of Dire Straits songs have you made?
Well I made 3 Dire Straits and Knopfler covers with ‘His Mark On Us’. ‘What It Is’, ‘Skydiver’, and ‘Single Handed Sailor’. We are three Knopfler fans who met each other on the Facebook group. We don’t live close to each other. Daan Theoden and I are from the Netherlands and Bo Zølner is from Denmark. We decided to make a cover one day. So we recorded our parts at home and sent them to each other. Through that way, we were able to make these covers. We are planning to record ‘Down To The Waterline’ next.
On my Instagram account are quite a lot of guitar-only Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler covers. I just record them for my followers and Dire Straits fans which tend to like them a lot. You can find covers such as ‘Sultans Of Swing’, ‘Telegraph Road’, ‘Down To The Waterline’, ‘Money For Nothing’, ‘Lady Writer’, ‘Imelda’, and the list goes on. Do check them out if you are interested. Also, I played some songs by Dire Straits with my band Stone Edge. We have played ‘Solid Rock’, ‘Walk Of Life’ and at every gig we play, we end the set with ‘Sultans Of Swing’. It always gets the crowd wild. That gives us so much energy.
Do you enjoy listening to music from Dire Straits?
I still do yeah. It’s been a few years since I discovered Dire Straits and for a long time, it was almost the only thing I listened to basically. So I wanted to listen to other musicians as well, which is very logical. But I still love playing their songs. I play Sultans of Swing regularly if it is just at home practicing or with the band, it is still a blast to play it after all those years.
What is your motto in life and what is that which motivates you to continue with good vibes and positive energy in life?
Just try to enjoy the little things. Look around when you’re outside instead of your phone, say hello to strangers. Just enjoy the day and take your time when you do so. For me, music is my biggest motivation. If I am feeling great, music will make feel even better and when I am feeling down, music can cheer me up again, just like a lot of people.
What can your fans or audience expect next?
Original songs! I would love to get my music out there for people to enjoy. They will hear Dire Straits in it, which people seem to like a lot. Do check them out if you have the chance, your support would help me a lot. Also, I am planning to record a full cover of ‘Down To The Waterline’ with His Mark On Us soon, so stay tuned! We’ll try not to disappoint of course haha.
And for the end can you tell something to all fans who read the Dire Straits Blog?
I just want to encourage everyone to keep listening to Dire Straits and check out Mark Knopfler’s solo work if you already haven’t. Let’s keep their music alive. Also, I would like to thank Dire Straits Blog for this interview. It is great of you to support musicians like this. Thank you for reading and you will hear more from me soon.