Guitar Showcase 2021: Davy Kerrigan and Mark S Black aren't just part of the Emerald Guitars team in Donegal, Ireland, they were the main inspirations behind the company's incredibly versatile new instrument, the Virtuo – "the guitar with the acoustic body and electric soul".
After seeing the musicians performing weekly live stream gigs in during the lockdown, Emerald owner and designer Alistair Hay wanted to create a new carbon fibre guitar that would fulfil the electric and acoustic needs of working musicians like them.
These two singer-guitarists bring decades of experience touring and recording to their roles at the company; offering insight and a passion for guitar that they can pass on to help players find their dream Emerald guitar.
We met up with Davy and Mark to talk about their music, guitars and their roles at Emerald Guitars.
How long have you been with Emerald Guitars?
Davy: "I have been with Emerald now for nearly a year, but have been involved with their instruments before that, both onstage and in the studio.
"I played an X10 exclusively over the lockdown on my weekly Facebook Live streams every Saturday night for 68 weeks, tuning, playability and sound was flawless, these instruments are real work horses.
Mark: "I started working full time with Emerald Guitars in October 2020 but I've been working with them as a demo guitarist for about seven years now."
What do your roles at Emerald Guitars involve?
Davy: "I'm part of the sales team here at Emerald and also have the opportunity to record demos of the instruments in both audio and video formats, the instruments really are something else. I also get the chance to record the video demos, these are a great help to customers who are thinking of their first, or indeed, their next Emerald."
Mark: "I'm the Content Director and Creative writer at Emerald so my job involves communicating the message to our audience/customers via social media, all press releases and weekly newsletter. I also produce and oversee all the content creation particularly for our video content.
"We produce all our marketing content in-house so I oversee the media team and manage the finished content to be handed over to the marketing team. And I also do all the sound mixing and engineering for all our media projects."
What do you enjoy most about your jobs?
Mark: "It's gotta be working with guitars and guitarists daily. Being a guitarist myself it's been a passion of mine for decades since I started playing. We get to try out and demo new models and work closely with Alistair Hay, owner of Emerald Guitars, in the R&D part of guitar creation plus seeing and hearing lots of fabulous musicians playing our guitars and working with them when they come in to record demos. It's very inspiring."
Davy: "It's great talking to customers and helping them on their journey towards their dream guitar, offering advice and support and guiding them on their way to their ultimate guitar. I really enjoy recording all the demos as well."
Can you tell us a little about your lives as musicians - how would you describe the music you write and perform?
Davy: I'm a blues/rock musician and have been performing for over 35 years now, both here in Ireland and overseas and worked with various bands over the years and in 2017 started The Davy K Project.
"Our debut album Lockdown was released in Feb 2019 (yes, ironic I know) and has been received very well by both reviewers and the public. Our music is old school rock and blues, energetic and upbeat. Feel free to check the album out on the usual streaming sites."
Mark: "I'm a blues rock guitarist primarily but some of the music I perform also has lot's of elements of folk rock. I've been writing and performing my own music for over 20 years now and it has gone between blues rock, indie rock, folk rock genres throughout all the albums.
"I began playing guitar in the 1980s, at the end of the '80's, so I first fell in love with the music of Guns N Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, Steve Vai, Hendrix... but also Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Moore, who was transitioning into blues at the time. It was a great time to learn guitar and I'm excited to see the nostalgia for those years returning with the reuniting of bands like Guns N' Roses and John Mayer tipping his hat to that era also.
"My Dad and his family were all musicians so I've been performing for some 35 years now and have toured Internationally to USA, Germany, UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Australia, Singapore and Italy with my music."
Who are your biggest guitar influences and how have they inspired you?
Davy: "I have a lot of influences, Mark Knopfler, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan to name but a few, each one having such an impact on my playing. It was great growing up and learning guitar in that period of time as you had so many great guitarists to look up to and 'borrow' licks from."
Mark: "My biggest influences are Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Gary Moore, Steve Vai, Slash and John Mayer. Most of these players also had a great ability to write amazing songs and thats how they have also influenced me the greatest. It's in the songwriting process and not necessarily the guitar hero way.
"The song and the message are the most important part for me. I have an immense amount of respect for the likes of Rory Gallagher, John Mayer and Mark Knopfler who are amazing songwriters and also guitarists."
What have been your proudest moments so far in music?
Davy: "Probably the release of the debut album a few years ago, a compilation of original material that I finally got to record with The Davy K Project. In the past as well I have shared recordings with Tony Carey (Rainbow), Neil Murray (Whitesnake) and Ron Wikso (Foreigner).
"I'm really proud of the Davy K Project album though as it was the first time I pushed myself as a solo blues/rock artist. We also have supported some amazing acts pre-lockdown including Kris Barras, John Corabi, The Quireboys etc, and those will always be great memories as well. So many great times."
Mark: "Performing at Glastonbury, releasing five albums, running a successful local music venue for five years and teaching 100s of students over the past 15 years as a guitar tutor."
How do you feel your experiences as working musicians have enhanced your roles at Emerald Guitars?
Mark: "As Content Director one of my main roles was to bring more stories and personality into the marketing message from Emerald. As a performing musician, a guitar tutor, a studio producer and also a booker and promoter for the music venue I ran, it gave me a strong reputation amongst musicians nationally to be able to understand the mindset of musicians and guitar players and communicate Emerald's message to its customers."
Davy: "It's great to have that experience as you can provide more information to customers on a one-to-one basis. A customer, for example, may want to know the best guitar for their live onstage setup, and you can advise because you have been there yourself. Or a customer wants the best guitar for his particular style of playing and you can point them in the right direction as you can relate to their questions from a musicians point of view rather than a sales executive ."
How did lockdown affect your lives as musicians and your work?
Davy: "Lockdown was really hard for all musicians, being a self employed musician for over 30 years and gigging 5/6 nights a week and then suddenly having nothing was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through.
"It was the later part of last year that I had the opportunity to be in the Emerald team and am delighted to be part of this ever expanding company. It's a dream job."
Mark: "Ha ha... no more work... no more gigs... except of course live streaming which became a weekly event for 70 weeks in a row. I totally embraced the live streaming and loved every part of it.
"I invested in streaming equipment and brought high production standards and a show to the live streams. They built for me a great international community of music fans that came back on a weekly basis to join the shows and be part of that community with me. It was amazing and really inspiring to see and meet fans, albeit virtually, and have them engage in such a positive way."
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year and 2022 with your music and with Emerald Guitars?
Davy: "Live music is slowly opening up here in Ireland and I am looking forward to playing live again both solo and with the band and hopefully finishing the new Davy K Project album.
"Looking forward as well to the response for the new Virtuo, Alistair has put in a lot of work designing, planning and launching this fantastic new instrument."
Mark: "I'm very excited to see where we go with this new Virtuo guitar model from Emerald over the coming months. I think it's a fabulous performance tool for guitarists and has huge potential as a live performance guitar, a creative tool or as a studio instrument.
"I've recently signed with a new booking agency 4W1, who have a super roster now and have big plans for shows and festivals as soon as normality returns. I'm excited about visiting some countries in Eastern Europe and going to Scandinavia on tours."
How would you describe the experience of playing a Carbon Fibre acoustic guitar to someone who is new to them?
Mark: "The first thing I'd say is that carbon is not wood but has a very unique and pleasing tone if you are open minded to subtle differences. I was mainly using a Martin acoustic for shows but have since moved to using an Emerald X10 acoustic for solo shows due to its stability, reliability of tuning, light weight and strength.
"It's a great performance guitar with cool pickup options and the features like arm and rib bevels and high access cutaway make it a comfortable guitar to use for long periods during shows."
Davy: "The Emerald guitar range all sound rich and well balanced, and with the added durability of carbon fibre, it will be the only guitar you will ever need. Customers are always amazed at the acoustic properties of the carbon fibre."
What are your personal favourites from the Emerald range of instruments?
Davy: "I love them all, each one has its own unique character, from the deep rich sound of the jumbo X30 to the Parlour-sized X7 and the fantastic 12-string short scale Amicus, every model is a joy to play."
Mark: "The X10, the Solace Weissenborn-style lap steel and of course the latest and best creation... the Virtuo!"
Have any inspired you to write any particular songs?
Mark: "Yes, that have indeed. I composed several new pieces of music to use the Virtuo with and as it has multiple pickup options and voicings it's like 3 instruments in 1. I also wrote several songs for my last album on the X10 acoustic."
Davy: "Everyday...I'll play an X30, and suddenly ideas will come to me, start playing an X10 and then a different approach to the song will happen. Each instrument is so unique and will always take you in a different direction in your songwriting.
"The versatility of the Virtuo will always be the icing on the cake though. I am actually using a lot of different models in the studio at the moment working on the new album, and I feel the richness of every model I use getting captured in the recording process."
You're both experienced at performing demos on camera for Emerald, do you have any tips for players who want to start uploading guitar performance videos?
Mark: "Start and learn as you go along. The world is more focused on video-based content so learn it, practice using it and be consistent with making content. Invest in your equipment like cameras or software, it will pay you back over time and your content will look more professional and of a more industry standard."
Davy: "Relax, plan your video in advance and try to get your message across to the viewers in a clear concise way...oh and most importantly, have fun."
How can people find out more about your music?
Davy: Our music is widely available on all the usual streaming formats and available from my online website store:
For more information about the Virtuo and Emerald Guitars' wide range of instruments, visit Emerald Guitars (opens in new tab).