Island guitarist takes the world by storm

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FirstBourne performed for 1,500 hysterical fans in China. Courtesy Mike Kerr.

After performing for 1,500 hysterical fans in Zhuhai, China, Mike Kerr rushed offstage with his bandmates. FirstBourne, the Boston-based power metal group, was on an international tour in support of their 2016 debut album, “Riot,” and they had never seen a crowd like this before. Immediately following the intense performance, a few trembling fans managed to sneak backstage and approached the band requesting autographs — a quintessential rock ’n’ roll moment. By the time Mr. Kerr, bassist Ven Thangaraj, and lead vocalist Adrienne Cowan arrived at the merchandise table, a congregation of diehard fans had assembled, and 40 minutes of autographing books, CDs, and articles of clothing ensued. Audience members handed their children off to the rockers for pictures, and posed alongside them. “It was incredible,” Mr. Kerr recalls. “I’ve never seen people react that way about music before.” If the recent success of his musical endeavors is any indication, Mike Kerr just might have to get used to this.

In November 2016, The Times profiled Mr. Kerr and FirstBourne in light of their debut release and much-anticipated trip to Asia. Mr. Kerr has lived and worked on Martha’s Vineyard for more than 15 years, and truly considers the Island home. At 16 he moved to the United States from Brazil to join his father and help with the family landscaping business. Shortly after buying his first guitar, he began taking lessons in Boston from Berklee Professor Joe Stump, and never looked back. Since then, Mr. Kerr’s star in the music world has been on a steady rise, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The Brazilian-born guitarist and composer is an entrepreneurial creator, and in addition to his efforts with FirstBourne, Kerr has made a name for himself with the release of two solo projects: “The Fire” (2012) and “The Truth of the Lion” (2015). The latter record garnered an International Portuguese Music Award (IPMA) for Best Rock Performance, and Kerr was quick to extend gratitude to his bandmates and supporters in his acceptance speech.

On April 22, Mr. Kerr and his FirstBourne bandmates will return to the awards as nominees, and perform their song “Home.” The band is nominated for “When Morning Breaks” in the Rock Performance category, and they’re in good company, as Mr. Kerr’s sister, Kezia Kerr, is also nominated for her performance of “My Choices,” a song the siblings co-wrote. Mr. Kerr is also nominated in his capacity as a solo performer for his song “The Love of Playing” for Best Instrumental Performance. Kerr seems to be a favorite in the world of Portuguese music, and his contributions to the format have not gone unnoticed by his fans and peers.

Earlier this year, Mr. Kerr traveled to Brazil to give guitar workshops across the country, where he garnered crowds by the hundreds in his hometown of Mantenópolis. Much of the work he does in these educational sessions is closely tied to his endorsement deals with such companies as DAddario strings, Godin guitars, Celestion cables, and D&A guitar stands. One of Mr. Kerr’s closest collaborators, and the sponsor of FirstBourne’s Chinese tour, is Joyo Technology.

Joyo is an audio technology company based in China that specializes in guitar pedals and amplifiers. Kerr’s longstanding relationship with Joyo is a natural fit, and the two are currently collaborating on the prototype phase of a signature Mike Kerr pedal called the Lion’s Roar, which will allow guitar players the world over to recreate his distinctive, powerful sound. The name of the pedal is a nod to Kerr’s 2015 album “The Truth of the Lion.” “Mike Kerr is a very versatile musician and absolutely tough person,” Joyo representative Jerome Chan says. “I remember seeing him play a show a day after he broke his hand. At that moment I realized that his determination and spirit was a role model for every musician.”

As his career continues to expand, Mr. Kerr is mindful of his home on Martha’s

Vineyard, and sharing his musical expertise with others is paramount to his mission. “I could get used to the workshops,” Kerr tells The Times of his educational performances for aspiring guitarists. “It’s always a learning process.” Like many masters of their instruments before him, Mike Kerr sees potential in every musical interaction, and he makes a point to foster space for his students to perform, both for their sake and his.

Kerr’s next local performance will take place at the Boys and Girls Club on Friday, March 10, at 4 pm in Edgartown, and FirstBourne is slated to perform at the Providence Tattoo and Music Festival on Saturday, March 25. The International Portuguese Music Awards are scheduled for April 22 at 7 pm in New Bedford, and will be available through our cable provider’s on-demand. See him perform at Pathways at this link: bit.ly/MKerrPathways