Transpacific guitar duo Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb - who perform as "Loren and Mark" - have much to thank Tommy Emmanuel for. Barrigar, who's from New York, was an electric guitarist, while Aucklander Mark Mazengarb was a classically trained player. The pair met in 2005 at a guitar clinic in Ohio where Australian Emmanuel, a world-renowned finger-picker, was teaching. Mazengarb was there while on exchange at the University of North Carolina, and the visit proved to be a turning point in his life.
"I was very much into classical music at that point, but when I went to the States it was eye-opening," he says. "There was this whole new world of music - Americana, country, bluegrass. And I was hooked on it."
Mazengarb met Barrigar again in Nashville at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention in 2009, and now with a few years of experience under their belts, they instantly clicked. "We found we just have this amazing musical chemistry. We only had a couple of weeks playing together at the convention, but we spent a lot of time jamming together in hallways and hotel rooms, and we gathered a bit of a following of people who would listen to us. And those people were going up to festival organisers and saying, 'these guys should be on the main stage, why aren't they on the schedule?' In the end the director invited us back the next year, and that drove us to start something together."
Playing at the festival the next year led to more invitations - including some from Emmanuel, who's had them perform with him several times now.
"To think a few years down the track, we'd be playing with Tommy on stage, that's not something I had imagined. He's been a real mentor to us, and a really good friend."
The pair have been touring and recording together since the start of last year, but this is the first time they've performed in New Zealand.
"I'm really excited about playing in New Zealand, because I think it's music that Kiwis don't hear very often. We have a lot in common with Tommy, but we do a lot of bluegrass and gypsy jazz too - it's not all finger-picking - and we're very focused on making sure the crowd have as much fun as we do."
Who: Guitar duo Loren and Mark
Where and when: Mt Eden Village Centre tonight; Artworks, Waiheke Island, Wed Oct 30; The Vic Theatre, Devonport, Fri Nov 1.