VIDEO: Newtownabbey guitar hero top of the pops after Sky TV success

A gifted music teacher from Co Antrim has plucked and strummed his way to the big stage – and the prestigious title of Sky television’s ‘Guitar Star.’

Gary Lutton from Carnmoney beat off hundreds of other hopefuls and eventually came out on top when he put on a stunning performance at the Latitude festival in Suffolk.

Sky Arts Guitar Star - Latitude festival - winning Performance by Gary Lutton

Sky Arts Guitar Star - Latitude festival - winning Performance by Gary Lutton

The 23-year-old former Belfast High School pupil showed his class over eight episodes of the popular Sky Arts series and proved a popular winner when the final episode was broadcast on Tuesday night.

Gary’s unique and quirky playing style, which includes utilising the guitar as a percussion instrument, earned him his slot on the festival’s main stage, sharing the bill with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the Manic Street Preachers and Seasick Steve.

Blues guitarist Steve watched on in awe as the competition winner performed his highly original take on the Fleetwood Mac classic ‘Everywhere’ to thousands of festival goers.

Backstage afterwards, Steve congratulated Gary on an “amazing” performance. As he took to the stage for his own set, Steve praised the Belfast man’s talent, telling the crowd: “That was some beautiful stuff there. Wish I could play the guitar like that”.

Wish I could play the guitar like that

Seasick Steve

Commenting on his experience of the Sky Arts channel competition, Gary said it “felt amazing to win”.

He said: “There were so many other guitarists who were on the top of their game throughout the competition, so I am very happy to have won. Hopefully there will be further opportunities for me to now perform in front of audiences because, as a solo instrumental guitar player, you don’t usually get the chance to perform in front of larger audiences,”

Gary, who has been playing guitar since he was 11, is currently in the final stages of a part-time masters degree in music at the Ulster University campus at Magee.

The busy musician also helps to nurture other players – teaching guitar at both the Ulster College of Music and Belfast Metropolitan College at Millfield. He is also a former student at the Met.

Seasick Steve is a fan of Newtownabbey guitarist Gary Lutton

Seasick Steve is a fan of Newtownabbey guitarist Gary Lutton

Speaking to the News Letter on Wednesday night, Gary said the show has already opened doors.

“I have few gigs line up including one hopefully happening in Prague in a few weeks. Then I’ve got a gig at the end of August in Dublin with Thomas Leeb who is my guitar idol”.

Commenting on his long-term plans, he added: “Professional performing rather than teaching would be the end game if I could, but it takes a good while to build up the momentum. I got great recognition from the show but it is hard to make a full-time income from performing.”