Govan is a fan of the Rolling Stones and their guitarist Mick Taylor and has cited him as a source of inspiration. Taylor also served as Govan's first guitar teacher. In 2011, Govan and Taylor appeared together in a BBC documentary about Taylor's history and career as a guitarist and he explained the circumstances that led to their collaboration. He is also an admirer of guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Brian May and Steve Vai.
Govan has played with several bands as a guitarist; although he says that he prefers to play in his own group. He has played with the one-time Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and ex-Masters of Reality guitarist John Wetton. In the early 1980s, Govan also co-operated with guitarist Robert Fripp from King Crimson and Procol Harum. With Evans, they released a number of albums which included the album Breathing Wall and the live album Govan Live.
Govan is an active member of the COG (Celtic Overground Guild) and has been a guest at many of their events. His first album with the COG was 1999's Govan on which he introduced a number of Celtic influences to his sound. He cites Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory as a big influence on this album and two versions of the song are featured on this release.
Govan was born in Oxford, England, on October 15, 1963. He studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London for three years, and also studied art at Oxford University, where he won the university prize for a painting. Govan also took music courses at London's Royal Academy of Music and London's Central School of Art, and his grandfather was an upholsterer who also gave him his first guitar. He used to sell guitars door-to-door to earn some money before he dropped out of school at the age of 16 and moved to London to become a professional musician, where he worked in a pub.
After moving to London in 1984, Govan began working in pubs and clubs around the city. He began gigging, and after a few weeks had dropped out of school, he began playing with the original guitarist in Impellitteri, Mike Rutherford. In his spare time, he also played with a local band, Soho, whose members included his future bandmates, Steve Vai and Tony Franklin.
Govan has stated that he is not interested in the learning of scales or other pieces of theory, as he is more interested in creating melodies, riffs and rhythms which he says he can translate into music. His teaching style is to get to know the student and to adapt to the students interests. He states that the most difficult part of learning is to get to know a musical language. Govan has said that his teaching is based on encouraging the student to get into the music, rather than onto him to teach him: 827ec27edc