One of my fondest memories is walking into music stores as a child and hearing the sound of the electric guitar infusing the air and my ears. I would go there with my Dad to pick up piano books because I was taking piano lessons, but they didn’t excite me very much. When I wasn’t playing piano, I was singing and recording myself, acting out skits and videotaping myself. So, it doesn’t surprise me that my love and dedication for the arts and expression led me to
Cover Photo by Steve Polacek
The focus of my life completely changed after that film and I threw myself, heart and soul, into Acting. But music never let me forget about it. As much as I would push it away, it was always there, reminding me how much of a good friend it was. When I was 16, my Father got me an acoustic guitar, but it was very big, and I have small hands. So, I didn’t get on too well with it. I learned a few songs by ear and then I left my guitar behind when I went away to college.
Years later, I stumbled upon a DVD that would bring music back into my life. It was Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live in Austin. As soon as I heard the piercing conviction of SRV’s tone and his phrasing wrapped up in the foundation of the Blues, I was spellbound. That began my journey with the electric guitar. From knowing nothing about tone or gear or how to play back then, it’s amazing to me how deep I am into this world in the present. It’s my healthy obsession and I love all that it entails.
I am currently working on my third album entitled Queen of My Castle that features 15 original songs and is being produced by Michael Leasure. It is being mixed by Lincoln Clapp who was the mixing engineer on my favorite album: Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. It will be coming out in the Spring of 2019. I am also playing live shows as a trio in Southern California, and I am excited to be going to Romania in July to perform at the Open Air Blues Festival.
What is your definition of tone and how has it changed over the years?
Tone is the quality of a sound that has the power to move your soul. It is a combination of the music that you hear in your mind that connects to the feel that your fingers lay onto the guitar, the choice of guitar that you are playing, and effects that you add, and the way you choose to amplify that. There are a million combinations to be had when seeking your best tone. But the most important component of that equation is your musical mind and your fingers. Those two things will always keep you sounding like yourself no matter what you are playing through. When I started playing guitar, I had zero effects pedals and had a tiny $30 Honeytone desk amp that I practiced with. I was so intimidated by the gear world that I avoided it for as long as I could. But as I got better at playing, my curiosity about how to find my sound was sparked and my acquisition of gear…lots of gear… began. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many things I have bought and then eventually sold to get better gear. It’s never-ending, but it’s part of the process. The search for tone is true, and I went through a period when I was doing a one-woman band show where my gear was getting out of hand. It wasn’t until just recently that I have been more interested in tapering things down and getting back to basics again. I suppose I had to go full circle to realize that the tone that I personally like doesn’t need much, so I have pared down my board to six pedals or so. But I will always have a curiosity for ways to shape my tone so I will always try new things if they interest me.
Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
As far my guitar, I play my ’62 Vintage Hot Rod Reissue Stratocaster 100% of the time when playing live. I love the fullness of the neck because it contributes to nice sustain and tone. When recording, I also play my Guild Starfire V semi-hollow body for a different sound. I also have a 1998 California Series Stratocaster. It was that guitar that I started my journey on. The neck profile is not as full as my ’62 Reissue so I don’t play it much right now. But I also get very attached to playing one guitar at a time.
As far as pedals go, I start with the Shure GLXD16 Wireless System. I like to move around the stage and be free of cables. And if it’s good enough for Buddy Guy, it’s good enough for me, too. It’s very freeing. Then, I have a Dunlop Cry Baby Mini-Wah. But I might be switching that out with a regular sized Wah because my foot is pretty small and depending on the type of shoes I am wearing, it becomes a bit difficult to handle the pedal correctly. Then I have an OxVibe Univibe that I use mostly for recording that gives me a dreamy, oscillating feel for certain parts of songs. I also have a Nano Pog on my board that I mostly used with my one-woman band to help me loop a bass part on my songs. I still keep it on my board because I keep thinking I will need it to give me the option of some octaves while I play. Next is the EWS Little Fuzzy Drive. I heard Christone Kingfish Ingram playing it live at a festival, and I bought it the next day and have loved it ever since. I use it when I want to get lots of dirt and grit and when my emotions want to go there in my playing. Then I have the ever popular and most adored pedal for people that love SRV…the Tubescreamer. It is such a great pedal because it adds just the right amount of overdrive to your clean signal so that it still sounds clean but with a nice bite because it adds in the mids that you might be missing if you are playing a Fender amp, which I do. Lastly, a newer pedal that I have added on my board is the Tech 21 RK5 Fly Rig. I love the all-in-one ability of the pedal and when I was doing my one-woman band show, I got tired of hauling two amps to gigs. So, I was looking for an amp simulation pedal that I would be able to plug into and have it go directly into my PA. I was also looking for an easy solution to really pare down my board when doing fly dates. The pedal also contains an overdrive, reverb, a boost, and a delay. I have been using it to record my new album as well.
As far as amps go, I have a 1976 Fender Super Reverb that really gets me in SRV territory, and it is super loud for bigger shows. I also have two Fender Blues Jr’s that I was using for my one-woman band show. One amp was getting my rhythm guitar and looping feed, while the other amp was purely for my lead tone. And I also have a Ceriatone JM50 that is like a small Dumble, and I bought it when I was recording leads for my last album Long Road. I have the ability to switch the amp to 25Watts or 50Watts so that came in very handy when recording. I have also used it to record leads and rhythm guitar layers for my new album Queen of My Castle. When I practice, I use the Yamaha THR10C and it such a great practice amp that I have two just in case. I have taken them to solo gigs and miked them before, and it sounded great for very small rooms.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
For my album Long Road, I used two mics on my amp that were both pretty close to the speaker…a Sennheiser E906 and a Shure SM57. I knew I wanted to record separate tracks for each mic to combine and have a fuller lead tone. When I had the SM57 by itself, it sounded a little harsh to me. So, I researched and came across the E906 that helped me get a warmer vibe. For my third album, I am using the E906 close to the grill of the amp but slightly on an angle facing the outside edge of the speaker, and I have a Bluebird condenser mic a few feet away to give me some more space and room tone along with the tone of the amp.
How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
There are so many variables that affect your sound onstage, from the size of the room to the acoustics. First, I use the same gear. And secondly, I just work with my guitar and amp to begin with, and I dial in a majority of the tone with those two things. Then I will go to my board and turn pedals on and tweak them. But I think that learning how to dial in your amp is important to learn how to do.
What does your practice consist of?
I do finger drills and exercises, I play through my songs to constantly stay fresh with them, I improvise with backing tracks, and I make sure to be in tune with questions that I have while I am playing because that usually leads me to what I need to be learning next. I watch a lot of my favorite players play and listen to their songs, transcribe them, and try to breakdown and really understand why they chose the notes that they did. Something that I am really going to work on this year is to play what I hear in my mind instantly on the guitar instead of letting my fingers take the lead. I am really interested in continuing to develop my musical ear and musical sensibility this year.
What is your advice for young individuals who hope to work in the music industry?
You have so many resources in this computer age to become a great musician. All it takes is a curiosity and a love and passion for what you want to do. So never stop being curious, never stop asking questions, and never stop searching. Keep an open mind and don’t fear the possibilities. They are all tools to help you on your journey to learning guitar. It will be a never-ending process, so don’t ever lose hope. There will be peaks and valleys in your learning journey, and you will get discouraged. But then you will have major breakthroughs that will keep you inspired and on your path. Even though it is a tough industry, don’t let anyone’s negativity derail you…just keep plugging away and do it for the love of your art, not for anyone or anything else. Creating is what it’s all about because ultimately that is what will feed your soul whether you are a beginner or an advanced player. I know if I am not creating, that is when I start feeling like a caged animal. So, do whatever you can to always remind yourself that you are an expressive being whose purpose is to create beautiful things, and there is nothing more beautiful than the sweet sound of the guitar to be your paint brush.