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You’ve got a killer tone on “Leavin’ Kind.” What was the setup there?
I used Fulltone Clyde wah and OCD pedals. I’m not a big fan of distortion pedals. I’m kind of a minimalist. If you look at my setup, I’ve got one thing, which is the OCD—I absolutely love it. With Tube Screamers and all that, it kind of cuts the signal and distorts it. I’m just not into the distorted sound, but the Tube Screamer does open things up, making it sound like an amp on full blast, so you don’t have to turn it up as loud, which is good. I’m not knocking it, though, and I think we actually do have a Tube Screamer on the record.
The verse of “Otherside of the Bottle” goes back and forth quickly between a clean sound for the arpeggiated chords and a raunchy, about-to-break-up sound for the chord stabs. Are you using a pedal to make those transitions?
No. I just alternate between fingerpicking and a guitar pick. Some of the softer, more rounded- out tones are fingerpicked, and on the harder stuff with more attack I’m using the pick.
Is your guitar’s volume knob at the same level throughout, or do you turn it up for the aggressive part?
I pretty much leave it the same for both sections—around 6 or 7. Then I’ll turn it up for the solo. When I go to the bridge, I turn it all the way up and just start strumming with the pick.
In the solo to “Feelin’ Alright,” you incorporate some jazz-influenced ideas in your solo—sort of a harmonically informed approach to the blues à la Larry Carlton or Robben Ford. Is that something you’ve been studying?
Yeah, we were doing a lot of diminished stuff on that. It’s different from anything else on the record, I think. I love Robben Ford. I watch videos of him on YouTube all the time just to see if I can find any little tidbits here and there that I can pick up, but I really find myself in this swampy, Delta, caveman-style of music. Who knows what the future will bring. I’m probably going to head down that route later. I’m open to any direction of music, as long as it’s progress for me. I have a great appreciation for that kind of music, it’s just not what naturally comes out when I play.
Let’s talk about your career. What are the pros and cons of being a female blues guitarist?
There are definitely pros and cons—it works both ways. The cons are that people don’t always take you seriously right off the bat. They’ll come out just to see a girl play guitar and, for me, I always hated the idea of the gimmick. People come out just because you are a girl, but then you have so much more that you have to prove once you get them in the door. I mean, it does get them in the door, but they’re skeptical when they’re there. You have to win them over, it’s like, “Hey man, I really take this seriously, so I hope you will, too.”
Tell us about the Girls with Guitars album.
It went hand in hand with my record deal. Sometimes Ruf Records puts new artists on their Blues Caravan. Since it’s an established tour, I could walk into these crowds and debut myself on their label. That way, I could build up an audience, and then when I came back with my own band it would be a lot easier to tour.
Was it competitive onstage between you, Cassie, and Dani?
Of course everyone wants to do the best job they can do but, really, I don’t get that whole competitive thing—especially when I play with the girls. Me and Dani start doing our solos, and we’re such different guitar players that we’re just trying to do our own thing. We just want to play together and make it sound good. When you start trying to get over the top of somebody, you lose what makes it great. That’s when you lose the musical aspect of it.
Do you see yourself ever transitioning from the blues to more commercial music, like some of the artists you grew up on?
I was actually having a conversation with somebody about this last night. If I happen to write a song that’s more successful in the mainstream, then more power to it. But I’m not going to go out of my way to do it. Whatever comes out comes out, as long as it comes out naturally. As long as it’s something that I come out with because I want to and not because I’m trying to get famous. With the blues, you can’t lie. If you don’t feel it, the audience isn’t going to feel it.
In just seven years, you’ve gone from picking up a guitar to getting a record deal. What advice do you have for someone starting out in the business?
I’m a big believer in networking. Get out there, meet as many people as you can, and eventually something’s gonna hit.