See how this badass Texan uses her signature Epiphone Sheratons to create pop-music earworms that get wrapped in barbed wire thanks to a “patent-pending,” 3-pedal-combination trademark.
Emily Wolfe doesn’t play guitar. She bends it to her will. Like a bronco buster taming a stallion, she saddles up on her signature Sheratons and lets it rip. Much of the magic felt and heard on her self-titled debut was pure adrenaline hitting your speaker. Her second album, 2021’s Outlier, incorporated Wolfe’s love of Motown grooves and modern-pop stickiness, both of which refreshed her songwriting with backdrops of more polished, waxy tones, but tumbleweed oscillation, helicopter, square-wave chops, and barbed-wire fuzz are still howls welcomed in this Wolfe pack.
“When I go up there, something could hit me at any point—an emotion that I felt 10 years ago could come out in a bend on the low E. There’s so much rawness [to classic rock]; the edges are not perfect, but there’s a magic in that,” Wolfe told PG in 2021.
But how do you marry earworm poppiness with a gunslinger’s approach to guitar?
“Some of my rock friends say, ‘Pop isn’t relevant,’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about—it’s everywhere!’ It’s so sticky for people, and that’s really fascinating to me. I want my music to have that quality … but also the realness of a raw guitar tone. [With Outlier] I wanted to make something that would be classic 10, 20, 30 years from now,” she explained in our profile. “That was the goal, and I think we achieved it.”Before Wolfe’s headlining show at Nashville’s Blue Room (located inside the Third Man Records compound), PG’s Chris Kies joined the shredding songwriter onstage to talk shop. The resulting conversation covers the development behind her Epiphone Sheraton, how a boring night in Cleveland spent with her “Chex-mix-crushing, brother-in-tone” bass player Evan Nicholson convinced her to play a doubleneck guitar, and we discover what three pedals work together to make what she describes as “the sound that belongs to me.”
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Emily Wolfe’s first “real” guitar was an Epiphone Sheraton. (She really wanted a Gibson ES-355 like blues hero B.B. King, but Wolfe was just a strapped college student.) That first experience with a semi-hollowbody guitar had a seminal influence on her guitar-playing journey, contributing to her singular sound. “Every decision I made with my gear was as a result of building my tone around that first Sheraton.” Now honored with a signature Epiphone Sheraton of her own, the Stealth is a modern take on John Lee Hooker’s longtime favored ride. It has a layered maple body with a mahogany neck, signature bolt inlays, a Tune-o-matic bridge, CTS pots, two volume controls and one tone control, and Epiphone’s Alnico Classic PRO pickups. She discreetly put her John Hancock on the back of the headstock. She uses Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt strings (.010–.046) and strikes them with Dunlop Tortex Jazz III .88 mm picks. This one stays in either standard or drop-D tunings.
The White Wolfe
The “White Walker” edition of Emily’s signature Stealth features all the same specs of the black model aside from the aged bone white finish. This one does take a custom set of Slinkys (.012–.060) and holds a Wolfe-tweaked open-C tuning (C–G–C–E–A–D).
How does a boring night in a Cleveland hotel lead to Wolfe owning a doubleneck Epiphone? Well, her bass player (and best friend) Evan Nicholson wondered if Wolfe had ever tried a doubleneck guitar. She said ‘no,’ and so started the quest to prove that women can rock a pair of necks, too! She acquired this Epiphone G-1275 and uses it mainly for her cover of T. Rex’s “The Slider” by using the lower 6-string (in drop-C) for the rhythm parts and the 12-string for the song’s solo. The two necks tuned separately allow her to put both guitar parts under her hands with one guitar.
Dancing with the DeVille
Saying an amp has “no character” might be seen as negative by some, but Wolfe prefers the “middle-of-the-road” base tone in this Fender Hot Rod DeVille 410 III. It packs plenty of volume, and Wolfe adds, “I get to pick what character I want with my pedals.”
Emily Wolfe's Pedalboard
“If I get a new piece of gear, I have to figure out every single part of it before I can really use it,” Wolfe confessed to PG while talking about Outlier. That sensible curiosity has led her to dialing in precise parameters on the pedals and creating colossal combos with singular Wolfe gain staging. Her silver bullet is the EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle analog octave-up pedal, running into a Fulltone OCD, and an MXR Six Band EQ. She claimed to PG, “That’s the sound that belongs to me.” The sequence creates a “crazy fuzztone” from the overdrive. Then she uses the EQ to reduce some of the lows and boost the mids for a sound she says will get her guitar to cut through any mix.
Other spices in the rack include an Analogman King of Tone, an EarthQuaker Devices Dirt Transmitter fuzz, an Ibanez Analog Delay Mini, an Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe, a Walrus Audio Julia chorus/vibrato, and a Strymon Flint. The Empress Buffer puts the Delay Mini and Flint outside the RJM Mastermind PBC’s control.
But Wait... There's More!
Underneath the hood, Wolfe has tucked in a pair of MXR M109S Six Band EQ pedals (one hitting the King of Tone and the other hitting the OCD), an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork, an EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle analog octave up, and a couple of Strymon power supplies (Ojai and Zuma).
Shop Emily's Rig
Epiphone Emily Wolfe "White Wolfe" Sheraton
Ibanez Analog Delay Mini Pedal
Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
Walrus Audio Julia Analog Chorus/Vibrato V2
Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork
MXR M109S Six Band EQ Pedal
EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle
The L.A.-based session ace takes PG through his studio and talks about his love for “player grade” guitars.
Tim Pierce’s guitar can be heard on more than a thousand recordings, starting in the ’80s, when he played on hits by Bon Jovi, John Waite, and Rick Springfield. In subsequent years, he’s added to his resume with recorded performances for Crowded House, Christina Aguilera, Seal, Avril Lavigne, Tracy Chapman, Joe Cocker, Ricky Martin, Meat Loaf, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Rob Thomas, Rick Springfield, Phil Collins, Madonna, Toy Matinee, Don Henley, Santana, Rascal Flatts, Chris Isaak, Jewel, Faith Hill, Celine Dion, Dave Matthews Band, the Goo Goo Dolls, Lana Del Ray, Demi Lovato, Jason Mraz, Kelly Clarkson, and many more.
These days, Pierce also has a popular YouTube channel with more than 400,000 subscribers and offers an online masterclass program for thousands of users. You can get more information at timpierceguitar.com.
Meanwhile, here’s what we saw—and learned—when Pieces shared the wisdom and the gear he’s accumulated in four decades of playing sessions.
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Here’s a look at Tim Pierce’s go-to instruments, including a 1962 ES-335, a 2020 Gibson Custom Shop 1960 Les Paul reissue with Arcane humbuckers, a one-off PRS McCarty 594 Singlecut in black with binding, and a ’62 Fender Jaguar strung with flatwounds.
After nearly four decades of sessions, Pierce has pretty much every tool for any job. His heavy rotation includes this 1962 Gibson ES-335, which has enough wear to be considered “player grade,” with Ron Ellis pickups. Most of Tim’s electric guitars are strung with Elixir nanoweb strings, either .009 through .042, or .010 through .046.
This 2022 Mario hardtail S-style with a paulonia-wood body weighs a mere 4 pounds 13 ounces!
The Right Stripe
You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful flame top than this 2019 PRS McCarty Flame Top Doublecut. It sports a carved flame maple top on a mahogany body, a rosewood fretboard, two volumes, two push-pull tone controls, and a 3-way switch.
Pierce has a lot of amps to choose from in his control room, including this 1967 Marshall Super PA 100 head (top) and 1968 Marshall Super Tremolo plexi.
A Park, Divided
There’s also a Park JTM 45-100 from a limited run of 10 and a Divided by 13 RSA 23 head, with 23 watts, natch.
More Amped Up
Rounding out the lineup of Pierce’s amplifiers is a Bad Cat Lynx, a Bad Cat Hot Cat, and a Joe Morgan custom 15 head (not pictured).
That’s 16 x 48
Pierce’s amp cabs live in a separate, sealed room, built specifically for isolation, far from the control room. They include these four vintage Marshall 4x12 cabinets, dating from 1968 through the early 1970s. There’s also a vintage Vox 2x12 with 15W Bulldogs.
He keeps his cabs miked with Shure SM57s, two Royer R-122V tube ribbon microphones, and two Sony C800 large diaphragm condensers from the early ’90s. A Scheops CMC5 condenser microphone is used for acoustic guitars.
Tim Pierce's Pedalboard
Pierce began the interview playing though his main mobile Pedal Board, which includes a Nobels ODR-1, a Strymon Lex rotary, a Keeley/Timmons Halo delay, a Meris LVX delay, a Karma MTN-10 overdrive, an XTS Modded Boss GE-7 equalizer and Boss TR-2 Tremolo, a vintage Boss VB-2 Vibrato, an MXR Reverb, a Fairchild Circuitry Shallow Water modulation pedal, a Providence System Tuner, two Dunlop mini expression pedals, a Dunlop volume pedal, a Voodoo Lab Dingbat pedalboard, and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Mondo.
Pedal Muscle, Part II
While in his studio cockpit, these are Pierce’s effects, which you can hear him play in his online videos: Ibanez MT10 Mostortion, Vemuram ODS-1, Nobels ODR-1, MXR Boost/Line Driver, Way Huge Red Llama, Boss OC-2 Octave, Boss VB-2 Vibrato, Way Huge Supa-Puss Analog Delay, Fender MTG Tube Tremolo, Universal Audio Golden Reverberator, Neon Egg Planetarium 3, Ebo E-verb, three Eventide H9s used with the iPad App, and a Boomerang Looper. And as you can see with the additional gear photos, Tim Pierce owns (nearly) every tone-tweaking device ever made!
Tim Pierce Rig
The modern Southern rockers recently played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, and guitarists Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson displayed a bevy of gear every bit as hardworking as these road dogs.
Right now, they’re in Europe, but Atlanta-based rockers with a distinctly Southern musical accent, Blackberry Smoke, smoked Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for two nights in February before jumping the pond.
Their latest album, You Hear Georgia, was produced by Dave Cobb in Nashville, and hit the top of the Billboard Americana/Folk chart when it was released in mid-2021. PG’s John Bohlinger caught up with guitarists Charlie Starr and Paul Jackson before their sold-out show at the Ryman to run down their ever-expanding universe of gear.
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Battered, Not Fried
This 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior was professionally refinished in the ’70s, but Charlie Starr has put some serious miles on this one-pickup wonder. The battered badass with a dog ear P-90 and all his electrics are strung with D’Addario XL Nickel Wound strings, .010–.046. He uses InTuneGP Heavy picks and a ceramic Charlie Starr Signature Osanippa Creek Slide.
Like Ernest Tubb and other guitarists from the classic annals of entertainment, Starr has a greeting on the back of his ’56 Junior for the fans.
For some semi-hollow tone and feel, Starr goes with his stock 1964 Gibson ES-335 in Cherry Red with a Bigsby. The guitar belonged to a friend’s grandfather, and when Starr acquired it, he says, “It had gouges at the C, G, and D,” positioning his hand over the open chord shapes. He had it re-fretted by Stan Williams in Georgia, who told Starr, “This guitar looks like it's been sitting outside in a barn since 1964. And I don't know how the dude was able to get a bird to shit inside that f-hole.”
Starr maintains that this 1965 Fender Esquire in factory black, like his other single pickup guitars, sounds larger than most as there are less magnets interfering with the string vibration. He adds, “I’m told that it’s a physics thing. And I’m a physicist, so I subscribe to that theory.”
The Rest of the Best
Here are the Starr's other main stage rides (clockwise from the top left): a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Jr., a 1963 Fender Esquire, a Fender American Nashville B-Bender Telecaster, and a 1964 Gibson SG Jr..
“This is on all the time,” Starr says of his Echopark Vibramatic 23, which he pairs with a tall cab. “It's basically a tweed Deluxe, and it adds that 6V6 creamy sweetness all the time.” The maker of Blackberry Smoke’s 50-watt Germino heads, Greg Germino, personally recommended this Germino Lead 55LV (left) to Starr, and is paired with a 4x12 cab. And the other Germino is a Master Model 50.
Charlie Starr's Pedalboard
Starr’s pedalboard features a Cry Baby Wah, a PCE-FX Aluminum Falcon Klon clone, an Analog Man Sun Face, Chase Tone Secret Preamp—“a preamp that accidentally made everyone’s signal a little sweeter,”—Wampler Faux Tape Echo, Fulltone Supa-Trem, DryBell Vibe Machine, Analog Man-modded MXR Phase 45, and a Polytune 3. XTS XAct Tone Solutions supplies the juice. Starr tapes a few of the pedals’ knobs to make sure his settings don’t go missing in action.
Paul Jackson's Ol’ Reliable
Paul Jackson’s number one is his 1979 Les Paul, which has been modded with a Seymour Duncan ’59 neck pickup and a Pearly Gates bridge pickup. He says he got it at a Guitar Center in Atlanta about 18 years ago—it also sports Dickey Betts’ autograph. Jackson strings this and all his electrics with D’Addario .010-.046s.
This black Gibson SG Standard—one of Jackson’s pair of SGs—was a gift from Frank Hannon of the band Tesla, who signed the back of it.
Keep It Together
Jackson’s Martin D-28 currently has gaffer tape holding down its binding.
The other three touring staples for Jackson include a 1978 ES-335, a 40th Anniversary Les Paul Ebony 1991, and a 1998 Gibson SG Les Paul Custom Shop Historic.
De-Modded For Classic Tones
One of the two amps Jackson tours with is a pre-’85 Marshall JCM800 50-watt with a stock 4x12 cab. You’ll see it has a sticker that says “Paul Jackson Mod”—he had it modded at one point, but later took it to Andrews Amp Lab in Atlanta to have them “turn it back into a Marshall.” Along with the Marshall, Jackson’s Vox AC30 is on “all the time.”
Paul Jackson's Pedalboard
Jackson and Starr’s pedalboards have more than a few things in common—Jackson’s also equips his with a Cry Baby Wah, Wampler Faux Tape Echo, and a PCE-FX Aluminum Falcon Klon clone—although Jackson’s is an Aluminum Falcon III. Other pedals on his board include a Radial Twin-City ABY Amp Switcher, JHS 3 Series Reverb, MXR EVH Phase 90, Way Huge Overrated Special Overdrive, and an Ibanez Mini Tube Screamer. Power comes from a Truetone power supply. Of the EVH Phaser, Jackson says, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, hit the phase pedal. nobody will ever know.”