American blues singer and guitarist Peach Reasoner (aka Peach) has been playing and performing for decades. She began singing in the church choir at the age of six, picked up her first electric guitar at the age of 11, started performing at the age of 16, and attended the University of Denver at the school’s music program where as a vocal major her accompanist was former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Peach has had the opportunity to work with some of Blues’ finest musicians including Keb’ Mo’, Taj Mahal, and Joey Delgado to name a few. She has performed with numerous bands throughout the years across the Midwest, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Originally from Indiana, she currently resides in Venice, California and spends her summers in Copenhagen with her band, Peach and the Almost Blues Band. They released their album A Night in Copenhagen last year which was recorded live while performing at the Café Bartof. The band is made of members Peach Reasoner (lead vocal and lead guitar), Michael Engman Ronnow (guitar and backing vocals), and Helge Solberg (bass and backing vocals), Niclas Campagnol (drums). Special guest Ken Stange (keys, harp) appeared on the album A Night in Copenhagen.
Peach talks about her time in Copenhagen, her background in music, her guitar gear, and offers up a little advice for woman looking for a career in music.
Peach and the Almost Blues Bands. How and when was the band formed?
I started going to Europe, Denmark in particular, about ten years ago and at that time I was just looking around for people to play with. Throughout the years, I met people and got me some gigs and had a really great band behind me. Then a couple of years ago after playing the whole summer, I was at my girlfriend’s hairdresser shop and this guy was walking down the street and she says, “Oh, you gotta yell out there and tell him to come in here – he’s a really good bass player!” He came in and we got to laughing and he looked at my videos and then he showed them to the other guys in his band and then they decided that they wanted to do some gigs with me. They were the Almost Blues Band so they just brought me into the band and that’s how that happened.
You just play with the Almost Blues Band in Europe?
But if I go out to a club, pretty much I want to play knock down drag out, and I also want to play electrically and I also want to play – dare I say it – a little loud!
For our readers that aren’t familiar with you, tell us about your style of music?
At this point in my life, I would say I’m squarely playing blues, usually rhythm and blues, but it’s always electric blues. When I was younger, I went through a lot of different phases and playing a lot of different kinds of music which included playing jazz for long periods of time. But as I got older, I just wanted to rock. That was the weirdest thing that happened along the way. So, the older I got, the less I wanted to play bossa nova. I mean, I don’t mind playing bossa nova or jazz standards if I’m home and a friend comes over and we’re just kicking around. But if I go out to a club, pretty much I want to play knock down drag out, and I also want to play electrically and I also want to play – dare I say it – a little loud! So yeah pretty much I play electric blues now, but I cut my teeth in jazz when I was younger.
The band’s last release was “A Night in Copenhagen” that was recorded live at one of your favorite clubs.
The band and I were discussing how we needed a CD to sell at festivals and it’s also confusing to tell people I was an American artist playing with a Danish band and yet we didn’t have any evidence. We kind of needed some artillery. So, we decided to do the recording. When the time came around, this wonderful club owner said we could record it in his club. I went over there in the dead of winter and I took the keyboard player that I play with here in L.A., Ken Stange, who had played with Joe Cocker, and all the guys over there were just wild about the fact that he played with Joe Cocker. It was easy because he already knew all my songs and everything we were going to do. So that’s how “A Night in Copenhagen” happened and it was a really lucky thing, I think, for me.
I noticed there’s only one song on the album written by you – “Tell Me You Love Me.”
Yes, there were other songs recorded that night that I wrote. In fact, there were two songs that were 12/8 blues, one that I wrote with a guy here in the U.S. named Keb’ Mo’, and another one that Paulie Cerra wrote. After the CD was already mixed and mastered, my song wasn’t on there, but that was okay because I love Paulie’s song. That’s how it worked out. In the end, the songs that were selected, were just the songs that happened to work that night live because we did not overdub and we didn’t do them twice or anything like that. They were just all smack in your face recorded and that’s that. The guy that mixed it was the guitar player Michael Engman Rønnow and he felt they were the best tracks of all that we had recorded and I was okay with that. I’m more inclined these days to just trust other people. I tend to try to work with people that I like and trust and then I just go with what they think.
So naturally my sister
hated me, and I became a really good guitar player!
What is your background in music? I read that you started very young and you went to the University of Denver.
I started out singing in church in Indiana at the age of six. As I grew up, they didn’t quite know what to think of me because I just loved to sing. They knew I wasn’t heading towards the opera, so they told me when I was really, really little to listen to Judy Garland. At the age of 11, I started playing electric guitar. and I got a Fender Jazzmaster and it was a white one. They didn’t have anything that would even remotely be thought of as something a young woman would play so I thought that the white one was the ticket and somehow, I talked my mom into it, crazy enough. I got that and a little amplifier. I could just go to my room and I could get out of doing the dishes if I would say I need to go practice. So naturally my sister hated me, and I became a really good guitar player! By the age of 16, I was really good. I would always somehow end up running around with guys that played guitar or had boyfriends that played guitar and they would all teach me stuff. I knew most chords by the age of 16.
Did you teach yourself or did you take lessons?
No, I took lessons. I also just knew a lot of young men who played guitar and they would teach me songs. I remember the year I was 16 I went on a trip to France with a bunch of college students. My mother knew the chaperone so she put me on this trip. She thought it would be good for me.
That’s great you had parents that were so supportive.
Yeah. My mom was super, super cool about the whole thing. My father not so much! My father had a problem with me with the guitar because he loved country music and I didn’t want to play country music and he felt like that was just a total waste of a good guitar player if I wouldn’t play country.
Motown all day long!
What were you playing at that time?
I was playing Bob Dylan and Carole King and Joni Mitchell songs. Billie Holiday and Motown – Motown all day long! And then came the protest movement and then I was playing “The Times They Are A Changin’” and I went through the whole repertoire as the years went by. I didn’t take to country and that did not set well with my dad, so he thought it was waste.
Later there was a time when I got my picture on the front of the home town newspaper in San Francisco when I was living there and my Dad saw that and he thought that was cool. When I became a little bit successful, he started to relinquish on the fact that I was going to play the music that I wanted to play.
I was in all kinds of bands. I was in a band way back when they played Avant Garde jazz and unfortunately that year my dad came out to see me. (Laughing.) And we were playing insane music and he hated it. And I don’t blame him! It was probably a little too out there for myself, as well, but it was just one of those phases. I’ve gone through a lot of musical phases and played a long time.
I had a classical voice teacher and that’s how Condoleezza Rice was assigned to be my accompanist.
You ended up going to college for music?
I went to college in Colorado – that was before the San Francisco era. I left Indiana and went to college at the University of Denver and after about two years of being a language major, it occurred to me that I actually wanted to be a music major and all I wanted to do was play music. Which really if I thought about it, I could have figured that out from day one, but it just never occurred to me. I transferred into the music department which ended up being a bunch of misery for me because I really never studied classical, although I appreciated classical, I had never been trained as a classical musician. And in those years, music schools were all about classical. I had a classical voice teacher and that’s how Condoleezza Rice was assigned to be my accompanist. I had to take piano and I had to go through counterpoint and all this stuff on piano. And they ended up getting a guitar teacher at some point but you couldn’t major in guitar. That was a sideline, so I got saddled with trying to learn piano in music school. I never really was good at it.
The one good thing that came out of it was I got all the gigs that came through the music school to go do commercials and jingles because literally everybody else at the music school was a classical person. Most people at that time that played like I did were into jazz or pop or whatever, they all went to music school at Berklee back East, but I had never even heard of that school.
What other instruments do you play?
I play mostly stringed instruments – at home. (Laughs.) I’ve been known to play banjo and ukulele. Any kind of stringed instrument. I think one tends to like to play things they’re good at, and I was never that good on piano so I didn’t take to it. I think it’s a great instrument, but it just wasn’t my thing.
Probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done is spend a whole day with Taj Mahal.
You’ve had the opportunity to play with some really great musicians. You talked about Keb’ Mo’. Tell us about some of those experiences.
Probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done is spend a whole day with Taj Mahal. He came to a studio and we recorded a duet. I just thought that was really great. It was fun to meet him and get to work with somebody that close up. I didn’t know what to expect. He showed up with the most pristine, gorgeous instrument, new strings, clean as a whistle, and played beautifully. I thought that was really interesting from a guitar player perspective.
How did you get that opportunity?
There was a guy producing a record for me named Marty Grebb who had a band back in the day called The Buckinghams and Marty had lived in Woodstock, New York in the era when the Woodstock concert had happened. Marty played a lot with a band called The Band and I think Taj was sort of around in that crowd, also. Marty has known Taj for like 30 or 40 years. Marty pulled in some of the people on that recording and, ironically, I knew about half of the people on that recording; so, between the two of us, we just hand-picked a lot of different people that we wanted on various things.
What musicians are you listening to today?
Lately I got into this – he might be somewhat obscure – guy named Theo Katzman. It’s a long story how I got into him, but he’s a songwriter, but he also plays drums with a band called Vulfpeck. I went to see him with some friends and he was just one of the most inspirational songwriters I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve been listening again to Bob Dylan. I went to see him last year when I was in Europe, so I’ve been into that a bit. Mostly I get into the music of my friends. My friend Paulie Cerra just released – the guy whose song is on my recording – he’s touring with Joe Bonamassa right now. He’s the sax man in that band. He and I had a band many years ago together so we’re old friends. I just love Paulie’s stuff.
What’s the one biggest piece of advice you would offer to a young girl wanting to pursue a career in music as a performing musician?
It depends. I would just say follow your heart, that would be the main thing. If someone really wanted to sit down with me, I would have a lot of advice. (Laughs.) Things from like don’t get involved with any of your bandmates, that would be a biggie. I would say really get your craft together. For women players, one needs to build up kind of an invisible shield around yourself and learn to just let some of the hits hit that shield and not come in to you because it’s really tough out there. I’ve endeavored to play and to remain feminine and yet it’s been very, very hard. There’s a part of it where you have to be pretty tough. A lot of stuff happens along the way.
When I was coming up through the ranks, no one wanted me to play guitar, I’ll tell you that. In the ‘70s, that was not okay. I was a really good guitar player. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a good guitar player. They just wanted me to be the “chick singer” that was sort of the protocol at the time. So, I would play solo gigs on a great big Guild hollow body electric at various hotels five days a week to make a living and made pretty good money doing that and, of course, kept up my playing skills.
After I did that for a number of years, I just reached a point that I couldn’t do it anymore. This was about my evolution as a woman guitarist. One day while chatting with my girlfriend, I had a big revelation — these were my bands that were telling me not to play guitar! Seriously, it’s kind of funny now looking back. Then I kind of went through a bunch of players until I could settle in with people that actually like what I play and were down with the program as it was going to be – which was that I was going to be playing guitar. But the problem was I had no experience taking solos. Absolutely no experience. In my late 50s, I decided that I was going to take some guitar solos.
But it’s hard because as a woman guitarist, you’re under the microscope.
How did you approach that?
I got a boost pedal because you know you can’t take a solo unless you can be heard above the band that’s playing too loud and louder than your vocals — stomping all over your vocals and stomping all over your guitar playing. So, I got a boost pedal and I just started working on my soloing. I always have been blessed beyond words to play with some of the greatest guitarists in the world and it isn’t like I think my guitar playing is a contest between how I play or how the guy guitar player in the band plays. But I do have something to say and I do have something to say on the guitar. And I really do love what I do. I love playing guitar and I love how I play and I make it sound. I like the certain simple way I play – I’ve never been a shredder. I’m more in tune with like a B.B. King kind of approach. But that’s what I want to do. It just kind of took putting my foot down and giving myself the space. But it’s pretty hard to do when you get to the point in your life where you’re playing with all these masterful, masterful people and then my solos, of course, when I first started doing it was real painful. They weren’t all that great. I would say half the time that’s still the case. I mean there are nights when I can play a beautiful solo and it’s wonderful, and then are some nights when it just isn’t connecting. You know, like any guitar player. But it’s hard because as a woman guitarist, you’re under the microscope.
I hear that all the time.
I used to play a lot with Joey Delgado and he won Guitarist of the Year last year at the International Blues Competition in Memphis with the Delgado Brothers and they won as a band and Joey won as guitarist. There’s no doubt Joey’s one of the greats and I love what Joey does, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to take a solo in my own band.
How much time do you spend practicing?
I play a little every day. I play really pretty seriously two or three times a week with other guitar players and during those times I’m mostly playing scales and trying to play lead because it takes a lot to come out of playing zero lead chops to playing lead and leading a band into battle.
And that’s pretty consistent every week?
Yeah. When I’m traveling, like when I went back East recently to see my daughter, I didn’t play for the whole week, so that’s not good. But, somehow, I find that during these periods of time that when I don’t play, it just sort of refreshes me a little bit so then when I get back to it, I’m really excited about it.
What about when you’re touring when you go on your Summer trips?
I’ll probably be playing a little bit five days a week. Also, it’s a matter of keeping up your chops, keeping up your calluses.
Would you like to talk about your gear and give us a rundown?
Yes, I do. I’m a gear head! (Laughs.) My gear has progressed like any addiction.
I started out on all kinds of guitars, but always electric and pretty much I settled on a Strat for many years and I think I was into the Strat because quite frankly they’re easy to play. But I got into these custom telecasters by Asher Guitars – it’s called the Asher T Deluxe – and he has a website AsherGuitars.com. So, I got into these Asher Guitars and I have two that I keep in Europe and I have one that I keep here in the States. The Asher T Deluxe is basically like a telecaster only with a lot of guts. And it’s got these Curtis Novak pick-ups and a single coil pick-up and it’s just loud as hell, but just really great sound and tone.
I play a little bit of slide, so for that I play in open tunings and I have a different guitar and that, too, over the years has become a custom Asher Guitar called a Resosonic Rambler. He made these electric dobros out of these Rambler hub caps from the Rambler car of many years ago.
One of the most important parts of my gear is a boost pedal called a Centaur by a company called KLON and the guy that makes those, his name is Bill Finnegan, he made that model from 1994 to 2009 and he’s not making that unit anymore. The closest unit to that boost pedal is called a KTR and that by KLON is available in music stores. But I’m in love with that pedal, and that’s the only pedal I use other than a tuner.
And then last, but not least, is the amp – the amp situation. In Europe, I’m playing a vintage Fender Super Reverb and it’s got the overtone series and just – I don’t know – you just feel like you’ve gone to Heaven. I bought it from this guy that collects stuff and he usually doesn’t sell his stuff, but he could see that I was really desperate. (Laughs.) I had been borrowing amps over there and it was just a nightmare. Finally, the band told me I needed to go buy an amp so I went and bought that.
I’ve got plenty of amps here in L.A. I endorse Rivera Amps by Paul Rivera. I have a whole bunch of different models of Riveras which have a similar overtone series to the Super Reverb. I was always innately drawn to the Riveras because they have a real pretty overtone series.
I’m leaving for the Summer to go to Europe in late June. In June, we will be rehearsing and then July and August, we will be performing festivals, and then in September hopefully a studio recording. That’s the game plan.