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British Blues Guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor

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While producer Dave Stewart has produced Orianthi’s current album Heaven in This Hell, he is also responsible for discovering yet another guitarist.

Joanne Shaw Taylor, who we interviewed back in September, was born and raised in the Black Country, Joanne was originally discovered by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart as a 16 year old guitar prodigy.

Through hard work and near-constant touring, she is now one of the hottest young names on the British Blues circuit. She is admired and respected by many leading blues guitarists including Joe Bonamassa.

A Birmingham native, Taylor is a phenomenal guitarist, singer/songwriter who is currently taking both sides of the Atlantic by storm.

Having received a nomination for ‘Best New Artist Debut’ at the British Blues Awards for White Sugar, her singing ability took voters by storm, and as a result, Taylor scooped consecutive wins in the ‘Best British Female Vocalist’ category in both 2010 and 2011.

Her current album, Almost Always Never, was helmed by the legendary record producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin) in Austin, Texas.

Following her acclaimed performance alongside Annie Lennox at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert in June 2012, the release of her critically acclaimed third studio album Almost Always Never, and a nationwide UK tour, the blues rock sensation will return to the UK on Sunday, May 12, 2013, for an exclusive London concert to record a new live DVD in the intimate setting of one of London’s most famous live music venues, The Borderline.

Taylor will perform tracks from her current album Almost Always Never, alongside crowd favorites taken from her two previous albums, her 2009 release White Sugar and 2010’s Diamonds in the Dirt.

As an electric guitarist, Joanne mixes many different genres into her blues-based music, including rock, blues, funk, and soul.

All of these music genres and influences represent sources of inspiration in her writing and playing abilities.

While, she has enough chops to keep up with the best in the business, she prefers having a solo career.

She notably relies on groove and emotion to draw in her audience, holding their attention until the last notes of the song.

In addition to her fretwork, she possesses a sultry voice that only accentuates her playing and adds another level of musicianship to her artistic palette.

Taylor, who prefers Marshall stacks, has an arsenal that includes a 1966 Fender Esquire, modified with a Seymor Duncan Jazz Humbucker, a Dave Stewart Telecaster 
(1955 Telecaster Neck With Custom Shop Warmoth Body), a “Mighty Mouse” Custom Built Telecaster 
(Lil Jeff Beck Stacked Humbucker at the Bridge), an unmodified1995 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and unmodified 2005 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a ’97 Fender Strat with Linday Fralin Vintage Hot Pickups, a stock ’95 Fender Strat, and a Fender Squire ’51 with a Seymor Duncan Pearly Gates Bridge Pickup.

Now, look for her to break into the notoriously hard-to-crack US market.

Photo credit:  Peter Fannen

By Phyllis Pollack

 

Guitarists, Learn the Lingo to Jam

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Ever been to a blues jam? Well, there is a lingo, if you will, that you need to get familiar with! A language that musicians use to call songs, that gives you a quick reference to how the progression goes. Layouts to help guide you through the chord changes and enlighten you about what you’ll be soloing over, as well.

For example, if someone calls a 12 bar I-IV-V progression in the key of C, would you know what they were referring to? Well, they are referring to the chords constructed from the first, fourth and fifth notes in the major scale. In this case, the key of C.

Do you know how to construct a major scale? Just in case you don’t, let’s visit this for a moment.

The major scale is constructed with eight notes. The first note is the root note or key the scale is in. From there, you travel a distance to get to each note that builds the scale using whole steps and half steps. A whole step is two frets distance. Example, move from first to third fret on any string. A half step is one fret distance. Example, move from first to second fret on any string.

Now, start on the root note. Let’s start at the third fret on the fifth string. This will give us a C note. Pick it, then move up the neck one whole step to the fifth fret and pick the second note of the scale which is D.

Move a whole step up the neck to the seventh fret and play an E. This is your third note in the scale.

Now, move a half step forward, placing you at the eight fret on an F, the fourth note, in your C major scale.

Move forward a whole step to the tenth fret and play a G. This is your fifth note in your C major scale.

Move forward a whole step to the twelfth fret to an A. This is your sixth note.

Now, move forward a whole step to the fourteenth fret and this places you on B, the seventh note in the scale.

Now, move forward a half step to the fifteenth fret and this is a C note.

There, you have it! All the notes that construct the C major scale! Start on a C note and end on a C note.

The key of C major scale is constructed with these notes; C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. You can play a major scale in any key. Simply determine what key you want to play it in and start on that note. From there, apply the major scale formula to play the rest of the notes in the scale. Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step!

Of course, it’s a lot easier moving up one string rather than moving across the strings and obviously you have to learn the layout of the notes on the fretboard to be able to fully apply this information.

I encourage you to apply this information and play the scales on the neck moving up the same string initially, allowing your ears to become familiar with the sound of the scale, and then venture into finding the same notes working across the strings, calling out the names of each note. It’s a win, win. You are going to learn the layout of the notes on the fret board and learn the notes that are in each key of the major scale!

So, you need to get familiar with your musical alphabet. For example, natural notes. A, B, C, D, E, F, G. You also need to become familiar with sharp and flat notes as well. To make any note sharp (#); move forward a half step or one fret. To make any note flat (b); move back a half step or one fret. Your musical alphabet is compiled of these notes: A, A# or Bb, B, C, C# or Db, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab.

I’ll clue you in on all your natural key major scales, whether they use sharps or flats. The key of A, B, D, E and G have sharps. The key of F has one flat note. Obviously, you have major scales that can be in a sharp or flat key as well.

First, write out the natural key major scales applying the major scale formula. Example, the key of G major scale consists of these notes, G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. This scale has one sharp note. That is F#. In the key of G, your I-IV-V chords are G, C and D. This is what you need to do for each key. How did I figure out what the I-IV-V chords are? Write out a major scale in the key of your choice.  Determine what the first, fourth and fifth notes are in the scale. Constructed from each one of those notes in the first, fourth and fifth position of the scale, gives you the root or key of your I-IV-V chords.

I encourage you to make a chart.

Example:
I-IV-V chords:
Key of A: A, D, E
Key of B: B, E, F#
Key of C: C, F, G
Key of D: D, G, A
Key of E: E, A, B
Key of F: F, Bb, C
Key of G: G, C, D

Now, you obviously need to get familiar with the sharp and flat keys as well. Learn the major scale in every key. Then, pick out what the I-IV-V chords are in each key. So, for example, if you play a I-IV-V chord progression in the key of C, your I-IV-V chords will be C, F and G.

You may encounter some chords you are not familiar with in certain keys. Its ok, you’ll get there! Have patience with yourself, it’s a lot of information to process and apply.

At blues jams, there will typically be a song or progression called that uses the 12 bar I-IV–V progression. Now, I’m not saying this is how every blues tune ever recorded is constructed. But, it certainly does cover quite a few tunes that you’ll be able to get up to speed on pretty quickly to partake in a jam situation.

A twelve bar I-IV-V chord progression is a great place to start. So, for example, a 12 bar, I-IV-V progression is called in the key of C. 12 bars? Hmm. What’s that? That’s how many measures you cycle through in the chord progression before you are back at the beginning of the chord progression. A typical 12 bar I-IV-V progression consists of the 1st four measures being the I chord, then the fifth and sixth measures being the IV chord. The seventh and eighth measure, return to the I chord. The ninth measure is the V chord. The tenth measure is the IV chord and the eleventh measure is the I chord. The twelfth measure can be the I or the V chord. Sometimes, there’s a quick IV in the second measure taking the place of the I chord. Always ask before the song starts. There can be some variations in a 12 bar I-IV-V progression. For example; a long I chord in the beginning of the progression, stops, etc. Always ask! And when in doubt, layout!

You’ll catch on. It is beneficial to learn some of the lingo before you head out to a blues jam. There are other types of chord progressions I will be sharing with you in future articles. Chord progressions, that you’ll find, are used quite often in various styles of music.

I hope you find this information helpful and are able to apply it ASAP! Pick up your guitar and play!

Interview with Meiko: Her Music & Her Wit

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Derived from her Japanese heritage, Meiko means ‘bud,’ or rather ‘female,’ and Meiko displays her budding charm so delicately, yet so distinctively. Her voice is resonating and her singing style is definitively unique. Meiko grew up in the teeny, tiny small town of Roberta, Georgia and moved to Los Angeles to broaden her horizons. While bartending at Hotel Cafe, she was able to book an opening slot, and then retrieved the performing bug from then on. Her singles have been featured in popular television shows, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Pretty Little Liars and the film 10 Things I Hate About You.

Meiko’s most recent single, ‘Stuck On You,’ was featured in Crate & Barrel‘s first ad campaign in over 5 years, and played a significant role in how the popular retail giant brands its products and philosophy. Her current EP, followed by her second solo release, The Bright Side, was released on January 29, 2013 just in time for Valentine’s Day, aptly titled You and Me. The EP contains five tracks, with three acoustic versions of her singles, and her own unique arrangements of two classic love standards.

Meiko is currently in the studio recording new music for a new album, so we’re all excited for her next release! Find out what Meiko had to chat with us about below:

GGM: In a recent interview, you recently shared your favorite places and things in LA. Since you¹re originally from a small town in Georgia, do you have any favorite places in the South?

Meiko: I’m a huge fan of southern fried chicken! My favorite places are: Gus’ World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken in Memphis, TN, and Lockett’s Kuntry Kitchen in Culloden, GA.

GGM: How do you feel about all of your singles from your self-titled debut album featured in a TV series? Some musicians hope for one to make it into a show or movie, yet all of your singles graced a TV show or film.

Meiko: I feel very lucky. I know just how big of a reach you get when you have a song on TV. “Grey’s Anatomy” is a perfect example. So many people watched that show and searched out the lyrics on Google to find me! I was amazed.

GGM: Your songs and albums are an essential display of love, life and the in-between. Is there anything you haven¹t sung about that you¹d like to?

Meiko: Not that I can think of. Life, Love and the In-Betweens really sums it up!

GGM: What difficulties, or have you experienced any, are there for women in music?

Meiko: The only thing I can think of is how hard it is sometimes to stand out amongst a bunch of “girls with guitars.” If I had a nickel for every time someone said I was just like Jewel – I could probably buy a tour bus (I love Jewel, btw – we had an amazing tour together a couple of years ago!)

GGM: What do you think of the varied stereotypes of women and men in music?

Meiko: I try not to pay too much attention to that. I am a girl and I play the guitar. But there is so much more to it than that! I am a hard worker and sure, I like playing my music for people, but I write songs for me – to get my feelings out and move on! I’m lucky enough to have people that listen and can relate to a lot of it.

Meiko was recently featured on DirectTV’s Guitar Center sessions; check out one of her performances below:

GGM: What¹s the best thing you like about making music? The worst?

Meiko: The best: being able to express something in a song – a lot of people aren’t able to do that. The worst: there is nothing bad about making music, honestly. It’s too good for the soul.

GGM: What¹s next for Meiko?

Meiko: I’m getting demos together for my next record, which will eventually turn into me making another record! I’m so excited to get this party started.

Fun Questions

GGM: What was your first album on cassette, vinyl, and/or CD?

Meiko:
Cassette: Mariah Carey, Emotions
CD: The Bodyguard Soundtrack
Vinyl: Prince, Purple Rain

GGM: What was your first concert? Do you have a favorite of all the concerts you¹ve been to?

Meiko: My first concert was The Smashing Pumpkins when I was in 10th grade. My favorite concert so far has been Sade in London.

GGM: What are the top 5 albums you wouldn¹t want to live without?

Meiko:
Mary J Blige: My Life
Sade: The Best of Sade
Aphex Twin: Come to Daddy
Edie Brikell: Ghost of a Dog
Paco De Lucia: Entre Dos Aguas

GGM: Got a guilty musical pleasure?

Meiko: Ace of Base!

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Thanks so much to Meiko for interviewing with Guitar Girl Magazine!

Connect with Meiko:

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Interview with Southern California Singer-Songwriter Josh Damigo

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San Jose, California singer-songwriter Josh Damigo grew up in a strict household where he was only allowed to listen to KFRC, the local oldies station in the Bay Area. He found himself influenced by bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and other lyrically driven music. Damigo’s introduction to music was ordinary to say the least; Mom signs kid up for piano lessons, kid hates piano lessons, kid quits piano, kid picks up a guitar, and like any normal know-it-all 16-year-old, he was ready to hit the stage just one week after picking up said guitar.

Josh’s crash course in performing paid off, however, with multiple San Diego Music awards in 2006, in 2009 for his album Raw, in 2010 for Best Acoustic, won the 2012 San Diego County Fair Singer/Songwriter competition, was nominated for Best Album in the LA Critics Awards for his newest album Hope, won the International Acoustic Music Awards for his song “LA is Not My Home,” and recently had the honor of singing the National Anthem at the LA Lakers vs. The Bulls game at the Staples Center on March 10th.

Josh has shared the stage with several notable artists, including The Jonas Brothers, Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchison, Shawn Colvin, Joss Stone, and Josh Gracin, just to name a few. His tireless efforts have earned him rotation on several college and commercial radio stations, a mention in several prominent California newspapers, and Josh just finished a nationwide tour promoting his album Hope.

We were able to catch up with Josh after his return from touring to learn more about him, his inspirations, and what’s next.

Where do you get your inspiration for your songs?

I would say that I like to “write to the heart.” I’m all about touching as many people as possible, and when I write, I think about two things. First, am I being honest with my lyrics? And, second, will this resonate with my audience. I’m usually inspired by situations that come into my life. Some of my songs like “Just Let Me Love You,” is about a guy who loves a girl, but for some reason she can’t let him in; and “If I Had a Dollar,” which is a love song about a guy who wishes he could afford to treat a girl special, but he’s too poor. I think both of these are a great reflection of where I’m at in life right now.

On the opposite spectrum, I’m under the belief that there is no such thing as “writers block” and that you can be silly and goofy and write whatever you want, whenever you want. I wrote a song called “Crazy For Your Love” a while back, and it’s a love song from a psycho murderer to his victim, but set to a sweet and innocent Jason Mraz-style tune. It makes you feel sad for him, and almost makes you want to let him kill you to prove his love!

I think that inspiration is great, but for anyone who wants to be a writer, the truth is you just have to continue growing, continue reading and expanding your vocabulary, and grab a pen and write, write, write, until your fingers can’t stand it anymore!

You say you grew up only being allowed to listen to oldies, what type of effect would you say that had on your writing style?

I was writing with a friend of mine a while back who’s in a band called Little Hurricane. When we started writing and showing each other our songs, he started laughing at me. I said, “Why are you laughing?” He replied with, “’Cause every one of your songs has a melody that is so much stronger than any other songs I’ve heard. It’s like I’m listening to Disney or Taylor Swift!”

I definitely find that I’m very particular in my songs. Every word has a meaning. I don’t allow for any “fillers” because I don’t feel the Beatles or Bob Dylan would have ever done that. I guess it makes me a stronger writer because I’m pulling from the golden age of radio, and really taking time to make sure that my song will get stuck in your head, and replay over and over and over and over….

Reflecting back on the inspiration from the limited music you were allowed to listen to, you know, The Beatles, Beach Boys, etc., how do you think the music of the ‘80s and ‘90s that you apparently missed out on at the time would have influenced you.  Do you think the music of that era would have influenced you differently, and if so, in what way? In other words, would your music be substantially different?

I think the biggest difference that I would have probably had would be in my musicianship. When I was growing up, it was about guitar solos and wailing vocals, then somewhere along the way, it switched to boy bands and pop groups. Had I been listening to the late ‘80s and ‘90s music, I’m sure I would have practiced my guitar much more, and be rockin’ some harder tunes. But, I’m happy with my sing-songy type of writing.

You started out playing the piano.  What made you decide to pick up a guitar after quitting piano lessons?

I remember watching my dad play when I was a little kid and thought that he was the most amazing guitar player in the world. I wanted to be so much like him, that one of my first childhood memories was throwing picks into his guitar, and then getting spanked for it! J When I got older, my parents divorced and I would only see my dad for a few days during the summer. I loved his old guitar, and loved watching him play and sing when I was out there. We’d listen to Jim Croce and the Eagles and other bands while driving down the highway, and I think as a kid that was when I was the happiest. All of that influenced me to start playing when I was 16. I knew I was musical, and I loved sitting around just making up stuff on my mom’s organ in our house, so when I got a guitar, I literally just sat around playing with it, and trying to make it work. J I taught myself in a few months, and I’m still learning new things today!

Can you tell us a little about your gear and any endorsements? 

I’m endorsed by Deering Banjos. They have been one of the coolest companies to play for. I play the Phoenix Six String Banjo, and it’s a sweet little bad boy! It’s really fun telling stories with my banjo, and people really dig the change of pace! 🙂

You said you first started playing music in church and have gone on to pursue music as a career and have won multiple awards.  Can you describe the progression?

Well, my first performance was to a sold out crowd in West Minot, Maine at the age of 11 months. (I was baby Jesus in the Christmas Play!) I don’t remember anything from that… but, after I turned 16 and was the only guy in my youth group in San Jose that could play guitar, I kind of got thrown into it. I’d just jump up every Wednesday night and play to the room the different songs that were picked. I haven’t really thought of it in a really long time, but that was a really fun experience. I looked forward to Wednesday nights all week. When I first started, playing all I wanted to do was be in a Christian Rock Band, but as time passed, I realized that I was writing more and more songs about love and life, and less about God and my beliefs. In college, I would lock myself in my room sometimes and just go to town trying to make a song, skipping homework, and tons of other social activities, but this was something I did for fun, and didn’t really take it too seriously.

I got a pretty tough injury in college and lost the ability to play competitive sports. It made me wonder what I was going to do with my life, and I guess that’s where the beginnings of my music career started. I played for a few friends and they said, “You should play an open mic!” I didn’t know what an open mic was, so I went to go see one. I watched people play for 7 or 8 weeks straight and took mental notes on everything I saw them do. I would watch guys get up and make people laugh or fail miserably, be really nervous or confident, and off-pitch or pretty good; and I soaked it all in.

I played my first open mic the next week, and was offered a gig. From there, I became good friends with the guys who booked the shows, and became a regular at the “acoustic scene” in San Diego. I put out an album, some people liked it, and boom… I won an award… and I was honored, but I’d still be writing and making music, even if I never had.

I guess it was just a really long process from sitting in my room, to sitting on a stage, but the time I took getting ready and perfecting my performance eventually paid off! J

You’ve performed with some pretty big names, what would you say you’ve learned from performing with artists like The Jonas Brothers, Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchinson and Shawn Colvin, among many?

“Be Lucky.” – Shawn Mullins.

“Don’t give up, you’ve got something special.” – Kenny Loggins

“Dude, you really killed it! I hope we play again soon!” – Matt Nathanson

Those are just a few of the quotes I’ve heard over the past few years in conversations with artists. The number one thing I’ve learned is that all of these musicians had to be a little bit crazy to get where they are now. Shawn Mullins was on his 7th record before “Lullaby” came out and made him a household name in the ‘90s. Jason lived in his car and Matt drove up and down the coast begging to play for radio stations in their parking lots!

You have to really believe in yourself, do the best you can, and then put it out there and let it go. If you worry about it too much, you’ll just lose sleep trying to force things to happen. If you let it go and do the best you can, you have the ability to sleep longer, live happier, and be grateful for the opportunities you’re given.

You recently returned from a national tour, what would you say you are most excited about in regards to touring?

I am a huge lover of driving. I absolutely can’t wait to see all the sights in different states! I broke up my “national” tour into five smaller tours: Southwest, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest. I’ve already done the Midwest twice and loved it. I’ve done the northeast twice, and that was my favorite, because I’m a huge Boston Red Sox fan!

It’s also fun to meet people and learn different inside jokes and observe different mannerisms that different states have. I’m a huge fan of people watching, and there’s not much funnier than watching people talk in the same language as me, but a completely different accent that makes them almost impossible to follow!

Speaking of your tour, how was that experience and what was your most memorable moment of the tour?

 I think the most memorable experience was driving to the edge of a cliff and not falling off… Twice… Don’t sleep and drive, kids…

You launched a Kickstarter campaign for the release of your sophomore album “Hope” and your US tour and raised over $12,000.  Can you share with us your experience with Kickstarter and would you recommend it for other artists?

It’s a great avenue to raise support from your fans, but you can’t overuse it- be sure you have all the pieces in place or you won’t be as successful as you could be.

Jim Croce’s son, AJ, also contributed to a song on “Hope.”  How did you meet him and how was it working with him?

 I am a huge fan of his father and had to get AJ’s permission to play it, and he asked to play on the record! I was so honored, and I’ve played a few shows with him since.

Have you started on any new songs?

Always writing! Can’t wait to work on another album!

We have a few fun questions for you: What’s your guilty musical pleasure?

Taylor Swift.

What are your top five favorite albums of all time?

DC Talk – Welcome to the Freak Show
All Star United – Greatest Hits
Gary Clark Jr. -Blak and Blu
Berkley Hart – Crow
Jim Croce – I Gotta Name

If you could share the stage with one musician, who would that be and why?

Elvis. He’s the King!!!

Where can our readers find out more about you and possibly catch a live show? 

I have a show calendar that is downloadable on reverbnation.com/joshdamigo that is continually updated.  Also, I’m easily reachable on Facebook.com/joshdamigomusic, twitter @joshdamigo, and myspace.com/joshdamigo. My website is JoshDamigo.com and has links to all of my social networking sites and shows off my blog.

Cover Photo:  Dennis Anderson Photography

Grammy Museum Music Revolution: The New Program For Young Adults

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The Grammy Museum Music Revolution is a new program that specifically focuses on young adults and their love for music. The project is held in Kansas City, Missouri and will feature a variety of musical talent from the most talented, young musicians in the city. The music ranges from folk, jazz, rock and roll to hip-hop and more. High school students are encouraged to apply, as this academy is to “broaden their musical and creative skill while helping them establish relationships, increase self-esteem, develop entrepreneurial skills and grow their passion for music.” It is a four-week summer academy which begins on June 17th, 2013 and ends on July 12th, 2013.

The program concludes with a formal concert program for friends and family, as well as the community. Program classes include music history and composition, and mentoring sessions with GRAMMY Award nominees and winners, along with collaborations with fellow classmates. The ages to participate are between 14 and 21. The project will be held at at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO during the project’s tenure.

Our very own gifted musician and lead singer, Jillian Roscoe, had the time of her life participating in the event last year. Read about her experiences with the project HERE.

For more information and how to apply, click HERE.

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Interview with Sharon Aguilar: Administrator of Guitar for Miss President

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Influenced by such great guitarists as Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, and Carlos Santana, Panamanian-born, Miami-raised Sharon Aguilar, during the course of her professional musical career, had been making the rounds of playing in both original and tribute bands, but it was her audition for Cee-Lo Green that took her to the next level, and eventually set her up for her latest effort, as guitarist of a new all-female band called Miss President.

[Cover Photo credit:  John Taylor]

I asked Sharon about her time as Cee-Lo’s guitarist, how she got the job, and how that evolved into what is now Miss President, as well as other topics like her choosing guitar over violin, how she briefly handled living in a rather non-electric environment, and her endorsement by Fender.  But for openers…

GGM: I thought I’d start this interview off with a fun question for you, Sharon. What was the first rock concert you attended?

Sharon: My father was always really into classic rock music. I grew up listening to classic rock, and even have video of me headbanging to Led Zeppelin’s ‘In My Time of Dying” in my playpen! The Guess Who [famous for their 1970 hit “American Woman”] was my first concert, my father took me to see them when I was a teenager.

GGM:  You were born in Panama to an American serviceman and his Panamanian wife. Even though you were raised in Miami, you did go back to Panama for some education while a teenager. But how did you get used to “roughing it” during your time there without heating, air conditioning or hot water?

Sharon: At first it was a culture shock, I was used to the comforts of having my own bedroom and space, as well as heated showers and air conditioning. I have a very big family, and all of the joy and love that I received from being around them more than made up for the lack of amenities from home.  It really made me appreciate the things that I have now so much more. Even the little things. Our society tends to get caught up with brands and trends, but my first-hand experience from living on the very basics keeps me grounded.

GGM:  After moving to Miami, you took up violin at a magnet school, which led to you playing in local youth symphonies. At the same time, you also learned guitar playing. Was the classic rock that your father listened to, like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, a big influence in your decision to eventually become a professional guitarist?  

Sharon: Yes, it definitely played a huge role in my decision to become a professional guitarist. My father showed me “The Song Remains the Same” video of Zeppelin, and I remember watching Jimmy Page and thinking…I want to do that! He looked so cool standing there with his guitar all slung down low almost to his knees, while playing with so many cool echo effects, with his distortion feeding back…so rockstar!

GGM:  Prior to auditioning for Cee-Lo back in 2010, you were in some tribute bands, as well as some original ones. Is it not fair to compare bands that play original music to those that are either cover bands or pay tribute to a certain act or acts?

Sharon: You can’t really compare the two because one is just a gig where people that want to be pro in the future cut their teeth. The other, isn’t work at all because it is original artistic expression. In all fairness, many really tight bands with incredible musicianship learned that incredible musicianship and how to be and sound professional by playing in cover bands and learning what works on stage and what doesn’t.

GGM:  You’re really no stranger to being in a female band, because you were in one prior to auditioning for Cee-Lo. What was Pretty Little Problem all about, and who else were in that band besides you?

Sharon: I actually have only played in all female bands, with the exception of having a male drummer on the 2ne1 tour. Pretty Little Problem was an all female band that my friends and I started in 2009. It was a fun project, and we wrote some cool pop-rock tunes, of which one was placed on Fefe Dobson’s album “Joy.” The song [“Rockstar” by Fefe Dobson] was also placed on “American Idol” and “Hellcats” [CW drama series from 2010-11].

My vocalist from Pretty Little Problem, Britt Burton, and I are currently working on a new girl band called Miss President. Other band members were Ashlee Williss, Brookes Regenhardt, and Allyn McNamara.

GGM:  How did you find out about the Cee-Lo audition, and what was your initial reaction when you got selected?

Sharon: When I was a student at the Musicians’ Institute,  they brought the audition to my attention and reserved me a spot. I received a call from Cee Lo’s camp asking me if I was available to play “The Tonight Show.” Hmm…let me check my calendar, umm …yeah, I am free!! lol.

There is no feeling like the feeling of getting your first big gig, and seeing how the many years of struggle, sacrifice, and work, really were for something special.

GGM:  You and the rest of Scarlet Fever accompanied Cee-Lo as he was making the rounds of TV shows worldwide back in 2010 and ’11 to plug his album “The Lady Killer,” as well as a few concerts. What particular shows or appearances do you think stood out from the rest during that tour?

Sharon: There were so many fun performances, but for me, opening for Prince at Madison Square Garden was one of my favorites! When we were in soundcheck, going through one of the songs, all of the sudden we heard an additional piano…when we looked over at it, Prince was jamming with us! We are all fans of his, so this was super exciting =) Another highlight was opening for the Foo Fighters at [London’s] Wembley Arena.

Playing that show was fun, but believe it or not, the most exciting part for me happened after the show. I was watching the Foo Fighters play their set from stage right, when I look next to me…..who was standing there??? John Paul Jones!!! I waited till after the set to have my starstruck moment where I had to ask for a photo. He was so cool, and said that the girls and I did a great job backing up Cee Lo. He then told me about the first time he played Wembley Arena. I was speaking to a legend about playing Wembley. I had to pinch myself! lol Playing on “SNL” was so much fun too! I had watched the show since I was a little girl, and had watched so many bands play that stage. Being there and performing was a moment that I will treasure forever.

GGM:  As sure as Cee-Lo went on become part of “The Voice,” was it your idea to take that next step by turning what had been Scarlet Fever into Miss President?   

Sharon: Since I began playing guitar, I have always had the vision of being in an original all girl band of stellar, outstanding musicians. While playing with Cee Lo, I found that. All of us girls have such a great energy and chemistry from playing around the world, and growing musically together. I did ask them if they wanted to join me in my quest of creating this all girl band that I had been envisioning for all of my musical life.

GGM:  Additionally, last year, you toured as a backup guitarist for the Korean girl group 2ne1. Was it just for their US tour stops in the New York and Los Angeles areas, or was it for the entire tour, and–either way–what was that like?  

Sharon: I played guitar with 2ne1 for the entirety of their “New Evolution” tour. This was an incredible experience because I had never been to asia before. It was awesome to travel and experience the culture. I found my new favorite place in the world, Singapore! I absolutely fell in love with the beauty, lushness, and modern architecture of this city.  I also realized that there are many more markets out there besides the US. K-pop is huge! I had no idea till I experienced it first hand playing sold out arena shows and seeing the dedication of the fans.

GGM:  Fender’s website mentions that your gear includes a couple of Stratocasters. How did you land an endorsement deal with this pioneering guitar manufacturer?

Sharon: My management from when I was in Pretty Little Problem arranged for me to have a meeting with them. Though at the time, I did not have much presence in the music world, I shared my vision with Fender, and they backed me up and believed in me from the beginning. They are such an iconic company, and I am thrilled to be part of their family.

GGM:  Finally, Sharon, back in the mid-1980’s, there was a female urban dance-pop band called Klymaxx, who were famous for such hits as “Meeting in the Ladies’ Room” and “I Miss You.” As you work on your debut album, and having done a live gig or two already, will we expect something Klymaxx-like from Miss President, or perhaps something more fresh?

Sharon: Every aspect of the idea that is Miss President was not a carefully contrived over-produced pop idea.  We wanted every sound in the band to have a hook, but not pay homage to any one genre. Without giving a total spoiler, I will say that just from a guitar perspective, you are going to hear everything from your standard pop riff, to neo-classical, and everything in-between.

And it’s that “everything,” in-between and otherwise, which exemplifies what Sharon and the rest of Miss President–singer Britt Burton, bassist/keyboardist DANiiVORY, and drummer Brittany Brooks–are doing as they rock it their way.  How’s that for thinking “outside the box”?

You can keep up to date on all things Miss President by liking them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/misspresidentmusic and follow them on Twitter @miss_president.  Their official website is www.misspresidentmusic.com.

Sharon can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonaguilarrocks, and on Twitter @Sharon__Aguilar.  And you can also find some clips of Sharon on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/SharonAguilarRocks.

Cover photo caption:   Sharon Aguilar of Miss President performing at the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles on February 10, 2013 by Aaron Firouz

 

Orianthi’s ‘Heaven In This Hell’ a departure from her sophomore album

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Orianthi’s third album, Heaven In This Hell, is a blatant distant departure from her sophomore release.

Interview with Former Band turned Solo Artist, Matthew Mayfield

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I came across Matthew Mayfield a few years ago when he was giving out some free music as he usually does each year as a ‘thank you’ to his fans for supporting him throughout the years, and I’ve been a listener and doting fan since. Matthew is such a genuine, down-to-earth and comical guy who treats all of his fans and friends the same. He’s the real deal in this often-times difficult, yet exciting business. This is my second interview with Matthew and we learn something new and insightful each time. Find out what he had to say about the music business, how he became solo and his advice to female and male guitarists (Hint: it’s good!)

Matthew is currently on tour with The Rock Boat from February 24-March 1st, and features such notable acts as Brandi Carlile, Tony Lucca, Sister Hazel, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Ben Rector, and many more.

GGM: For those that are unfamiliar with your music, please sum it up with three words. 

MM: Two-faced folk/rock.

GGM: How do you think male and female musicians are bridging the barrier between what has been, for many years, a definitive line between women and men in music?

MMFor me, there’s never been a line.  Women have written and performed some of the greatest music this planet has ever heard.  I’ve seen certain genres outside of the folk/singer/songwriter world with very few female success stories.  But when you see a legend like Joan Jett or a contemporary like Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Dead Weather) get up there with that sexy swagger with their boots up on the monitors, you realize it has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the numbers.  Women are simply outnumbered in rock ‘n roll.  I hope more and more chicks pick up electric guitars and crank the amps to 10 in the future. We all need it.

GGM: Contemplating on the above question, what are the differences between women and men in music?

MM: I think the main difference is the obvious, more primitive observation. There’s a certain amount of testosterone required to do a specific set of things and there’s a certain amount of estrogen required to do a different set of things. A woman’s voice can change the temperature in the room I’m sitting in. Certain female singers can make my heart race and my jaw drop. There’s a raw tenderness in certain performances (Patty Griffin’s ‘Nobody’s Crying’) that can bring you to tears and there’s a biting viciousness that can break you in two (Stevie Nicks in ‘Silver Springs’ from The Dance tour). We’re just built differently and I love how we affect each other differently on a musical front.

GGM: You started out with Moses Mayfield, and shortly thereafter went solo. Why the change to solo Matthew Mayfield?

MMThat band was so much fun — some of the best times of my life.  But we caught the final wave of the old school major label model. We signed to Epic, toured with some huge bands, spent an insane amount of money on the record, etc. only to get dropped and hung out to dry as a result of a regime change at the label. Once that happened, the wheels started to fall off.  Once they did, I decided to make an acoustic record in a basement on the cheap and call it my name. Grey’s Anatomy called and that kickstarted the solo thing back in 2008. Been at it as a one man show ever since.

GGM: Tell us about your upcoming The Rock Boat Tour; how’d that come about? Any more tours in the future planned?

MM: The Boat should be a lot of fun and has potential to be quite the disaster :laughs: . A lot of my friends are gonna be on that boat, so there’s bound to be many stories to tell. Hopefully we’ll all make it back alive. As for touring, we’re working on some Spring/Summer dates as we speak.

GGM: Who are your favorite female musicians? 

 There are so many who I admire…all for different reasons. Patty Griffin and Brandi Carlile are up there on the list. Their voices and their writing blow my mind. They’re the kind of artists that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Patty has that angelic, pure tone…it puts me in a trance. Brandi is a powerhouse. She goes from a whisper to a scream so gracefully and I believe every word she sings. There’s a conviction in her live performance that’s unmatched. That’s the kind of passion that truly inspires me.

GGM: Anyone who knows you fairly well, knows you’re a pretty big fan of G N’ R; have any other bands/singers who fit in similar proximity? 

MMGuns was my first love as 9 year old kid.  They’ll always have a special place in my rocknroll heart :laughs: .  I love any band who can make your heart pound with a drum kit, a bass, a couple guitars, and a singer. Everything from Zeppelin to Aerosmith to Skynyrd to current acts like Foo Fighters, Jack White, Ryan Adams, and The Gaslight Anthem. They all are real players with real stories and real chops to back up their records. Nothing is perfect about them – which I love. The imperfections in live performance are what keep it human and in turn, interesting.

GGM: Have any advice for aspiring female (or male) musicians?

MM: 

For females:  Develop your chops because it will stand out.  There are way to many chicks with guitars playing 3 chords over and over and only a few slots for success in that arena.   Be the next Bonnie Raitt.  Write amazing songs, play guitar like a pro, and figure out how to stand out in the crowd.  Do it all yourself. Don’t rely on the promises of the most fickle industry on the planet.

For males:  Don’t try to be the next Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen. Make it about the songs. Make it about the band. Too many dudes get too focused on chops and lose sight of the songs. There a thousand people that can play guitar better than you. Figure out a way to blaze your own trails. It’s crucial. I’ve been at it full time for 11 years and still grinding away. Patience and perseverance are everything these days.

GGM: What do you think of the overall music industry today? Think it’s getting better, in-between, or faltering?

MMDepends on what day you ask me :laughs: . Sometimes I get really inspired by the new direct-to-fan thing. I think it’s cool to connect with the people who support your art. However, I miss the magic and the mystique of the bands I grew up listening to. I miss having to use my imagination as to what a live show would be like til they came through town. I couldn’t just go on the Internet and see everything they’ve ever done, watch every interview, and see every photo. There was something about the lack of access that made it so much more fun.  But that’s all gone now and I’m adapting as best I can. You have to in order to survive in this climate.  It’s easier than ever to make a record in your bedroom.  In some cases, that’s amazing. In others, it’s awful. I know people who have ‘put records out’ who recorded it on their phone and uploaded it to Soundcloud. There’s an art to making a proper record and I value having producers and engineers around to help shape the sonics and get to the core of the song. Call me old school, but unless you’re one of the few virtuosos you’re going to benefit from surrounding yourself with talented, driven individuals.

GGM: If you weren’t playing music, what would you be doing?

MM: I suppose the only way that would happen would be if I lost my arms in some sort of accident.  If that were the case, I guess I’d have to learn to play and write with my toes. I’ve always heeded this advice: If you have a plan B, go do that. Because if you do, you’ll never survive much less succeed in music.

Connect with Matthew:

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Valuable Vocal Tips for Bands

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The wave of performance-based reality TV shows are swamping our prime time schedules – contestants’ vocal performances and victories champion aspiring musicians and band members to follow their dreams.

Below are some valuable tips to help you in your quest to become a better singer.

1. Blend – Embrace energy on your notes and don’t over pronounce the words. You get to blend into the other band vocal harmonies.

2. Enthusiasm – sing with genuine emotion. The audience knows what’s real.

3. Improvise – find ways to be yourself. Every band member has his/her own quirks that make them fun to watch.

4. Accentuate your strengths – capitalize on your strong points. Know what they are. After you write them down, review the set list of each show mentally to find moments to share your strengths onstage. What you focus on – expands.

5. Make It Big – when you have a spotlight on your solo vocal, make it into a big moment by commanding the stage with your energy and aura. Think about it: if you focus bigger, you become a bigger focus in the room. It’s mental gymnastics but it works!

6. Live Open – Bring in life. Let the experiences you absorb during the days before the show come out under the stage lights.

7. Dialogue – find the story in each song, and infuse a conversation into how you deliver that in performance with one or more members of your band. For example: Earth Wind & Fire, the Jonas Brothers.

8. Level the Crowd – change the level you stand on physically. Sit sometimes, stand, dance, lean in toward the crowd, and change your height to change the audience perspective of the mood or setting.

9. Hit the Stage Warm – even if it seems obvious, you should not skip out onto any stage without a 40-60 minute warm up first. If this gets your voice tired, then you are singing the wrong way. Call The Vocal Workout – for our online Stamina Program. www.vocalworkoutsingingschool.com

10. Have Fun – it’s contagious!

ILana Martin, Director
Vocal Workout Singing School

To view ILana’s previous articles on our site, see below:

Tips on How to Utilize your Breath while Singing

Tips for Singers

Source:  Reprinted with permission by Guest Writer ILana Martin

ILana Martin, founder of Vocal Workout Voice School.  ILana’s unique vocal style has been linked to the late Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Brian McKnight, Barry White, Patti LaBelle and Alicia Keys.

Book Review: Guitar for Girls: A Beginner’s Guide to Playing Acoustic or Electric Guitar by Ali Handal

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Hal Leonard Corporation and female guitarist/singer-songwriter Ali Handal partnered together for their new book/CD pack “Guitar for Girls: A Beginner’s Guide to Playing Acoustic or Electric Guitar.” Ali said, “I took great care to include encouragement, advice, and inspiring quotes from musicians for my readers. I believe that addressing the ‘inner game’ of learning guitar is as important as teaching fundamental chords and songs.”