Seventeen-year-old guitar prodigy Nicky Renard first began playing guitar when she was 10-years-old. She received a Yamaha ¾ guitar on her 10th birthday, learned two chords, and started composing original songs.
According to Nicky Renard, “In the beginning, I just played around a little, for fun. I’d maybe play for a while once a week. It was first when I was thirteen and a half that I decided – this is what I want to do. It just hit me like that.”
An autodidactic guitarist, she devoted hours and hours every day to practicing. Later, she and her father, Max Foxx, formed Nightstage, featuring a “heavy soft rock” sound. Nightstage released their debut album, Sunset Industry, at the beginning of 2018. Primarily a studio project, Nicky recently joined Los Angeles-based band Love Ghost, which is presently working on a new album with producer Danny Saber.
Nicky’s talent on the guitar is nonpareil, positioning her as a world-class shredder, whose finessed technique is not only smooth as silk but buffed and polished to a brilliant sheen. Because of her preternatural gift, Guitar Girl Magazine decided to interview her to find out more about how she practices, her influences, and her gear.
What three things can’t you live without?
Obviously and most importantly, my Gibson special. Also, I wouldn’t be able to live without my Line 6 Helix, which allows me to practice and record guitar tracks at low volumes and through headphones. Then there’s of course also my Pro Tools recording rig which I use every day.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
The first thing that really got me interested in guitar was a video of Deep Purple playing the California Jam. I think I was around nine-years-old at the time, and seeing Ritchie Blackmore standing on that stage at dusk with his Stratocaster was probably the coolest thing I had ever seen. I started getting into a lot of rock music after that. Then, at fourteen, I decided to start playing guitar myself. Turns out I found the one thing in life I am extremely passionate about, and at this point, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I hadn’t discovered the world of guitar.
How did you come to join Love Ghost?
I was introduced to the band by the band’s producer. He invited me to go audition for them.
You used to play with Nightstage. Is that still an ongoing project?
In its own way, yes. Nightstage is what I’d call a studio-based band.
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
The reason I create music is to share the stories and things I’ve felt and experienced. Since I don’t sing, I write a lot of instrumental music. That gets pretty interesting because suddenly I’m trying to tell an entire story just through music. I have to use my guitar as a substitute for words, and it’s incredible how much the choice of notes and tone can say. With that realization, I think it’s important to always remember how much of a story solely instruments can tell, even in a band context when a layer of vocals and lyrics come on top of the instrumentation. The music I consider good music is music which resonates with something inside me, and it’s almost like that feeling when listening to music has the ability to make people feel less alone. That’s what I hope listeners will feel when they listen to my music.
What kind of guitar do you play? Any mods to it?
My favorite guitar is my original 1960 Gibson Doublecut Special. I think what I like the most about it is that I can get a tone with the bite of a Les Paul but also the clear highs and mids of a Strat.
Which amps do you use?
I use a Marshall DSL100 for live and rehearsal with the band. I sometimes use digital amps such as the Helix when I’m recording guitar tracks. I actually also like to send my guitar out two paths when recording and mix digital and real amps.
If you could have any guitar, what would you choose?
I’m faithful to my Gibson Special, so I would say that it’s my dream guitar. However, I’m also pretty keen on trying out a Strandberg guitar. I think I’d eventually be interested in a 7-string.
If any, what pedals do you put emphasis on?
I use a Line 6 Helix for most of my effects. I use some different reverbs and delays, sometimes experimenting with them to different degrees to create certain atmospheres. For a dirty tone, I often use distortion or overdrives which I actually usually run out through a clean channel on the amp.
What does your practice consist of?
My days are pretty vigorous when it comes to playing guitar. Usually, I get up at 7:30 and then I’ll probably play guitar until close to midnight. All of that time obviously isn’t what I strictly call “practice,” since I don’t consider composing, recording, and working on band material to really be practice in that sense. For practice, I usually play scales in all positions, especially working on developing fluidity when playing diagonals and quickly shifting positions, and I also run scales in all intervals. Then I spend some time learning existing songs and guitar solos, and I try to cover most genres of music. I also work on transcription, transcribing some of my old compositions and new licks. Currently, I’m working on navigating and soloing through jazz changes and I’ve been getting into a lot of chord-melody arranging.
Which guitarists impress you, and why?
There are way too many guitarists I like to even get started naming all of them. Ritchie Blackmore will of course always impress me, since he was the one who inspired me to start playing guitar in the first place. I also like Allan Holdsworth and Steve Vai a lot, especially when it comes to interesting lead ideas and tone. Then there’s, of course, Tosin Abasi. First time I watched him play, it was like a whole new dimension of guitar opened up. With his melodic two-handed thing, I saw how the guitar was being used to create multiple voices and melodies at the same time, and it really amazed me.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
Machine Head by Deep Purple, 2112 by Rush, New Levels New Devils by Polyphia, The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
My biggest guilty pleasure is watching guitar videos. Seriously. Sometimes I’ve got a backing track on and then I get distracted and end up watching random guitarists on my computer. It’s fascinating how many good guitarists you can find that way. I think watching so many guitarists play the instrument in such different ways is what has gotten me interested in blending techniques and styles without abiding to strict genres. It’s like every style of music has certain elements which I like, and my idea is to combine them.
Why make music? I mean what’s the point?
For me, music is a way to tell stories and express emotions which I guess are just too difficult to express in other ways. It’s a way to get heard and have people listen, and in a way, talk about things I really wouldn’t talk about otherwise. The thing I love about music is that it is so free for interpretation that one song can evoke completely different feelings and thoughts in different people, but at the same time create a shared connection by doing that.
What’s next for you musically?
I’m going to be touring with Love Ghost, and apart from practicing, I’m working hard writing new music. Currently, I’m putting out some of my art-rock songs on YouTube, and I’m planning to later put them together on an album.