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