As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)
Meg Toohey is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who most recently played guitar in Sara Bareilles’ musical Waitress. She also wrote the song “Lucky Streak”—a tribute to the late Nick Cordero, who starred in the show. Toohey’s life has always been in music, and here she shares her experiences with her training, the LA music scene, and the reality of being a guitarist on Broadway.
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I’ve always been obsessed with figuring out how each guitar player gets their signature sounds. The more I plug different things in, the more I realize it really is in your fingers first. That really got me listening in a different way. I do love me some crazy washy wall of sound effects. Strymon and Eventide are killing it for me.
Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
For guitars, I’m obsessed with all-rosewood necks. I first got introduced to them when I got the SVT Music Man. Since then, I have bought an all-rosewood Tele and Strat, and between those three, I’m hooked on the feel and the sound.
I also use a Nashville-tuned Tele and a Danelectro baritone a ton in my studio for different textures. I’m really lucky in that I have a lot of guitars, so I can really play with different pickups and vibes.
When I was making the JCS record, I started working with Taylor Guitars. They sent me an acoustic to borrow for a session, and I instantly fell madly in love. I have not put the guitar down and refused to give it back. Playing it has found me at least fifty songs. I feel like it’s my muse. It is a short-scale 612e 12-fret. Everywhere I play it, sound engineers are like, “WHAT IS THAT?!”
I use stereo Princetons. I’ve tried a lot of different amps, but I always go back to the Princeton and the classic Fender tube amp. They sound awesome, and they don’t hurt your back trying to get them out of your trunk. I run them stereo because I love bouncing reverbs and delays around. It’s such a full and glorious sound.
What about strings?
Ernie Ball Super Slinky 10s on most of my guitars, 9s on my Strat, 11s on my SG for slide. D’Addario extra light customs gauge for acoustic. I use .06 Delrin picks on acoustic and .08 on electric.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I am always trying to get better at recording. I think some things do benefit from happy accidents due to not being a “trained” engineer, but I also think if I could have an engineer on hand, I would prefer to not have to do it myself. I do love producing and spending hours going down the rabbit hole of synth patches and drum loops. I write a lot during the recording process because I will find a vibe that sparks something just by laying down a beat and a guitar loop with crazy delays. I love playing with plug-ins on everything. My go-to’s are The Soundtoys Echo Boy, and I love the Scheps Omni Channel for playing with vocals and crunchy drums.
How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
It’s a work in progress. I’m constantly trying to get a balance of clean and distorted, to find the right boost pedal, and to get the least ground hum from a lot of pedals and stereo amps. I wake up in the middle of the night and think about it.
What does your practice consist of?
I usually look on YouTube for something specific I’m interested in. Right now, it’s pedal steel 24-7. I also use Patron and follow Rich Hinman on pedal steel and Duke Levine. They are two of my favorites. I also have a loop pedal that I often play along with to keep trying different things.
Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
Bonnie Raitt on “Love Me Like A Man,” Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” David Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Over The Hills And Far Away.” The bass line from “Reflections” by The Supremes, and “Barracuda” by Heart. Oh, so many.
What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Play like you mean it. Don’t get discouraged by dummies who think women aren’t as capable players as men. It’s all so outdated and so dumb. Support your sisters! Competition is healthy, but don’t get caught up in it.
Meg Toohey’s Guitar Gear
Reverend Tricky Gomez
Reverend Charger P90s
Ernie Ball Music Man St. Vincent Signature
Fender Ltd. Edition Rosewood Telecaster
Taylor 612e 12-fret
Two Fender Princeton amps, stereo
Strymon Big Sky
Strymon Night Sky
Line 6 M9
Hudson Electronics Broadcast- Ariel Posen
Keeley Dark Side
BOSS Volume Pedal
BOSS Expression Pedal
Songhurst Brass Rock Slides
Gibson SG Classic P90s
Fender American Stratocaster – Rosewood
Fender Telecaster ’62 Reissue (Nashville Tuning)
Bonneville Jazzmaster custom built by Lindz McKay
Reverend Jen Wasner Signature with Bigsby
Reverend Pete Anderson RT
Fender Mustang Bass (Japan)
Dickerson Lap Steel
Dekley Pedal Steel
Peavey Nashville Amp