Tone Talk with Ann-Marita Garsed

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Photo by Bente Bjoerdal

My name is Ann-Marita Garsed, I’m a singer-songwriter originally from Norway, but I’ve been living in the U.S. for many years. These days I divide my time between Southern California and Sweden. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, and picked up the guitar when I started writing songs in my teens. I’ve released a few albums, and I have another one in the works to be released this year ‑ this one is the first one I’ve produced in its entirety on my own. I’ve sung anything from rock ‘n’ roll to smooth jazz over the years, but my own sound is more what I refer to as Arctic Americana; a mix between the American country and folk music that I love so much, with a slight touch of the melancholy of folk music from my native Scandinavia. I also tour quite a bit in various parts of the U.S., performing at Scandinavian festivals and events, among other things.

I grew up listening to classic American country like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton – my dad was a big fan! – and I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music. Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, just to mention a few.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

To me, there’s really nothing better than that deep, clear, full-bodied sound of a really great acoustic guitar, no bells or whistles. I love it so much!

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

I stick with the acoustic guitar, and I’ve collected quite a few of them through the years. I love my Taylor 114E. My custom-built Maton Performer has been with me since I lived in Australia years ago and has all the marks, scratches, and bruises of a well-loved guitar, but sounds as beautiful as the day I got it from the factory. These days, my best buddy is my Journey Instruments Overhead Collapsible guitar. I travel a lot, and the stress of trying to take my guitar on a plane was getting to me. This guitar actually folds up and fits into a backpack! So no more headaches when standing at the flight gate. And it sounds really great! Also, I have to give a shout-out to SHUBB Capos, the best capos around, I’ve been using them for years, and I love them. Also, a little quirk that I have in my guitar playing — when it comes to picks, I use thumb picks for everything.

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What about strings?

My favorites are Cleartone. So smooth and warm sounding and they seem to last way longer than most brands.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

I have my own little Logic studio, and I like to mic up my acoustic using my AKG Perception 200 to get the fullest sound possible.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage? 

Being an acoustic player, there’s often not that much I can control sound-wise when plugging straight into the PA, and the variety of venues I’ve found myself at has made me learn to take things as they come a little bit. I always try to adapt my playing to the particular circumstances. I make sure to use a feedback buster on outdoor gigs, especially if there’s wind! And I always give myself a little wiggle room when it comes to volume for fingerpicking songs.

What does your practice consist of?

Variation. I don’t have the patience to stick with only one section or song until it’s perfect, but instead, I schedule time for each thing that needs work and keep switching them around. I do vocal exercises to keep my voice in shape, and I work on a variety of songs, fingerpicking styles, and strumming patterns. I also make sure to play some stuff just because it’s fun, that’s as important as anything else.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

Explore, have a blast learning new things, and when you find that style or vibe that makes you wanna spend all day every day playing, do that! Find your thing. And most importantly — listen to your gut! I could go on and on all day, but I’ll just say this: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts and set your boundaries. And play music because you love it!

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