Tone Talk with Candice Levinson

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Candice Levinson - Photo by Jack Lue

Guitarist for the LA band Warner Drive, Candice Levinson seems like a deceivingly calm, and serene, but when she hits the stage, it becomes apparent that a transformation has instantly taken place. For Levinson, music is not just a passion, but a way of life…and it shows. She handles and plays her guitar with as much conviction and energy as any male rocker counterpart out there, but still manages to preserve hem a very young age. An artist who can be described as a jill of all trades, she has been part of many genres of music ranging from rock, metal, and punk to pop.

According to her Instagram page, besides playing guitar she watches scary moves and bakes cookies!

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

When I first started playing, I just wanted the loudest and most full of gain sound I could find. Period. But as the years went on and I played with different groups, I found that tone was such a more layered concept than when I first set out. It’s not just about what you imagine your sound being, but also how it meshes with the other instruments, especially when you have more than one guitar player. With two guitars in the mix, their tones can easily cancel each other out and be difficult to distinguish from one another, sounding like a muddy mess. I found that looking for those warmer thicker tones with a delicate balance of pulling back on the gain actually made my sound more distinguishable in the mix. To me, tone is something that has to be constantly tweaked. How something sounds with one group will sound different with another. And what sounds great in one venue setting (such as an indoor club) sounds completely different in an outside festival. My goal is always go to strive for a very rich, warm, and powerful tone that cuts through it all.

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

I am fortunate enough to be part of the Ibanez family and an Orange Amps artist ambassador. I strictly play Ibanez guitars and Orange Amps. I love the versatility of Ibanez guitars. They have a guitar for every kind of musical style that you may be in to. I find them to be very innovative too and constantly finding ways to make guitars that adapt to the times and what musicians want. They are the most reliable guitars I have ever had the pleasure of touring with, which is one less thing to worry about when you are on the road. They are also known for their fast necks and just feel really comfortable when playing them. I really love everyone who works at Ibanez too. They are such great people and it’s so amazing to be a part of their team.

I fell in love with Orange Amps the first year we played SXSW. Many of the stages were sponsored by Orange, and so I got to play them there for the first time. To say I was blown away is an understatement! I truly couldn’t believe that the tone and sounds coming out of that amp were me! It was a complete game-changer for me. After that, I decided that I had to be part of the Orange Amp family and didn’t want to play anything else. What I like about their amps is that they can be so versatile and their tones are amazing. Also their cabs are known for a really tight and concise sound, which I love. It makes your tone sound way more to the point.

As far as pedals go, I’ve never been one of those guitar players with a big collection. I like simple. Less things to go wrong! I just stick to a few basics like a volume pedal, octave, EQ, boost, noise suppressor, but that’s about it.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

That’s a tough one!! Because each venue sounds so different, what may sound good one day may be absolute garbage the next. Again, you just have to tweak the tone a little between venues and try to get to that sound you are happy with. Also, when we travel overseas, I can’t always get a hold of an Orange amp, and sometimes you end up using whatever amps that festival or venue has available. It’s always a bit stressful playing on amps that you are not familiar with. Sometimes they’re great, and other times they can be terrible. But hopefully, a lot of those issues can be worked out at soundcheck. You have to learn to be flexible and know that if you are on tour playing different amps, you just have to adapt and do the best with what you’ve got. It may not be perfect, but with a little patience, you can usually get a sound you are at least okay with.

What does your practice consist of?

I’m not one to practice scales and strengthening patterns and exercises. (Although I probably should!) I just practice the material that I need to play until I feel like I’m ready to perform it in front of an audience. I’m recently worked on learning a very large amount of material for two different groups for three weeks. I spent every free waking moment in our home office/studio playing along to the tracks through my laptop and a pair of headphones.  Sometimes I played for five to six hours straight.

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

It would be the same advice I would give to a male counterpart. Just meet as many people as possible, play with as many people as possible, be easy to work with (your reputation good or bad will follow you), and hustle like there’s no tomorrow!

Candice was also featured in our 2020 Guitar Girl Calendar
as our September artist. Get your copy HERE.

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