When Beauty, Talent, and Vision Collide: Rhonda Smith

Photo by Slowline Music

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine, Issue 8

With a musical career spanning over two decades, Rhonda Smith has performed with musical greats like Prince, Chaka Khan, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, and Jeff Beck. She continues her musical journey today not only as a premier bassist, but also as a recording artist. Known as a very focused musician with a tremendous work ethic, Smith was kind enough to take time to answer a few questions for us.

What is it about your Paul Reed Smith bass that you prefer?

I play a Gary Grainger Private Stock four string, and when I first played it, it was just butter in my hands. That’s the first thing I can say. It was different from any other bass that I had because I have a lot of basses, but it was a four-string I was looking for at the time. It had some very distinctive sounds that were different from other instruments I had. It also had 24 frets, which was something that I was really looking forward to having for playability up top. It has a great cutaway, a lot of accessibility, and the pickups in the electronics section are just incredible. Paul, I mean, he’s just a genius. He does amazing stuff. That was the number one thing, it felt amazing and had sounds that none of the others possessed. So, it was really great for that. It covered all my bases.

Which artists inspired you when you were first learning?

I was definitely inspired by Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Ron Carter, and Ray Brown.

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

My definition of tone right now is my PRS and an Aguilar bass amp. Clean, clear bottom and lots of powerful overhead. I think it’s better over time since I switched to Aguilar.

Which amps and pedals are you currently using?

I use an Aguilar DB 751 head and an Aguilar 8×10 cab for my setup. This is the best rig for me right now. I have a rather large pedalboard with my favorite MXR pedals (chorus & bass envelope filter), Aguilar’s Octamizer and AGRO bass distortion, a DigiTech Whammy, and a Seymour Duncan tap delay. This combination allows me to have effects for a supporting bass part or for lead bass solos and lines.

How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?

To keep a consistent sound and level, I try to always use the same amp and bass on stage.

You’ve played with some of the best—anyone you’d like to add to your list?

I’ll play with any great artist or musician who loves what they do!

What are you up to these days?

Well, I’ve got a new record coming out soon. No official release date yet, but it will be out sometime in 2019. It’s my third CD, so fans can expect to see growth and it will definitely unfold the musical story that I want to tell. I’m gonna put some singles out a little bit early. I have some other little fun projects I’m working on, like a new trio for 2019 with two absolutely incredible male players, so it’s gonna be fun. I’ll be the only female in there with an incredible guitar player and an incredible drummer. I’ll also hopefully be doing some more with Jeff Beck this year. You know, what can I say? No one says no to Jeff!

Any rituals you do before a show or session to get in the zone?

First of all, I’m really happy. No matter how many years I’ve been playing, to be able to play and to have people out there appreciating what I do is amazing. My greatest prep happens before I take the gig, so usually I’m pretty good and I love the people I work with, so we’re usually pretty relaxed. Maybe it’s a little glass of wine before, or maybe it’s a little hug or a prayer. It’s different every time, but it’s usually always copacetic and cool.

Vanessa Izabella

Born and Raised in Miami, FL, Vanessa started playing music at a young age. Progressing through high school, Vanessa was playing and performing on multiple instruments including guitar, piano and trumpet. She was awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. During her time there, she studied the guitar playing of such influences as Pat Martino, Slash, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Eric Johnson and many others. After graduating with a degree in Music Business, she went on to work with such artists as Pat Metheny and Christian McBride. After years in the business end of the industry, she decided to pursue her own performing career and moved to Atlanta, GA. Once in Atlanta, she was playing with several groups, and doing recording sessions.  A year later, she was chosen as a finalist by Beyonce to audition for her all-girl backup band. Vanessa has traveled the world playing guitar, visiting countries such as France, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Japan, South America and the Caribbean. She has performed on the bill with such renown artists as Darius Rucker, LA Sno, KISS, Skid Row and Paramore. She is currently recording and performing as the front woman for rock trio, BAST. www.vanessaizabella.com


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