Front and Center: Guitarist and Vocalist, Jackie Venson

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitarist and Vocalist, Jackie Venson

By Lina Bhambhani

Soul/pop guitarist and vocalist Jackie Venson hails from Austin, TX. As the daughter of musician Andrew Venson, she was born into a musical family that motivated her to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. It was at Berklee where Venson picked up the guitar for the first time.

In April of 2014, she was chosen from over 2,000 entries by retail chain Belk for their Fashion Lounge concert series. Throughout the series’ five amphitheater performances, she supported well-known artists like Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and James Taylor. Venson released her debut The Light in Me in 2015, and Jackie Venson Live in 2016.

To find out more, visit jackievenson.com.

The WiMN: How has your father, Andrew Venson, influenced you as an artist?
 
JV: I definitely have a lot of his influence and my taste in music does resemble his. However it wasn’t just the music, he also was the leader of his band and he just gave me really great advice on how to keep a band going and how to hustle and stay alive in this crazy industry.
 
The WiMN: What attracted you to guitar over other instruments?
 
JV: Guitar players always look like they’re having so much fun! I wanted to be able to tilt my head back, stick my tongue out, and play some rockin’ lead.
 
The WiMN: Your music is described as soul/pop. Can you tell us about any artists that have helped shape your sound or style?
 
JV: Stevie Wonder is my biggest influence when it comes to songwriting and arranging. He really is just incredible and I feel so blessed to be sharing the earth with him right now.
 
 
The WiMN: How was your experience performing on the Belk Fashion Lounge Concert Series?
 
JV: it was really incredible especially considering that it was my first real tour. I learned so much and had somewhat of a safety net to catch me. Since then I’ve done tours and have definitely run the gamut of experiences. However, those first dates were extremely eye-opening.
 
The WiMN: Have you experienced any struggles or hurdles as a woman in this industry? If so, how have you overcome them?
 
JV: People like to make a lot of assumptions about who I am, who I am not, and what I sound like. It can be a struggle to constantly be judged or labeled something. However, I just use it to inspire me to work hard, and to always be in a position to bring my all and do my best.
 
The WiMN: Can you tell us about any projects you’re working on currently?
 
JV: I just finished a new EP called Transcends. The EP explores genres from funk, to rock, to soul, and pop
 
The WiMN: What’s next for you?
 
JV: I’m starting a new project in September and I’m excited for that. Other than that, I am excited for more dates coming up with Gary Clark Jr, as well as the release of the EP. More music, more tours and more fun!

 

Blues Guitarist And Vocalist Jackie Venson Releases Live Album To Rave Reviews

By Myki Angeline

Photo by Pooneh Ghana

Austin-born indie/blues guitarist/vocalist, Jackie Venson, released her live album, Jackie Venson Live, to rave reviews from publications including Guitar Player Magazine, Austin Chronicle, Austin Monthly, Texas Monthly, and Bitch Media among others, and recently performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The live album is a raw follow-up to her 2015 studio full-length, The Light in Me.

She Shreds states, “Jackie Venson is one of the most talented up and coming blues guitarists of her generation. With a gorgeous singing voice, a guitar style that is both dynamic and technically precise, and music that blends genres, she is one to watch out for“.

Visit her website and purchase Jackie Venson Live HERE.

Daughter of Austin music staple, Andrew Venson, Jackie’s early drive for music led her to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she picked up a guitar for the first time. Inspired by blues, R&B and pop artists alike, Venson draws on diverse influences ranging from Buddy Guy to Sade to Alicia Keys. In April of 2014, she was handpicked from over 2,000 entries by Southern retail chain, Belk, for their Belk Fashion Lounge concert series. Throughout the series’ five amphitheater performances, she supported famed country and southern icons Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and James Taylor. The Austin American-Statesman has hailed her sound as “an astonishing mix of raw soul, superb musicianship and laid back grace.”

Jackie Venson completed a successful European tour in 2015, along with several U.S. dates in 2016.

Below is “Rollin On’” by Jackie Venson:  6 minutes of pure-blues recorded LIVE!

 

Front And Center: Legendary “Queen of Metal” Guitarist, Activist, and Writer, Lita Ford

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Legendary Guitarist, Activist, and Writer, Lita Ford

By Myki Angeline

Icon and guitar legend Lita Ford paved the road for female guitarists in a time when women were discouraged from and ridiculed for playing hard rock music. Ford fell in love with guitar at age 11, and by age 16, became the lead guitarist for the all female groundbreaking rock band, The Runaways (1975-79).

With an explosive career spanning nearly four decades, she has recorded an impressive 10 albums, released 19 singles, received a Grammy nomination for her song “Shot Of Poison” in 1993, received the Certified Guitar Legend Award in 2014 by Guitar Player, and released her much-anticipated autobiography Living Like A Runaway in 2016 to rave reviews. The Washington Post calls it “the dramatic chronicle of a pioneer who became ‘heavy rock’s first female guitar hero,'” and The New York Post says, “No one lived larger than sexy heavy-metal guitarist and singer Lita Ford.” It is a MUST read, I might add; I was glued from cover to cover.

Her latest album, Time Capsule, is a compilation of previously unreleased songs from the 1980’s in true analog form, and feature many iconic artists such as Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.), Gene Simmons (KISS), and Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction).

Not only a gifted musician, Ford is also an activist for Parental Alienation, Kids First Parental Alienation Awareness, and Cancer Research, organizations which hold a special place in her heart.

We are thrilled to be presenting Lita Ford with a 2017 She Rocks Award at the upcoming NAMM Show in January. In honor of the occasion, she recently spoke with us on current events, opens up about her past, and inspires us with how she continues to maintain such a rigorous, successful tour schedule.

Visit Lita Ford’s website and purchase her music here.

WiMN: What is your favorite guitar you own, and why?

LF: I really don’t have a favorite per say, but my oldies are probably my faves. My double neck B.C. Rich, my yellow Mockingbird. I still play the red Mockingbird from the Out For Blood album. My Hamer Standard everyone thinks is a Gibson. I’ve got some awesome studio guitars like my Tele, my Strat, my Warlocks. They are all named with personal names. LOL.

WiMN: Your recent album, Time Capsule, is an explosive, edgy compilation of songs that were originally created back in the ’80s on analog tapes (LOVE the album cover). Why did you pick now to release them?

LF: We wanted to give something to the fans that was a little piece of rock ‘n’ roll treasure, some rock ‘n’ roll history. Literally, a time capsule. They were just sitting in my closet and I owed the label an album. We thought, wow, they are getting a cool package.

WiMN: What was it like collaborating with all of the artists who appear on this album?

LF: The streets of Hollywood were crawling with rock stars at this time. If they were in town you’d hear about it. Or they would come visit and end up jamming. It was being at the right place at the right time, too. George Tutko was my engineer, he was the best. We worked very well together to create these songs.

WiMN: Do you see using social media as a positive platform to bring your music to your fans?

LF: MTV was better because they were real videos. But yes, social media is a plus and a completely different animal. But so many things can get twisted on social media. You just have to be careful.

WiMN: Is it as important as live performances, and meet and greets?

LF: Well, YouTube is live performances, not videos so much, per say. Live performances are critiqued so badly that people look at them as though they are quality videos; lip synced, or taped. But, they aren’t. They are live performances recorded on cell phones, so you get the good along with the bad. People complain about sound quality, which is stupid if it’s recorded from a cell phone. Meet and greets are just fun. They are always interesting and you never know what’s going to happen, depending on where and what venue you are at. They can be awesome.

WiMN: In your book, Living Like A Runaway, you credit your friendship with Eddie Van Halen with motivating you to give your all as a guitarist and musician. This was in 1979, four years after The Runaways. Can you give us more detail?

LF: I was starting to get frustrated and was going to give up. He talked me out of it and said “f*ck them, Lita you can play guitar, go f*cking play guitar.” He was like my big bro. Coming from him, it gave me a lot of confidence to tell the world who didn’t believe in me to f*ck off. And I did.

WiMN: What are your favorite ways to unwind and de-stress?

LF: Ha Ha ! You are never going to believe this, but eating Cherry Garcia ice cream, or Black Cherry Gelato. I gotta be careful though. Fattening. LOL.

WiMN: You are a fabulous cook. What are your favorite dishes to prepare?

LF: I am a fab cook. My mother taught me well, Italians can eat. OMG! I can make almost anything, from homemade wheat bread to a full blown lasagna. I would take the lasagna to the studio for the band, a guitar in one hand a lasagna in the other.

WiMN: Your mother, Isabella, was an incredible, positive, supportive, and loving influence in your life. As was your father, Harry. Was she your major influence in being a mother? (I love both of your songs and videos, “Lisa” and “Mother”)

LF: Thank you so much. Yes, my mother and father were amazing human beings. I wanted to be just like her as a mother to my sons. My father was the best, too. I think this is why I prefer to do guy things instead of girly girl things, like hunting and fishing. My dad was a prankster, too. Funny as hell.

WiMN: You became an advocate for parents’ rights shortly after your divorce in 2011, when you were denied contact with both of your sons. Are you still actively involved in both organizations, Parental Alienation and Kids First Parental Alienation Awareness?

LF: Yes, I am. As long as it exists I will always be an activist for Parental Alienation. It IS a form of evil. Our family legal system does nothing if you have enough money to pay them, they don’t care about your kids well-being. My ex has kept my sons from me for seven years now. No communication with my sons whatsoever. No texting, no phone calls, no emails, nothing! This is alienation.

He knows they love me but they have to do what he says, go along with his lies because the backlash from him is too much to take. He wants to hurt me for divorcing him, so he is using our sons to inflict the pain. He has no reason at all to do this except he knows he is hurting me, I was the best mother anyone could have ever had. My sons loved me dearly, but he is a liar. I will forever be an activist against parental alienation, as long as it exists worldwide.

WiMN: In your book, Living Like A Runaway, you discuss turning to fitness as a way to cope. It was right after your mother had passed in 1990. Are you still addicted to being healthy now?

LF: Oh yes, the road is brutal and to do a couple hours show with a 15 pound guitar “my double neck” strapped on your back, you have to be healthy. You have to sleep. My workout comes from stage. I love to sweat! Plus I’ve got to keep up with my monstrous band. It’s no easy task. Bobby Rock, Marty O’Brien, Patrick Kennison.

WiMN: Vinyl has made a huge comeback. Do you plan on releasing any of your recent works on vinyl?

LF: Yes, Time Capsule is a cobalt blue vinyl. It’s awesome. Living Like A Runaway is a red marbled vinyl.

WiMN: Congratulations on being a recipient for a 2017 She Rocks Awards! How does it feel and what are you looking forward to most at the event?

LF: I am so honored and excited. After winning the Lifetime Achievement Award from Guitar Player magazine, I didn’t think anything could top that. It shows we have come a long way in the music industry. Females were forbidden to rock when I was a teenager. The Runaways were hell on wheels and not taken seriously until recently. It didn’t stop us though. LOL. A huge path has been carved now for all kinds of rock genders! I’m so glad I am a part of this.

WiMN: Lastly, as being hailed the “Queen of Metal”; a woman who stood your ground and always spoke up for yourself in a time when that was not accepted, what advice would you give young women who are breaking into music today?

LF: I’ve always stood my ground because I had my parents’ love, encouragement, and support behind me. Follow your heart and never ever let anyone tell you can’t do something that is in your dreams.

Below is a live performance of her song, “Falling In And Out Of Love” from 1989:

 

Brazilian Guitarist Marcela Campos’ New Self-Titled EP Features Scott Henderson and Philip Bynoe

By Myki Angeline

cover-copyBrazilian guitarist Marcela Campos recently released her new self-titled EP, which features legendary American Jazz fusion and blues guitarist Scott Henderson (“Driven”), along with three-time Grammy nominee and Emmy Award-winning bassist Philip Bynoe. The album features four distinct songs, each showcasing her dynamic guitar skills which have earned her endorsements with Daisy Rock Guitars, Spectraflex, and Steve Clayton Picks.

Campos, who currently plays for Fem Zeppelin (one of the biggest all female Led Zeppelin tribute bands), learned guitar at age 16.  A native of Belo Horizonte (Brazil), she received private lessons with the renown Brazilian guitar player Roger Franco before embarking on a trip to America to sharpen her playing skills. Campos attended the Los Angeles College of Music (LACM), under the instruction of great players as Tariqh Akoni (Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Joss Stone), Jody Fisher (Mike Stern, Joe Diorio, George Benson), Art Renshaw (Joe Pass, Frank Gambale), Philip Bynoe ( Steve Vai).

To listen to her EP on Spotify, click here.

To learn more about Marcela Campos and purchase her music, you can visit her website here.

You can view some behind the scenes footage of Marcela Campos EP below!

 

Front and Center: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist Laura Clapp

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitarist and Singer, Laura Clapp

By Lina Bhambhani

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Growing up in Connecticut, Laura Clapp started her music craft as a young child where she wrote her very first song at the age of 11. After graduating in 2001 from Berklee College of Music where she taught herself the guitar and created her first album Where Are You Going?, Clapp moved to Nashville, where she was able to network with some of the most prestigious writers in Music City. After creating her second acoustic album, Simply, Clapp toured America with the support of CD sales and fans.

Clapp’s career did not stop growing there. As she made more connections, she eventually became a backup vocalist for Howard Jones and was able to travel across the U.S. as well as internationally to countries such as Japan, Europe and Australia.

Clapp is also a well-known musical instrument product demonstrator and marketer, and spent years sharing the hottest products and tips for effects and audio manufacturer, TC-Helicon. She has been seen on many YouTube videos and has gained over 1 million views to date.

Her bubbly, passionate, and thriving personality as a singer and guitarist brought her to where she is today. Recently, at Summer NAMM 2016, she demonstrated effects for Roland at their trade show booth. Check out her video below.

Clapp now currently lives in her hometown in Guildford, CT. where she is happily married with two beautiful daughters. With her family she is still able to promote her music nationwide and is excited to build her fan base internationally. Check out her interview below to find out more about Clapp’s upcoming projects and how she became part of the music industry.

Learn more about Laura Clapp at www.lauraclapp.com.

WiMN: When did you start singing and what made you want to get into the music industry?

LC: I’ve been singing all of my life, but I really developed a love for it when I was 10.  I landed my first solo in the select choir in school and I was hooked.  As far as wanting to get into the industry, that probably came when I began playing for people more regularly – either in my living room or in venues – and saw that people responded to my music.  I loved that and realized I wanted to learn more about how to fine tune my voice as well as my writing.

WiMN: Who influenced you the most throughout your career and why?

LC: Throughout my career, my family has been my biggest influence.  From the beginning when it was my parents to today where it is more my husband and girls, I’ve always drawn heavily on their input and support to keep me motivated and focused. 

WiMN: You write, sing, and play guitar and piano. Does creating music just come naturally to you? What has been your biggest challenge musically?

LC: This answer really depends on the day.  There are certain times where I’ll be inundated with ideas and then other times when I am screaming for ideas to come and they just won’t.  When this scenario happens, I have learned to just give myself some time to let it come naturally.  Any time I’ve forced music, it has usually not ended well. 

As far as creating music, that came naturally as my piano skills started to improve.  The two – melody and piano – went hand in hand for a long time, but now I often find the melody strikes me first.

WiMN: How did you get into being a product demonstrator? Did you ever encounter any challenging situations, as so few women follow this path?

LC: I was offered a job as a demonstrator thanks to a wonderful woman named Lori Maier.  She is the founder of Chick Singer Night, the longest running showcase for women.  I was co-directing the Nashville chapter of CSN at the time and her husband was looking for a female demonstrator to showcase the VoiceLive at the 2006 NAMM show.  Lori put my name into the mix and the next thing I knew, I had two weeks to learn and develop a demo for a wildly complicated vocal processor.

TC-Helicon liked what I did, so they hired me as their full time product specialist.  From there, I traveled the world for the company.  This led to some interesting situations like setting up and tearing down booths with my bare hands, fighting off the not-so-subtle advances of sales reps and customers, and constantly assuring people I really actually knew what I was doing and could physically carry my guitar/plug in the processor/sing/etc.

WiMN: What is your favorite thing about being part of the music industry?

LC: My favorite part of the music industry is the feeling of community.  Everyone knows each other.  That can be a good thing and a bad thing, but for the most part it’s amazing.  I’m always overwhelmed by how many familiar faces I see at trade shows and industry events.

WiMN: Since you’re so involved with gear, tell us about your go to gear setup and how it’s served you when you perform or record.

LC: My go-to mic when playing live is a Shure Beta 58, although a KSM9 would be a dream.  As far as effects, I like to switch it up, but I’m never without a looper of some shape or form.  For keys, I play a Casio Privia which I adore because it’s lightweight, plays like a dream and sounds killer.  My guitar is a Yairi WY1K that feels great in my hands and doesn’t dwarf me.

As far as recording, I love that today there is so much flexibility.  For example, the interface I’ve been using for the past 6 years died out of the blue the other day.  Instead of running out and buying a new interface, I’m able to use one of my vocal processors as my mic pre and then add post effects directly from Logic until I can find a replacement.  Crisis averted!

WiMN: Do you have any upcoming projects, events, or tours you’d like to share?

LC: I am always working on something.  At this point, it’s a new album.  I’ve got so many songs that I’m dying to share, I just need a little more time and a lot more money.  Hey, that sounds like a song!

WiMN: Can you share any advice for those who are trying to make it in the industry…

LC: My advice to anyone joining this crazy family called the music industry is to hang in there and don’t be afraid to reach outside of your comfort zone to try new things – like demonstrating.  Every gig you take has the potential to lead to bigger and better opportunities you would never think to try.

Keep pushing.  Keep writing.  Keep practicing and learning.  And don’t let anyone tell you what does or does not constitute success.  That is up to you!

 

Front and Center: Guitarist and Vocalist, Samantha Fish

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Guitarist and Vocalist, Samantha Fish

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By Gabriella Steffenberg 

Born in Kansas City, Mo., blues and rock musician Samantha Fish immersed herself into the music since picking up a guitar at 13. With a fear of performing in front of audiences, Fish pushed through her doubts and realized years later that this was a career she wanted to pursue.

With three albums released to date, Fish has overcome the obstacle that once blocked her creative outlet, and has been working on new music for an upcoming album.

Read on below to learn more about this week’s Front and Center, and check out Fish’s official website here.

WiMN: When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?

SF: I started playing music when I was 13, but I didn’t know that it was going to be my life until I was 17/18. I remember it was a pretty definitive moment. I was a really shy kid and I was thrown onto a stage for my first public performance – it was the scariest thing, but it changed me. I kind of knew after that moment that I wanted to keep chasing down that feeling; I wanted to be a performer.

WiMN: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since entering the music industry?

SF: You learn things everyday if you are looking for them. Really the biggest thing I’ve had to learn to do is to trust my instincts. Being young and female in a male-driven industry – there’s a lot of second-guessing yourself. Any decisions that are made, I have to wear them. So I’ve had to start trusting my gut and also be humble enough to keep seeking out education.

WiMN: Have there been any women in your life that have inspired you and your music? If so, in what ways?

SF: My mom and my sister were always singing when I was a kid. When I started hearing females playing instruments that really changed a lot for me. I saw Sheryl Crow early on, just seeing her run all over the stage playing various instruments was really inspiring. It opened the door for me to get into Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, etc.

WiMN: Are you currently working on new music?

SF: Yes, always. I just finished an acoustic album in December. Not sure about an official release date yet. I am writing again, and I’ve been doing demos; I’m always working on new music.

WiMN: What piece of advice would you give to women looking to be in the music industry?

SF: Hone your craft. Be a bad-ass. Don’t ever stop learning. It’s hard being a female in this industry, so you have to work really hard to prove yourself as a contender. Work hard, find your voice.

WiMN: What are your musical goals that you want to accomplish over the next year?

SF: I want to get out to as many people as humanly possible. I also want to find more time to be creative and write music, and I want to continue growing my business.

Front and Center: Singer, Guitarist, and Drummer of Ultrahazard and Melomaniac, Violet Staley

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here

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Front and Center: Singer, Guitarist, and Drummer of Ultrahazard and Melomaniac, Violet Staley

By Dawn Perreault

There is a bit of a movement happening on the south side of Chicago. A group of younger bands that have rejected their peers love of computerized music are embracing the old school styling’s and methods of playing real instruments; writing songs that echo some of the best of our punk and alternative musical history.

It was said that rock n’ roll will never die, but while those of us who love the genre are waiting for it to either gasp its last breath, or resurrect like Lazarus, the heart of Punk Rock has not grown weak. Like the Tell Tale Heart, it’s under the floorboard letting you know it isn’t dead yet.

One unique twist to this little group of bands in Chicago is that the driving force behind many of them are the women that play in the bands. Nothing replaces the raw and brutal energy of youth than Violet Staley, and “Bruised Violet,” as she calls herself, is letting nothing hold her back. Check out both Facebook pages for Ultrahazard and Melomaniac, as well as the Band Camp pages for Ultrahazard and Melomaniac.

WiMN: Tell me about both Ultrahazard and Melomaniac, and why two bands?

VS: Ultrahazard is a Chicago-based political punk band. We would describe our sound as being ska punk crust-pop fun. We stand for unity and equality. We sing about topics ranging from feminism, solidarity amongst artists, class war, roller derby, and revolution. All four of us come from different musical backgrounds such as Riot Grrrl, jazz, punk, and reggae, but our music sounds like a mix of Star F*cking Hipsters, Bomb! The Music Industry, The Distillers, and We Are the Union.

The lineup of Ultrahazard is Eli, Nick, Saffron and I. I play guitar and sing, Eli plays bass and sings, Saffron plays guitar and sings, and Nick plays drums. The band started in a Girls Rock! Camp, which is a super amazing camp that I recommend every girl between the ages of 8 and 16 go to while they can! You form a band, learn how to play the instrument of your choice, write a song and then perform it at the end of camp show (all in one week). After camp we decided to keep the band going and take it further. The band has been growing up with us and it’s really cool to look back and see that.

The more we expand our taste and knowledge of music the more you can hear that in the music. It’s been one of the greatest things ever in my life – to be in a band with my best friends, grow up with each other, have our music to listen back to, and hear and feel that change.

Melomaniac is a 3-piece horror rock and roll band based in Chicago. We have been a band since December 2015. We formed because our friend Jessica was telling us about how she missed playing music after being done with her time at the School of Rock in Chicago. The thought of being in an all-girl band with two of my best friends was super exciting. So far, we’ve been writing songs about horror movies and true crime bass.The lineup of Melomaniac is Saffron, Jessica and I. I play drums and sing, Saffron plays bass and sings back-up, and Jessica plays guitar.

WiMN: What has been your experience in the music scene as a woman? Do you feel an advantage/disadvantage?

VS:  I’m grateful that my interest in playing music sprung out of attending Girls Rock! Camp, because that really prepared me for the experiences I have encountered in the music scene as a woman. I learned about Riot Grrrl and the history of women in rock and beyond.

Learning about Riot Grrrl and feminism opened so many doors for me. It made me stronger as a person and as a musician. I have experienced discrimination at shows, because of my gender. Guys assume I’m just the “merch girl” instead of one of the actual band members, being asked stupidly ridiculous questions like, “How do you play guitar with your finger nails?” by some guy in one of the bands we were playing with, or watching guys in other bands greet the two guys in my band all excited and bro-like, but then looking past me, as if they can’t talk to me the same because I’m a girl.

I don’t want to say that being a woman in the music scene is an advantage or disadvantage, but I will say that I have been ignored or thought of as lesser of a musician because of my gender.

WiMN: If you could change anything about being a woman in the scene, what would it be?

VS: If I could change anything about being a woman in the music scene I would make it so that it doesn’t matter what your gender is! Whatever you identity with, you have the right to express yourself and make the music that you want.

I wish that I wasn’t ignored or thought of as lesser of a musician because of my gender. I don’t want the main focus of my music to be my gender – I want the main focus of the music that I make to be the passion and love that drives it, and I want the outcome to be filled with unity, equality and fun.

WiMN: Who is your main musical role model and what made you want to be a musician?

VS: It’s really hard to pick one person as my main musical role model. I think my biggest musical influence isn’t a role model, but a movement. Riot Grrrl really changed the way I think about music and the way that I play music. It was really empowering to discover all of these amazing all girl bands, because most of the bands that I listened to when I was younger did not have women in them.

I am a musician because I want to make a difference in the world, and the best way that I know I can reach people is through my music. Through my music I can share ideas, I can express my feelings with more than just words, and I can show the world that girls can do anything.

WiMN: What does 2016 hold for you?

VS: Ultrahazard’s biggest goal is to finish recording our first full-length album. Melomaniac is also working on recording, so we can put out an EP. I think the biggest goal that both bands have is to just really get our music out there and play even more shows. Both bands have yet to tour, but we have been talking about making a tour happen really soon, especially with Ultrahazard because of our new album coming out soon.

Dawn Perreault lives with her husband Mark and their boxer Scooby, in a suburb of Chicago. When she is not busy chasing her grandson around, she loves to write about local bands and musicians and also sings and writes original music.

Lita Ford Stars in New Commercial

By Gabriella Steffenberg

lita-ford-indeed-commercialGuitar legend Lita Ford is the star of the newest Indeed commercial. The 30 second spot titled, “Celebrate: Music Teacher” is the job search site’s most recent commercial, with their prior advertisement featuring Loverboy’s Mike Reno along with the group’s hit, “Working for the Weekend.”

In the commercial, Ford plays a music teacher who at the end of a long day, celebrates with a rad solo on a beautiful Fender Stratocaster. According to Ad Week, Ford’s shredding was performed live and with no post-production.

Keep on the lookout for Ford’s newest album, Time Capsule, due this April, and watch the commercial for yourself below:

Front and Center: Acclaimed Guitarist Jennifer Batten

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Acclaimed Guitarist and 2016 She Rocks Award Honoree, Jennifer Batten

Photo by Ali Hasbach.

Photo by Ali Hasbach.

by Pauline France

We are honored to feature today’s Front & Center subject and 2016 She Rocks Award recipient, Jennifer Batten.

Best known
 for having 
played guitar 
for Michael Jackson’s three solo world tours as well as the Superbowl XXVII, Batten has also toured and recorded with British guitar icon Jeff Beck for several years, recorded three solo CD’s, written two music books, and released three instructional DVD’s with truefire.com.

Batten continues to tour the globe with performances and multimedia one-woman shows that feature guitar playing in synch with films projected onto a giant screen. Batten regularly holds seminars, including her recent “Self-Empowerment for the Modern Musician Experience” series, geared toward providing the modern musician with tools available to help boost creativity, time-effectiveness, and new digital age income opportunities.

Learn more at www.jenniferbatten.com.

WiMN: What is the biggest lesson you learned from working with the king of pop?

JB: The value of entertainment on top of the music. People want to see a show these days. Just playing music isn’t enough because they can see you on Youtube without leaving the couch. They want to know they’re getting a piece of you live that will be different than on line. That can mean stories, dancers, special effects etc. In my case, for my solo show, it means films and stories as well as guitar improv. Michael’s music was only the foundation of a phenomenal show.

The second thing would be the value of mega rehearsal. Prior to working with him, I’d usually play a new song with a band in the day and perform it on stage for the first time that same night. It was always a cause of anxiety. But with Michael rehearsals were so extreme, there was no wondering what the next chord, or the form, or the next tune was. So in the end 100% of your focus was on performance.

WiMN: One of your biggest idols growing up was Jeff Beck, whom you ultimately ended up touring with. Can you share how your working relationship came to be?

JB: I merely wanted to meet him and get an autograph. I thought I could pull it off since I knew I’d be in London on the MJ Dangerous tour. I worked all the angles I could think of and got Sony to get him VIP tickets to Jackson at Wembley Stadium. Then… MJ canceled the friggin’ show after two openers went on! I was able to call Jeff and arrange a meeting the following day at the studio he was recording at. I gave him my debut CD as well as a video I’d just received of a piece that UK MTV had just done with me doing “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I checked that autograph off my bucket list and went on my way thinking I’d never see him again.

He called several months later after finally hearing my CD and said he wanted to cut a CD together. I toured and recorded with him for three years.

WiMN: When people think of a female guitar player, you are often the first person to come to mind. Who did you look up to as a role model when you first started to play guitar?

JB: The Beatles, Stones, and Monkees. Also my Dad was always playing jazz records after work and on weekends.  His love of music and high regard for the artistry had a big influence.  In my teen years I was into the blues and then discovered Jeff Beck, and that sent me on a whole other path.

WiMN: If you hadn’t been a guitarist, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

JB: I listed forestry as a choice of careers while in high school as I was into backpacking at the time.

WiMN: Congratulations on being inducted into the 2015 Guitar Player magazine Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement! What do you think are the key ingredients that helped you get to where you are now?

JB: Thanks! That really came out of left field but was a big bonus after being on the road last summer for a few months, and carving about 10,000 miles in the RV. The awards are a big feather in the cap.

gp_HOF_award_logo

WiMN: What do you think are the key ingredients that helped you get to where you are now?

JB: Love of music is number one, and visualization. I think people feel the degree of your passion for your instrument, and it’s infectious. People always want to be inspired, as do I.  You have to immerse yourself in your passion and then you magnetize opportunity.

WiMN: 2015 kept you busy with Fishman, Digitech, Washburn, D’Addario and Lock-It clinics, and your own seminar titled “Self-Empowerment for the Modern Musician Experience.” What were some of the biggest standout moments from your tour with these clinics and seminars?

JB: Everyone can look up the five tour vlog chapters I did, which are on my YouTube channel in the “Tour Vlogs” playlist. There’s some pretty silly stuff in there as well as a ton of the highlights.

Most of them are in the vlogs, but connecting to people in the Self-Empowerment seminar was the bomb. And hearing back from some of them on how pumped they were afterward was a real pay-off. That was just the beginning of where the concept will go.

I’ll also be doing an online streaming version this winter for all the people that missed it, or whose cities/countries I didn’t come to. It’s the proverbial “time to give back” in my life, and I have a hell of a lot of experiences to share. Info will be posted on batten.com when it’s nailed down.

WiMN: What is a little-known fact about you?

JB: I’m a hermit. I LOVE to be alone. After the kind of intense stimulation you get on tour, I’m perfectly content to be alone 23 hours a day off road. I have two dogs and two cats, and I’m good to go. And I have a big crush on Brad Paisley :-).

WiMN: Do you have advice for young women who might be considering a career in the music industry?

JB: Learn your craft and never stop growing; that’s what will fill your soul. The fame thing is hit or miss – fairly shallow and usually very temporary.

WiMN: What is in the works musically for 2016?

JB: I just returned from China and will be enjoying the early winter at home working on the next level of the Self-Empowerment for the Modern Musician seminar for streaming. I’ll be touring the U.S. with Uli Jon Roth and Andy Timmons in late February. Dates can be found here. Then I’m off to Europe in May.

WiMN: What does it mean to you to receive a She Rocks Award?

JB: It’s pretty heartwarming, really. You just do what you do in your life, not with the goal of receiving awards. But to be recognized as a good influence, especially just when I’ve launched the Self-Empowerment seminar, is a little sign that I’m going in the right direction.

When I joined Michael Jackson’s band in 1987, I thought the female musician revolution was upon us. Wendy and Lisa were in Prince’s band, and Billy Idol had a couple of different women playing keys in his bands. Then…nothing.

Now 30 years later, I think the real revolution is starting to take off. It’s still extremely lopsided and unbalanced gender-wise, but now that anyone can post their performances on YouTube, you see tons of young girls kicking ass.

I found out last summer that there are more girls in the 140 School’s of Rock across the country than boys. I just hope that whatever influence I may have out there, that a healthy percentage of girls picking up a guitar will take it way beyond three chords and singing about their boyfriends. If you’re going to dedicate your life to music, you have an infinite amount of growth ahead of you. It never ends.

I find my shows (and I’m sure the February tour as well) will be 95% males in attendance. Usually females attending my shows are Michael Jackson fans, and although I usually try to play one of his tunes, my solo stuff couldn’t be further from his genre.

Maybe in the next five or 10 years the percentage will even out. I think WIMN and She Rocks awards is helping to get the conversation going. Since the Internet is now in most homes with decent speeds, change is happening much faster in the past in all areas.

Rock’s First Female Guitarist, Lady Bo, Passes Away

LadyBo-PonderosaStomp

Rock’s first female guitarist, Peggy Malone, A.K.A. Lady Bo,  died at age 75 on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Born Peggy Tiese Jones in Eden, Md., on July 19, 1940, and raised in uptown Manhattan, she was a child prodigy who at the tender age of three already exhibited an innate feel for rhythm and movement, as well as musical pitch and timing.

Encouraged by her musical parents (her mother was a singer and dancer, and her father played trumpet and sax), Peggy became a professional tap-dancer at the age of 6, appearing at Carnegie Hall and on TV shows, and also studied ballet, toe and modern dance.

Gifted with a stunning four-octave singing voice, she received formal operatic training at age 9. At age 12, she learned to play her first instrument – the ukulele – and started writing her own songs. Peggy was educated at Stitt Junior High and the High School of Performing Arts, where she majored in dance, studied drama and music theory, and learned to play several more instruments including keyboards, bass and drums. After graduating in 1956, she found work as a big band vocalist and part-time model, and was planning to go to the prestigious Juilliard School to study classical music theory, but a chance encounter changed the course of her life forever.

With rock ’n’ roll taking the country by storm, Peggy had recently bought herself an electric guitar. One day, she was walking down 125th Street carrying her instrument and was approached by a large black man in a head rag and sunglasses who asked her if she could play it. She replied truthfully: “Not yet.” “Well, let me know when you can,” came the reply. “I’m Bo Diddley.”

Incredulous at first that one of the top R&B stars in the country would make her such an offer, Peggy worked on her guitar technique and picked up tips from Diddley whenever he was in town. In between, she also worked as a nightclub singer and recorded with The Continentals, The Bop-Chords and Gregory Carroll (as “Greg & Peg”). She began sitting in on Bo Diddley’s sessions from early 1957 and went out on the road with him as a fully fledged band member in 1958.

Peggy’s impact was immediate – not just on stage, where audiences were astonished to see a female lead guitar player, but also musically. Her influence is immediately apparent on hits like “Say Man” and “Road Runner” and the album tracks they recorded together: not just the inventive guitar accompaniments (she could play in play in Diddley’s unusual open-tuning style, as well as in regular tuning), but also the backing vocals, arrangements and an overall broadening-out of repertoire. It was no accident that the next four years were arguably Diddley’s most successful, from an artistic as well as commercial standpoint.

In 1961, Peggy had to take temporary leave of absence to care for her sick mother and younger sisters back in New York City. She never returned. Her place in the band – and in history – was taken by another girl guitarist, Norma-Jean Wofford a.k.a. “Duchess.” Constrained by family responsibilities and unable to travel, Peggy did her best to earn a living performing in local clubs and playing on a handful of recording sessions (most notably the memorable guitar lead on Les Cooper’s 1962 instrumental hit, “Wiggle Wobble”). In the mid-‘60s, she formed her own group, The Jewels, who quickly established a reputation as one of the hottest outfits on the East Coast. In 1966, they scored a regional hit with their revamp of the standard, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” but by this time relationships within the band were becoming strained and Peggy quit shortly after to join The King’s Paupers as “Little Jewel.” She also did more session work, assisting recording pioneer Gary Kellgren with percussion and sound effects on the Animals’ “Winds Of Change” album, and sitting in with Curtis Knight & The Squires whenever their regular guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, couldn’t make it. Overall, however, the ’60s proved to be a period of frustration and disappointment period for Peggy, who felt – with some justification – that events had conspired to prevent her from achieving her full potential.

Happily, life took a significant turn for the better after she met bass player Wally Malone. They married in 1968 and both joined American Soul Train (a.k.a. the legendary Boogie Kings), based out of Lake Charles, Louisiana. After touring the South with them for six months, the Malones relocated to California in 1969, initially to San Jose, then to Boulder Creek, up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There, they formed a trio called The Family Jewel and from then on worked mainly on the West Coast, as well as quite a few engagements on the East Coast, many of them in Boston.

In July 1970, Peggy spotted that Bo Diddley was due to appear at the Fillmore West auditorium in San Francisco and decided to pay him a surprise visit. After an emotional reunion, Bo invited her to join him onstage and by all accounts played one of the best shows of his career. Even though ten years had elapsed, the old magic was still there. The crowd were so excited to see them back together that they started chanting “Lady Bo, Lady Bo,” and Diddley duly rechristened her on the spot.

Peggy and Bo stayed in touch, and she and her band would regularly back him during the ’70s and ’80s whenever he played on the West Coast. They also cut some new, funk-styled material together in 1978, and some of the material was later included – uncredited – on Diddley’s 1984 “comeback” album, “Ain’t It Good To Be Free.” When not working with Bo, Peggy played various clubs and festivals with different permutations of her group – Lady Bo & The Family Jewel, the Lady Bo Trio, and Lady Bo & The BC Horns – as the occasion demanded. She also made a fleeting appearance in the 1987 movie, “The Lost Boys,” playing in the boardwalk band.

Peggy’s dedication as a musician and guitarist was second to none. Influenced by George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt and, of course, Bo Diddley, she was constantly exploring new techniques, effects and sounds. She was equally willing to embrace new technologies such as the Roland guitar synthesizer, and explore the possibilities they offered.

She received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 at the South Bay Blues Awards, and a US Congressional Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. That same year, she was acknowledged as a Music Legend at the California Music Awards, and was also inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall Of Fame. In 2012, Peggy and Wally were both inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame, along with all the other Boogie Kings.

Peggy had been in poor health for several years and was recently diagnosed with cancer. She passed away peacefully at her home in Boulder Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, September 16. She leaves behind husband Wally, sisters Patricia and Patrina Jones, and nieces Alexandria, Vanessa and Amber Stewart and Yyana Jones.