By Justine Souchack
3rd Power is a boutique amplifier maker located in Nashville, TN, owned and operated by innovative amp designer, Dylana Nova Scott.
Having come up a guitarist and performer, Scott has decades of experience in the music industry, and uses that to her power (no pun intended) to craft some of the most sought-after boutique amplifiers available. In fact, Scott’s groundbreaking designs have earned her three USA patents.
Below, we learn more about Scott’s background, her goals with 3rd Power, and some insight into the latest chapter of her amazing life.
To find out more, head over to 3rdpower.com.
WiMN: As an accomplished guitarist, how did you become interested in building amps?
DS: Music was always such a magical part of my life. As a child, I was drawn to it like a fish to water.
Thanks to my mother, my introduction to music came at an early age. Bands like The Who and songs like “Borris the Spider” were nursery rhymes for me. She had been sewing clothes and making leather pants for musicians in the late ’60s and that exposed me to a lot of live music. In the summer of 1969, her birthday coincided with the Seattle Pop Festival (July 25 – 27) and so we went. The lineup included The Doors, Bo Diddley, Led Zeppelin, Albert Collins, Vanilla Fudge, and many others. I was only 4 years old at the time, but I can still remember sitting on the stage during Bo’s performance. At one point, he looked down and pointed right at me and smiled. With roots and inspiration like that, it makes sense that I went on to enjoy my own music career and I still perform and record music to this day.
As far as making guitar amps… many people would agree that professionally recorded guitar performances sound more pleasing to the listener compared to what’s actually coming straight out of the amplifier itself. That has a lot to do with the equipment used as well as the talent and skill of the recording engineer. My goal was to pack the tonal punch of a recording studio, sound engineer and a mastering lab into a standalone amplifier and have the sound quality coming out of the guitar speaker match what could be achieved in the studio. I did just that and have earned three USA patents for my design work. The fact that I’m self-taught has helped me come up with unique and patentable solutions.
WiMN: Tell us about your career in MI before launching 3rd Power. What led up to starting the company?
DS: When being a music fan wasn’t enough, I learned how to play. When playing music wasn’t enough, I became a teacher. When teaching wasn’t enough, I started writing, performing and recording music. The more serious I got, the more I explored the music equipment side.
My first real job was working music retail. Later, I sold pro audio gear and that really exposed me to the industry on a larger scale. This was in the early to mid-’90s when digital recording solutions were becoming attainable to a wider customer base. Working at a prominent pro audio retailer in Northern California, I had access to the latest gear and was trained on how to operate it by various manufacturers as well as had the local support of their sales and marketing representatives. Knowing how to operate the gear landed me several gigs producing, recording and mastering music.
My first opportunity at the manufacturing level was with a startup company named X-wire Digital Wireless. X-wire made digital wireless microphones and instrument wireless systems that sounded like a direct wire connection and were equally as reliable within the performance range. The company was started by Guy Coker, a former guitar student of mine. When it was time to go to market, Coker came to me and asked me for advice. I could see from my previous experience that they had a product and nothing else. I wrote them a marketing plan and made a presentation. As a result, X-wire offered me a position as their sales rep. To their surprise, I declined the offer and told them that I could best help move the company forward only from the position of VP of Sales and Marketing. They agreed and hired me in that role. This was in the late ’90s when the big brands were saying it wasn’t possible to utilize a digital wireless audio link reliably. We did just that and caught the attention of a leading microphone and wireless manufacturer, Sennheiser. Prior to year two, they stepped in and acquired the company. Post acquisition, Sennheiser created a position for me and thus began a 7-year career that would see me rise through the sales ranks and land in an executive sale position responsible for pro audio sales throughout the Western USA.
As luck would have it, lightning was to strike twice with digital wireless. I left Sennheiser in 2007 to join a new startup company called X2 Digital Wireless. This time as a co-owner collaborating again with Guy Coker. We introduced new and improved instrument wireless systems that featured compact and attractive enclosures. With sales around $1M in year one, we got the immediate attention of the industry and leading digital guitar products company Line 6 pounced and acquired the company.
At Line 6, I recall a marketing/engineering meeting where I presented a terrific idea that was shut down before even finishing my presentation. I went to the president of product development and requested an engineer that knew what the hell they were doing and the president laughed and said I was butting heads with the best of the best. I knew I had hit my ceiling there and set out on my own.
WiMN: What are the challenges in owning your own company? Can you give us a glimpse of your daily routine?
DS: As with many small or niche businesses, entrepreneurs have to wear many hats. Such is the case for me as well. The not so interesting stuff is the bookkeeping and chore side of running a business. The fun/exciting side is designing amps and then seeing them on stage or on television. Even more satisfying for me is seeing my creations used in the studio. Every product I’ve brought to market has been very well received by music professionals. I’ve built guitar amplifiers for artists such as Lenny Kravitz, Joe Walsh, Vince Gill as well as music producers such as Sylvia Massey, Dann Huff, Justin Neibank and Paul Ebersold.
The process of producing an amplifier consists of first designing it, then testing it, refining it, creating the look and feel of it, creating the user interface, preparing for production, ordering all the parts and components, and finally producing it. Then there’s QC and finally packing and shipping to the customer. I have my hand in every single step of the way so our customers know that they are getting the best possible product I can build and that each one has had every single element and detail check by me.
WiMN: What separates 3rd Power from other boutique amp companies?
DS: In a nutshell, my innovative approach to amplifier design. My pursuit of studio record quality guitar tone has led me to create new approaches including innovative enclosure designs, tone circuits, and volume management circuits. These patented design elements really are a difference maker and make our products stand out with a performance quality and reliability that’s unmatched in the industry. I’d also add that my unique experiences as a professional guitarist, recording engineer, and industry executive combine to make the 3P experience world-class for our customers and our dealers. Working directly with celebrities as well as local artists is a highlight and they appreciate the fact that we can converse about amps, tone, and gear in general all in musical terminology that reflects our shared artistic experiences.
WiMN: How does your location in East Nashville impact your business?
DS: The location itself, while in the hip/artsy part of Nashville, has not been a key to our success. While we were certainly conveniently located, it hasn’t been a difference maker. But, the space, a warehouse with the room to grow, was key in the progression of the business.
We have recently moved 10 miles south of downtown Nashville into a large home located in the Brentwood Hills area, a place that I have affectionately dubbed The Treehouse. We are right off of the I-65 freeway and in the heart of where many of the top musicians, songwriters and producers live and create in their own home studios. Being that the trend for music professionals here is having a home base, this new location is perfect for our needs and sits on an acre in the hills surrounded by treetops as well as a view of the surrounding skyline. The lean manufacturing principals we developed in our warehouse days have definitely carried over to the Treehouse though and allows me to produce 8 – 10 amplifiers per month all built by hand and by me personally.
WiMN: Has there ever been a time that you felt discriminated against in the music industry because of your gender? If so, how did you overcome it?
DS: Short answer: Yes, there have.
However, let’s first frame it like this: having lived such a high-profile and public life, I made the decision to transition to female in full view – all the ups and all the downs. If I were to endeavor on my journey to personal authenticity, I felt that I had to do so publicly with strength, dignity, and courage. Going underground would send the message that I was somehow ashamed of myself, or doing something that was wrong and that just isn’t the case.
I was bolstered to pursue my authenticity having learned about prominent women such as Martine Rothblatt and Caitlyn Jenner. Both were incredibly successful and yet success, fame or money wasn’t enough and I related to that deeply. No matter what I accomplished, I was never happy inside and around my 50th birthday, I began to deeply contemplate the rest of my life, who I really was inside and what I was going to do about it. These women showed me that it was possible to be your true self despite the blowback and while I don’t have their financial resources to sustain through the hard times, I did have the support of those close to me and of the professional team I assembled to help me through my transition.
After coming out, I learned that there are segments of this industry that are far more conservative than I had thought. Mind you, this is an industry that hatched gender-bending artists such as David Bowie, Little Richard and Prince to name but a few! I’ve had employees, artists, customers, and dealers all turn their back on me. I’ve been told, ‘I don’t believe in the lifestyle,’ ‘love the sinner but hate the sin,’ and so on. Earlier this year, a potential dealer inquired about carrying our equipment and cited overwhelming customer demand. Since their request for information was addressed to my previous name, I felt it best to move forward with answering their questions and share with them my new name as part of my transition but that professionally it was business as usual. They never responded to my follow up emails, nor were my phone messages ever returned.
To overcome and more accurately, to survive, I have had to reshape the business for the current climate. My living situation was impacted as well and for a period of nearly one year, I slept on the floor of the shop. Whatever I had to do in order to stay the course and get to the other side.
There have been incredible positives to come from my journey. Most importantly, I am happy, healthy and thriving like never before in my life. I realize that’s saying a lot when you look back on all of my previous success. I’ve received unexpected yet delightful support from legendary musicians like Vince Gill and Tom Hemby. Several dealers have stuck with me and new dealers have come on board. I received a visit by Joe Lamond, president of NAMM while exhibiting at a recent trade show. I’ve recently made amplifiers that are now on tour with Little Big Town, Miranda Lambert, and Justin Timberlake. The high-profile celebrities simply want the best and that’s what I make so this has been a very welcomed area of growth for 3rd Power.
Overall, I remain very optimistic and see another phase of expansion in 3rd Power’s future. I also see a bright future for All Women to be who they are, existing equally, safely and thriving however they choose.