Formed when their frontwoman was just nine years old and with a voice and guitar-driven swagger that instantly conjures up images of Janis Joplin and Susan Tedeschi, Hannah Wicklund and The Steppin Stones have consistently stood out as a young band on the rise.
The band’s self-titled, fifth album [produced by Sadler Valden and set for a January 26 release] draws from the guitarist’s classic rock influences, which range from Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck to Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty. The result is a fiery combination of blues-rock passion that pays homage to her musical roots while giving them modern, 21-century feel.
With her tasty fret work and tireless work ethic, Wicklund is a guitarist to watch for 2018.
Guitar World recently spoke with Wicklund about her new album, songwriting, gear and more.
How would you describe your style of music?
It’s raw but very authentic and genuine. It’s also a good representation of what the last year and a half of my life has been like. This new album is my most mature piece of work as far as sound goes, and an ode to my classic rock roots.
What’s your writing process like?
Honestly? It’s different every song. There have been songs that begin with a musical idea approach, where the riff comes first and is followed by forming a melody. Other songs could start from just a lyrical idea.
Something else I’ve been doing lately is taking a strong title and writing the song from there. “Shadow Boxes” is an example of a song I had originally written and then scrapped everything except for the title. Then there are songs like “Crushin”, which is more of a riff-based, bluesy song. I’d been playing that riff for a long time and developed it into a song.
Let’s discuss a few other tracks from the new album, beginning with “Bomb Through The Breeze.”
That’s a song that Sadler [Valden] and I co-wrote in one sitting. It started out with the riff and then we took cues from each other and built it from there. It’s a song about standing up for yourself.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Hannah Wicklund Here!
Following the release of their ninth full-length album, 2015’s See What You Started by Counting, Collective Soul made the conscious decision to record more than 160 of their shows over the course of the next two years. The result is the band’s new album, the aptly titled, Collective Soul: Live.
Collective Soul rose to fame in 1993 with Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid, a collection of frontman Ed Roland’s demos bolstered by the monster hit, “Shine.” Since then, the multi-platinum band have amassed an arsenal of #1 hits and album sales, while simultaneously helping to define rock with their guitar-driven attitude.
Guitar World recently spoke with Roland and the band’s guitarist, Jesse Triplett, about Collective Soul’s new live album, music, gear and more in this exclusive new interview.
What made the band decide to record a live album?
Ed Roland: Jesse joined the band about five years ago and our drummer, Johnny Rabb, joined right before that. After 24 years, I feel this is without a doubt the best line-up we’ve ever had and I’ve always said that once we caught the groove, we needed to get it down. So when we started to tour after our last album, [See What You Started by Continuing], we recorded every show.
How did you determine which live versions to include?
Roland: Of course, every night you want to do the best that you can, but some nights were better than others. Afterwards, we all came back and whittled it down to our producer/engineer/mixer, Shawn Grove. We gave him the weeks we thought were good and let him pick and choose. The only thing we made clear was that we wanted no overdubs. We just wanted what it was that night.
Jesse Triplett: Shawn came out and saw us at a few different spots during the tour. I remember during the first part he’d say to us, “You guys sound good” and by the end was like, “You guys are on fire!” There were so many shows that I sometimes forgot we were recording for a live album.
Is there any set of extra nerves knowing that you’re recording a live show and there’s no going back?
Roland: Jesse and I both like to move around on stage, so when we first started talking about recording we were concerned about how far we should take the showmanship and how much we should reel it back and make sure we we’re playing correctly. Jesse mentioned about forgetting that we were being recorded and I think that really helped with the mindset of doing the show without thinking.
Triplett: If you start thinking about it, it gets weird. It’s better to just get out there and play instead of trying to be technically sound.
Roland: Being a front man, you also have to play with a crowd and know how to entertain and bring them in and take them out. I never wanted to be withdrawn from that by having to think about singing something perfectly. It was more about letting it flow, catching the groove and forgetting about it.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Collective Soul by Clicking Here.
Unified is the sophomore release from Sweet & Lynch, the collaborative partnership centered around the talents of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob).
The powerful combination of Sweet’s high-octane vocals and Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar work, along with the propulsive rhythm section of James Lomenzo (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums), gives Sweet and Lynch a unique musical palette. The result is an album of traditional heavy metal grooves, hook-laden melodies, tasty guitar wizardry and positive messages.
I recently spoke to Michael Sweet about Unified and working with George Lynch. He also gave me an update on the new Stryper album and their new bassist, Perry Richardson.
Before we begin, I’d like to get your thoughts on the recent passing of AC/DC guitarist, Malcolm Young. How much of an influence did he have on you?
Like any other teenager and aspiring musician at the time, AC/DC was the pinnacle. Not so much from the sense of me trying to sound like Malcolm or Angus, but I played those songs in cover bands and to this day we still break into AC/DC songs at sound check.
There’s just something amazing about their power and simplicity, and Malcom was the driving force behind it. He was such an incredibly tight and responsive guitar player. He didn’t make a lot of noise in terms of his persona or stage presence, but if you closed your eyes and listened you would hear Malcolm above all.
Let’s discuss the new Sweet & Lynch album, Unified. How does it compare to your first release, Only To Rise?
For this album, George and I branched out a little and tried a few different things. It’s got some songs on it that are stretched a bit more in terms of creativity, particularly with songs like “Walk” and “Afterlife”. There’s nothing like that on the first album. The first album was comprised more of three and a half to four-minute songs geared toward hard rock/metal heads and radio. For this one, we had less of that in mind and made the album we wanted to make.
Was the writing process similar to Only To Rise, where George would send you musical ideas to work from?
Yes. Once we got down to it, George would send me ideas that were music only. The first time around they were less complete, but this time it was a complete song from start to finish. George is a guy who writes with a melody in mind, so it makes it easy for me to find them. George wrote all the music on this one and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies. It was a compete co-write.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Unified, beginning with the title track.
That song is based on our world today and what we watch on the news. Whatever side you’re on. And that’s the sad part when I say that we have “sides”, especially in America where we’ve become so divided. It makes no sense to me, so I wrote a song about it. Keeping in mind the hope that it might bring people a little closer together. That’s the whole point of “Unified.”
Read the rest of my
Interview with Michael Sweet by clicking here.
After being discovered performing in an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band, guitarist Brittany Denaro—or Britt Lightning—was invited to join the ranks of hard rockers Vixen.
Denaro’s impressive musical resume also includes performing alongside such artists as Alejandro Sanz, Rachel Platten and Jason Derulo as well as on television shows like Good Morning America and the finale of America’s Got Talent.
Vixen—which also consists of Janet Gardner (vocals/guitar), Share Ross (bass) and Roxy Petrucci (drums)—and whose hits include “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Wrecking Ball,” is the only all-female hard rock band from the 80’s to sell more than a million albums. The band is currently in the studio working on a live project along with their first new music together in years.
Guitar World recently spoke to Denaro about her role in Vixen, gear, songwriting and more.
Above video by Rokken Randy
How did the gig with Vixen come about?
I was playing with an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band at a pre-party for The Monsters of Rock Cruise. Coincidentally, the person who put it on also happened to be Vixen’s manager. He had known that there was some tension in the band and that they were looking for another guitar player.
After the show, he spoke to the girls and told them he thought I’d be a perfect fit. Ironically, around the same time Janet, Share and Roxy had been asking around and my name kept popping up, so they followed up. It was that simple.
What was it like for you getting together with them for the first time?
I was a bit nervous. Growing up, I had been in all-girl bands but there weren’t many of them to really look up to. I remember the first time I got together with them was without Janet. It was just the music and that took a little bit of the pressure off. Because everyone lived all over the country, the first time I actually met Janet was the night before we did a show together!
Read the rest of my
With Brittany Denaro Here
It’s been quite a year for Portland rockers Portugal. The Man.
Having spent the better part of three years working feverishly on a new album, the band abruptly decided to change direction and scrap everything after front man John Gourley paid a visit to his father in Alaska. The encounter led to the discovery of an original Woodstock music festival ticket and the realization that a pattern of events from that era was eerily similar to what’s going in the world today.
Led by the hugely successful “Feel It Still,” the band’s latest album—Woodstock—addresses those concerns and more. It’s also opened the door to cross-over appeal and a monster touring schedule, which will see them in places like Europe, the Dominican Republic and beyond.
I recently spoke with guitarist Eric Howk about the success of the Woodstockalbum, songwriting, gear and more in this new interview.
The band had been working on a new album for quite a while when they decided to scrap everything and start over. Having said that, how has the reaction been to Woodstock?
That happened right around the time I started touring with the band full time. When I came in, it was around the same time all of those other songs the band had written were going out. Ultimately, it was the right call. It’s a record with meaning and gravity and the songs are the best of the bunch. It was a good decision.
What prompted the sudden change in direction?
John Gourley’s father is a gruff, unsentimental Alaskan dude and one night when they were hanging out, John’s dad showed him an original ticket from Woodstock he thought he’d lost for forty years. That coalesced with the current American political climate that none of the previous songs addressed.
In a lot of ways, Woodstock was a reactionary event that came out of fear-based, xenophobic, Richard Nixon/McCarthyism, politically-driven America. It’s eerily similar to where we’re at now. It all panned out, so Woodstock it was.
What’s the band’s writing process?
The majority of the time it starts with a groove, but it’s really all about the feel and finding something in the pocket. Other times, there might be a lyric kicking around and you’ll try to find a way to shove that in. If we knew how the process works that would be great. “Feel it Still” came together in less than an hour while some of the other songs took seven or eight months.
You mentioned “Feel It Still”. Can you tell us how it came about?
We had been working on a completely different song when we took a break and John went in and started messing around with that bass line. It had a real Sixties, spy movie feel to it. Everyone thought it sounded cool so we threw a mic on the bass amp and recorded it. Pretty much an hour later all of the lyrics and everything else that you hear came together.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Eric Howk Here!
What originally began as an album of all-original material from Larkin Poe (which consists of sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell) quickly took a turn when they began recording and posting traditional blues covers on various social media outlets.
The result was millions of views and an overwhelming demand for an album of traditional American roots music. This prompted Larkin Poe to return to the studio for Peach, a compilation of blues covers and original material that harkens towards their Southern musical heritage.
Tasty covers of songs like “Preachin’ Blues” (Son House) and “Black Betty” demonstrate reverence for the original versions but are fused with the ladies’ own unique style. The songs stand up equally against originals such as “Freedom”, “Wanted Woman” and “Pink & Red.”
The Lovell sisters are no strangers to musical attention having performed as part of the house band for the MusiCares 2017 “Person of The Year” event honoring Tom Petty and opening for the likes of Elvis Costello and Bob Seger. In short, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
I recently spoke with the duo about Peach, their songwriting process and their current setup.
Where did you draw inspiration for Peach?
Megan Lovell: We wanted to pay homage to music of the South and the Delta and make it into a very American roots rock record. It’s a culmination of all the Southern influences we’ve received over our lifetime.
Was there a certain theme you were going for when choosing covers for this album?
Megan Lovell: We’ve been making videos of covers for social media as a way to keep pushing ourselves and people have really responded to it. When the time came to make this record, there was a great demand for them, so we decided to choose our favorites from the videos. That’s what you get on the album.
Rebecca Lovell: We cover Sam House on the record [“Preachin’ Blues]. If you read the lyrics to the song written almost a century ago, they’re fantastic. It’s music that plays to a timeless human emotion. A raw questioning of soul and spirit.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Larkin Poe by Clicking Here!
Fozzy has always been a band focused on two things: a heavy groove and a good time. And when you have two high-energy performers like Rich “The Duke of Metal” Ward and Chris Jericho in the band, those grooves and good times come easy.
Ward is known for being one of the most prolific and underrated guitarists in rock and metal today. He’s created his own signature style of heavy riffs, melodic choruses and what’s become known as The Duke groove.
Fozzy’s new album, Judas—set for an October 13 release—is the follow-up to 2014’s Do You Wanna Start a War and reinforces the idea that the band is hitting its stride. Songs like the title track showcase Jericho’s enaging vocal delivery along with the infectiously familiar, in the pocket groove of Ward and drummer, Frank Fontsere.
Tracks like “Weight of My World” and the groovy “Drinkin With Jesus” follow a similar pattern, highlighted by the band’s inspiration and self-reflection.
I recently spoke with Rich Ward about the new Fozzy album, songwriting, gear and more.
How would you describe Judas in terms of its sound and how it relates to some of the band’s previous work?
I think the majority of people who hear it will see this as a big rock record with big guitar riffs and catchy melodies. The one strength about Fozzy is that we’re always able to stay relevant. We have an eclectic set of influences that make this band unique.
What was the writing process like?
We usually start with a blank sheet of paper and then Jericho starts sending us song title ideas followed by sheets of lyrics. I practice every day for a few hours and if I find something that seems interesting, I’ll record and catalog it based on something that would be influentially relevant to the sound I’m coming up with.
So, if Jericho sends me lyrics that have a dark, moody vibe I’ll go into my catalog to see if I can in a nice companion for it. Other times, it will be just us all in a room coming up with ideas collectively. A lot of stuff on this record was a real collaboration with our producer, Johnny Andrews.
We worked with him on a few songs on our last album. One of our goals going in was to have someone who was more involved in the process. Not just in creating sounds but also having a creative seat at the table. Johnny was the MVP of the studio.
Let’s discuss a few songs from the new album, starting with the title-track, “Judas”
That song has a great riff. As soon as I recorded it we all looked at ourselves and said if this comes off as good as it is right now, it will be the single of the record. It has such a classic, head banging groove and for us, that’s where we’re at our strongest. Our drummer, Frank Fontsere and I are at our best when we’re laying down pocket and that song plays right into the sweet spot.
Jericho really connected with the lyric in telling the story. The songs that stand the test of time are the ones where you hear an emotional connection in the delivery of a lyric. “Judas” is that song.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Rich Ward by Clicking Here!
For Light In The Dark, the sophomore album from monster trio Revolution Saints, we find Deen Castronovo (vocals/drums), Doug Aldrich (guitars) and Jack Blades (bass/vocals) once again teaming up with producer/songwriter Allesandro Del Vecchio for an infectious compilation of inspired songwriting and tasty guitar work, highlighted by Castronovo’s amazing vocal prowess.
Light In The Dark [which is set for an October 13 release] continues to build off the classic, melodic rock style of the band’s debut and their collective musical resumes (which includes Journey, Night Ranger, Damn Yankees, Dio and Whitesnake), but fans should also prepare for a more unique set of performances, as we all as a few surprises.
In this interview, I spoke to Aldrich about Revolution Saints, his gear and The Dead Daisies.
How does Light in The Dark compare to the band’s debut album?
It’s similar in that everything is representative. It’s a little bit heavier in some songs but it’s still got the melodic rock guitar sound and a real riff rock feel. Overall, it’s a little bit edgier.
I like it because we all had a chance to write on this one. I brought in a bunch of guitar parts and arrangements and Deen threw down an mp3 of him playing guitar that I got a few riffs out of as well. Jack also wrote on a few of the songs and Alessandro co-wrote pretty much everything except for one of the ballads.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album, beginning with the title track.
That originally started out as a song that Allesandro had with simple, blocked down guitar parts, a verse and a chorus. I worked with him on an arrangement and started out by taking the guitars in one direction.
Once I got to Italy to record and started playing against the real drums I changed the riff a little bit to toughen it up. It’s right in the same vein of the last record and a good leadoff track.
What about “Freedom”?
I had brainstormed a song that was kind of our version of Phil Collins’ track, “In The Air Tonight.” That was the initial inspiration behind it. Deen had sent me an mp3 of a drop D riff he had recorded and I took a little piece of that and simplified it. In the end, it has a little flavor of “Separate Ways” by Journey with how the three of us played it.
“I Wouldn’t Change A Thing”?
That was a song written by Richard Page, the singer from Mister Mister. When I first heard it I was excited to see what I could do with it. Allesandro had done a rough demo where the guitar solo broke into a melody. I really liked it but when I picked up the guitar and started to play around it, I got a hit for a completely different melody that really set well with the vocal. I’m happy with how it turned out.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Doug Aldrich by Clicking Here!
Guitarist Lindsay Ell Discusses Her New Album, ‘The Project,’ Touring with Keith Urban and Brad Paisley
Guitarist Lindsay Ell describes her debut album, The Project as what you get when you combine Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Keith Urban into one musical blender, which isn’t all that hard to imagine.
While Ell’s vocal style is reminiscent of Crow’s, she’s toured extensively with Urban and even used Mayer’s album, Continuum as a starting point for recording the album. The result is a tasty collection of guitar wizardry, inspired songwriting and heartfelt emotion.
Produced by Grammy-winner Kristian Bush (Sugarland), The Project is also the first group of songs Ell’s recorded where she says she feels like herself. I recently spoke with Ell about The Project, songwriting, gear and more in this new interview.
What was it like working with Kristian Bush on The Project?
It was amazing to work with someone who’s already been the artist, songwriter and producer. He understands so many different sides. I called the record The Project because it actually felt like a science project in trying to discover my identity.
Tell me how you used John Mayer as a pre-requisite for this new album.
In one of our first meetings, Kristian asked me what my favorite record of all time was. After I told him Continuum by John Mayer he said, “Ok, perfect. I want you to go into the studio and record that whole album. The only rules are, you only have two weeks and you have to play all of the instruments yourself.” So, for the next 14 days I recorded Continuum.
In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing but had enough faith and trust in Kristian to know that there would always be a purpose behind it. After two weeks, I handed over the CD and told him how much I had learned about the way John played guitar, about how I play guitar and most importantly, how I’d love to hear a band recorded in the studio.
That’s when he said, “Well, now it’s time for us to go in and record your album.” It was a crazy thing but really laid the groundwork for us in finding the sound for The Project.
What’s your songwriting process like?
It depends. Every song is so different but the guitar is a huge part of who I am. I’m inspired a lot by a guitar riff or musical idea first and the rest of the song will usually grow from that.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Lindsay Ell by Clicking Here!
Described as his most personal work to date, Greg Howe’s new album, Wheelhouse—which will be released on September 1— marks the guitar legend’s highly-anticipated return to solo instrumental work.
Tracks like “Tempest Pulse” and “Throw Down” showcase Howe’s infectious tone and fretboard wizardry while eclectic tracks like “2 In 1” combine a funk-infused vibe with Forties swing. But perhaps one of the biggest highlights on Wheelhouse; and one that long-time followers of Howe’s career will certainly find appealing, is the track, “Shady Lane”.
A song originally written by Howe and his brother back in the early Nineties, on Wheelhouse, “Shady Lane” is given a 21st century spin with an emotionally charged vocal performance by Richie Kotzen (Winery Dogs, Mr. Big). Kotzen also complements his fellow Shrapnel alumni by contributing a blistering guitar solo to the track as well.
Wheelhouse is an album that will once again raise the bar for guitarists, and a fitting return for one of the genre’s most dynamically diverse artists.
I recently spoke with Howe about Wheelhouse and more in this exclusive new interview.
How would you describe Wheelhouse in terms of its sound and maybe as it relates to some of your previous work?
From a guitar perspective, I’d describe it as an almost higher quality of the type of tone I was getting on Introspection. It’s very clean and there’s a lot of gain behind it but it doesn’t sound like it. I was also getting a little more into single coils and more “Strat” kind of tones, so it’s a different kind of expression. As far as direction, I feel like it’s a little more honest.
I can get carried away in the studio sometimes, and then I’ll listen back to what I recorded and decide to scrap it and end up writing something that’s either really complicated or putting together solos that border on unrealistic in terms of what I would sound like. I really wanted this to be a lot of one-take stuff and the material to sound like something I would want to play over. It’s a very natural, honest record.
What’s your writing process like?
There isn’t really a process. It ranges anywhere from going through drum loops and finding something cool that inspires the riff to waking up in the morning with a song idea already in my head. Sometimes, if I’m searching for inspiration, it can come from just watching a movie, thinking about something or connecting to something that’s happening in my life at the time. It’s a starting point that inspires and triggers the creative process.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Wheelhouse, beginning with “Tempest Pulse”
That song was one of the first I wrote for the album and has a slight Latin feel to it. I went through a phase where I was listening to a lot of Michel Camilo and that opened up some of this Cuban influence. There’s also something really festive and sexy about not hitting on the downbeat.
Read the rest of my
Interview with Greg Howe by Clicking Here.