An Interview with Arielle

If you're looking for a 'classic folk rock' guitar prodigy, look no further than the upcoming Arielle concert this Saturday at the Neck of the Woods. We caught her opening for one of our favorite guitarists, Eric Johnson last year, and she's recently released a new solo album titled Suspension / Dimension. Arielle has played with a who's who of legendary musicians including Brian May, Joe Bonamassa, Graham Nash, Joan Jett, and Vince Gill to name a few. Her style crosses over classic rock to folk to 80's arena rock and ultimately is driven by the voice of her various guitars and the mood that she's in. Check out her show this weekend and you'll hear and see what we mean with her extensive custom guitar collection. We had a chance to speak with her earlier this week and can't wait for Saturday night. Tickets are still available as of this posting, and you can buy them here. Hope to see you at the show!

SFBayAreaConcerts:  Thanks for making the time to speak with us Arielle! Let me start with the new album and how I've read that Suspension / Dimension centers on who you were, and who you're becoming. So I wanted to find out what you mean by that? Is there a piece of you that you're consciously leaving behind as you explore new territory with your guitar?

Arielle: Yeah, I kind of hinted at it in my last release Mind Lion which I wrote about finding the barriers in my mind. It didn't really allow me to be me, completely. So it's not so much that I'm leaving a part of me behind as much as it is unfolding what was there. And what I meant by that, I think I had so many fears, outdated fears, of feeling like I wasn't good enough or if I really show who I am, I'll be judged. I guess it's easier to be judged when someone doesn't see everything. It's like, well, they don't really know everything in it. It was easier to handle, but I just decided, screw it. I just want to be me and if it's not perfect, then I'll just get better with time. So more revealing what was there that I was too afraid to show.

SFBAC: Personally, I think some of the greatest music comes from artists who expose themselves and become vulnerable in that moment.

Arielle: Completely and just go against what either other people say or the inner, I guess, guide that tries to say, well, you know, if you do that, that's not as mainstream, why would you make your life harder by doing that? Like, well, I'm letting all those fears go that maybe my music isn't mainstream, maybe it is. Maybe I'll be in a niche forever. Just need to let it go and just do what's there. Just be whatever that is because it's there for a reason.

SFBAC: As your music continues to unfold, where do you want it to take you?

Arielle: Well, when I was younger, it took some time to kind of collect where I thought I would be because it has changed, but where is that now? I would say and I'm not comparing as far as abilities or anything like that, but just as far as the path that they've paved for themselves, I'd say like Bonnie Raitt or an Eric Clapton. They're great singers. I mean, phenomenal singers and great songwriters and they all still play guitar; or Vince Gill to me, they're a full package of what I'm after. Not that there's anything wrong with just being a guitar player, but for me, the song and the songwriting and the singing is very important. I mean, it probably makes me happier than anything when I'm at a gig -- like I've been doing a few matinees where they're all ages -- and little girls come up and they just say they want to play guitar and they want to be like me, which is so cute. And I love the idea that maybe I can be a positive influence, that you don't have to dress provocatively to get where you want to be. You don't have to do what people expect you to do, you can be you and be treated equally hopefully in time for it. And so, yeah, I'd like to be like that, an Eric Clapton or Bonnie Raitt, where it is mainstream but maybe not as much as Taylor Swift or something.

SFBAC: I read another quote from your bio that said ‘I've got a hippie heartbeat with an edgy rocker spirit’. And I love that because it says so much about you, but without saying all that much at all. Can you tell me a bit about your musical influences when you were young? What were your parents into? What was the music you were being exposed to around the house? And it's amazing that you joined a choir at five and had a guitar in your hands by 10. I'm imagining there must have been such music in your house to let you kind of go down that path early on.

Arielle: Yeah. That's a little strange because both of my parents were doctors, specialists. My Dad was a pathologist and my mom is a periodontist, so they both went to school a very long time, and had me quite late. So they listened to music from the forties and a lot of bebop, a lot of opera and jazz. I didn't have any rock influences at all from my parents.


Arielle: And because of especially my dad, the respect that he had for opera and a lot of classical style music, they both kind of left it open what I wanted to do, but I was singing in school, where you're singing, "You are my Sunshine" and whatever "The Wheels on the Bus" you sing when I was in preschool and the teachers noticed, I have no recordings of this, I can't really say for a fact that I was good, but apparently I had something to where they said, 'hey, you should do something with her. Her voice is different.' And so they did. My parents put me in a choir and said, oh, you know, maybe she'll like it.

So later on, I had a babysitter that introduced me to Queen and a lot of the more classic rock that I like. And another thing that my parents did was move around quite a bit. So the hippie aspect is free-flowing, like not wanting to have a lot of stuff and feeling trapped and the vibe of the sixties and seventies. But also later on what I learned about, I thought just some of the performance and the aura, the element of what, to me, it means to be like a rock star. Like I think of Freddie Mercury or those guys. It's hard to find people nowadays like that, you know? I loved that. I loved the drama of it all.

SFBAC: Well, you mentioned the choir and it looks like it was based here in the Bay Area. How long were you here in the Bay Area and can you point to any influences from the Bay Area on your music?

Arielle: Yeah. Well, I was in the Peninsula Girls Chorus. I'm still friends with the head of the choir, which is very funny, she still kind of watches what I do. I learned a lot. It's a little hard to track down where I say that I'm from, but I was in San Mateo for a while and then I was up north in Marin and Sonoma County and then kind of was in Hawaii the other half of the time. But I learned how to play guitar there. I was never really old enough to be embraced by the music community because by the time I left, I was 15 and then I moved to LA. But as far as becoming a musician, I mean, one of the first big performances I did was play at a Giants baseball game at Candlestick when it still existed. And I did my first choir performances there, so I definitely have a soft place in my heart for the Bay Area, that part of California.

SFBAC: Switching gears a little hear, but you've performed with such an impressive list of artists and I'd love to ask, looking back at all these experiences and performances with artists like Eric Johnson, Joan Jett, Heart, Graham Nash... I mean, I can go on and on... What have you taken away and do any of the artists you've worked with stand out and why?

Arielle: Well, it's very humbling. I've learned so much from each person and I've learned both what I want to be, and what I don't want to be. And I mean not as for myself, not in any judgment towards anybody else. I'd say probably the biggest pieces that I've learned might come from Vince Gill and mainly because he's very well spoken and he, it seems, has made it a mission to really give back what he's learned to a lot of different people. It's really funny, and I was having a conversation with Joe Bonamassa about it a few weeks after it happened, and he just kind of chuckled because not everybody agrees. The first thing, if you ask him how he's doing, he'll say, "Oh, I'm really, really good. I'm healthy and playing less notes on the guitar," that's the first thing he says. I love that, it's that control and he calls it maturity.

And again, a lot of people would disagree with me, but I have fans that sometimes come up to me at the end of the show and they'll be like, "I feel like you were kind of holding back" I'm like, "good." That's good because there's a time to rip and there's a time not to. And people say it, but when you hear it from somebody like a Vince Gill, I was like, "Wow, that's awesome." I've learned that the chase of fame sometimes never ends. And as an artist rises, I mean everything eventually comes down, I guess, into whatever category you want to call it. But I've seen the demise, that's a really terrible word, but of certain people's careers and how it affects them and it's also hard to watch and like, gosh, okay.

So having seen that, I've learned that what's more important than the career is to make sure you have as much as you can; a balanced life and other interests. Like a Brian May, who's an astrophysicist. He is into stereo photography and animal welfare. So it's good to have other skills, and he has a lot of different passions so that's something I've learned as well. I could go on and on about the things that I've learned, but the biggest thing is to play less, give back more and try to find a balanced life. Those are all really hard to do individually so I'm a work in progress.

SFBAC: Excellent. That's great advice. I know you have some custom guitars and I wanted to ask about a couple of songs from your new album that stand out to me; "Burlap Bag" and the title track, "Suspension / Dimension". I love the guitar tones and the clarity that's coming through on those songs and I'm wondering if you're using your custom "Two Tone" guitar on those tracks?

Arielle: Sure. Well, let's see, for "Burlap Bag", actually both. That's funny, it's actually really funny and I didn't think about it until just now. The two songs you mentioned were actually not done on Two-Tone. Those particular songs were done on BG, my 339. Might be the only two solos I actually have on the album that aren't on Two-Tone. It's a little baby 335. For the entire album, I used the same amp, which is what I use live. It's my fat boy, don't like the name, Blankenship. It's a 60 watt little amp and I usually record it around four and I use it for both BG, my 339 and Two-Tone. And for that particular song, I was using my J. Rockett Animal pedal and then I use a delay. I use my TC Flashback, it's exactly what I use live and I think it just sounded different because it was whenever I'm using, humbuckers, as opposed to probably the rest of the album. I like the attitude of that guitar. It's thicker and I guess the humbuckers... also just being a semi-hollow body guitar, and I kind of wanted to do a mini tribute, especially on Suspension, to Vito Bratta who, whatever. I don't know if you're familiar with him, you might be, but from White Lion, just that eighties kind of style guitar playing. I usually don't channel it much, but Two-Tone can't do that.

SFBAC: Well, I definitely heard the 80's sound and it reminded me of some classic Eddie Van Halen riffs.

Arielle: Yeah. So I mean totally. I was never a huge Eddie fan, but I love how he inspired so much in other guitar players. And that song, actually, I was listening to the radio and a 'Yes' song came on and so a lot of the production was inspired by those guys as well.

SFBAC: Can I ask which Yes song came on the radio? I'm curious which incarnation of Yes you were listening to since they've changed so much over the years.

Arielle: It was "Changes".

SFBAC: Okay. Alright.

Arielle: And then I started digging into that entire album, 90125, and I was just like, that's awesome. The way that, like how the first verse starts with the bass and there's no guitar. They do that a lot and so I kind of geeked out with how they were so far, I mean, at least that particular album, they just seem to be so far ahead of their time. Listen to it now and it sounds almost like it was done recently, at least I think so.

And back to your original question, I guess the guitars I choose will be based on the mood of the song. So "Burlap", I wanted it more intense, I don't want to use the word anger, but maybe like inked, then I usually won't use Two-Tone. Because to me, the voice of Two-Tone is a lot gentler and a little bit sadder, so I kind of think that they bring up different emotions. So you picked the two that have my 339, which is kind of funny.

SFBAC: That's great! Well, that's all I've got, so thanks again for making the time and we wish you all the best with your new album and this tour! We'll see you at the Neck of the Woods this Saturday!

Arielle: Yay! Well, we're excited too. I'm excited. Thank you!

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