Tone Talk with Michelle Malone

Photo by Jolie Loren
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Georgia’s favorite indie-rocker who is known for her “gritty blues-rock” sound, Michelle Malone takes us back to the Seventies in her latest album 1977 BFD/The Orchard. Recorded at Bakos Amp Works in Atlanta, GA, Malone was joined by Doug Kees on guitar, Gerry Hansen on drums, Matt Stallard on bass, Neal Wauchope on keys, and Trish Land on percussion. Special guest vocals include Amy Ray (“River Song”), Eliot Bronson (“Not Who I Used to Be” and “Even The Queen”), and Kevin Kinney (“Powder Keg).

Throughout Malone’s decades-spanning career, she’s collaborated with artists from the late Gregg Allman to Steve Earle, ZZ Top, and the Indigo Girls and released more than a dozen records. She’s performed in every state in the US as well as in Germany, France, Switzerland, Mexico, and Australia.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone for me is organic, the sound of the guitar itself rather than lots of processing. When I first started, my bandmates would often set my amps and stuff for me, but over the years, I learned what I like and can get that going with my gear. I like it simple.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
For acoustic, my ‘90s Martin HD-28’s are near and dear to my ears! They just sound fantastic, and I’ve had them forever. Take a beating (which I’ve certainly given ‘em!) and keep on ticking! I run them through my LR Baggs Venue DI, and I can really dial in the sound I want. My slide guitar is a ’62 Supro Dual Tone, and it’s a mother! Fat and wailing! I run it through a Carbon Copy set on slapback and into the other secret ingredient, my tiny but mighty Supro Super. It’s got the perfect trashy, mid-forward sound for my Rocky Mountain Slide Company signature slide!!

What about strings?
Strings? I recommend them!!! Ahahahaha….just kidding…I use D’Addario 10’s and Martin acoustics.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
I like to record as a band in the studio. The vibe is always better that way. Music is communication, maybe even communion, and you have to be with people to do that! 

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
I use the same gear all the time, and that helps with consistency on stage. You really have to play a guitar and other gear for a while to know how to pull the sound you want out of it. New gear is exciting, but there’s a lot to be said for sticking with a setup until you really know it. And less really is more! 

What does your practice consist of?
Practice for me usually consists of writing new songs. I’ve got my bag of tricks, and I’m pretty comfortable with them so it’s just new songs that I work on. Also, my side-project, The Hot Toddies, plays jazzy, swingin’ Christmas songs every Christmas season, and those songs are hard!! So I learn new stuff from that every year. Ho Ho Ho!! Did I mention I LOVE Christmas?!?!?! 

Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to play guitar?
I grew up listening to my Mom, who was a professional singer in the ‘70s, and all the music from then. Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Led freakin’ Zeppelin all inspired me to want to play and sing.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Being a woman in the music industry is an experience not for the faint of heart! People make assumptions about you because you’re female, like you can’t really play, don’t know how your gear works, stuff like that. They can be condescending I’m sure many women in other industries experience as well. I stand my ground, expect to be respected like anybody else, try to keep my cool, and focus on sharing the gift of music that God gave me. Go get ’em, girls!!!! See y’all out on the road….



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