Chatting with Kristin Pinell of The Grip Weeds; A Woman with a Guitar and Man

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Having been creating and making music for more than ten years, New Jersey’s The Grip Weeds, have released ten full-length albums. It’s a pretty interesting tale of how their new and sixth studio album came together, including how it was influenced by John Lennon and a small film he acted in. Named after John Lennon’s character in the film How I Won the War, Musketeer Gripweed, the band’s goal was to make up for what the film lacked with their newest album. Considered an explorative concept album, How I Won the War, might be the band’s most ambitious work yet. The amazing and talented rip-roaring guitar playing on these fabulous songs isn’t a man, but one heck of a woman, named Kristin Pinell.

The Grip Weeds

GGM: How were each of the songs arranged on the new record. What was the process like?

Kristin: The Grip Weeds own their own studio so you’re listening to a band writing and arranging that has access to unlimited studio and rehearsal time!

We have a huge collection of instruments and amplifiers, digital and analog recording gear…(in other words we have a lot of creative options…we have been called “mad scientists”). So though we do have options, we are very cognizant of keeping things fresh and NOT OVER WORKING parts. The key is always to capture an inspired performance.

The way we go about arranging material is when someone writes a song they will bring in a demo. It may have specific lines or parts. The band will learn it and each of us may go off and develop individual parts further and make suggestions. Then we collectively lay down a basic track in the studio with drums/rhythm guitar and bass to establish the groove and use as a blueprint. We will add overdubs and build up the track from there. We really work as a band though passing ideas back and forth. We’ve been playing together for years so we instantly have this cool chemistry.

GGM: Why do you think that there aren’t more women in the music industry pursuing their passion of playing guitar?

Kristin: Woman are still the child-bearers, the main homemakers and caregivers in our culture and the constant physical hustle of playing music for a living can be at odds with that. I have actually integrated my home life with my band as best I could. I think that’s the only reason it’s lasted. I’m in the Grip Weeds and the studio business with my husband and his brother and we don’t have any kids…just a dog!

Having a “financially successful” career as a musician and a “comfortable” family life has its challenges whether you’re a man or a women. I have a business degree and have done accounting/financial jobs to supplement my music. I also teach guitar. I decided that when I was fifteen I needed more than one way to support myself because the music business was so volatile.

And now you’ve got this whole generation of kids who think they shouldn’t have to pay for music. What the hell is that about? They are killing musicians and they don’t have a clue. I always tell them if you wanted a pizza you’d pay for it…why do you think you are entitled to steal songs?

I also think another reason that women don’t pursue careers as guitar players is it’s still such an aggressive, male-dominated field that it can be intimidating to young girls. It helps to have role models and mentors and there aren’t many.

GGM: Some songs on albums have personal meaning to the artist(s) who create them. What song(s) would those be from How I Won the War?

Kristin:  All the songs on this album are personal observations and reflections on things that have happened in our lives.

The main theme on How I Won The War was conflict. As a band, we’ve recently had a lot of creative and personal differences we were trying to resolve.

You have to remember we are not just a band but we are a family. This gave us all added incentive to communicate our needs and figure out what everyone needed to be happy and productive in our situation.

This conflict came out as a personal theme in many of the songs…ultimately it was one way we won the war.

One song that is particularly personal to me is the song I sing “Over and Over.” The song has this dreamy feel about NYC which was kind of magical to me at the time. It was about when I lived there and would hang out with my musician friends late into the night in Greenwich Village. I was soaking in the city, playing with different bands, doing shows, falling in love.

RELATED STORY:  Kristin Pinell, Lead Guitarist of The Grip Weeds,
on New Album How I Won the War and ‘The World’s Greatest Female Guitar Player’

GGM: You use a variety of guitars and instruments. Which one is your go-to most often?

Kristin:  I’m a Gibson girl. I’m playing a 1967 Gibson SG Special most of the time. But I’ve also got a 1972 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe that I think I’m going to bring out live this summer. I’m also using a Jerry Jones Electric Sitar in a few tunes on stage.

**Fun Questions**

Who was your first concert, and do you have a favorite?

My first concert was Alice Cooper featuring the tandem guitars of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner who just blew me away.

Some of my favorite concerts were:

Queen at the Waterbury Palace Theater:  I was awestruck seeing Brian May play in a tiny theater.
Plant & Page at Madison Square Garden:  I was too young to see Zeppelin so this was the next best thing. I broke into tears when they opened with Thank You.
Paul McCartney at Citifield: He and his band are the ultimate. The show was pure joy and inspiration for me.

Who or what five albums and/or bands would you not want to live without?

Some of ones that made me want to play:

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti 
The Beatles – Revolver 
The Byrds –  Turn! Turn! Turn!
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

Current favorite album in rotation?

Voyager– Kathleen Edwards from Canada. I love her songs and attitude. This album was made with members of Bon Iver.

GGM: What is your guilty music or entertainment pleasure? 

Practicing my vocals in my car to Taylor Swift songs.

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