Interview with Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist Arielle on the Music Industry, Being Vulnerable and Her Two-Tone Guitar

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Originally from New Jersey, Arielle has lived in California most of her life. She started singing at the young age of five with the Peninsula Girls Chorus, and shortly thereafter began piano lessons, and then ultimately picked up the guitar at the age of 10. Influenced by rock icons Brian May, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Slash, Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Vai, and many others, Arielle practiced and studied and by the age of 16, she could shred with the best.

Arielle graced the stage and toured with many heavy metal bands, and also was a guitarist for Cee Lo Green. She even earned the imprimatur of Queen guitarist Brian May, and eventually had the opportunity to work with Nuno Bettencourt, Michael Angelo Batio and Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions).

While she enjoyed  those experiences, she felt the urge to express her own music. And so her journey began. We had the opportunity to feature Arielle on our sister site Guitar It Up for Girls several years ago, so it was great to catch up with her and learn more about her new music, her musical development, her Two Tone guitar, on overcoming challenges, and on being  more vulnerable.

GGM:  Hi, Arielle, it’s been a while since we featured you on our sister site Guitar It Up for Girls and we just wanted to catch up with you and see what’s new. I understand you’re working on a new album.  Can you share with us what fans can expect?

Arielle:  Yes! A brand new album. The funny thing is I have been talking about it for a long while, and I kept writing new music which turned into EP’s, so it’s finally happening now.

This album is dedicated to a lot of my past painful and wondrous experiences in my life. I can’t tell you all the details yet before it’s finalized, but there are numerous elements in which people will be able to experience this album. A kind of 3d album if you will.

Each song on the album will have a special story to be told about a specific moment in my life in a sort of time-line structure. It’s going to make people feel, think, cry, laugh, and hopefully everything in-between.

GGM:  Sounds exciting – can’t wait! Tell us about Reverie, you’re new songwriting team.

Arielle:  Yes! I have been the wanderer with songwriting teams. I used to only write by myself, but as I grew as a songwriter, I got to spend many years working with some amazing talent. I finally merged forces with Adam Peri, an amazing songwriter, producer and keyboard player. We run a studio out here in LA. Together, we have been pitching songs for artists, TV, and film. It’s been a blast while we do that, plus working on my own album. All the extra stuff we write that doesn’t work for the Arielle album gets pitched to something else!

GGM:  I recall seeing you perform several years ago at NAMM in Anaheim and thought, wow, she’s really good! Do you attend the NAMM show regularly, and if so, tell our readers what an experience that is!

Arielle:  I do attend NAMM regularly! I have been for the past 7 years or so, and just about every single time I have had the honor of representing someone and playing. I got to play the big John Lennon stage a couple of years back. It’s wonderful because you are in the presence of some amazing musicians. Once they give you a compliment, it means something because a lot of times they truly GET what you are doing. It’s great to see the behind-the-scenes look at what a company is and engage with them personally as well. That’s my favorite part. Making those life-long connections.

GGM:  That’s the NAMM show I saw! We go every year, too, and it’s always an experience meeting all the manufacturers and finding new artists.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and your musical background – it’s quite extensive – and do you come a family with a musical background?

Arielle:  It’s quite extensive, but I can sum it up in a tasteful nutshell.

I was born in a non-musical family, though my mother did say my grandmother had a wonderful voice. I had an aunt who sang as well, but she passed away so I didn’t really get to know her either. But from what I got, that was it in the family. My father loved doowap and opera, and I asked my mom the other day who Sting was and she didn’t know, so that gives you a little hint about her love for music.

I sang melodies in my head, I sang everything at a very young age. Because of this, my parents placed me into a girls chorus at the age of 5 where I began to learn chords, how to accompany myself on piano and read sheet music. It wasn’t until I was 10 that my father bought me my first guitar. At the age of 13 my father died, and I stopped singing. I took a vow of silence.

I ended up going to Musicians Institute in Hollywood, traveled to London to ICMP music school, and much, much more. But these are just the small foundations of some of the places I came from musically.

GGM:  You’ve rocked the stage with some pretty heavy acts – Cee Lo Green to rock legend Brian May, among several others. Being that Brian’s one of your biggest musical influences and what got you inspired to pick up the guitar in the first place, what was that experience like?

Arielle:  The experience was magical, yet I had seen it in my head so many times that it became real to me. It became natural. I can’t tell you how many of these books I have read about manifesting your dreams, and having them become real. They work.

Working with Cee Lo, particularly at his biggest peak, was an amazing experience. I got to see what it means to have a hit song, what the life is like. It feels like a vacation in many ways. Everything is done for you. All you have to do is show up. And play of course.

GGM:  We just did a review of Brian May’s Red Special – what an interesting story about the making of his guitar!  What’s in your arsenal of guitars and gear?

Arielle:  I always love this question because I get to talk about my favorite tool/object/instrument in the entire world. Two-Tone.

Two-Tone is my guitar you will see me play in just about every shot you can find. It’s an electric guitar I built from scratch with a friend of mine, Patrick Yates. It has custom guitar pickups from Seymour Duncan. It even has crystals inside it. I refuse to play any other guitar. In fact, I always say that I would probably quit playing if I didn’t have it.

I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it has shaped the way I play. 

GGM:  That is really cool and makes it such a special guitar – like a piece of art! I read on your blog about your goals for 2015 and listened to your song “Kitchen Sink.” It’s very emotional. Evidently, you had been in a dark place when writing that song. Do you want to share with us the emotions and meaning behind that song, and how you’ve overcome “that” place to where you are today?

Arielle:  Thank you for reading my blog. My goal of the year is to be vulnerable.

And this song was something I was hiding for a while. I have had a very dark and painful past…as I know a lot of people have. The difference was that I hid it, and tried to sugar-coat it in any way I could to fit in. It never worked.

Kitchen Sink was written on New Year’s Eve last year. I know that because I found the recording in my phone and saw the date. What a horrible way to start a new year.

“I’m as empty as the kitchen sink, every day I have to see my shrink. Close me off and put me in a hole, yea I’m in the ground but I’m not old.”

These lyrics explain where I was with my eating disorder. The kitchen sink was empty because I had severe anorexia and was hiding my pain through it. The song has a very strange sense of peace to it. There was no fear, sadness yes, but it wasn’t a ‘please try to help me’ kind of song. It’s a, “I made up this decision and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind. I’m cool with it.” kind of song.

I don’t know if you ever overcome the thoughts, but you can overcome what you end up doing with them. I have been in a lot of therapy (as I also mention in the song) a lot of songwriting, and befriending amazing people that can help pull you out and show you it’s OKAY to be sad. I fought it for so long, I think that’s why it was strong.

You can’t ignore what’s there. If something is bothering you, acknowledge it and watch it slowly fade as you feel it. There is something there, and it is crying for your attention.

Once you give it what it wants, it dissipates like hot steam. The eating disorder took years, and again that’s another story. If anyone is struggling with that, I am happy to talk however. But know, it’s NOT about the food. 

GGM:  If there’s someone out there reading this interview that feels hopeless or has an eating disorder, I hope that they listen to you and know that there is help.  How do you approach the songwriting process? Do you feel it’s changed over the last several years? 

Arielle:  I won’t write a song unless I know that I am connected with whatever needs to be said. I used to write about whatever came to me in the moment when I would write with others. But as of lately, I really connect with how I am feeling and soak into it. Almost meditate into my mind and feel what I am feeling and watch something come alive. I will dig through chords, dig through lyrics to know that whatever the expression is matches the way it feels to me inside. The even more interesting thing is that sometimes a song, a melody can bring out a feeling I never knew I had.

These are magic moments.

I let the feelings do the talking, and see what unfolds. 

I can also do the same for other people too, which is wonderful. I love to bring other people’s feelings to life to, but sometimes I do that as an escape from my own which also isn’t good.

GGM:  Being in a traditionally male-dominated field, do you feel you have been faced with more challenges, and are you intimidated in any way?

Arielle:  Yes, yes and more yes. For so long, I ignored it. First I was mad and cursed the Gods that I had to be a female. Then I embraced it, and took a lot of males’ arrogance and used it to make me better. Since I started out in the hard rock/metal world, it was definitely NOT cool to have a female in your band. At all. People would say they are looking for a guitar player, and when I offer my services, they say they weren’t interested before playing. I still notice that if you are a female, you become a freak show.

You know, they just want to see you shred. I used to play this game and I did it well. Is there no such thing as a female guitar player being respected as a tasteful and expressive musician? I don’t know if I can think of one other than maybe Bonnie Raitt, whom I very much respect. I am a songwriter. I am a story teller, and the guitar is a piece of my voice I cannot do without. I am not a freak show.

GGM:  What do you see as your best angle for success as a female guitarist, or do you possibly see yourself doing something different in the music industry?

Arielle:  The best angle and the most long-lasting is being a real artist. A songwriter, as I mentioned before. I am much more than a guitar player. I also sing and write, and when I lead with these elements, the guitar playing only shines. I promise.

I want to be like Clapton. He wrote amazing songs, has a touching voice AND he plays guitar. It just makes it a great trio and it allows him to be more mainstream than someone who only plays.

GGM:  Having been through a record label, and now working on your own, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to a young female wanting to pursue a career in music?

Arielle:  Young females out there…don’t worry about having it all figured out at once. Don’t worry about that at all. The tiniest little steps you take will be the biggest ones you ever make. The fears you have will all subside the more tiny steps you do.

When you do the tiny steps, see the big picture. See inside your head what you want, and you will follow it. Read a whole lot of blogs. One that is amazing is Ariel Hyatt (love her name) does a great job explaining these things.

Write music. A lot of money will come this way. If you don’t write, surround yourself with people who do. If you want to be mainstream, you may need someone to sing. If it’s not you, again surround yourself with a singer.

Don’t give up.

Make sure you know the intentions of why you are doing it. If they are pure, you will never stop because it is within you. It is a need. In your blood. A dire necessity to get out whatever is inside you.

Surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do, and make sure they believe in you. Don’t tell people your goals before you are sure of yourself because some of them may try to tear you down.

Don’t ever do things JUST for money, and never discount yourself because people say you should get a ‘real job.’ You are baring your soul. The world needs you.

Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you need them unless you feel like it’s benefiting both of you mutually. People will try to tell you that you aren’t enough, you don’t look good enough, you need their services. It’s not true. Follow your heart on this. You are beautiful enough. 

I am here to help if anyone needs it regarding that, but just keep going. Keep finding the people that are doing what you do. Find the elements that make you YOU and nurture them into your greatest assets. 

They are all in you. Just dig. 

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