Kara Grainger: Living With Your Ghost

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 7

Fiery. Sultry. Soulful. These are all words used to describe slide guitarist, Kara Grainger, in addition to comparisons to Bonnie Raitt. Yet Grainger has a style that is all her own; it is mesmerizing, seductive, and heartfelt. Her unique song stylings and guitar playing have taken her from her native Australian to places all over the world, where she’s opened for big-name artists like Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Marc Cohen, and Peter Frampton, to name a few. As soon as Grainger starts playing, it is clear she has music running through her veins.

Grainger filled us in on her latest release, Living With Your Ghost, her music, and what comes next for her.

What are your first memories and impression of the guitar, especially the blues?
My father was the first one to introduce me to the guitar. He would sing and play regularly at home, and I have very fond memories of playing together with him from around the age of 10. When I was around 15, I found a new guitar teacher who introduced me to the blues. I remember being blown away when listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King for the first time.

You used to be in a band with your brother, Mitch, called Papa Lips. How did being in that band shape and mold you when you decided to go solo, and would you join a band again?
Papa Lips was an incredible band, and the seven years we were together still remain some of the best years of my life. The band which consisted of my older brother and his friends was a huge influence on my current sound. It’s where I cut my teeth, I really learned about funk blues and soul music. The rhythm section, in particular, were some of my best teachers.

What inspired and/or led you to relocate your music career to Los Angeles?
I was sent over to Los Angeles by an Australian record label to record my debut solo album Grand and Green River. I thought I would stay around one year but soon fell in love with the US. In the following years, I was lucky enough to perform or open for some of my musical heroes.

What was it like working on your latest album, Living With Your Ghost, with the guitar powerhouse, Anders Osborne, and how did you guys get connected?
I first was introduced to Anders Osborne by the owner of Category 5 Amps, Anders is also a fellow endorsee. I had been a fan of his for many years, so when I found out he was interested in producing an album with me, I was absolutely thrilled. Anders is an extremely tasteful guitar player who has a very unique and natural style. He manages to pull so much emotion from the strings. He played the live rhythm tracks along with me on most of the songs during tracking and also takes a beautiful solo on “Nobody But You.”

You also enlisted some other well-known musical collaborators; how did you all get connected?
I have been extremely lucky to play with some incredible players on all my albums. I’ve been touring the world for 15 years now and have met a lot of great musicians. J.J. Johnson I originally met through Gary Clark Jr. in Austin, Texas. I also knew the Texas Horns. J.J. brought in Dave Monsey on bass, and Anders brought Ivan Neville along with him from New Orleans.

What guitars and equipment do you use when you record in the studio? Does this differ when you perform live?
Category 5 Amps provided all the amplifiers for Living With Your Ghost. I also use their amps live; they provide plenty of power, warmth, and versatility which is important for me as I quite frequently experiment with different guitars. I play a 1960s Harmony with a DeArmond pickup for my slide guitar. For my electric, I’ll swap between a Gold Top Strat or Berumen (handmade in Texas).

What’s next for 2019?
I’ll be continuing to tour the states and Canada in 2019. It’s also looking like I’ll be returning to Australia and Europe. I plan to cut a track with my brother Mitch Grainger and will also be writing and working towards my next album.

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