Tone Talk with Ghettosongbird

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My name is Samantha “GhettoSongBird” Hollins, and I am a Rock ‘n’ Roll singer/songwriter/guitarist, educator, and published writer from Philadelphia. I always say the guitar chose me because I didn’t think about playing until my guitarist could no longer accompany me. Over the years, I’ve played legendary rock venues including CBGB’s (NYC), The Bitter End (NYC), The World Famous Whisky A Go-Go (LA), The Troubadour (London), and hundreds more. I am working on finally recording years worth of music I’ve been performing worldwide since 2001 to preserve my Her-Story. I call my genre-blending sound/lyrical social message, “Culture Rock.” My play-it-by-ear guitar style can be very abstract at times. My true influence is my environment. The struggle and the triumphs of everyday life put a fire under my creative process. Some of my guitar heroes are Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lady Bo, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and Vernon Reid because they all created their own lane.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
Tone to me is how my soul connects to the sonic energy transference from my finger to my instrument. It has expanded over the years with the various sounds I have chosen, including pedals, strings, pickups, and simply learning to be an extension of my guitar. With my ear developing a keener attachment to my inner truth, I believe my tone grows with every strum that I experience. 

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
Although I’m a rocker at heart, I’m a Jazz head to the core. I fell in love with the Roland Jazz Chorus-90 because the sound is incredibly warm, yet heavy at the same time. I am between the intoxicating grip of my B.C. Rich guitars and the invigorating clutch of my Vintage SG style guitar. My Bich and Warlock keeps me engaged with its raw, gritty attitude, and the Vintage VS6VGHB was my way of paying homage to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. I am infatuated with its mellow yet hardcore nature. When I’m in an unplugged mood, I behold the serenity of my Ibanez acoustic nylon strumming guitar. 

I have a vintage individual pedal set-up that started with my BOSS Distortion, Metal Zone, Fab Flange, and Crybaby Wah. To be able to shift from a psychedelic vibe to a brutal thrash in a flash is the goal. Over the years, I’ve added many pedals to cater to my concept. It gives me the freedom to go wherever my artsy zone takes me. 

What about strings?
D’Addario regular light gauge allows my fingertips to fly.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
When I record in the studio, I keep my senses open to the unknown and spontaneous rituals that are born naturally. I give my band a blueprint as far as the arrangement to my songs, but production-wise I love to paint the soundscape as I go along. 

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
After almost twenty years of gigging, I’ve learned that good communication with the sound person helps immensely. After fifteen years with my Roxsploitation Band (husband Ronin Ali: Drums and best friend Chris Nelson: Keys), I believe our chemistry is so in tune that my sound stands strong against their majestic instrumentation. I am always upgrading my format so that each show gives our supporters the experience they deserve. 

What does your practice consist of?
I am a mother of four (ages two to nine), so I don’t get to practice as much as I did when I started. Back then, I would pick up my guitar many times during the day to challenge myself to learn new chords. Now I run through my whole setlist to keep my chops up when I am gearing up for a tour or playing spot dates. During rehearsals, we jam hard to stay sharp. 

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
I’d say make sure you are passionate about being an artist because the industry is not going to grant you an easy ride. You must be prepared mentally, emotionally, physically, and close to whatever higher source you cling on to in order to navigate your way through success and longevity. Stay true to yourself and your convictions, because when the trends go away, your brand will never expire. 

You can follow Ghettosongbird and her journey below:
Instagram: @ghettosongbird
Twitter: @ghettosongbird
GhettoSongBird YouTube:

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