Interview with Sarah June
Name: Sarah June
Bands: Sarah June
Websites: www.SarahJune.net - silbermedia.com/sarahjune - myspace.com/sarahjunesound
Listen to "Judgment Day"
Listen to "Bluesy Melody"
QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?
Sarah – My first guitar was my grandfather’s. It’s a Fender San Luis Rey. I still have it - it’s an acoustic, but has an electric headstock. I played it when I first started doing live shows when I was 17-19.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Sarah – For recording, I have my Gretsch hollow-body jazz guitar plugged into a standard amp (I have an old Epiphone amp) & I just put the amp in the back corner of the room & then I play & sing into the mic, so that most of the guitar is mic’d acoustically, but some of the amped sound is also picked up.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Sarah – My guitar. I don’t use any effects (except some reverb if the sound-guy at one of my shows puts some reverb on my guitar). My guitar is so important because I do so much intricate finger-picking. I have to have a guitar I’m very comfortable with & that has a very specific sound.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Sarah – Right now I have a Spider amp - Line 6, & also an old (70s) Epiphone Pathfinder. The first one was just cheap & I don’t really need much as far as amps go & the other one just has a great sound because it’s old, huge, & just looks cool.
QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Sarah – I have a flat black Gretsch hollow-body archtop. I like jazz-box guitars. The features that make that guitar my main guitar is that it has an incredible sound just acoustic - very warm & jazzy. It also is very sturdy & stands up to how hard I play it very well.
QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Sarah – It would be flat black with ivory piping, a jazz-box archtop that is loud even when not plugged in & only a tone & volume knob. I like simple.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Sarah – I like the chorus pedal - but I would like to have the chorus effect, but with some of the loop-station pedal effects. So I could tap it once to change to chorus effect & tap it twice to record a loop.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Sarah – I own 4 guitars - a Gretsch, an Eastman El Rey, a Takamine small acoustic-electric, & a Fender.
QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Sarah – I store the Eastman El Rey in its hardshell case & my Gretsch is on a stand because I play it daily.
QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Sarah – Right now, I wish I could just find some non-standard size cases. I can’t fit my Gretsch into any cuz it’s too big. & believe me I’ve shopped around everywhere.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Sarah – The sound when played acoustic. I like fairly high action. No fret buzz. I like guitars that are weighted well - not a very lopsided feeling when playing it, like the body is super light & the neck is really heavy. I like small guitars with a big sound, because I’m a very small person so a large guitar can be hard to play while standing.
QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Sarah – Well, it seems that the very good guitars run between $2500 - $5000 or more. But my best guitar was only $1000. The most expensive one I own was $4000, & I play it less!
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Sarah – I customize them minimally. Mostly I change the action (usually it is too low), & I always put flat wound nickel strings on. I also usually have to adjust the intonation, but other than that I don’t really change anything major.
QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?
Sarah – Basically I just play it. I don’t really research much.
QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Sarah – Nope. I play it until it falls apart usually.
QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Sarah – I have a very signature style of guitar playing, so I don’t change it up drastically. But I do change my tone & sound up at times for different bodies of work. But my playing style still doesn’t change much.
QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Sarah – Guitars - I like hollow-body jazz guitars. I love Gretsch. I also would love to get a really nice Taylor acoustic someday.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Sarah – Personally, I think that if someone wants to play guitar, it’s good to start off hard. That may sound weird, but it worked for me. I started out on a huge acoustic with insanely high action & very big strings. My fingers bled & it was so hard to hold strings down & even get my arms around the damn thing. But when I finally got good on that guitar, playing any other guitar since then has been a piece of cake.
QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Sarah – Worst guitar purchase was from Musician’s Friend online. Sorry. They just really screwed me over. Sent me an Epiphone with literally a chunk of wood hacked out of it.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Sarah – I don’t like a tone of unnecessary distortion or fuzz, when it is not artistically layered. I don’t like Epiphones that are mid-range because they are all made like crap - you can see how they are just slapped together. I also don’t like the 80s metal style guitars in the shape of stars or V’s or stuff like that. It’s like a mid-life crisis car.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Sarah – Weird, but I play my little version of “God Rest Ye Mary Gentlemen,” because it’s become a very quick little practice of fast fingerwork. I also usually will test out “Blackbird” since that involves a lot of moving up & down the neck & any intonation issues will stand out while playing that.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Sarah – 13 years old.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Sarah – 19 years old I think I reached being “very very good,” but I’m better now only in that I can play things with less concentration & more ease due to muscle memory.
QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Sarah – It is intimate to play. I like that it is an instrument that reverberates against my body while I play it. I grew up playing classical piano & while I loved it, I felt detached from the instrument, since I wasn’t actually touching the strings & was sitting at a chair in front of it.
QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Sarah – I think that it can be a frustrating first instrument, because if you’re trying to actually play well, it’s not very easy. & I mean fingerpicking or playing classical or jazz or blues. & doing it well. But I think it’s a great instrument to start with.
QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Sarah – My ally. My guitar part is the first part of writing a song always.
QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Sarah – Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Ani Difranco
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Sarah – Yeah, that’s silly
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Sarah – Somehow I scratch up the back of the neck of every guitar I play. Like scratch all the finish off. It’s weird.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Sarah – I do practice scales & all that crap. I also practice a lot by just turning on a song I like & making my own improvisational part to go along with it.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Sarah – I play probably 8-10 hours a week. That’s pretty good for me. I’m obsessed with playing guitar. I play at least an hour a day usually.
QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Sarah – I use a thumbpick, & then my fingernails are grown out on my right hand because I play claw-hammer.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Sarah – I use 11 guage nickel rockers.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Sarah – When they break
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Sarah – Whenever I’m about to go on to play a show it seems. Right before I break a string. Totally irritating.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Sarah – I think they are both at the same level honestly.
QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Sarah – Depends - I do a lot of the simple things myself, but a lot of times it’s easier for me to bring it in, just because I don’t have all the tools to do everything I need to do.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Sarah – Standard only, because I’m a purest I guess.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Sarah – My own notation system that is loosely similar to tablature. I can read sheet music just fine. I just don’t prefer it.
QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Sarah – High. Not slung low at all.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Sarah – Bad “form” or position of my fretting hand that causes me to cramp sometimes.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Sarah – Piano. Makes your hands work independently of each other & also makes the transposing of chords up & down the scales make more sense.
QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Sarah – Slide.
QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Sarah – Slide guitar playing!
QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Sarah – Flamenco guitar style.
QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Sarah – Capo!
QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Sarah – Playing with a flat pick. I’m so used to claw-hammer that anything else is awkward.
QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Sarah – I took some guitar lessons when I was 16. I’d already taught myself for 3 years before. I learned a lot of improvisational guitar, bluegrass, & jazz scales.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Sarah – No paper. No writing things down. Everything by ear.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Sarah – Lots of complex fingerpicking, & a lot of mixing styles of jazz, blues, & classical.
QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Sarah – Not a fan.
QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Sarah – Not really ever.
QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Sarah – Lead guitarists have to know hot to improvise & know their scales & transposing chords up the neck. Rhythm guitar players need to know basic chords & keep a very steady rhythm.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Sarah – Nope. Everything’s got to be good. Otherwise, just be an instrumental guitar group.
QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Sarah – Ani Difranco’s guitar. Because she beats up on that thing so it must be sturdy as hell.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Sarah – Ani Difranco - still.
QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Sarah – My latest album in black robes. I think on the songs “judgment day,” “from my window high,” & “bluesy melody.”
QRD – Anything else?
Sarah – Thanks for interviewing me!
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