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QRD #53 - Guitarist Interview Series V
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
about this issue
Guitarist Interviews:
Jason Handelsman
Andras Fekete 
Phil Mitchell
Jessica Bailiff 
Jason Lamoreaux
Ben Weyerhaeuser
Greg & Kyrsten Magnuson
Brandon Helms
Matt Guess 
Rachel Staggs
Jun Minowa 
Michael Cosma 
Cheryl Hall
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Jessica Bailiff
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Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Jessica Bailiff
Guitarist Interview with Jessica Bailiff
May 2011
Jessica Bailiff
Name: Jessica Bailiff Sweet
Bands: Jessica Bailiff, Clear Horizon, Eau Claire, Northern Song Dynasty, Annelies Monseré, Vlor, Rivulets, Odd Nosdam, Red Morning Chorus, etc.
Websites: www.kranky.net/artists/bailiffj.html
Listen to “Figure Eight for Jonathan”

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Jessica – My first guitar was a plastic one, acoustic-style, with nylon strings (I was a kid, don’t remember how old).  It was handed down to my younger brother & I don’t know what happened to it after that.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?
Jessica – There isn’t a typical set-up for me, really.  But when I play my Jaguar, it’s generally a Boss delay, then a Rat distortion, then a tube amp of some sort.  I also play a Martin auditorium-style acoustic, which is usually played clean.  Sometimes I run it through an L.R. Baggs D.I. if I use it for a concert & sometimes I’ll put the delay pedal in there, too.

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – guitar, amplifier, or effects?
Jessica – Jag: effects.  Martin: guitar.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Jessica – My main amplifier is a little Ampeg Jet II, but it needs some maintenance so I never use it.  It is the only amp I own, so it’s the main one by default.

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?
Jessica – I go back & forth between the Jag & the Martin, depending on what I am doing.  For some projects I’ve been involved with, bass guitar has been my main instrument.  I have a 1970s Fender Music Master.  I like it mainly because it is short-scale.  The Jag - it’s been with me since 1993 & it’s been good to me so far.  I’m not a gear junkie, nor do I have much in the way of disposable income, so I haven’t really been able to experiment with many different guitars to know why one would be better than another for me.  I am happy with what I have, really.  The Martin is the best acoustic I’ve ever played.  I had a Washburn that was OK, but my Martin somehow became a part of me, I really bonded with that guitar.  Maybe it’s the body style & size.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Jessica – I have no idea.

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Jessica – Again, I have no idea.
QRD – How many guitars do you own?
Jessica – Four.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?
Jessica – In their cases, in my studio.

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?
Jessica – Ummm...

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?
Jessica – I don’t...

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?
Jessica – I have no idea.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?
Jessica – I put racing stripes on my Jag (& an original DIY Low sticker from 1994), & a new pick guard on my bass.  Cosmetic things, that’s what is important. 

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before buying it?

Jessica – I would thoroughly research something before buying it, then test it out at home, & return it if it wasn’t working out for me.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?
Jessica – No.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Jessica – I like to experiment with sound.  I record more than I perform, so a lot of the guitar sound will depend on what else is going on in the song & in the mix.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Jessica – I don’t, although I do miss my 1973 Fender Twin that I sold to a friend a couple of years ago.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?
Jessica – Proper intonation.  Not that this is a feature, but I always hated playing cheap guitars or basses when I was a teenager that I couldn’t ever tune.  My first bass had a warped neck; this is when I began to learn about guitar intonation.  I learned that sometimes adjusting a truss rod will not solve the warped neck of a guitar, & it will never, ever be in tune with itself.

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?
Jessica – Best: probably the Boss delay pedal.  Worst: the Loop Station pedal, but only because I never used it. 

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Jessica – I’m a Fender girl, but I also like Vox amps & guitars.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?
Jessica – Whatever I need to.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?
Jessica – Technically, maybe 8.  Had another bash at it when I was 16 or 17.  But seriously, when I was 22.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?
Jessica – I’m not sure; maybe I haven’t arrived there yet.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?
Jessica – It doesn’t.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is?
Jessica – Depends on the person.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?
Jessica – Usually it is an ally.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Jessica – Dave Pearce, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Bridget St. John.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?
Jessica – Do people really do that?

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?
Jessica – I dropped my delay pedal on my Jag & put a couple of dents in it.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Jessica – I don’t.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?
Jessica – Do negative numbers count?

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?
Jessica – I generally don’t use one, but will occasionally use a felted one when I play bass.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Jessica – I don’t remember!

QRD – How often do you change strings?
Jessica – See above.

QRD – How often do you break strings?
Jessica – Almost never.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Jessica – Proficiency is not really a factor or a concern in my playing.  I’d never get anything done if I obsessed about my lack of technical ability.

QRD – Do you set-up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?
Jessica – I usually set it up myself after paying someone else to do the job who hasn’t done it correctly.  I’d rather someone else did it so that I didn’t have to spend the time, but I’ve yet to find someone in the area where I live that can do a good job with my guitars, so I end up doing it myself.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Jessica – I usually drop both main guitars a step & a half from standard, then drop the lowest string again - so I guess it would be drop D tuning, but a step & a half down.  I also use DADGAD, also dropped a step & a half.  It seems to fit my vocal range, both of those tunings.  & if I need to, I’ll capo up from there.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Jessica – I have my own system that is pretty easy, but probably not very standard.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?
Jessica – I usually sit.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Jessica – Not playing.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?
Jessica – It depends on what sort of help someone might need with their guitar playing.  I could see playing piano or drums being helpful for different reasons.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Jessica – Not even a thought for me.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?
Jessica – Having a different guitar for every tuning, a dream in the mid-late nineties (I used to use maybe 4 or 5 different tunings).  But now I see that as extravagant & unnecessary.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?
Jessica – My bag of tricks is empty.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?
Jessica – Maybe an ebow, but played on the bass.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?
Jessica – Another thing that I never think about.

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Jessica – No.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher?
Jessica – Be yourself.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Jessica – Not care about being a great guitarist & think more about sound, texture, & melody.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?
Jessica – They can be nice sometimes, but I don’t really use them.  The one on the Jaguar isn’t the greatest.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?
Jessica – I have it set to one place on the Jag & the bass, & adjust the amp or effects or board as needed.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?
Jessica – One likes to have all the attention & the other is happy to be in the background.  Or, one can’t sing, so he plays guitar; while the other one likes to play guitar & sing at the same time.
QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Jessica – No.

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?
Jessica – Not interested.

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?
Jessica – Innovative?  I don’t know.  But I really enjoy Al Sparhawk’s guitar playing.  I was really impressed the last time I saw Retribution Gospel Choir play live; he puts his very soul into his playing.  He does the same with Low, too.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?
Jessica – I can’t answer that.

QRD – Anything else?
Jessica – No, thanks.

Other QRD interviews with Jessica Bailiff:
Jessica Bailiff interview (September 2002)
Jessica Bailiff interview (July 2006)
Jessica Bailiff interview (January 2008)

I Heart FX
Jessica Bailiff