with 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.
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.