Tone Interview with Laura Stevenson
MYour name is Laura Stevenson and I’ve been playing guitar for a little over 20 years now. When I first started I was a huge fan of Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Townes Van Zandt, the folk fingerpicking that I still use a lot today. But I started experimenting with electric guitars when I started playing regularly with a band. Then I would listen to bands like Television and really pay attention to the subtle ways of manipulating the strings of an electric guitar, and I fell in love with it.
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
I guess I would say the tone is the way you play whatever setup you have. It’s less about the material and more about the person playing. I’ve played on a Telecaster for as long as I’ve been playing electric, and rarely, if ever, use pedals. I used to use a Fender Rock Pro amp, which admittedly sounded terrible, but it was broken, so I thought it sounded really good. Plus, it was my bandmate’s, so I didn’t have to buy mine, and I could workout in his apartment, so I didn’t have to lug him around Brooklyn. I switched to a Fender Hot Rod DeVille ten years ago and have been using it ever since. It was great for DIY shows because it really doesn’t need to be mic; it’s super powerful and loud, even on 2 or 3, honestly, and it’s really dynamic. I can peck gently then scratch hard, and the way it separates is just beautiful.
What guitars, amps and pedals do you currently use and why?
In the last couple of years, I have removed my ’72 American Telecaster (tuning issues when playing with other guitars). I mostly played on a Mexican Tele from the 90s which is super awesome and warm and really the best guitar. I play this through my DeVille; sometimes I use a Hall Of Fame reverb. I just got a Timmy Overdrive from a friend, and played around with it a bit.
And the ropes?
I use almost exclusively 10 gauge nickel wound D’Addario strings. I tried the heavy low / light high and the flat wound. I’m constantly trying things out, but the regular 10 are my favorite.
Are there some recording techniques that you prefer in the studio?
The producer of my most recent album, John Agnello, is brilliant so I let him choose which amps I played on, and it sounded great. He also did some cool stuff with a hollow body guitar that kind of created a specific drone for each song which I think adds a nice layer. It was very cool.
How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?
I mark all my levels with a sharpie! Then if someone borrows my amp, I can easily reset it before I need to play.
What does your practice consist of?
I do a lot of acoustics when I practice. It keeps my hands strong and agile. I would say I play 80% acoustic when I’m training alone, and then play electric when I’m with the band for the most part.
Favorite guitar riff or lick that inspired you to pick up the guitar and play?
Definitely the main riff of Roky Erickson’s song “I Think of Demons”. This song made me want to go out and buy an electric guitar.
What is your advice for young women hoping to work in the music industry?
Go do it! If this is what you love and it makes you happy and you think what you are doing can bring happiness to others, then do it!
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