guitarist/singer/songwriter SUN BELL
Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
Happy New Year! What better way to cheer up 2006's coldest, darkest month than with the trippy west coast sun & fun sound of lesbian rock artist SUN BELL. Imagine the B-52s time-travelled back to the late 60s, hooked up with Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service - and you begin to approach the psychedelic folk roots inspired, big mamma flower power enthusiasm that is SUN BELL. Twist your mind with on the edge, powerful, blazing, colorful. sultry BLUES, ROCK, ALTERNATIVE, FOLK ROCK, OUT & PROUD, POP musical stories.Songs From The Wild is 14 original songs written by Sun Bell in an effortless mix of genres/styles - all purrformed by bell the cat.
"Sun is a storyteller writing frank, visual lyrics that are enhanced by raw yet skilled instrumentation. A wild blend of musical styles that is both serious yet fun!" - Laura Turner Lynch - Kweevak.com
"bell the cat's sound is deeply rooted in the 60's folk era and branches out with electric and eccentric limbs. The whole collection is definitely worth a spin and if anything, utterly refreshing!" We The People - Robert Lawrence - Arts & Entertainment, Music Reviews 6/2005
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I have a pink and white electric fender strat copy given to me by a friend. I'm shopping for an acoustic electric and would love a Taylor. I'd love also to get sponsorships for my favorite models.
- what brand/model/year amps & effects do u use?
I use a boogie subway blues amp. I use effects sometimes too usually in the Boss family. But most of the time I like to play with the sound of the guitar and amp or my small tube Studio V3.
- Any special/favorite instrument tones/effects/approaches/techniques you've used/discovered in recording and/or performance that you really like?
I am starting to play with a wahwah pedal and I've messed around with a violin bow, I plan on using it on the next CD. It is enjoyable to me to take my voice to limits. When some folks would use effects I try to do with my vocals and a mic to stretch a bit farther beyond technology. There are so many instruments that I love. One day I'll have a studio set up the way I'd like so I can move around with the various instruments I love. Sax, clarinet, dobro, bass, drums, many percussion choices, slide guitar, piano, keyboard, steel drums..... on and on.- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
Frank Zappa, Jane Siberry,Rhiannon, Duke Ellington band, Tsychovsky some favs in the instrumentalists. Some artists that I enjoy and am influenced by are Laura Nyro, Patti Smith, Joan Jett, Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, early Elvis, Cheryl Crow, Cake, Motels, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Pearl Jam, Patsy Kline, Tina Turner Bonnie Raitt, REMM among many others. A few of the bands that get me groovin are Green Day, U2, Sound Garden, Johnny Lang, REMM, Cake, Metallica, Deborah Coleman, Cafe R&B,Eric Clapton. In my youth I loved the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Jefferson Airplane, Elvis, Neil Young, Tina Turner, T. Rex, The Beach Boys, Led Zepplin, Fanny, The Doors, Susie Quatro, Laura Nyro, Motels, Blonde, Stone Temple Pilots, Shirley Temple....
- Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style of rock, etc
From the moment I heard rock on the radio as a child in the 50's I was swept up in it. Later in the sixties I got into folk rock which propelled me into exploring my sexuality as a lesbian in my out music. When alternative some pop and the blues entered my life I found the combo of styles/genres that came most often to me in my songwriting. These genres give me the most freedom to express myself musically. I do personal work with my own form of classical too. All through junior and part of high school I was in orchestra and band. >
- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music? Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc?
I am mostly concerned with my own music at this time. Because I write prolifically I like the freedom of writing solo often so that I am not held back so to speak. I collaborated with my music associate Jan Emerson, who plays keyboard and sings n my duo 'bell the cat', on a song that she wrote the words for and i came up with music. Now we're working it to be sure it all fits and since she is the originator of the song she has final say on the music. I'm also working with my drummer/producer Terry Knierim on some songs that he put the music together on. He wants me to write he words. I like this new challenge. Usually I bring songs that have a melody and words and present them to Jan and we play through them to make sure there are smooth. Jan will make suggestions sometimes or my sweetie or another music friend or perhaps it just doesn't feel right to me so I keep workin it until it becomes music that grooves in the right way for me. I was the executive producer of my CD, Songs From The Wild. I love producing and I seem to habe great skills in this area so I'd love to produce Cds for other musicians as well as my own. I have taught guitar, worked in recording sessions, play for others in live radio shows, and I also am getting involved in volunteer work in my community hospitals playing music.
- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?
I will speak to my CD, Songs From the Wild, since this is what is out there for people to hear. On this CD my favorites are 'Wild Dykes On Bikes', 'Down Home Recipe', 'To The Moon Alice', 'Radio Wo Wo' and 'Untamed Heart'. I chose these because they are more on the edge, challenging and fun. Since I was involved in this CD production from concept, graphics, photos, songwriting, producing, amd now in the promotions I consider this whole project to represent my finest work musically at this point in my life.
- Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a glbt player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
People would try to pigeon hole me into the "women's/lesbian lala" music scene. I didn't fit. When women like Meg Christian, Holly Near among others were out there writing their style of songs, it was almost like nothing else could exist or be accepted. Because I was very much on the edge with my mix of genre/styles I was outcast for not playing "women's music". I was accused of playing male music because I was more agressive and back then most women couldn't see lesbians playing music like mine. My song Wild Dykes On Bikes was turned down at a particular women's record company because they considered my style of music "male". So some of the same women who were trying to get free of stereotypes were putting them on other women for being different. I've actually had mostly good experiences within the straight world. Mostly very supportive of my music. When I was nine I picked up a guitar that my father was trying to learn to play (without much luck). I sat down and began to pluck on the strings 'Little Brown Jug' the song my Dad was trying to play. He suddenly came into the room and was mad at me for being able to play it so he yelled at me and told me to never touch his guitar again. Even when I asked for one years later he refused. He saw it as a masculine instrument in those days. My Dad's reaction that day left a big impression on me for years in the form of memory problems with my music. Soon after I realized this issue I took action to heal it completely.
- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
As a GLBT player I feel we have much more freedom in our music to speak OUT.I'm surprised more folks don't come OUT in a more obvious way with their music. I write songs that are tongue-in-cheek sometimes and not everything I write is about being a lesbian but I don't do any hiding. I am OUT in every sense of the word. Years ago we had to hide our songs behind so many diluted lyrics and we couldn't sing as a she to a she or as a he to a he. I'm so glad that is all behind us. We must never go back to the closets no matter the cost. Our songs/artists are able to go main stream and there are GLBT musicians in so many genres now. Our music is able to be used in films and on TV as well. I think it is exciting to be a part of the music scene today and to be appreciated as a lesbian and a human for my talents.
- Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?
My first guitar was a gift to me when I had just turned seventeen. It was given to me by a man who picked me up hitchiking in Florida. It was my birth day and we had been talking about birth days during the ride. I sang to a song on his radio soon after I jumped in his car. He interupted me to tell me I should sing professionally and asked if I played an instrument. I was going from West Hollywood, Florida to Ft. Lauderdale and on the way he pulled into the parking lot of a shopping area and said he had to run in for a minute. I waited in his car and he came out and handed me a small nylon string acoustic guitar. I was flabberghasted! I was honored by his insight. I had wanted a guitar ever since I was nine.That very guitar was with me through thick and very thin on the road and off for years. Some hard years when I was livin on the road playing music and hitchiking across country. That guitar was at times a pillow, a wall of privacy, a blanket, a meal ticket, an invitation to a place to sleep, my best friend, a saving grace and my first guitar.
- Any advice for young glbt players?
Keep rockin'. If people you love, believe and trust acknowledge your talent then keep reachin for your goals/dreams. If it is just a dream you may need to let it go, but if it is a goal/dream reach like there is no limit!
- What are your current and future musical projects?
I am promoting my CD, Song From The Wild, gigging, working on a music video, beginning production on my next CD,recording a duo and solo version of Songs from The Wild ( I purrform solo, duo or with a band) and writing lots of new material. The business of my music keeps me very busy. Because of my perserverance I have achieved what most independents hire others to do. Songs From The Wild is being played internationally on radio, internet, iTUNES, iPOD, and satellite. Come visit my web site at www.sunbellmusic.com and sign our GUESTBOOK and purchase your copy of bell the cat's Songs From The Wild.
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