Photo: Kevin King
It Goes To 11: Samantha Fish's Favorite Piece Of Gear Is A Road-Tested Blues Instrument With A Sound That Sets Her Apart
Blues rocker Samantha Fish shows off her cigar box guitar, an instrument that's been a crowd-pleaser at her shows ever since the day she bought it.
Singer/songwriter Samantha Fish's catalog encompasses an array of different styles, from rock to alt-country to bluegrass. But a major part of her foundation is in blues, and her favorite instrument is a testament to those roots.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, meet Fish's Stogie Box Blues Cigar Box Guitar, a piece of equipment that's been essential to her live show for the past decade. "The beauty of this thing is how durable it's been for me for 10 years," she explains.
The origin story of the guitar — made from an actual cigar box, which once contained 20 premium cigars from Nicaragua — is a memory that's special to Fish.
"I remember being a teenager, and my father took me to my first-ever blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. They call it the King Biscuit Festival. And a lot of the bands and one-man acts were playing this instrument," she recounts. "I remember thinking, 'Wow. So cool and unique.'
"Fast forward, years later, I got hired to play the same festival with my band," she continues. "I saw a guy selling these, and I said, 'Hey, this is kind of circular and perfect and serendipitous. I'm gonna buy one.'"
The first time she tried it out in front of a live audience, the reaction was immediate. Now that the guitar is so special to both Fish and her fans, the singer admits she's not sure what she'll do once it dies. "You find it, and you're attached to it, and it's really hard to replace it, even if somebody makes you a replica," she says.
Even when that moment comes, Fish will still keep it around for sentimental reasons. "I've got some gear on my walls," she adds. "I'm gonna play it 'til it can't be played anymore, and maybe there'll still be some shreds of it to hang up somewhere."
Press play on the video above to see Fish's cigar box guitar — as well as some shots of the instrument in action — and check back to GRAMMY.com every Wednesday for more episodes of It Goes to 11.
Recording Academy Memphis Chapter hosts a reception celebrating the 2018 Blues Music Awards; Photo: Greg Campbell/WireImage.com
Keb' Mo', Taj Mahal, Samantha Fish, Mavis Staples: 2018 Blues Music Awards
Annual celebration in Memphis, Tenn., brings together blues performers, industry representatives and fans to celebrate the best in blues recordings and performances
Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' are riding a steady wave of blues momentum. The dynamic duo emerged as the big winners at the 2018 Blues Music Awards on May 10, taking home Album of the Year honors for their acclaimed TajMo project. This recognition follows their shared GRAMMY win for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 60th GRAMMY Awards.
At the Blues Awards, TajMo also captured Contemporary Blues Album honors. In addition to their joint wins, Mahal won Acoustic Artist and B.B. Entertainer of the Year while Keb' Mo' took Contemporary Blues Male Artist.
"It's a great honor," says Mo'. "I don't know what to say. I'm just really surprised."
Designed as a showcase of the year's best in blues recordings and performances, the annual Memphis, Tenn.-based celebration doled out 26 awards. Like the GRAMMY Awards' American Roots Field, which includes awards for contemporary and traditional blues, the Blues Music Awards recognize the artists who have helped bridge blues' storied lineage and those who are pushing the genre into an exciting future.
Surely an apt title for the awards, "The Blues Ain't Going Nowhere" by Rick Estrin & The Nightcats picked up Song of the Year honors. The band also earned Band of the Year and Estrin, a master harmonica player, took home Traditional Blues Male Artist.
Blues/soul band Southern Avenue — comprising five young musicians, fronted by Tierinii Jackson — picked up Best Emerging Artist Album for their eponymous 2017 debut album. Released on the legendary Stax label, the LP has been likened to a breath of fresh air for the genre with its own unique blend of gospel-tinged R&B vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work and soul-inspired songwriting.
A star surely on the rise, Samantha Fish earned Contemporary Blues Female Artist honors. In 2017 the Kansas City, Mo., native released Belle Of The West, an LP produced by Luther Dickinson that authentically incorporates blues, Americana and country elements.
A trio of formidable blues women were also recognized. GRAMMY nominee Beth Hart, who can wail and sing as quiet as a feather, was honored with Instrumentalist — Vocals. The legendary Mavis Staples took home Soul Blues Female Artist and Ruthie Foster won the Koko Taylor (Traditional Blues Female Artist) award.
Host Steven Van Zandt lent an enthusiastic voice to the event, showing his respect and support for the genre that started it all.
"Whether it's soul music or rock music, it's all kind of based in the blues," said Van Zandt. He went on to talk about how the music serves to get more young people involved. "It's putting a lot of instruments in kids hands, and the more of that we can do the better."
On the day prior to the awards, the Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place, honoring performers, music industry professionals and recordings of stature.
"The Blues Hall of Fame is the pinnacle honor for anyone who's worked in or performed in the blues industry," says Barbara Newman, president and CEO of The Blues Foundation. "It is an honor of a lifetime of achievement in blues."
Performers inducted into the blues hall this year included the Aces, Georgia Tom Dorsey, Sam Lay, Mamie Smith, and Roebuck "Pops" Staples. Among the recordings recognized were B.B. King's 1967 album, Blues Is King, Bo Diddley's "I'm A Man," Joe Turner's "Roll 'Em Pete," and the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted "Green Onions" by Booker T. & The MG's.
In all, the action in Memphis proved the blues are more than just the foundation of the music we love — they are alive and kickin'!
Photo: Anton Goiri
It Goes To 11: Jorge Drexler's Favorite Spanish Guitar Has A Special Childhood Connection
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Uruguay-born musician Jorge Drexler introduces fans to his favorite classical guitar and explains why it's the most essential instrument he owns.
Uruguayan singer/songwriter Jorge Drexler's life path included training as a medical doctor — specializing in otolaryngology, the study of diseases of the ear and throat. Still, he says that music, and specifically, the classical guitar, has been a constant for him ever since childhood.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Drexler introduces viewers to the Spanish guitar, the most essential item in his musical tool kit. As he explains, it was made by Vicente Carrillo, a Spanish luthier who made guitars for Keith Richards and Paco de Lucía, among others.
Drexler's instrument has various siblings. some who've landed in the hands of some of the biggest stars in music. What makes Drexler's guitar truly special, he continues, is the wood it's made from.
"The cover is made of Canadian cedar, and the sides and the back are made of palo escrito. It's a type of Mexican wood," Drexler says. He then flips over his guitar to reveal the gorgeous, multi-toned panel of wood that makes up the back of the instrument.
When Drexler was first learning to play the guitar, as a ten-year-old in the mid-1970s, he had an instrument made from a similar type of wood.
"This guitar is made of Mexican wood," he explains, "and the first guitar I ever had was a guitar from Paracho, Michoacán, made with Mexican wood as well. So in a way, I'm reconnecting with the first guitar I ever had that was made with this type of wood as well."
Drexler's life has changed immeasurably since he learned his instrument: He's been nominated for five GRAMMYs and won five Latin GRAMMYs over the course of his career. In the meantime, he's only grown closer to his Spanish guitar.
"I can play it like it's a part of my body, right?" Drexler adds. "It's a beautiful instrument, and the sound is the most beautiful thing about it.
Watch the video above to see Drexler's classical guitar in action, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes To 11.
Credit: Sam Hodges
It Goes To 11: Scott Kirkland Unveils The Synthesizer That Helped The Crystal Method Find Its Sound
Meet the synthesizer that the Crystal Method's Scott Kirkland has used on every album in this episode of It Goes To 11.
Over the course of the almost three decades Scott Kirkland has spent making music as the Crystal Method — which became Kirkland's solo project when former bandmate Ken Jordan departed in 2017 — he has always depended on a great synthesizer to help him create his signature sound.
In this episode of It Goes To 11, Kirkland introduces the trusty synth that has helped the Vegas-based electronic outfit form its signature sound. "It's been in the Crystal Method family for every album," he says.
That's the Roland Jupiter-6, a piece of gear that Kirland says he originally picked up thanks to LA-based classified ads paper The Recycler — the same legendary paper that once helped bassist Duff McKagen join Guns 'n' Roses and put Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee in touch with guitarist Mick Mars to form Motley Crue.
"There would be, like, 20 to 30 people every morning at 6 a.m. out there getting 'em, ripping 'em open to put 'em on their car," Kirkland remembers. "Some people were looking for free items, some people were looking for cars, and there was a group of us that were always looking for synthesizers. I'm sure that's how we found it."
The now-discontinued JP-6 is well-known for its ability to produce a wide array of sounds. To Kirkland, that's what makes it great. "I always love sounds that seem to be antagonizing each other," he explains, adding that it can easily create texture, sonic juxtaposition and — because the Crystal Method is not a vocal group — create sounds that are ear-catching enough to serve as a main melody.
"It feels like an old friend. Like having a conversation with an old friend. I would never get rid of this old friend. But if I ever had the opportunity to buy a new friend, I would," he jokes. "If any of you out there want to donate your Jupiter-6 to the Crystal Method, I promise you, I will give it a fantastic home."
Hear more about Kirkland's trusty synth in this episode of It Goes To 11, and check back for new episodes.
Photo credit: Didier Messens
It Goes To 11: SOJA Frontman Jacob Hemphill Explains How His PRS Modern Eagle II Furthered A Bond And Captured His Soul
SOJA vocalist and guitarist Jacob Hemphill details his initial reaction to his prized guitar — what he describes as "the most expensive thing I own" — and how the instrument changed his relationship with his father
What was your reaction to receiving the most expensive thing you own? If you're anything like SOJA frontman Jacob Hemphill, your feelings probably teetered between shock and a newfound sense of responsibility.
"I had never seen anything that was this well made in my life, and let alone, I was the one who was supposed to hold it and play it and make it sing. I couldn't believe that," Hemphill recalls in his episode of It Goes To 11.
Watch the three-time GRAMMY nominee explain the soul-bonding relationship between himself and his PRS Modern Eagle II Singlecut — and how it also bonded the singer and his father.
Hemphill and the Modern Eagle II have proven to make a great duo so far. The SOJA vocalist and guitarist has led the band to three GRAMMY nominations for Best Reggae Album, including a nod at this year's GRAMMY Awards for their 2021 album, Beauty In Silence.