His resume is one of the most impressive in rock. He brought the world Green Day and gave the word “Dookie” new meaning. His records have sold nearly 200 million copies and Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, My Chemical Romance, Kid Rock, Avril Lavigne, Fleetwood Mac, The Goo Goo Dolls, David Cook, Paramore, Hot Hot Heat, [...]
Thomas Lang has electrified and inspired musicians around the world with his progressive hand/foot techniques and ability to play independent linear patterns across the kit. Arguably one of the most active touring and recording artist of his generation, Lang has performed on over 250 Albums, working with notable artists such as Robbie Williams, The Clash, [...]
I’ve been changing guitar strings for decades. Smugly, I had always placed the degree of difficulty somewhere between tying my shoes and pumping gas. That all changed when I met Joey Brasler, now one of our top guitar merchants. He took a sad look at a Baby Taylor I brought into work, rolled his eyes, [...]
Dave Mustaine joined us for Guitar Center Sessions recently in Los Angeles along with 2,000 screaming Megadeth fans and musicians. Only 300 lucky souls made it in to share an intimate evening of insight and dialogue with this metal master. Below Dave takes us through Megadeth’s “Holy Wars”, stopping along the way to share [...]
From her breakthrough Grammy Award-winning success, Songs in A Minor, to her most recent RCA Records release, Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys has delivered her distinctive blend of rhythm & blues, soul, pop and hip-hop to an ever-growing fan base for more than a decade. With over 35 million albums sold worldwide, and a unique and touching poetic voice, Keys has established herself not only as a true musical artist, but one of the best-selling performers of all time.
As any musician can attest, the tiniest spark of inspiration can blossom into a lifetime love affair with all things music. For some, it's a hand-me-down guitar from an older brother or watching mom's fingers gracefully dance across the family piano. For Keys, it was a childhood teacher that first introduced her to the world of music. "The first time I ever sang was in kindergarten," Keys recalls. "My teacher put on this little performance of The Wizard of Oz, and that was the first time I remember learning a song. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz, and rewinding it, and rewinding it, and rewinding it, trying to learn the words to 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,'" she laughs. Immediately following the initial joy Keys felt came the frightening reality of having to perform in front of a live audience. "When I first sang for an audience, I was terrified beyond belief," says Keys. "But after I did it, it gave me a feeling I'd never felt before-and I knew it was something I wanted to feel again. That moment resonates with me."
Though she herself is now a source of inspiration for millions of today's young singers, Keys cites the artists that influenced her most in her early days. "As a young musician, I would have to say Nina Simone." Keys explains, "That was the first person that was like me-played classical,and also did soul and jazz, and had this way of mixing styles. I had never really heard that from a woman before. Aretha Franklin was a big influence on me too, because of those big, powerhouse vocals-and she's also a crazy, dope piano player." Keys goes on to describe how modern artists equally influence her songwriting. "I super love Emeli Sandé, she's definitely at the top of my list. I really appreciate Frank Ocean's storytelling style, it's very conversational- I'm loving Alabama Shakes! I love their super raw, southern soul thing, and her voice is so distinctive. It sounds like she's been in pain for 80 years, and she's only 20," jokes Keys.
For those that may wonder whether Keys' music or lyrics comes first, she clarifies that her process is not always consistent. "Music is anything...and it's everything," she says. "I could be reading a book, and there might be a line that sets me off, and I'm like, 'Whoa, I gotta write this down,' and so I run to the piano and play something, and see where that takes me. Sometimes, it's just the piano- just music, and I have to figure out what completes it. Whatever the case, my music definitely comes from a burst of inspiration, or a burst of emotion or some...catalyst, so it can go either way."
For any musical artist, from the garage to the arena, gauging whether or not a song is complete can be a difficult task. For Keys, knowing when a song is "finished" is an ongoing, acquired skill. "You know, there are the ones that are those 'magic songs,' that just pour out of you, and before you know it, there it is, all ready, at the end of the night," she says. "Then there's others that are more of a craft project-maybe you start it with one particularly great section, but the other parts aren't there-and three months later you're still working on it. But that's the cool part, because when you do get it, it's not just a song...it's a feeling. That's what you're chasing."
As a singer-songwriter and solo artist, Keys acknowledges that the relationships she's had with her producers have played a critical role in her incredible success. "It's such a blessing to have someone who really, really knows you and understands you," explains Keys. "If you're able to be comfortable, then you're able to create the most magnificent work. And if you have that rapport with a collaborator or partner, you have the ability to open up and be totally free-which is rare."
One might assume that Keys' enormous success would bring on a heavier responsibility to her label's demands. Rather, Keys feels that it has further freed her creative process. "I've been very fortunate to not have to go through too much of that, and that's a rarity for sure," she says. "When I first started, [Clive Davis] really respected what I did, that I was the writer, and a producer, and that I could really create the sound I wanted. And we had a really successful first record, and since then, I've always been left alone. So fortunately, I've never been in that weird space where you're forced to play something you hate-and I'm grateful."
Like her previous work, Keys' most recent album, Girl On Fire, carries a specific message-a musical expression of a particular period in her life. "This album is very personal," Keys says. "It's my own personal message about finding my bravery, planting my two feet on the ground and being firmly clear about which direction I'm going in-how I want [my life] to be, and how I don't want it to be-and that message comes through in all of the songs on the new record. I really wanted to deliver that message in a way that has a really clear sequence, so by releasing 'New Day' first, that's really reflective of the way that I feel. This is a new time and new space for me. It's triumphant. And then with 'Girl On Fire,' that's more of a declaration of 'I am who I am,' and there's no stopping that. So this record isn't just, 'Here's a song I wrote, check it out.' It's, 'Here's what I've been going through. Here's what I've been living. Here are my pains and my joys.'"
As Guitar Center celebrates Sharing The Passion of music throughout the holiday season, Keys adamantly describes just how much the gift of music means to her. "Oh my God, music is everything. Music is everything," she emphasizes. "If the world had no music, we would not live-I really believe that. It's like a heartbeat. It's that thing that defines the most important moments in our lives. It's the thing that brings us back to our childhood. It reminds us that we're human. It reminds us that we aren't the only one that feels a certain way, because there's a song about it that perfectly describes what the hell I'm going through right now," she laughs. "It's powerful...so, so powerful. It's church."