Her Music Is Fun With Very Personal Messages That The Listener Can Relate To.
JB | TDL | July 1, 2015
I first came across Whitney at the Hard Rock Cafe In Anchorage for the Vans Warped Tour Acoustic Showcase and was immediately taken by the way she took control of the room. She has a very relaxed approach to the stage and the audience responds to this.
We sat down with Whitney and her guitar “CJ” recently and learned where her inspiration comes from. You can also catch her this Friday on The Daily Ledge for Acoustic Friday.
Can you tell us about your guitar? It’s a beautiful instrument.
Oh CJ? That’s Miss Cherry Jane. I’ve had her for about two years. I definitely believe she is half of the show that I play; it’s such a great sounding guitar for me. She’s an Ibanez acoustic electric guitar and they call her color “dark violin sunburst,” which just sounds as beautiful as it is. She’s got the most incredible abalone inlay on the fretboard and I just started putting stickers on her this year. She’s grown with me, and I’ve got to say that the songs I’ve written with her are some of my favorites to play. Is it weird to say I wanna grow old with her? Because I do.
Who are the major influences in your music?
My grandmother, Geraldine. She sang in the choir and played piano, she gave me my first real guitar lessons as a gift when I was 14 and she was always singing hymns and melodies everyday of her long and happy life. She loved the Bee Gees and Elton John, so I look to the classics when I need inspiration. My dad loves old guitarists and disco and my mom is deep into Rock’n’Roll and different female vocalists. My uncle Warren listened to old country and my brothers listened to all the new music all my life. So my inspiration is widespread.
I have to reference my favorite divas: Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Etta James, and Whitney Houston (that’s who my Momma named me after). Some female contemporaries that I listen to include Melody Gardot, Tracy Chapman, P!nk, Seinabo Sey, TAT, Beth Hart and many others. I have the utmost respect for females who have soul, play instruments, write their own music and take charge of their act on stage.
For the rocking men throughout history, I have been known to cover classics from Sam Cooke and Ray Charles to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Waits. I am a Michael Jackson fan, from the crib to the grave! From my teenage days, I was known to be at an Authority Zero show;their style is kind of a mix between Irish punk and reggae but their acoustic shows usually are stripped down to acoustic jazz/blues with their sharp lyrics. That was the first band to show me how versatile music could be, so I’ve followed their music ever since. Don’t even get me started on Carlos Santana: he can do no wrong in my eyes.
Where are you playing these days?
I’m still pretty new to the scene. I only have lived in Anchorage since February 2014, so I really like going to different open mics around town. When I had nothing better to do, I was on a schedule: Tap Root on Tuesday, Lofts on Thursday, Humpy’s on Sunday. I highly encourage supporting local musicians, getting to know them and seeing the acts that come by weekly and I’ve even collaborated with people I’ve met at these open mics. Anchorage is great for the live music scene.
I also play Tuesday nights from 8pm to 10pm at the City Limits Café inside the Lofts hotel downtown (4th Ave and C St). That’s my first weekly gig I have ever gotten, so I’m excited to have a good block of time to share my originals and learn new songs, then to present them in a way that even if the café is empty, people driving by might hear me on the speakers outside and wonder who they’re hearing. Maybe they will mosey in and sit down one day.
Other than that, There’s a Saturday singer/songwriter night at Organic Oasis that never misses; even when the crowd is low, genuine music about real life is always found there. I try to make it to that one whenever I can, and the host, Matt Vanderbilt, is one of my very good friends.
If you could take the stage with anyone (past or present), who would it be and why?
Bradley Nowell from Sublime. Of all the names I mentioned above, his lyricism and playing style is what I like to think I always strive for. He had a swagger to his stage presence as well and I’m just now starting to feel mine out as I still grow comfortable in front of crowds. Plus I use his mouth-trumpet technique in my songs and covers all the time, so I’d thank him for introducing that into my life.
Can you remember when you first picked the guitar?
The first guitarist in my life that wasn’t on a record was my dad’s Uncle Ronnie;he lived with us for awhile when I was young. I remember sitting on the back porch with him, watching and listening and I saw how playing calmed his mind and body down from the day. I wanted that peace! I asked for a guitar for my 13th Christmas and received a navy blue electric Fender with some chord books to teach myself. Since then I was hooked, I needed to know more.