Female Guitarist Feature: Valerie Mize

3 01 2012

During an audition process in 2011, I met the lovely Valerie Mize.  The situation we were in at the time called for some serious cahones and I must say, Ms. Mize is not lacking in that department.  A powerful presence, who knows how and when to hold her ground.  I’d hang with her anytime.  I’m glad to have had the chance to learn more about her journey. I’d love for you to meet her too. Read on.

Sky Disco: When did you start playing guitar and how did your journey as a musician begin?

Valerie: My musical journey began with a tiny keyboard when I was four, teaching myself to play it, and singing in church, school, and professional choirs for many years. I was a late bloomer on the guitar, first picking it up in 2003 while studying abroad in the Netherlands. I bought the cheapest guitar in the village (a Chinese-manufactured nylon string for 90 Euros) and a chord encyclopedia, and spent countless hours in my room figuring out how to transfer my basic piano knowledge to this new instrument. Every time I learned new chords, I would write a song with them to immediately work them into my repertoire, and consequently I became a song writer.

Sky Disco: Describe your own personal rig (amp/cab/effects/axe)

Valerie: I have a few options to choose from, depending on the song/setting. I use an Eastman Archtop for jazz shows (Uptown Series Model AR 803), and I have an Eastman acoustic (AC722CE with built-in Fishman pickup). Both have a really fat mellow tone. They’re gorgeous instruments, hand made by a company in Beijing that began as a violin/viola/cello/bass manufacturer before expanding into really nice mandolins and guitars. On the road, I’m most likely to be seen with my red Ibanez Artcore Hollow Body. It’s sturdy and pretty versatile (and less expensive to replace if something happened to it). Pedal-wise I keep it simple: a Korg tuner and a Boss Equalizer G-7. When playing in NYC I used whatever amp was part of the house backline (heavy equipment and subways do not mix); on the road I bring a Fender Princeton Reverb amp.

Sky Disco: Have you played in several bands? Approximately how many would you say?

Valerie: When I moved to New York City, I founded a band under my name and produced my debut “Auspices” album with them. Before moving to the city, I had a brief all-girl project called Shyleaux (“Shy-Low”). I also fronted a 9 piece swing band, played around Tulsa in a couple jazz duos, and sang with a combo in college while getting my degree in jazz vocals. I recently moved from New York City to Nashville, so it’s back to solo shows until I build or join another band.

Sky Disco: What has been your favorite or most exciting parts of your experience with you NYC band?

Valerie : Recording my debut “Auspices” album with my New York band was such an awesome experience. The quality of musicianship and sound engineering on that record is top-notch (Antar Goodwin, Tomo Kanno, Greg Mayo, Ward Williams, Craig Dreyer, Jason Rosen, and Robert L. Smith). I love that when I listen to the songs I not only hear great musicians, I also am flooded with gratitude for the friends who worked with me to make it happen, and happy memories of the whole record coming together.

Sky Disco: What does your practice regimen look like and what motivates you to practice?

Valerie: Having a show in the near future and teaching other guitarists are two great motivators. Since I’m a vocalist as well as a guitarist, I have multiple chops that need to be up to par simultaneously. After warming up my vocals (using mp3s from Cari Cole), I like to practice my whole set plugged in, standing at the microphone, in front of a mirror, to make sure that I’m communicating the emotion of the lyric instead of staring at my hand or moving my head around too much while I’m supposed to be singing into the mic. I’ll frequently hit up the Internet for guitar lessons (www.justinguitar.com is a veritable gold mine of free and donation-based lessons), and get cover song chords and tabs at ultimate-guitar.com or somewhere similar.

Sky Disco: How many hats do you wear in life? (family, career, personal projects, hobbies, school)

Valerie: In addition to working as a vocalists (front person, backing vocals, session & demo work) and songwriter, guitarist, pianist, and producer; and aside from occasionally feeling like a professional mover (I grew up in Oklahoma and have lived in Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, the Netherlands, New Jersey, New York City, and now Nashville); I’ve also spent various parts of my life as a gas station clerk, cocktail waitress, Texas Hold ‘Em dealer for an underground poker ring, National Merit Scholar, opera and jazz student, business major, volunteer clown, camp counselor, sidewalk and subway busker, sister-in-law, best friend, ex-wife, guitar/piano/voice instructor, Academic All-State alumna, interior designer, web designer, unlicensed masseuse, and amateur sushi chef.

Sky Disco: What inspires you?

Valerie: Authenticity.

Sky Disco:  Future plans?

Valerie: Mentoring young women. Recording more albums. Hosting the GRAMMYs. Traveling the world. Helping people. Starring in a movie. Starting a video blog. Eating lots of vegetables.

You can begin cyber-stalking Valerie at her website www.ValerieMIZE.com — and she has many links to from there.



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