Blues Guitarist Rebecca Laird

"I never really committed to playing guitar until I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan," Laird explains. "He hooked me deep. I just thought, 'Wow, I wonder if I can learn to do that.' ~ Rebecca Laird

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Rebecca Laird (25) picked up the guitar at the age of 13 and hasn’t let go of one since! Self-taught at first, Rebecca was onstage and writing songs with bands as little as six months after playing her first chord. After demonstrating her desire to delve deeper into guitar, she began taking guitar lessons from classically trained guitarist and songwriter, Adam Flint. Between her parents and her guitar teacher, she was exposed to a vast variety of different musical styles, all of which played a vital role in her development as an artist.

Rebecca’s main influences include the Vaughan brothers, Alan Haynes, Albert Collins, Robben Ford, Jeff Beck, ZZ Top, Matt Schofield, Pat Martino, Joe Bonamassa, Bonnie Raitt, Al DiMeola, the three “Kings” (Albert, B.B. and Freddie), Steve Howe (of Yes), Lightnin’ Hopkins, Wes Montgomery and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) among many more.

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Interview Questions:
Scott - Hi Rebecca, .... Thank you so much for taking the time out to do an interview with me and my Guitarz site.  I hope all is well with you... Give all our loyal readers and peeps an update with what’s been going on with you in your musical world these days and a short but descriptive label of your style of guitar playing and the types of music you like playing.

Rebecca: I play electric and acoustic guitar, but my style is generally very laid back and melodic no matter what I’m playing. I try to go more for solid phrasing than for flashiness. I love blues and jazz and I think those styles are what I tend to gravitate towards most of all, although I can find something to enjoy about just about any type of music.
Scott - Where is your stomp'n grounds? Name some of the clubs and music venues where you perform.

Rebecca: Right now I’m split between two cities in two different countries, Houston, Texas and Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m from Houston and I’ve been playing there for the last ten years. My favorite places to play there are The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club on Kirby, Dan Electros Guitar Bar in the Heights and the Shakespeare pub on Memorial.

Recently, I’ve been jamming at some open mics in Edinburgh because it’s the city where my boyfriend lives. In Edinburgh, I like playing at Stramash on Cowgate and Whistebinkies on South Bridge. In fact, I met my boyfriend at an open mic in Whistlebinkies!
Scott - Does the music scene thrive where you live?

Rebecca: I’d say that it does. The music scene in Houston is incredibly vibrant, and the blues scene in particular is very close knit community. Not to say everything’s perfect, but there’s generally a sense of camaraderie with Houstonian musicians. Houston is a great city to be a musician. Edinburgh is much smaller, of course, and I know less about their music scene. I think it’s nice how musicians can busk there (play in an open air environment) since people walk everywhere and the weather is a bit more forgiving than the Houston heat (in the summertime, at least).

Scott - How many albums have you cut over the years? What's the name of your latest music endeavor?

Rebecca: So far I’ve only done one EP of original music, which is self-titled. All of my original music is under my name, Rebecca Laird.

I’ve also played on a couple of tracks of Cari Q’s album, Blueprints to Infinity. The most recent CD I’ve played on is a demo for a fusion jazz group that I play with called Dr. Tran.
Scott - How did the music come about? Was it a solo-effort or more of a collaborative effort?

Rebecca: For my own EP, it was more of a solo-effort. But my drummer and bassist definitely contributed their own styles and ideas to the recording. Nothing I do is 100% solo though, I always ask my friends and mentors for input before I release anything.
Scott - If you were to pick one of your albums to be your best effort, which one would it be and why?

Rebecca: As of right now, it would have to be my one EP. Hopefully I’ll have another, better one out soon! But as of right now I don’t know when that will be because as a college student, school takes up most of my time. (I’m majoring in jazz guitar performance.)
Scott - What type of guitar is your "Go To" Guitar? Does she have a name? Can you also give us quick run down of your guitar, amps and effects?

Rebecca: I have a few go to guitars depending on the situation. For traveling, I just bring my Taylor GS Mini and use it for everything! For blues gigs, I prefer my custom Franken-Strat. For just about everything else, I tend to use my Gibson Les Paul Standard.

My amp is my pride and joy, a Grammatico Kingsville. I delayed buying a car for a year so that I could afford it! It’s like a Fender Bassman, but with more clarity.

My pedal setup is fairly straightforward, nothing particularly fancy. In order, I use an Ernie Ball Volume Jr., an Empress Effects Buffer Plus, a Mojohand FX Rook (which is my favorite, it’s been on my board for years and I have no plans to replace it), a Mojohand FX Bluebonnet, a MXR Carbon Copy, a Boss DD-20, a TC Electronic Hall of Fame, and a TC Electronic Hyper Gravity.

Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

Rebecca: Originally, I think that listening to Jimmy Page and Angus Young inspired me to focus on lead guitar and improvisation. Later on, it was Stevie Ray Vaughan who inspired me to stick with guitar and to do my homework when it came to blues and rock music. My current style really began when I saw Jimmie Vaughan doing a masterclass in Austin. He’s where I got the idea to focus on phrasing, and how I learned that soloing wasn’t about playing every lick I knew as fast I as possibly could.
Scott - Who are you listening to these days?

Rebecca: My taste varies, so it’s a really wide range of stuff. I’ve been on an Elbow kick for about a year now, and I’m getting into Bill Evans when it comes to jazz. I also listen to Tatran and my fellow Houstonians Kruangbin for instrumental music.
Scott - Has the music business model of today helped you or hindered you in your musical journey?

Rebecca: I can’t really say for sure. Live music tends to be slowing down everywhere, but I can still find gigs. My focus has never really been on trying to find a record deal or make it into any major markets because my style of music isn’t pop. I’d lean towards saying that it’s helped me in the sense that I’m going forward with the assumption that I’ll always be an independent artist and I’ll always have the freedom that being independent allows.

Scott - You are stranded on a small uncharted island in the south pacific, what three albums could you not live without ?

Rebecca: The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan (which is technically a double album, so I’m cheating a bit there), Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and Juju by Wayne Shorter.
Scott - Can a band like yours make a decent living putting out albums and playing live blues music?

Rebecca: To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s probably possible, but you would need to have an incredible amount of free time and enough money to be able to live while you got started building a fan base, recording your first album, running online promotions, and touring. I don’t have the financial means necessary to do that full time, which is why I’m erring towards the side of caution and getting a degree. I’d like to be able to teach guitar full time, but to spend weekends and summer focusing on my own music and doing freelance work for others.

Scott - Does work come to you easy or do you have to go after it?

Rebecca: I’ve had to turn down a lot of work in recent years due to being in school, but in general the work comes relatively easily now. But it required years of networking to get the point where I am now. I also have to be able to prove that I can play and sight read at a high enough level to justify people hiring me, which requires a lot of practice.
Scott - Do you embrace online social networking? Why?

Rebecca: I have a love/hate relationship with it. I think it’s a great tool for artists to get their music out there for free, but I don’t like how reliant everyone has become on it. That said, I’ve probably gotten a decent amount of work via social media, so in that way it’s a good thing.
Scott - Please give us some top musical goals you would like to achieve in 2018.

Rebecca: I’d like to improve on my jazz improvisational skills to the point where I don’t have to spend hours analyzing the chord progression before I can play over it. I’d also like to get it to the point where it sounds smoother, and less cerebral (more like my blues solos). I’m also working on improving my sight reading. Because the market is so competitive now, you really can’t afford to neglect that as a guitarist anymore. I’ve turned down well paying gigs because I couldn’t sight read in the past, and I never want to do that again.

Scott - Where can we buy your music?

Rebecca: Almost anywhere online! From iTunes and Amazon Music for sure, and from most other websites that sell music.
Scott - Rebecca, give us a parting shot across the bow with some wise words of wisdom when it comes to the music business.

Rebecca: Be as versatile as you can! If you aren’t opposed to teaching, doing session work, doing live work, or anything else music related then you’ll definitely be able to make a decent living doing something that you love. But if you pigeonhole yourself into doing/playing just one thing, I think that would be much more difficult to achieve. At the same time, you don’t have to completely “sell out.” People know that I’m mainly a blues guitarist and that I can also play a few other stringed instruments and slide guitar, so that’s primarily the sort of work I get called to do. Do your own thing, but don’t turn your nose up at an opportunity to branch out and do something different too.

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