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LABOR OF LOVE - BRANDY ZDAN
Writing songs at 10, playing in Coffee Shops at 15 and releasing her first "album" at 19, Brandy Zdan has always made making music her life. Brandy was out touring to support her new album "Secretear" when she stopped by to check out Vintage Telecasters and treated us to her tune, "Secret Tears." We talked with Brandy about how she makes it all happen in this episode of Labor of Love.
How did making music become your life?
Music has always been. It's always been the largest part of my life. I don't remember a time without it. The real path started when I somehow got my hands on an acoustic guitar at the age of 10 or 11 and started writing goofy little songs. By the time I was 15 I was playing in local coffee shops that would have me in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I would play mostly covers and then add a couple of originals. I made my first "album" at 19 and was on the road touring in Canada by the time I was in my early 20's. Canada's touring landscape is tough at best so if you can cut your teeth there and still wanna give it a go, you are set for life.
How do you make it work? What are your hustles/gigs?
It's a roller coaster. Always feast or famine. I've been lucky to make a living at this most of my life. I'm also lucky to be one of those musicians who apart from fronting my own project will get hired to play guitar or whatever it might be in the down time of my own stuff. That not only makes you a better player but gives you a break from the hustle of running your own project. I also do a lot of studio session work in Nashville BUT what I'm most excited about is production. I'm taking the leap and producing my first full album for an artist coming up in 2019 and I plan to do a couple a year. It's a lot of moving parts and hard to plan out, but all of these things feed the other.
Who were your major influences? What guides your playing style?
The biggest influences are Daniel Lanois, Neil Young, Patti Smith , Joni Mitchell to name a few. All of these artists obviously have massive careers but I think the element that ties them together and maybe what i'm drawn to is that they do what they want. They create and they don't give a fuck. They stay true to the muse and follow that lead in spite of what the industry calls for and thinks they should do. That's the only way to be truly happy as an artist.
Tone, space, melody and serving the song are the guides to my playing style. Making choices for the song vs your ego. That's usually when a guitarist will go wrong. It can be that simple.
What's your rig? First guitar? Current? Any gear you can't live without?
My first electric guitar was an old Hagstrom sunburst hollow body electric . I can't remember the name or what year, I think 70's, but what I do remember is how great that neck was. This was closely followed by a '62 Harmony Rocket which I still play to this day and not a lot can beat those pickups.
My current rig (which is always changing a bit) is a custom Tele built by Gamble Guitar Works, with Lollar Vintage T pickups, a 57 Airline Bobkat, usually through any of the following amps- Deluxe Reverb Reissue, 71 Princeton Reverb or my Husband's Grandfathers original Ampeg Jet that he bought new. ( pretty cool) I also keep a couple of late 50's Silvertone 7 Supro lap steel's around. The valco pickups in those are the best.
Pedal board: Malekko Tremelo, Eventide Space Reverb, Strymon el Capistan delay, Blackstone Appliances Mosfet Overdrive, JHS Muffaletta, TC electronic Spark Boost.
The gear I can't live without is the Strymon El Cap delay. I love the infinite return function that makes a note explode. I also can't live without the GGW Telecaster, it's one of those guitars that just does everything right for me. I have flat 12's on it and it is very much not a "Tele" tone at all. I have many others and nothing compares. It's the go to!
What do you have coming up? Albums? Tours?
My new album, Secretear, came out in May this year. There will be much touring in 2019 in support of that. I've been all over the place this year opening for guitar gods like Buddy Guy, Doyle Bramhall II and Aaron Lee Tasjan. It's been a good year. I've learned a ton about my own playing by watching these guys from the wings.