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Artist of the Month for May 2003: Clarelynn Rose

Name: Clarelynn Rose
Town: Redwood Valley, CA
Hometown (if different from current town): Oak Park, Illinois
At what age did you start playing guitar? 17.
First guitar: Yamaha G-231 (classical).
Early Influences:
Alex de Grassi, Joni Mitchell, Daniel Hecht, and Barry. The first year I played it was in a musical vacuum, and I just followed my ear and instincts. Then friends turned me on to Joni Mitchell. She was of course completely inspiring as a guitarist, a vocalist, and as a female musician. Then Barry, a housemate,s friend, started staying at our house when he gigged nearby. I got a copy of his demo and learned some of his pieces and an alternate tuning from the tape. Several years later, a friend loaned me a tape of Alex de Grassi. I just drank in his music and many years later still find it a terrific source of inspiration. About that same time I found recordings of Daniel Hecht.

First gig:
In 1985 or so, at the Café Dominican in Santa Cruz, for tips (which were mostly verbal) and free coffee. My first gig for a paying audience was at Strings in Emeryville as part of a "Guitar Players Night" hosted by Alex de Grassi in December of 2002.

Acoustic Guitars you own:
Goodall Grand Concert (RGC 1617), Goodall standard cutaway (ESC 2360) named "Shen Sheng", a Baby Taylor, a Takamine beater, and of course the old Yamaha classical.

Favorite Guitar:
Of my guitars, the Goodall Grand Concert. It has a bright yet mellow sound, great overtones, and a neck that's really comfortable. But my favorite guitar is John Renbourn's old Franklin OM. Its small size makes it really comfortable to play. It's very alive, has tremendous clarity, and is incredibly responsive.

Your Style, and how you developed it:
It's a blend of Celtic, New Age, and Folk. Some people hear a classical influence, too. It's all original, except for a few arrangements of traditional tunes. A self-taught guitarist, my philosophy is really simple: play what sounds good and don't play what doesn't sound good.

The early pieces are mostly slow and introspective. They have the relaxing quality of New Age but with plenty of melody, harmony, and appropriate use of space so that they are interesting musically.

More recently, I've gotten to know John Renbourn and his music, and that has introduced a very strong, lively Celtic influence into my compositions. Also, I've had the good fortune to be able to trade Alex de Grassi my services as a dog-sitter in return for his feedback on my compositions. He's really helped get me thinking in terms of "orchestration", adding color, texture, and thinking about how a piece hangs together overall as a composition.

Practice Regimen:
I just play all the time!. Both Goodalls are always out, each in a different tuning, and I'll sit down and play for short spells throughout the day (it helps to work at home). Typically a sit-down is 5-20 minutes, maybe 5-10 times a day. If I'm into it, working up a new piece, or practicing for a gig, it's not unusual for a sit-down to be an hour or two. On average, it totals up to 1-2 hours every day, plus a few minutes of piano. And a little violin once in a while.

I don't know scales or arpeggios and have to think real hard to even name the open strings (with about a dozen different open tunings, the names become irrelevant). I just noodle around and if a chord or melody line strikes me, I'll play it over and over, and eventually ideas for harmonies, alternate melodies, etc. start to emerge. It helps to take lots of breaks. When playing older pieces, I always try to stay open to how "mistakes" sound and, if they improve the piece, figure out how to incorporate them.

Favorite Artist(s): Alex de Grassi (the early albums), John Renbourn, and Dorian Michael.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you, your playing style or your views on today's music in general?
Obligatory Self-Promo: I've got a couple of solo acoustic guitar CDs out now. The Redwood Sidthe (2000) is more introspective, while Elegant Tern (2002) is more upbeat with a lot of new (post-1999) compositions. You can hear the tunes at www.heartwoodmusic.com.

Playing: Open tunings are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don't play anything in standard tuning or DADGAD - there are whole worlds outside those tunings.

Theory? No, thank you! So long as the compositions written without knowledge of theory hang together well, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Is it better to spend 10 hours writing an original piece that you play better than anyone else, or learning someone else's piece that they play better than anyone else? Personally, I like the first.

"Mistakes"can be a goldmine.

Philosophy: Upton Sinclair said that when he wrote "The Jungle", he was aiming for people's hearts but hit them in the stomach. Well, I'm also aiming for people's hearts. As a forester and a Buddhist I try, without going overboard about it, to bring those influences into the music respect for all living beings and a joy that's sometimes quiet, sometimes mischievous. Our music is at its best when it reflects who we really are.

These days we can self-produce our albums and be true to our artistic sense. It's also a great chance to put some artistic muscle behind our beliefs and values (for example, I plug my values by donating money from CD sales to environmental ed programs).

That can help us connect with our audience. And that's really important for independents because, on the promo budget most of us have, the grapevine is the best promo we've got.

Gandhi said that we need to be the change we want to see. We're in a good place in time to figure out ways to do that through our music.
If you are a guitarist with a cd out and would like to be featured here please contact me.

AOTM Archives:

August 2008 - Danny Combs
March 2006 - Bryan Clark
Februry 2006 - Darin Leong
January 2006 - Andy McKee
December 2005 - Don Alder
November 2005 - Doug Young
October 2005 - Nancy Conescu
August - September 2005 - Warren Greig
July 2005 - Ian Melrose
June 2005 - Roger Lasley
May 2005 - Jim Tozier
April 2005 - Jessica Papkoff
March 2005 - Todd Habekost
February 2005 - Michael Hewett
January 2005 - Steve Barney
December 2004 - Tony McManus
November 2004 - Chris Newman
October 2004 - Kevin Kastning
September 2004 - Rick Duke
August 2004 - El McMeen
June-July 2004 - Charles David Alexander
May 2004 - Tony Capri
April 2004 - Shane Simpson
March 2004 - Bill Cooley
February 2004 - Greg Meckes
January 2004 - Gary Leek
December 2003 - Ernie Hawkins
November 2003 - Keith Knight
October 2003 - Jaquie Gipson
September 2003 - Chuck Durfor
August 2003 - Cathy Horner
July 2003 - Art Edelstein
June 2003 - Muriel Anderson
May 2003 - Clarelynn Rose
March-April 2003 - Steve Wildey
February 2003 - Rick Ruskin
January 2003 - Kerry Kling
December 2002 - Tim O'Brien
November 2002 - Howard Emerson
October 2002 - Dennis Roger Reed
September 2002 - Larry Pattis
August 2002 - Paul Asbell