Vicki Genfan

Vicki Genfan

Every now and then an artist comes along whose music reaches out and touches the soul of all who hear them... virtuoso guitarist, singer and composer Vicki Genfan is among those artists Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, Vicki is redefining singer/songwriter culture. With a mastery of the acoustic guitar that borders on pure alchemy, audiences are mesmerized by the waves of sound Vicki creates with just two hands and her voice. Using 29 alternate tunings and the percussive technique she calls slap-tap, youll find the addition of her pure, expressive vocals that dig deep and stir the heart to be the perfect accompaniment on many of her songs. Vicki writes and beautifully sings her own brand of music and lyrics while putting her unmistakable imprint on familiar tunes like the Beatles Norweigian Wood. An evening with Vicki is far more than a concert; stories, warmth and humor come gift wrapped in an unforgettable evening of music that leaves the audience always wanting more.

Vicki has been recognized among the worlds greatest guitarists and musicians at festivals such as The International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germanys Open Strings Guitar Festival, Italys Soave Guitar Festival, as well as at venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In 2005 she was one of the featured artists on La Guitara, the first compilation CD featuring female guitarists from around the globe, released by Vanguard Records. With several additional ground-breaking recordings behind her, recent acquisitions of the 6 string banjo, 12 string and baritone guitars, high demand at clinics and music camps and an ongoing European presence, Vicki continues to reach beyond musical borders and into new territory.

In 2008, Guitar player magazine crowned Vicki their new Guitar Superstar at San Franciscos Great American Music Hall. In the type of contest that attracts million-notes-per-second guitar shredmeisters, Vickis playing stood out for its originality. The 49 year old New Jersey native coaxes, cajoles, slaps and hammers an amazing variety of sounds from her acoustic guitar. Master of ceremonies Andy Summers was joined by a distinguished panel of judges including Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Elliot Easton, Brendon Small and George Lynch. Vickis style is physical, energetic and totally engaging Check out the video of Vicki playing Atomic Reshuffle, the piece that got her the win.

Charlie Doom, from TrueFire sat down with Vicki Genfan for a Fireside Chat

If you werent a musician, what would you be and why?

Wow, hard question right off the bat! That question feels like you asked, If you werent a human what would you be and why. I was born this way and I cant quite imagine it any other way. Now if youre talking professional musician thats another story. Id love to be a DJ (thats not a musician, is it?) simply cause I love the idea of weaving music together, taking an audience somewhere, hey- wait a minute, sounds just like a musician. OK Ill try to think outside of my own box hereI love the field of holistic healing and have an alter ego career as a Polarity Therapist and Sound Healer. Id love to take that work further and study all kinds of multi-cultural methods of figuring out how we humans work, get hurt and can heal. Places where the body, mind and emotions meet and greet one another (so to speak).

Honestly, how many hours a day do you practice?

Honestly, it depends on the day. Sometimes none. Sometimes 1, 2 or 3. Ive never been a woodshedder in the traditional sense. I play for hours when Im having fun. Thats sort of practicing, it encompasses practicing, but its not like hard core practicing. That I do as needed; before a gig, with a new tune, prepping for the Superstar Competition, etc. Its a fluid thing.

What are you listening to lately?

Hmmm lotta NPR Radio. Mostly talk. I go through phases. Spend a lot of time in the car (my car doesnt have a working CD player). Most radio sucks (to me). Actually, I found this video recently and was just thrilled, so you all should go listen to her Theresa Andersson.

How would you describe the music business today?

Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly; whole new creature. The old form is crumbling and a new paradigm is in the making. Its exciting. Folks like me and you can really do our own thing with enough motivation and determination. We can get to millions of people without a record contract.

Stranded on a desert island, which guitar would you take?

The new Luna Vicki Genfan signature model built by luthier Gray Burchette. Im still learning all about it, its giving me all kinds of new music! Plus, its a Jumbo and could probably double as a raft if I needed to float somewhere.

Should world leaders learn how to play guitar? Why?

Sure. Everyone should play guitar. Its an amazing way to express yourself, anywhere, anytime. World leaders certainly need this.

Lets talk about whats going on with you right now, your new album, and whats next?

New CD UnCovered its been a whole lot of fun making it. I collaborated with 5 other artists, 4 from Europe (Susan Weinert, Christina Lux, Kerstin Blodig, Sally Barker) and Trina Hamlin from NY. We recorded mostly in Germany, mixed in the states (and on a few airplanes) its a celebration of great songs and really wacky arrangements. It features a bunch of incredible voices and guitarists. A lot of Vicki style guitar playing on it. Some of the artists we covered are Sting, Seal, John Lennon, Seals and Crofts, Young Rascals, KT Tunstall.and more! Whats next is to spread the news about the new instructional guitar course for TrueFire, 3D Acoustic Guitar! Im psyched! Also next is to go into retreat somewhere and write a whole bunch of new music. Its time. The overall plan is to spread my music as far and wide as possible. I love to travel and to expand my circle of friends and supporters. Its an honor to play music for a living. I hope to keep on keepin on for a long time!

How did you prepare to win Guitar Player magazines Guitar Superstar competition?

Very carefully! First of all, I made sure I knew as best as I could, what they were judging us on: technique, uniqueness and performance. I knew that my piece would be about as unique as any piece could be. I knew that if I could relax and enjoy myself while playing, my performance would be really good. The thing I needed to prep for was going to be technique. The biggest stumbling block with Atomic Reshuffle is that my right hand can become very tense by the time I play the very last lines of the song, and if this happens I will totally fumble and screw up the ending. My strategy was to start about a month ahead of time and put in small bits of time whenever I could throughout the day. I would practice challenging lines and sections of the song super slowly and quietly. This enabled me to get the passages down and in my muscle memory correctly while being relaxed. (This is so important!) Simply put, that is how I prepared and I believe it worked!

How did you develop your technique, where did it first start?

My technique really came together gradually over more than 25 years of playing, writing, tuning and exploring. Maybe the biggest factor was that I was never discouraged from doing my own thing. I followed the impulses and curiosity that I always seemed to have. I followed and explored tunings and sounds that made me happy. I was drawn to open tunings as a teenager after hearing Joni Mitchell. But I didnt learn her songsI began creating my own collection of tunings. I love percussion and I am a very strong rhythmic player, one of the key facets of my style. Hearing the sounds that ring out when you tap or strike the harmonics and playing those very rhythmically as percussive patterns became enthralling to me. I found that a deep well of sounds, moods, colors, and tones would reveal itself to me with each new tuning. I kept following the musemore tunings, more percussive ideas and patterns. How do I keep this musical? How do I use these techniques to accompany myself as a singer without the guitar part interfering? I kept asking questions like this and kept refining the techniques and coming up with new ones. Sometimes a technique comes when I have a sound in my head or a rhythm idea in my hands that wants out, but I cant get it out accurately with what I know. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

It seems like more women are starting to play guitar, do you agree and why do you think that is?

Well I think two things are happening first, more women are out in public playing guitar, more visable, there are more avenues now to be seen and heard than ever before (youtube, myspace, etc.). Secondly, I think we are breaking some old stereotypes regarding women being able to play. The more women that are out there doing it, the more role models there are for young girls and women to see and emanate. Its a good thing!

And finally, any words of wisdom for your fans and fellow pickers?

You can never know it all. Follow what you love. Push the envelope. Always come from the heart. Work as hard as you want to and then be happy with yourself for that. Dont compare yourself or your playing to others. You are unique. Period. Enjoy that!

Interview not available.

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