Just one short minute is all it takes to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before she jumped into her limo for the airport, we grabbed a chat with exciting Finnish blues and slide guitarist, Erja Lyytinen.
60 Seconds, Session Shenanigans, One-Minute Lick, That Was The Year and Hot For Teacher.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
EL: When playing slide I get a louder sound with Dunlop fingerpicks. I use a thumb pick and a middle-finger pick. I need fingerpicks to be able to play Travis picking style with heavy gauge strings. When playing regular guitar, I use a red Dunlop Jazz III. It fits my small hand well and makes my playing precise.
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, could you do it and what would they be?
EL: Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah-wah. In addition to the wah sound, you can leave the pedal in different positions to get this nasal sound. TC Electronic Flashback Delay with Looper, so many pre-sets to have fun. Delay adds a feel of sustain to playing. Mad Professor Mighty Red distortion. I rarely play without distortion.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band?
EL: I play some bass and drums. I also play keys and I’d love to someday be able to record some standards – just a woman and a piano. I made the horn arrangements on the Sky Is Crying album using a piano, so it is an essential instrument to me in that respect too.
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
EL: Yes definitely! I got a Masters degree in music from Sibelius Academy, Helsinki. It’s a very basic but important skill.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
EL: Yes they do. My pedal board has been built with George L’s cables. Sometimes I use a wireless system though and then it’s Stage Clix, which hardly changes the original sound, but boosts it a bit.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing, of which you’re slightly jealous?
EL: Eric Johnson and Pat Metheny both have a brilliant sense of melody. They’re amazing soloists and composers too. Sonny Landreth has his own unique style.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
EL: I used to play a lot with Monster Amps (Finnish), but recently bought a 135-watt Twin Reverb from 1975. Volume and gain both 5.5, spring reverb at 3, not too much bass.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars? (Any particular quirks etc?)
EL: I use a high action. Standard guitar action 2.0 mm at 17th fret and on slide guitars it is 2.5mm.
GT: What kind of strings do you use?
Standard guitar, it’s D’Addario .010-.046 and when playing slide, I use .012-.052 and change the highest string to .015 to get a thicker sound.
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
EL: My Dad.
GT: What was the best gig you ever did?
EL: Opening for Robert Plant in 2001. It was just a girl and a guitar – scary, but so cool!
GT: And your worst playing nightmare?
EL: In Sweden, a huge biker festival. The crowd was nice, but the weather was horribly cold – two degrees C in the summer. My fingers really hurt.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
EL: Play what you feel. When you’re on stage, forget what you’ve learned; scales, fancy chords etc. Feel is so important.
GT: Present company excepted, who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
EL: Jimi Hendrix was just phenomenal for his time.
GT: Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
EL: Mike Stern on Little Shoes. He has got the blues – until he shreds it to 36 million notes.
GT: What’s the solo or song of your own that you’re most proud of?
EL: Song: Grip Of The Blues; it has some nice chords, a deep story and lots of wah-wah distorted guitar. Solo: The Sky Is Crying – there’s the Elmore legacy and it keeps growing. Erja Lyytinen’s Live In London album is out now on Tuohi Records. Her nationwide 13-date UK tour starts October 2nd at the Darlington Blues Club. For further information on Erja Lyytinen, visit: www.erjalyytinen.com
Play what you feel. When you’re on stage, forget what you’ve learnt; scales, fancy chords. Feel is so important.
Erja Lyytinen with sparkly G&L ASAT and Monster amp