Interview with Guitarist Kristen Capolino: Looks Like Your Sister, Plays Like a Powerhouse
Smiley, cute, petite. Kristen Capolino looks like she could be a high school cheerleader. But put a guitar in her hand and she will kick your ass! Sort of like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer of power rock.
Kristen started playing at the tender age of 5 and certainly hasn’t let anything like gender bias put a damper on her enthusiasm. Now 21, Kristen has a brilliantly raucous future ahead of her, with an album in the works co-produced by Earl Slick featuring major players.
Over her short but action-packed career, Kristen has had the privilege of sharing the stage and recording with a variety of guitar greats including Slick, Les Paul, James Burton, Michael Schenker, Al DiMeola, Steve Lukather, Jennifer Batten, Doug Pinnick and Wyclef Jean, to name a few. She’ll be featured in two upcoming guitar-focused documentaries, “Turn it Up” and “The Axe Factor.”
I had to edit a pile of lol’s out of this interview, so you know it’s all good for Kristen. Check it out …
Did I hear somewhere that your dad introduced you to guitar? What was it that attracted you to the instrument?
Yes. When I was very young, my dad used to play music videos all the time, mostly Gary Moore, The Outlaws and UFO. I was drawn in by how expressive the instrument could be. I think the guitar is the most expressive of instruments.
Is there anything about playing guitar that you wish someone had told you, but you had to find out the hard way?
That the idea of guitar playing, or music in general for that matter, is like a competition. Music exists so that it can be enjoyed by all people ... many different types for many different tastes, and not be made into a competition. It's almost ingrained into people’s thinking now and hard to overcome.
I hear that Michael Schenker is your favorite rock guitarist. I love that you call his and Carlos Santana’s phrasings “sarcastic,” and that they seem to challenge the listener to “take that!” What about that appeals to you?
I think it appeals to me because I think it's a pure and direct window into their soul. You can actually feel what they're trying to express. That's what it's all about. Not how many notes or how fast they are played, but how they're played.
Let’s talk gear. I see you play a Gibson Flying V. What made you choose that body style?
I think the Flying V chose me. It just fits for me and I like the way it can growl. It has a distinctive sound, rich like a Les Paul, but still a little gritty. And then, of course, there's Michael Schenker!
What other gear do you have in your rig?
Well, I'm kind of switching things around now, always trying new things, sometimes keeping them and sometimes going back. But my amps are modded THD Flexi-50's going through Avatar 2x12 cabs, some with Celestions and some with the new Eminence Tonkerlite speakers I just received. I'm really impressed by these speakers.
My pedal board has my Shure wireless mounted on it along with a Pedalboards Inc. true bypass switch strip. I have a Visual Sound H20 pedal along with a Son of Hyde, Source Audio Distortion, Boss Delay and a Landgraff Overdrive along with Xotic Effects BB preamp and Brute Drive, etc.
I loved your playing during the PRS show at NAMM 2010. How did you get involved with them?
Thank you, it was fun. Well, Al DiMeola pulled me up for a jam and it kind of took on a life of its own. Paul Smith gave me Al's guitar and invited me back the next day. He put me up with the Grainger Bros. (who I love!) and had people in the audience call out different styles of music. The Graingers would set the rhythm and I'd improvise a solo to it. That was a blast!
Daisy Rock Guitars connected me to you. What’s your history with them?
I was introduced to Daisy Rock through Steve Swersky and Greg Conway, the producers of the new show, "The Axe Factor." I liked the idea of Daisy Rock making guitars more available to young girls who were interested in learning to play the guitar. I guess they like what I'm trying to do because they asked me to become involved with their effort.
The clincher was their offering to build a custom "V" for me!! Seriously, though, I agree with their effort to encourage young girls to play and I'm happy that they are going to build guitars that girls can play their whole lives. I'm proud to be part of this effort, and can't wait to get my guitar!
Do you see yourself as a role model for other girls who might consider electric guitar?
I don't know if I'd be comfortable or good at being a role model, but if other girls want to jump in and play because of what I'm doing, that's awesome! Let's jam! I hope that, someday, I'll be in a position to tangibly help out other girls (and boys for that matter) who want to play.
I understand you have a new album coming out this fall. What inspires you to write? Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from that …
I am just finishing up the recording on my new album; we're considering doing two or three more songs before we decide how we're going to release it. It's been incredible so far...I've had the pleasure of doing five songs with Earl Slick, Gail Ann Dorsey and Sterling Campbell, basically David Bowie's band! And five more with Slick again and this time with Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill of Kings X as the rhythm section. And it will also feature an instrumental where I'm swapping solos with Jennifer Batten! I really can't wait to be finished so we can release it. I'm already playing some of those songs as part of the live show.
I guess I'm inspired by the same things that everybody else is ... life. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not so good. But I try to focus on the positive in the end result.
Find out more at kristencapolino.com.
Check out this in studio video of Kristen with Earl Slick and the band recording the song, “Now You’re Gone”:
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.