True story. I met Bridgid Bibbens because a mutual friend thought we looked alike. A lot alike. But when I saw her in a Bugera ad in the Guitar Legends Neil Young issue, the connection didn’t click in my brain the first two times I paged through.
So I guess we’re really not that similar (at least in my brain!). To make things even more "Twilight Zone"-ish, Bridgid doesn’t play guitar. BUT, she does play a blazingly rockin’ seven-string fretted electric violin (in sparkly fuchsia!), so I think she’s worthy of a bit of attention.
A trained classical violinist, Bridgid says she’s “crossed over to the dark side.” But with gigs under her belt with host of heavies like Christina Aguilera, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Tommy Lee, Jay-Z, John Mayer, Alicia Keys and a boatload more, I’d say the dark side is treating her pretty darn good.
Bridgid makes up for dabbling in the dark arts with regular stints in public schools throughout the country, sharing the “Electrify Your Strings” series of music education programs.
I met up with Bridgid in her home base of New York City, where we shared a bit of history and a lot of alcohol. Let’s just say it was a late night and leave it at that …
Tell me how you made the transition from playing classical to a more modern style.
I was a total classical snob growing up; it was all I ever listened to, all that I ever wanted to play. My parents started me on violin when I was 3. My dad actually hoped I’d be a bluegrass player, and I was like, there is no way I’d do that.
Then I went to college. My goal was to be the leader of the Philadelphia orchestra -- it was my big dream. I got my undergraduate degree in violin performance and got my masters degree in education and started teaching. Then I started realizing that there was this whole area of music kind of left untouched. I was invited to play with some friends who told me, this song is in E. I just completely froze on stage and thought. I can play Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto with my hands tied behind my back and these guys barely know how to read music, and yet I’m completely freezing. I was totally embarrassed. I kept thinking, “This is not going to beat me.”
So that was your first step into playing electric violin?
I realized there was this hole in my students’ education and in my own education! I started pulling apart my own playing and learning to improvise and through that I met Mark Wood, who invented my instrument, The Viper. I played with him and got other ‘pop rock’ gigs, and it sort of evolved from there. I still play classically to keep up with my chops, because I feel that is a complete must for being able to do what I do in the rock world. But I have made that cross over. It’s better because there is more demand for gigs, and less competition for gigs. But it is getting tougher, as there are more and more young girls coming up in the new world of string players.
So you’re a role model now for these young players?
Yeah, who would have thought, huh? [Laughing] I get emails from these little girls all the time through my website, and when I see them in schools and stuff, it’s really amazing. It’s certainly never what I envisioned or intended for myself, but I have started taking it quite seriously.
So, if you could give some advice to those girls, what would you say?
Well, I do kind of give advice to them normally. And a lot of times they are like, “I get bullied because I play the violin,” or, “I’m not as pretty or talented as you are.” And they are all these little 14-year-old girls and I remember being there with the braces, glasses, and the little buckteeth. I tell them I was there, too, but I kept my blinders on, and I kept forging ahead with what I wanted to do, and I never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t.
How did you get involved with Bugera?
I got involved with Bugera through Twitter! You know, as a violinist there is not really an established tone or sound, so everybody is trying to find their own way. I plugged into the Bugera and I just fell in love with it. So I decided to take a photo with the amp and my violin. And someone commented on Facebook, asking if I was the new Bugera girl. And of course, I said I’m not! But then a few days went by, and they emailed me and asked if I’d like an endorsement. And I was like, well shit yeah! I’m really kind of proud of it because they are taking the average Joe player into consideration. Like somebody who wants to sound really good but doesn’t have rock star money or rock star endorsement, because it is all totally affordable and it sounds badass.
Plus I also use a Blackstar distortion pedal and Bad Horsie wah, so it can sound like a guitar or like a violin. And it’s fun for me, because as I started moving more into this world, my idols became guitarists. Like I play in a Pantera tribute band, and I play Dimebag’s solos on my violin. It’s totally crazy.
What exactly is your violin?
It’s a seven-string fretted electric flying V violin made by Wood Violins. There are also guitar/violin hybrids for cross over players that they make. They even have six string violins that are tuned like guitars, so guitarists can use them! Mine is still tuned in fifths, like a regular violin, but they violins can come in various settings, as they are all custom. They have a piezo pickup in the bridge; each string has a twin hybrid pickup. The strings are custom. People love it when they see the instrument, and when they see a chick playing it; they are like, oh my god, that’s so cool!
Find out what’s next for Bridgid at bridgidbibbens.com.
We couldn’t dig up a clip of Bridgid playing Pantera, but check out this Bugera interview and you can get a taste of Bridgid rocking out!
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.