Ariel Posen: “If you’re playing something great all the time, it has a lot less impact – if you play sparingly then you really notice what is going on”

Ariel Posen
(Image credit: Jack Pantinople)

Slide Wizard Ariel Posen’s new album, Headway, builds on the buzz created by his debut record, 2018’s How Long

Although Posen is often pigeonholed as an Americana artist, Headway shows off the full range of his influences while showcasing his soulful vocals, magnetic songs and stellar slide work. 

Constantly busy, there’s another solo album, Mile End, scheduled for release at the end of 2021.  

How much of Headway was informed by the process of recording How Long

“For my first solo record, I was questioning everything I was doing; it was such a new experience. It turned out great, but it was definitely stressful. Two years later, I feel a lot more comfortable; this time I knew what to expect so I went in feeling a lot more sure about my choices.”   

You have an instantly identifiable sound. What’s your secret? 

“I recommend recording yourself all the time so that you’re only comparing yourself to yourself. Careful listening and analysis of your own playing is the key to finding things that you do that are not just a retread of what you’ve heard others do. Remember that less is more; make a statement, give it space then make another. If you’re playing something great all the time, it has a lot less impact; if you play sparingly then you really notice what is going on.”  

What are the key ingredients of your tone? 

“Guitar-wise, a StratoMule, a Josh Williams Mockingbird, a Collings SoCo Deluxe and a Jazzmaster. For amps, Two Rock, and while I do use a lot of effects, a good overdrive is my go-to. I have a lot of gain on the amp  and keep the guitar volume around 7, constantly adjusting it as I play. I use a ‘compromise’ action to enable slide and standard playing.”  

You’re left-handed but play right-handed. How did that come about? 

“When I first picked up my mom’s right-handed acoustic, I was strumming it left-handed, just making noise. When I started to take lessons, my teacher said just flip it around, it’ll be much better for you in the long run. I took her advice and I’m so glad, because it opens up a whole world of cool vintage guitars.”   

You have a number of ways for fans to interact with you on your website. Do you feel that’s essential as it becomes even harder to make money through music these days? 

“Yeah. I have masterclasses that fans can sign up for, tabs for sale – and Patreon, which has been a fun experiment. It’s another great way to engage with fans, a lot of whom are avid guitar players. This is going to be a big year for me; I’ve got a lot of new music to share and if I can hit the road again near the end of the year, that’ll really top things off.”

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Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.