Meet Ghalia Volt, the electrifying one-woman blues band

Ghalia Volt
(Image credit: Ghalia Volt)

While many bands sat out the entire Covid pandemic, Belgian blues guitarist Ghalia Volt had an out-of-the-box solution for traveling with a band when countries began to reopen: She simply became one herself. 

Volt hit upon the idea of gigging solo after a spell playing bars on Frenchman Street in New Orleans. She would create percussion by stomping with her left foot and hitting a tambourine with her right foot, without skipping a note or slide lick on her guitar. 

It proved a liberating creative experiment that led to her 2021 album, One Woman Band.

“It becomes like a free-form kind of art,” Volt says. “You work on your own time and rhythm – if you want to slow down, just because it feels good, you slow down and nobody’s going to look at you. 

“You want to rush a little bit because it feels better? You can do that, too. I just play whatever I want to play. It’s got that real, authentic feel, like it's really just raw.”

When it came time to take her solo show on the road, Volt would call ahead to each tour stop and arrange for percussion and a trio of guitar amplifiers while she traveled by train, then took a rideshare to the gigs. 

Her scrappy background in punk, garage rock and psychobilly – not to mention her days busking back home in Brussels – freed her to pursue music in her own way. That streak carries over to her taste in gear and tones, as well. 

My Old Kraftsman is so nasty – I love it. It’s one-pickup tone and it’s just like destroying everything

Volt is attracted to the gnarly, buzzing tones she gets from vintage gear like her 5-watt Fender Silvertone 1471 amp and her 1967 Old Kraftsman hollowbody guitar. You can hear the latter running straight through an Airline guitar amp to get the deep, textured fuzz tone on One Woman Band standout It Hurts Me Too.

“It’s got that big, fat sound,” she says. “It’s so nasty – I love it. It’s one-pickup tone and it’s just like destroying everything.” 

Although Volt is working on her third full-band album for a tentative fall 2022 release – a project she describes as “pop- ’issippi,” a modern, more accessible take on Mississippi Hill Country blues with keys and varied percussion – she hasn’t abandoned her one-woman show.

“Yeah, of course, I’m going to keep doing it,” she says. “I think it’s actually very entertaining, but I do miss the band performances, too. So I’ll keep doing both.”

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Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs, a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.