“I can’t be a better Paul McCartney. I can’t be a better you. I can only be a better me”: 7 questions with Kat Dyson

Kat Dyson performs onstage
(Image credit: Roberto Finizio/Getty Images)

Kat Dyson has been there and done that – she has played with Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Usher, George Clinton... you name it. 

Dyson is a renowned composer and vocalist, and dynamite with an electric guitar in hand, and she recently checked in with GW for a quick-fire Q&A, talking first guitars, first songs, and more.

What was your first guitar? 

“It was an acoustic guitar from Sears that my mom bought me when I was nine. I forget what brand it was. Later, when I started playing in bands when I was 13, the manager of the band bought me a 1969 Telecaster Thinline from some pawn shop or something.”

What was the first song you learned on the guitar? 

“As Tears Go By by Marianne Faithfull.”

The building is burning down; what one guitar from your collection would you save?

“That’s like asking a woman what pair of shoes her favorites are! That’s not a fair question for a woman because it depends on what I need to do, where I’m going and what’s happening. I feel like, well, I’ve got two arms and a hand, so I can save three guitars! They’d be my 1969 Fender Telecaster Thinline, a PRS Custom 24 Santana model and a beautiful Epiphone Crestwood I just got.”

When was the last time you practiced and what did you play?

“When I’m in tour mode, I practice before every show. I always run through the show transitions and do a bit of warmup, play a bit of the solos, and a bit of the songs in sequence. When I’m home it’s different, but I’ll try to put my hands on my guitar every day.” 

What aspect of the guitar would you like to be better at?

“There are so many techniques and so many guys out there doing so many technical things. But I’m always looking to add dexterity and to add to my harmonic vocabulary and chordal vocabulary, even though the tour or the job I am on may or may not require it. I’m listening to many new guitar players too, as I’m always looking to expand chordally and harmonically.”

What advice would you give to your younger self about the guitar if you had a chance to?

“Don’t let the boys bully you around so much. At the time when I was young in Virginia, I didn’t really see a lot of girls playing guitar, so I guess I’d also tell myself that there are more girls out there playing and that I will meet them, because I did eventually meet a lot of good female players, so I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.”

Do you find it difficult being a female musician in a male-dominated industry?

“I have four brothers in my family, so I’m used to the male dynamic. I always at least try to navigate in a playing situation as if I’m with my brothers and we’re playing sports. I just approach it from that angle and for me, it’s been fine. The industry is competitive, but because my dad was an army man, we didn’t really grow up with a competitive spirit. 

“We grew up knowing this is your team, this is your platoon and don’t fight against the people that you’re on the front lines with. My father also liked to say, ‘If you’re paying attention to you and you’re getting where you need to go, you don’t have time to be jealous or look at anybody else’s situation.’

“You’re always going to learn from each other. And you’re an individual, there’s no photocopies of you, so I can only be a better me. Somebody else can’t be a better me. I can’t be a better Paul McCartney; I can’t be a better you. I can only be a better me.”

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Joe Matera

Joe Matera is an Australian guitarist and music journalist who has spent the past two decades interviewing a who's who of the rock and metal world and written for Guitar World, Total Guitar, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, Sound On Sound, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and many others. He is also a recording and performing musician and solo artist who has toured Europe on a regular basis and released several well-received albums including instrumental guitar rock outings through various European labels. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera has called him, "... a great guitarist who knows what an electric guitar should sound like and plays a fluid pleasing style of rock." He's the author of Backstage Pass: The Grit and the Glamour.