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Spotlight: Emerson Snowe

Emerson Snowe
(Image credit: Supplied)

EMERSON SNOWE

HAILS FROM: Brisbane, QLD
PLAYS: Solo
SOUNDS LIKE: Hypnotic indie-pop with a pseudo-sinister bite
LATEST DROP: Emerson Snowe's Splatterpunk (EP out now via Liberation)

What’s your current go-to guitar?
My current guitar, which I just purchased, is a Gretsch G5422G 12-string. As far as recording for Emerson Snowe’s Splatterpunk, it was written and recorded with a very, very cheap nylon-stringed acoustic, a Washburn acoustic, a Rickenbacker 4003 bass and a Roland Alpha Juno synth. There are no electric guitars at all – for lead lines I play a low octave of the lead on the nylon, and then the same an octave above. I usually chuck them under the lead vocals, too, to follow along. As far as the new guitar goes, I only just purchased it from Reverb. I came across it as I love the sound of Gretsches and have always wanted my own hollowbody. I saw a photo of Michael Nesmith with his 12 string Gretsch and fell in love with it instantly. So I did some research and came across the G5422G model, and it was beautiful. I own it in the walnut stain, although it is a lot more red than in the images – which I'm very happy with.

How did you initially fall in love with the instrument?
I had never owned, or even played, a 12-string. I wanted to push myself to experiment with new sounds, and stream more away from the nylon acoustic lead lines I played for both releases. My first guitar was that "very, very cheap" nylon I mentioned earlier. It had been lying in my parents' garage since I was ten or so. When I was 22, I picked it up one day because I wanted to just play and not get overstimulated and anxious with the heap of gear and pedals I had owned leading up to that point. I noticed I had way too much equipment, and when I have a lot of equipment around me I get easily overwhelmed with it all – I find it hard to even write something genuine. My first electric was a Squier Stratocaster in sunburst – I remember being bummed out about that colour because I wanted it in red! The next guitar after that was a Sunburst Telecaster. I seemingly didn’t mind the colour so much then, I guess... Not sure what happened. 

What inspires you as a player?
My main influence now is just simplicity. For a long time I was into jazz chords and all that kind of stuff, and then it just got too much – I couldn’t concentrate on, or actually finish, a track. So I wanted to go completely minimal and simple. My love of Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair and Johnny Thunders' later acoustic albums, and Lou Reed, really grounded me again. 

Are you much of a gear nerd?
I never really was able to focus on specific gear. I definitely had a lot of strange pedals – a lot of delays, reverbs and heavy fuzz pedals – but the friends I had around me seemed to know everything when it came to specs, and what was the best and what was the worst. I was always the guy – even in school – that just wanted to trust my own ears when it came to sounds. Even with guitars, I would buy cheap $200-to-$500 Squier Jags, Teardrops, all that kind of stuff. Eventually my guitars and my mixing desk got stolen one night, so that probably had a lot to do with being forced to work with the bare minimum. Everyone should get all their gear stolen at some point I think! That’s a joke... Maybe.

Do you have any ‘white whales’?
Ever since I first saw the image of Lou Reed sitting and holding his Country Gentleman, I've wanted one of those. Unfortunately, though, those guitars are expensive as hell. Maybe it’s nice having some kind of dream guitar, though, and not already owning it. You need something to look forward to.

What would your signature model look like?
To be honest, it would probably just be a small nylon acoustic in black, with decent pickups. On the other hand, it would be a country gentleman in red. Maybe hit me up in a few years and I’ll have some knowledge about actual specs. 

If you could jam with any guitarist, dead or alive...
Johnny Thunders and Daniel Johnston, just for the experience of being in the same room as both of them. I can’t even imagine what it would be like. Juan Wauters, Kim Fowley... Kim would probably just tell me how shit I am. 

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Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Their bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (on which they also serve as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Their go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, they only picked up after they’d joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped them see the light…