Susan Santos: “The wonderful thing about music is that there are always new things to learn... we are the eternal students”

Susan Santos
(Image credit: Press)

Recorded at North Hollywood’s Sound of Pisces Music studio, The LA Sessions EP is Spanish guitarist Susan Santos’ latest deep-dive into rootsy blues. Early singles Dirty Money and Somebody to Love were very much a vintage affair, with a mouthwatering mix of Americana flavors and '60s psychedelia. 

The new tracks were produced by Fabrizio Grassi from Supersonic Blues Machine – the Billy Gibbons-fronted supergroup who chose Santos as the opening act on their last European tour, and even invited her up to jam for her hometown show in Madrid.

There are some great blues tones on your new EP. What gear are we hearing?

“I used a Gibson ES-335, as well as an LsL Telecaster, which got sent through a RedSeven Duality 100 with a 2x12 cab carrying Celestion V30s. I ended up plugging into quite a lot of pedals, like the Homebrew UFO [fuzz and octaver], the Big Joe delay, RedSeven’s Alkemy Overdrive, an MXR Uni-Vibe and a Diamond tremolo. 

“I’ve just started using an Orange Tremlord amp for my live shows and home use, because it has a 30-Watt mode and a 1-Watt mode, which still has a warm tone with a very full body.”

There are a lot of different classic rock influences in your music. Which players inspired you most?

“I’m influenced by a lot of artists, but Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Beatles bring out a smile and make me feel full of energy. 

Artistic evolution is very important, and the wonderful thing about music is that there are always new things to learn… we are the eternal students

“Over the last few months, I’ve been reading music biographies of musicians like Erik Satie, Tom Waits and Ravi Shankar, as well as more Americana, country and soul. I’ve been playing a lot of chicken pickin’ licks and banjo rolls recently, they’re a lot of fun!”

So what would you say are the secrets to playing slide Susan Santos-style?

“I use a ’52 Telecaster with .012-gauge strings raised high up, often in open tunings like G or D, but occasionally standard too. A big part of my slide playing comes down to muting the other strings with my strumming hand, which, in my case, is the left! It’s all about isolating the notes I want to play and controlling the noise with both hands.”

What’s the blues scene like in Madrid?

“I’m from a small city in the southwest of Spain. I came to live in Madrid because it’s the best place in the country if you want to live as a musician. I’ve met some great musicians here. 

“The artistic evolution is very important, and the wonderful thing about music is that there are always new things to learn... we are the eternal students.”

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Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences as a guitar player. He's worked for magazines like Kerrang!Metal HammerClassic RockProgRecord CollectorPlanet RockRhythm and Bass Player, as well as newspapers like Metro and The Independent, interviewing everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handled lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).