Celisse delivers a message as fierce as her guitar licks with new single Freedom

You might remember Celisse from her headline-grabbing performance with Lizzo on Saturday Night Live, where she paid tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, one of the original purveyors of rock ’n’ roll guitar playing. Now, the Gibson-toting six-stringer is here to make her own mark on music history with Freedom, released today in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

While we’ve seen plenty of standout guitar moments from Celisse in performances with the likes of Melissa Etheridge, Jon Baptiste and Trey Anastasio, Freedom confirms the California guitarist as a solo force to be reckoned with.

The track’s lyrical intensity, which addresses failures in the government’s handling of systemic racism, is matched by Celisse’s impassioned vibrato in the chorus, the frenzied pitch-shifted lines in the verses, and the tonesome, Santana-esque solo in the track’s closing moments.

"For tracking the guitar sounds I used a Menatone Thundering Revival Distortion, Chase Bliss Tonal Recall Delay and Keeley Electronics Monterey on the effects side," she reveals. "Those effects paired with my ’63 Custom SG through the Benson Vincent amp live will make for the huge sound that this anthem deserves!"

While the song's conception is rooted in tragedy, Celisse hopes it can unite people to fight for a common cause and universal right.

“I wrote the song Freedom immediately after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling both lost their lives within 24 hours in July of 2016,” she says.

“Along with millions of people, I watched video footage of these unarmed black men losing their lives in the most horrific ways. The truth that these unjust deaths revealed about our country, including the systemic failings of our criminal justice system, became my personal call-to-action.

“Now, almost four years later, too little has been done and the story remains the same. With the horrific and unjust killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade weighing heavily on our hearts and minds, it is time to release Freedom as a rallying cry and a call to action to stand up and fight for our freedom.”

All proceeds from Freedom will go to The Movement 4 Black Lives and Campaign Zero. For more information, head over to celissehenderson.com/freedom.

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.