Whether they’re a gear nerd or a gear noob, the type of gear an artist uses has a huge impact on their signature sound. In this regular series called My Gear, Noisegate picks the brains of exciting and diverse artists for a behind-the-scenes scoop on their musical set-up…
Emma Russack writes disarming folk-pop songs that are equally direct and simple in their delivery. A songwriter above all things, Emma is one of the musicians that always seems to have a new album coming out. Her prolific output (5 solo albums since 2010, not including another one in the works and multiple collaborations) generally relies upon modest arrangements and instrumentation, so we were very curious to find out about Emma’s relationship with gear…
What music are you making at the moment? Tell us a little bit about your project.
I am just about to finish recording my fifth solo record. I started it at the beginning of last year and have been going into Phaedra Studios intermittently to ‘lay down’ tracks. It has been recorded live and to tape (which is a first for me) and features mainly acoustic guitar, bass, piano and drums (and vocals!). I suppose it sounds fairly folky and stripped back, but not the whole time.
Can you describe your current live set-up? What instruments do you have in your band?
Generally, and depending on how much I’m being paid for the gig, I will have a drummer (Dylan Young), a bass player (Liam Halliwell) and I play guitar and sing. Equipment-wise, I play a Charvel/Jackson Surfcaster through a Fender Blues Jnr amp. I don’t know what everyone else plays in the band because it’s not really the focus.
How does your live set-up differ to your recorded music?
Not a whole lot. I often record my music live and with a band, and the instruments that appear on my records are generally the ones that appear with me on stage. My last solo album ‘Permanent Vacation’ was a little different because I played most of the instruments myself and used some kind of synthesiser thing for the beats. But I’ve moved on from that.
Is your gear integral to your sound?
Not really. For me, it’s all about the performance and the feel of the whole thing – the ‘vibe’. When I tour, I usually borrow someone’s guitar in whatever city I’m in, so I don’t have to pay for extra baggage. It’s risky sometimes (especially if the guitar is really crap and doesn’t like to stay in tune), but ultimately, having the ‘best gear’ is not what playing music is about for me. On the other hand, I do need gear to perform – in the most basic sense. So, it’s fairly integral in that way.
What was the first piece of musical equipment that you ever bought (or came into contact with)?
Hmmm. My parents have an upright piano that I used to play as a kid and then I got an acoustic guitar for Christmas when I was 12 or 13. It was an Ashton. Also, my dad bought me a Zoom pedal at some point too. I wish I still had that.
What is a dream piece of gear that you would love to own?
I would love a Boss tuner. I had one year’s ago and lost it. I’m currently using the GuitarTuna app on my phone and it’s a bit problematic when there are other people playing instruments in the same room. But really, I should just have a decent guitar tuner. So… dream piece of gear? I’ve always wanted a Dan Armstrong Ampeg see-through guitar.
What is coming up for you in the future?
I’ll finish my album. Release it. And go and play overseas in July.