Rock musician and metal guitarist, Ariel Bellvalaire, fuses pop, rock, and metal to create her signature sound. Hailing from Windsor, Connecticut, Bellvalaire is widely known for her intricate guitar solos and original music. Not only is she a talented musician and songwriter, but she also made her Broadway debut in 2014, along with playing guitar for the “Dearly Beloved Prince Tribute” show in New York City. She’s also been seen in a variety of commercials playing guitar and has toured with Nik West throughout the US, including Asia and Europe.
Bellvalaire has been writing and recording for her new EP, due out soon, which she recorded in Music City Nashville. She was also featured in the empowering all-female “Femmology” (October 2017), playing guitar and participating in aerial acrobatics. For our metal issue, Ariel spoke with us about the writing and recording process of her soon-to-be-released EP, recording in Nashville, her recent experience with “Femmology,” her music favorites, and her most coveted gear.
You’ve been recording your new EP, featuring a lot of new music. Please share with us the writing and recording process for it.
Writing and recording this EP was such an incredible experience! Everything was written and recorded in Nashville with a great team of producers and studio musicians. My team and I started the writing process on some songs with just an acoustic guitar and some melodies. When the songs were written and ready to be recorded, we went into the studio with some of Nashville’s best session players, played the acoustic reference of the song and told them we wanted a pop-rock sound. They would listen once and then we would go into the live room. Within a few takes, we had a full-on live pop-rock version of my songs! This was the first time recording original music with a live band all at once. In past recordings, pretty much all the tracks were recorded separately. From the second the drummer counted off the song, I was blown away that the songs we were playing together were mine!
Speaking of your upcoming EP, you and your team recorded in Nashville, which seems to be the place many people are heading and going to record their music. What is it about Nashville that appeals to you the most?
Nashville is such an incredible place for music. You can’t go longer than 5 minutes without hearing a guitar somewhere. That being said, the talent in Nashville will blow you away. The studio musicians and producers there can play any genre amazingly well and are able to understand exactly what the artist wants to sound like, and they definitely delivered. My personal favorite thing about Nashville is that THEY ARE NOT AFRAID OF GUITAR! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten into a session to record one of my songs and the producer starts talking about how guitar is out-dated and refuses to bring out and layer my guitar parts in the tracks other than the solos and as a guitarist, I’m never happy with my songs unless they’re guitar-heavy! In Nashville, you tell them you want commercial songs with a ton of guitar and all live instruments, and that’s exactly what you get!
You’ve also been touring, and have had multiple television appearances. What do you most enjoy about touring, and is there anything you dislike about touring?
I absolutely love touring. There is nothing better than traveling around the world and performing on a new stage every night for an energetic audience. The toughest part of touring for me is finishing a show late at night and then having to be up and out super early the next day to catch a plane or be on the bus to another venue. A few hours of sleep at random times of day for long periods of time is definitely a challenge, but it’s all worth it for the rush of performing night after night. By the time you get home from tour, you’re already wanting to leave for another one.
You also were a participant in the female movement, “Femmology,” featuring a full-female cast of musicians, dancers, and aerialists. What was that experience like, and how did it contribute as a creative outlet for you?
“Femmology” was an amazing experience. It was so great seeing all these talented women from all different musical backgrounds coming together and performing these complicated songs and putting our own creative twist on them. “Femmology” was one of my first non-rock gigs where I was the only guitar player. So, I really had to put in a lot of work and time in to learn multiple different genres all at once and make sure I was playing them the way they were meant to be played and not a rock version. It was such a great challenge, and after learning and playing these funk, gospel, and R&B songs, I really felt like my guitar playing was taken to another level and I’ve really grown a love for all these genres! I find myself improvising and writing riffs that I would never have come up with before learning these new styles.
Are there any preferences on which guitars you use while recording in the studio, and while you’re on tour?
Man, I have so many guitars but definitely play favorites for touring! My absolute favorite and go-to guitar is my Fender Stratocaster with double humbuckers and a custom shop neck! There is a Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck pickup in the neck and a Dimarzio distortion pickup in the bridge, so it’s a pretty versatile guitar if you have songs in multiple genres for a show and can only have one guitar. If I have a funk or country gig, I love pulling out my red Tele! She is definitely the prettiest of all my guitars! For studio work, I love to play every single one of my guitars and whatever they have in the studio as well to layer all the different sounds and get a huge wall of guitars!
Ariel’s Music “Favorites”
Who was your first concert, and who has been your favorite so far?
Avril Lavigne was my first concert when I was young, and that was the reason I became a musician! My favorite concert recently was Guns N’ Roses! After playing so many Guns N’ Roses songs with Paradise Kitty (all-female GNR tribute,) we had so much fun watching them on stage and seeing how they transitioned between songs live! I’m so excited to see Nile Rodgers soon, though! He’s one of my favorite guitarists at the moment!
What was your first album on CD and/or vinyl?
Let Go by Avril Lavigne was my first! I was at a gymnastics summer camp when I first heard the song “Complicated” and fell in love with it. That week was my dad’s birthday, so I remember being with my mom shopping for gifts and saw the album and convinced my mom to buy it as a gift for him so I could listen to it … thankfully I’m a better birthday gift giver now! (laughs)
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
This is a hard one!
- Ozzy Osbourne (Blizzard of Ozz has such great guitar solos! Thank you, Randy Rhoads!)
- Chic – Nile Rodgers is just so good!
- Guns N’ Roses
- Michael Jackson
- The 1975 – I love how they have such cool funky guitar riffs and great melodies.
Of all female guitar shredders, who has been the most influential in your songwriting and performing?
Definitely Orianthi. It was really cool seeing a talented woman combine guitar with pop music and hearing a guitar solo on commercial pop radio!
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
I love listening to synth-wave in the background while I’m cooking….shhhhh don’t tell anyone! (laughs) “Dance With the Dead” and “Magic Sword” are some of my favorites to listen to because they have guitar mixed in!
Ariel Bellvalaire Guitar Gear
I have quite a few but here are some of my favorites:
- Fender Stratocaster with double humbuckers
- Fender telecaster limited edition sandblasted ash
- Fender Paramount Acoustic
- Taylor 316ce acoustic
Amps: Fender deluxe reverb
- Fulltone OCD distortion
- Boss ds1x
- Electro Harmonix Canyon pedal delay
- Shure wireless guitar system
- Morley bad horsie wah
Shure SM58 – can’t go wrong with that one!
Dunlop Ultex picks 1.14