Tone Talk with Kyshona

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Kyshona has always lent her voice and music to those that feel they have been silenced or forgotten. She began her career as a music therapist, writing her first songs with her patients–the students and inmates under her care. She soon found the need to write independently and find her own voice, and endeavor which led her to the fertile ground of the Nashville creative community and songwriting culture.

Since then, she has learned how to balance her music career with her passion to heal the hurting. Audiences will find a common thread of empowerment, overcoming adversity, and finding hope in her work. On February 28, 2020, Kyshona will release her new LP Listen, co-produced with Andrija Tokic (St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Alabama Shakes, Hurray For The Riff Raff) and recorded mostly at his famed Nashville studio The Bomb Shelter. Within the grooves of its 10 tracks, Kyshona blends roots, rock, R&B, and folk with lyrical prowess to uplift the marginalized and bring awareness to the masses. It’s for every silent scream, every heavy load, every fearful thought, and the simmering sense of anger that the silenced, the lost, and the forgotten try to hide from the world. After her powerful performances, concertgoers often ask, “What can I do?” Her response? “Listen.”

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

I think of tone as a voice. I’ve always felt that my guitar tone should be something that resonates within me. Literally. I like feel the vibrations from the guitar surrounding me from where the guitar sits on my womb to how it hits my ears on stage. I’ve definitely locked in my tone preference over the years. I love a warm, dark, slightly gritty guitar tone. I think of it as an extension of the place that I like to sing from. My voice is able to sit in that space a bit better. It’s amazing how hard it can be for me to sing at times when I am dialed-in to a setting that is too bright or even too distorted.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

My guitars of choice currently are the Epiphone Sheraton II and the Takamine EF360SC TT (Thermal Top Series) with a cool tube preamp. The Sheraton is a lot of fun to play. It’s reminiscent of a vintage archtop with its wide neck and that makes it super fun for me to work up and down the fretboard. I can definitely dig in on my bassline riffs on this guitar as well.

The Takamine keeps surprising me. I’m pretty rough on guitars with the amount of touring that I do (and I’m a hard strummer, too). I also play in a lot of different climates and predicaments. The Takamine (I call it Tyrone) tunes right up and holds no matter what altitude or humidity I’m playing in. The cool tube gives me an extra bump of low end and thickness that I love. Pair that with my LR Baggs DI and I can dial my acoustic in precisely the way I like it without having to fight…er… go back and forth…with the sound person. When I’m at home and in my creative space, I usually write on my two old ladies: a Harmony Sovereign Conversion and a Supro Archtop Conversion by Scott Baxendale. I love writing on these guitars because they’ve got stories in them. My more soulful/groovy songs I’ve written were written on the Harmony Sovereign.

As for amps, I’m loving my Fender Blues Jr. when I am on the road. At home, I play on a Peavey Delta Blues 15’’ Tube amp. I really enjoy playing the Peavey because it has really great tremolo and my guitars SING on that thing. Talk about warmth. My archtops sound so amazing on that amp. The Fender Blues Jr. doesn’t have tremolo like the Peavey, but I find it still packs a pretty big punch. I like to keep my tone pretty fat on the Blues Jr., and it can still sound so sweet and warm on the ballads as well. Also, it is easier to travel with if I ever have the band in tow.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

Recording live either full band or with just vocal and instrument is definitely my favorite. For me, I feel like it captures my most natural performance of the song. If it’s not perfect, that’s fine. I really like to get the raw emotion of a lyrical moment. If I record tracks separately, I find that I get caught up in perfection and I lose a bit of the heart that a lyric may need.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

My songs have a lot of dynamic range so it is very important that I get a good monitor mix. I spend time when I’m at home or in rehearsal spaces really dialing in my monitor preferences. This way, when I’m on the road, I know exactly what to ask for. During soundcheck, I also love to invite and encourage the sound person to become the extra member of our band and play with vocal effects for me and my background vocalists. I find that when I invite the sound person in, we all have a super fun experience playing off of one another. When I can tell the sound person is riding my notes with reverb or delay, that makes me relax even more and I feel like I’m playing a fun game of “catch me if you can” with them. If the band and I are having fun, the sound person is having fun, therefore the audience is having fun.

What does your practice consist of?

Touring. Haha. Sadly, practice isn’t as consistent for me when I’m on the road. The stage turns into a practice of performance. When I am in a season of writing and sitting still, I really work on vocals and increasing my vocal range. Guitar-wise, I practice playing in new tunings and playing around with different riffs and finger positions.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

I would encourage them to really zone in on what their sound is and what they need to do to achieve that. Also, knowing what your mission as an artist helps to keep you on track creatively. When you are confident in who you are as an artist and what sound you want to represent you, it’s harder to get sidetracked and pulled off course.

Photo provided by management 

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