I’m Katy Guillen (pronounced Ghee-En), guitarist and one half of the duo Katy Guillen & The Drive along with drummer Stephanie Williams. We started playing and writing music as a duo in 2018 and worked on our home recording skills during COVID to release our first EP Dream Girl in 2020. We followed with our second EP Battles in 2021. We are excited to premiere our first single “Set In Stone” from our debut album Another One Gained on Guitar Girl Magazine.
“The song’s vigorous structure and deliberate rhythms convey that feeling of defeat and darkness, but with a sense of resolution and surrender through the guitar solo – a favorite moment on the record for me. While it started on shaky ground, coming out on the other side meant starting over and building something new.” – Katy Guillen
Tell us about the inspiration behind your new music.
The new music comes from a load of change and transition, and is an effort to re-identify musically and start fresh. Many of the songs on the album were a result of a time when I found myself rebuilding and figuring out next steps in my career and personal life. There were moments of anxiety and fear during that time, but the songs on the new record ultimately reflect facing all of that instability head on and turning it into something positive.
What was the songwriting and recording process?
The songs came together over a couple of years, I started writing them in 2018, and finalized them with Steph during the pandemic. We had so much time to learn about home recording in 2020, so we spent months recording demos in our basement- working on ideas for the songs whether it was finding the right tempo, production ideas, hooks, recording techniques, etc. Then we sent our demos to engineer and producer Kevin Ratterman and did some virtual pre-production with him before we made the trip out to his studio last spring (2021). We tracked 15 songs over the course of about 12 days. Steph laid down drums, percussion, and some bass; and I recorded a variety of guitar tracks, bass, keys, and vocals. Kevin layered in various key tracks and analog programmed sounds. The whole process was really efficient partially because we had done a lot of planning with Kevin before the studio, but that allowed us to try various layers and arrangement ideas with him in a way that felt carefree and organic.
There’s something to relate to in this album if you’ve been through the loss of a significant long term relationship or the end of a major chapter in your professional life, or struggled with depression or anxiety. But there are moments of silver lining throughout it. Making this album was a therapeutic and necessary task for both of us, so we could enter a new, happier and healthier place together. I hope listeners experience some form of release from it as well.
When did you first pick up the guitar, and what drew you to that instrument?
I started playing guitar when I was 8. My parents got me a three-quarter classical guitar, and once I’d practiced enough they got my first electric guitar. I started on piano, which is where I found my ears, and then quickly picked up guitar. Both my mom and grandpa played guitar, so it was in my genes. I was drawn to music early on and somehow knew I wanted to play guitar at a young age. I was a very shy kid, quiet and introverted, and playing the guitar made me feel strong and like I had something to share in.
Speaking of instruments, what brand(s) do you play and why?
I play G&L Guitars. They sent me a CLF Research Espada about a year ago, and I’ve been getting to know it ever since. So far it has worked great with my setup (Hiwatt Bulldog dual channel combo amp) and is working really well with the new songs. It allows a wide range of tone and the ability to hit a thicker boosted voice or a mellower tone with the series/parallel switch feature. My introduction to G&L was the ASAT, similar to a Fender Telecaster. I played the ASAT for about 8 years (still do) and now the Espada is my newest guitar venture. I also really love my 1965 Kay Vanguard guitar. I got it at Fanny’s House Of Music in 2018 and just fell in love with how it plays, and the gold foil pickups are some of my favorite sounding pickups ever.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I grew up playing at blues jams in Kansas City and learned how to play music from many KC blues musicians- Cotton Candy, D.C. Bellamy, Baby Lee, Phil Callier, Bill Dye, John Paul Drum, and Mama Ray to name a few. I loved Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton, and soon started getting into Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt. Those are my roots, and since then I have explored and loved all kinds of music. I studied flamenco guitar for a few years and found a strong connection to the art form. I got into artists like Moraíto Chico and Tomatito in high school. Some of my current favorite bands are Heartless Bastards, Brittany Howard, Band of Skulls, Lilly Hiatt, White Denim, and Janelle Monae. Erika Wennerstrom, Patty Griffin, and Adrianne Lenker are some of my favorite songwriters at the moment.
Will you be touring in support of your new music?
Yes, we will be playing shows in support of the new album this summer and fall. We’re really looking forward to bringing the new music on the road with us. We just played Nashville and the response to the new songs has been awesome. We’re excited to share them in more cities this year!
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