A couple of weeks ago, I was able to catch up with a new artist named Ariel Bellvalaire. In this interview, I asked Ariel about her amazing guitar playing abilities, what keeps her motivated as a musician and a songwriter, as well as the Mad Max-inspired music video for her single, “Elastic.” Ariel’s new single will be released this Friday, June 25th, with the EP to follow shortly thereafter.
Thank you, Ariel, for allowing me to chat with you today. Tell me a little bit about how you learned to play guitar and what you did to keep improving your craft. Especially during this time period during the pandemic and everything else.
Yeah! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! So originally, when I started doing music, I wanted to be a singer, specifically Avril Lavigne. Not like Avril Lavigne…I really just wanted to BE Avril, which is pretty funny. So I started singing in a kid band, and my mom put me in voice lessons. The studio I took lessons at (Summit Studios in Manchester Connecticut) had a program called rock band jam, where they take a students playing different instrument, put a band together and coach the group as a band. I had started singing in the band, did my first show, and fell in love with being on stage. It was just all over after that. (Laughter) And then I think the next summer we lost our guitar player to…I want to say soccer, or another band, or whatever kids do. And I was like, Okay, well, I’ve been playing guitar a little bit, I know the chords I’ve been taking lessons…I’ll just do it, I’ll do both. So the second I really started playing guitar, I had to learn how to multi-task with singing and playing so I could start performing with my band. Just having to learn songs and knowing that you’re going to be on stage in front of people, made me practice so much harder. I had to prepare for full sets and make sure the songs sounded good enough for not only performances but for rehearsals too. So that really kept me on my toes! When I started, it was more of a pop-rock thing where I was doing Green Day songs, Avril songs, and my own original songs that were kind of in the same genre too. Then one day, I heard “Crazy Train.” And that intro just completely blew my mind. They got to the solo and I was like, okay, it’s over. It is over. I have to do that. So I did. It took me a while to learn the solo. And the first time I performed the solo with the band, the audience was silent for a minute. I was like, “Oh, jeez, I know I missed a few notes…But was it really that bad?” And then they just started screaming, and were like, “Oh, my God, a little girl played that solo! That’s awesome!” It was crazy. So knowing that there weren’t many girls that did lead electric guitar completely fueled my fire. After that I was like, “Okay, I have to keep learning song after song that have cool guitar parts.” I was completely obsessed. I’ve taken lessons too but it was really learning all these crazy hard songs that kept my skills up and got me to keep going. I’ve been doing that ever since. In addition to my shows, I would get hired to play with other people too which helped me learn other genres of music besides rock. Over the pandemic, since I had so much time, I just wanted to learn everything. So, I started going to a music college (The Musicians Institute) and was learning everything I possibly could, while still keeping up with regular song learning.
Sounds like a pretty intense background of what you did to prepare yourself for today. So, that’s really cool to hear about. I’m glad that you were able to hone in on some of the great bands like Green Day, and obviously Ozzy Osbourne, and stuff that enhanced your abilities. That’s awesome!
It was so cool! When you’re a kid, just learning music you like can lead to becoming obsessed with your instrument. All you want to do is just keep learning all of these new things. I’m so glad I started early!
That’s great! So, I saw your latest music video for the track “Elastic.” It includes some amazing stunts, all while playing the guitar. It’s amazing to watch! What went into the creation of this music video?
So this video is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done. At least as of now! I was doing gymnastics with my guitar from day one since I was a gymnast growing up. So naturally, we wanted the video to match the crazy performing that I do anyway. The director of the Elastic Video, Hunter McCann was like, “What if we have you riding on the back of a moving motorcycle?” I was just like, “Oh my god, that sounds terrifying! I’m in.” That scene actually turned out to be my favorite part of the whole video. We drove out to the desert at three in the morning because we wanted to get the first light. We really wanted to start filming at five AM. So, we’re freezing in the desert and then the sun finally comes up. There was only four of us doing the shoot, which is pretty amazing. We had me, the motorcycle driver, the director, and the videographer. So, to get this scene, we had me on the motorcycle with a wireless in-ear monitor pack and so I could hear everything and a Sprinter van driving alongside of us with the camera pointing out the side door. Once we started it was actually not as scary as I thought and was a blast! We did take after take just to get every angle, and it was insane. In the best possible way. I remember there was like a couple of parachuters in the desert that morning who were probably looking down at us thinking, “ummmmmm there’s a girl with a guitar on a motorcycle…what is going on??!”
It’s kind of like that scene in Mad Max (the new one) where that crazy guitar player is playing along with all the cars moving along. It kind of reminded me of that type of scene in the desert!
Yes!!! Total Mad Max! Everything else in the video was pretty normal I guess compared to that scene. We wanted to showcase all the daredevil stunts I could do with a guitar and we definitely did it! (Laughter)
Yeah, you all definitely captured it for sure. So, I read that you had a lot of love for specifically Fender guitars. What specifically makes you so attracted to this brand?
Oh, man, I can’t even tell you how much I love my Strat! My first guitar actually was a Schecter though. I didn’t really know much about electric guitars when I picked it out. I just liked the shape of it but never really liked the feel of it much. Shortly after my dad got me a Fender Squire and I loved that guitar. Eventually, after playing in a band, consistently practicing and getting better, my guitar teacher told me I was ready for a full on Stratocaster so I went to Guitar Center with him and my dad, and started test playing every guitar in there. There was one guitar in particular that felt amazing in my hands, and it’s actually the same gold guitar in the video. I hated the color at first because I was the little girl who thought she needed a pretty sparkly
guitar (Laughter) but something about that guitar just felt so good. After playing it for a year, it became the love of my life and I was sold on Fender.
Sounds like it has like its own personality! The way you’ve spoke about what made you want to choose that one.
Man, she really does have a personality! She’s like a part of me and has a name too! Originally was it was Tarie but I loved her so much my friends kept referring to her as my “bae” so now her name is Bae. (Laughter)
Awesome! How would you describe your songwriting style? How has that kind of changed over time?
It’s actually kind of stayed pretty consistent. I tend to write about relationships and love guitar driven sounds. As I get better at guitar, I love adding new techniques, chords and cool riffs to the music. Being a punk rocker and a huge Avril fan out the gate, my original melodies sounded pop/rock/punk from day one and still are today. I love learning other genres of music and finding a way to incorporate the newly learned techniques and chords into my songs as well while still keeping the pop rock feel.
I understand you’re recording your upcoming EP in Nashville. Is that correct?
Yes! I gotta say Nashville recording is such a different and cool experience. Many of my previous recording sessions, programmed drums and guitar plug ins were used whereas in Nashville, you have a live band. You give the session musicians a chart with just with the chords, tempo and what sound you’re looking for. They count it off, and you’re listening to your song live. I was so shocked to hear how incredible my songs sounded live that I almost missed my cue to sing!
Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me since Nashville is known for being such a big music city, in general. But to hear that firsthand, that’s pretty amazing. Let’s talk about the upcoming EP. How’s it been coming together? And who are you collaborating with on it?
I’m working with a label in Nashville called Fate Entertainment and have been working with the writers on the label as well as the producer on the team. We consistently continue to create pop rock songs that really showcase my guitar playing since the guitar is like an extension of me!
That’s great! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the material. What are some of the artists that you admire? You talked a little bit about Avril and Green Day, but what other artists both past and present that you look up to? And what particular attributes are you drawn to that may provide your own type of inspiration?
I’m really drawn to amazing live performances too. The music is a huge part of it of course, and anything that’s guitar pop-rock driven, I’m automatically drawn to. With Green Day, I always loved them but I didn’t really love them until I saw them live. I was completely blown away with his (Billie’s) stage presence. When I watched him I said, “Okay, that is a rock star. That’s what I want to do.” Just seeing his love and passion for music while having such a distinct pop rock sound completely sealed the deal for me. That being said, one of my other current favorite artists is Pink right now. She’s just so good! She can sing incredibly well, has such catchy songs, and she also does the aerial gymnastics.
Yeah, I saw that when I watched the Grammys, and she did that aerial performance…
Yeah, she’s doing it with her daughter now! That was such an incredible performance and both she and her daughter were incredible!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with your audience today, before your EP comes out?
Well, come to mention it…I do have a very exciting announcement! The next song is coming out June 25. It fits in under the same umbrella as “Elastic.” It’s pop-rock, but it has a little bit of a ska feel because another big influence was No Doubt. The music video so far has been amazing and my guinea pig, Gucci, plays a big role. He’s a total rockstar! He was so good in the “Elastic” music video that we had to have him in the next video too.
That’s a great way to keep your audience engaged, and it sounds like an awesome project. Well, it was great talking with you today, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the record.
Thank you so much. This was so fun!