Here at Mojotone, as many of you know, we aim to celebrate hard-working techs, DIYers, and musicians as best we can. Today we’re spending some time with a very hard-working guitarist who has been supporting Mojotone on social media and at gigs by rocking some serious speaker-cabinetry.
Sarah Sheriff is a rippin’ young guitar player based primarily out of Pennsylvania; she knows her tone, knows her gear, and knows her fretboard! Before we dive in, feel encouraged to take a look at her newly revamped website: www.sarahsheriff.com
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so let’s start by finding out how Sarah got started on her epic guitar journey…
“Music has always been a part of my life. When I was two years old, my mother recalls hearing me walk around the house singing Hank Williams’ ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer.’ I became a music sponge and by 7 years old, I had my first guitar, a ¾ sized Harmony from a department store. A few years later, I started private guitar lessons and had a full-sized Epiphone acoustic I picked out because it looked like Steve Wariner’s black Takamine. I had fallen in love with live music and while most of my friends played house and dreamed of a white picket fence, I dreamed of playing a guitar on a stage. It was just one of many ways in which I did not fit in, but I found out MANY years later that my grandmother and great grandmother (who I never knew) were also guitar players! I guess you could say after many generations, being a girl guitarist was just naturally in my DNA!Inspired largely by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Vince Gill, my first real electric guitar was a 1997 Candy Apple Red Fender California Series Stratocaster. For much of my teenage years, I educated the neighborhood on what a Strat sounded like through a Digitech RP-7 multi-effects pedal and Peavey Transtube amp (sorry, neighbors). I continued private guitar lessons every week until I went to Lebanon Valley College and became the first female to declare guitar as their principal instrument within the music program.”
This sounds like someone who is about to live up to their super-awesome name. But we definitely need to know about some of the bands/artists she has jammed with over time, right?
“Throughout my teens I played in a few local garage bands - anything from punk to rock and even ska. I went on a hiatus after graduating college to build a career in web development and digital marketing, but playing guitar is the only thing that has ever really made sense to me, so after a few years, I returned to it by way of my church’s worship team.I consider myself primarily a hired gun. I’ve been called out on adventures all over the country to play guitar with artists on the bill with Carrie Underwood, John Pardi, Jimmie Allen, Parmalee, Sam Grow, William’s Honor, Morgan Wade, Chris Lane, Breland…Currently, I play with two up-and-coming country artists in the central PA region, Grant Bryan and Gillian Smith, but will show up wherever guitar is needed.”
Those are some serious stages to share, no doubt. I think we need to get Sarah down to the Mojotone headquarters for one of our warehouse jam sessions…yes, this is absolutely imperative.
Alright, but what about gear philosophies? With so many avenues for finding one’s sound, how did she get from those earlier days to where she is now?
“I’m endlessly curious, and as much as I laugh about my old multi-effects pedal, the variety offered in that one unit was the beginning of a never-ending tone chase. I’m a devout Kemper user now, and while my tone is much more refined, the endless options at my fingertips can present themselves as both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I can dial in any sound I hear in my head. The curse is that, well, I’m a perfectionist and I try to dial in any sound I hear in my head. My musical tastes have always been fairly eclectic, so I could never settle for one sound anyway. I’m a student of the Marty Stuart way of life – Saturday night rock and roll and Sunday morning praise and worship. Needing drastically different sounds was my primary motivator to move over to a Kemper. With the help of Dr. Kemper himself, Michael Britt, I have been able to unlock a world of tone! I go from classic country dripping with spring reverb, to hard hitting Jason Aldean and back to beautiful ambient reverb/delay trails that fill a sanctuary in just a few clicks. The only missing piece on stage was the experience and sound of an amp pushing air behind me. Enter my Mojotone cabinets!Now I set up my performances through headphones to run direct to front of house, but refine it through a cab - usually a Mojotone West Coast 1x12 Cabinet loaded with a Kemper Kone, or Mojotone 4x12 British Extension cab loaded with Scumbacks if I’m in the mood for building demolition with sheer volume. This gives me the feel of a ‘real’ amp on stage.I find inspiration in a variety of genres and try to develop my own style by studying a variety of artists. I consider my favorite ‘sound’ to be at the intersection of Billy Gibbons and Vince Gill, two highly skilled and disciplined players.”
So much good insight was packed into that one. Sometimes I’m intimidated by how much gear exists out there so my hat really goes off to those brave souls who have the patience and determination to really experiment with all those options to find the exact right sound for their style.
Like any player, I’m sure Sarah runs into her share of walls as far as creativity and motivation are concerned.
I always love hearing how artists overcome these moments of frustration, and Sarah’s answer certainly didn’t disappoint…
“I suspect every artist goes through periods of discouragement, but as a woman in this industry, I often get frustrated at the additional hurdles I have to navigate. Staying true to who I am and making decisions that uphold my values as a Christian woman mean that doors are often closed in front of me. Fortunately, I’ve found the opposite in this business as well, and I’ve learned how important it is to surround myself with those people who support and motivate me. I think that’s probably true for anyone, but especially important for women in music.To stay motivated, I run every morning. While I’m out, I’m constantly listening to music in and out of my comfort zone to stay inspired, aware and educated. Sometimes it’s a playlist of music I need to learn for an upcoming gig, sometimes it’s a mix of my favorite music, and sometimes it’s a totally random shuffle of new music. My running playlists are probably some of the most bizarre mixes of decades and genres floating around on Spotify. To keep my mind healthy, I keep myself in regular rotation on my church’s worship team, even if it means tearing down from a late Saturday gig and driving back into town through the night to make it to church the next morning.”
Rad. Rad. Rad. Okay so we’ve covered a lot in terms of Sarah’s backstory, her gigging history, her gear and tone preferences, and now even her processes for breaking through walls.
We’re about at the end of the line here, but first let’s see what Sarah has cooking for 2022…
“One of the greatest perks of being a musician means that there is never a point at which I achieve mastery. Especially as a hired gun. There is always something new to learn, develop, refine, enhance, etc. My goal this year, and every year, is to constantly learn and grow as an artist and to keep stretching myself into new territory both musically and physically.So far it looks like I’ll be bouncing around between central PA, Nashville, Los Angeles and the New Jersey beaches (and hopefully everywhere in between!). Both artists I’ve been working with are working on new music for 2022, so I’m hoping to be a part of more co-writes and see more studio time this year!”
We want to thank Sarah for taking the time to talk with us, and for actively supporting our business over the years. Make sure you check out her Instagram account and give her a follow: @sarah_sheriff on Instagram.