Guitar Heroes

St vincent

Annie Clark is considered one of the most unique and influential guitarists in music today, with a style and sound unlike any other in modern pop. We take a look at the history, playing style and gear used by Annie as part of the Grammy award winning St Vincent.

Posted: 23th November 2020

History

Annie Clark (known professionally as St Vincent) is originally from Oklahoma, before moving to Dallas, Texas with her family at the age of 7. She started playing guitar at 12 years old and worked as a roadie in her teens for her aunt and uncle, professional jazz musicians Tuck & Patti. She participated in theatre and her school’s jazz band before attending Berklee College of Music for three years, dropping out to pursue a music career away from some of the more unvarying, rigid structures found in music schools.

Image courtesy of guitar.co.uk

Following this, Annie joined the Polyphonic Spree and later joined Sufjan Stevens’ touring band in 2006. That same year she began recording under the name St Vincent and released her first album ‘Marry Me’ in 2007, which received positive comments from critics. Her following album ‘Actor’ was also well received and reached #9 on the Billboard charts. It’s here that Annie’s career began to snowball, with the appearance of TV, soundtrack and other collaborative opportunities. 3 albums later and St Vincent has established herself as one of the most celebrated alternative artists in music, becoming the first solo female artist to win a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album in 20 years.

Playing Style

Clark’s playing style is incredibly unique, with complex, discordant and angular sounds. Her understanding of theory from Berklee combined with her love for a wide array of music such as Metallica, David Bowie, Slayer and Kate Bush helped create a highly expressive and distinctive playing style. In addition she also studied with Professor of Guitar Lauren Passarelli. Guitarists such as Robert Fripp of King Crimson can be heard in her playing style, breaking from the expected melody lines and finding something completely original.

In 2014 when asked about her unique sound Annie explained “In some ways I feel very reverent about guitar. I love it so much. But I also don’t care about it being a guitar or sounding like a guitar.” which probably best explains her distinctive approach to the instrument.

The below Noisey interview with Annie showcases how she creates some of her unique sounds.

Gear Used

Annie Clark released the St Vincent signature guitar in 2016 with Ernie Ball Music Man. It celebrates Clark’s individuality with its unique shape and aesthetic. The guitar is ergonomic and was designed to be easier to play based on her needs. Key considerations for the design were providing higher access to frets and a considerably lighter weight than most guitars. It’s available either with three mini humbucker pickups or two full size humbuckers.

Alongside her signature she also plays a 1967 Harmony Bobcat, Music Man Albert Lee and 1980 Hagstrom Swede. Clark uses an array of different pedals, including large space reverbs, fuzzes and phase shifters, pairing these with American-style combo amplifiers or digital rack processors.