Some musicians have so much energy and stage presence that you don’t mind if they’re not the best. And some musicians are so good that you don’t care if the just stand there on stage. But once in a while you get someone who has boundless energy and stage presence, and the absolute talent on their instrument to back it all up, and you can’t help but be a fan. You’ve found Kristen Capolino.
Kristen Capolino is beyond an up-and-comer. This singer, songwriter, and guitarist brings it with everything she does, and she reflects the pure love of music every time she smiles onstage, which is every time she’s on stage.
I sit with Kristen and we talk about string mishaps.
RRX: You have an explosive amount of energy on stage. It’s really infectious, and that’s from sitting here on the computer watching you play on YouTube. It’s amazing. I imagine it’s something people expect of your shows. Is it, then, tougher, when you’re wiped out physically, but you still have a show to play? Where do you pull the reserves from?
KC: There have definitely been times when I’ve had to do shows when I was really tired or even sick, but the power of connecting with an audience during a show really is amazing! I remember when I was a kid, I was watching an interview with Albert Collins, and he talked about how performing “gets rid of all that tiredness you had”. He was absolutely right! I just can’t help but have a blast when I perform in front of a crowd and bring joy to people through music. Seeing the smile on people’s faces makes me feel like I can do anything no matter how tired I might be. A few years ago, I got really sick, but I knew the show must go on. I felt so unwell that I loaded up on DayQuil before we started the show, and I started to wonder how I was going to get through the night. I got up there and had so much fun! I didn’t feel sick at all, and we played for at least 2 hours! I was definitely feeling loopy from the DayQuil (laughs), but the energy of the crowd is truly what got me through. Music has the power to heal people, and it will give you energy even if you went a whole night without sleep! Who needs caffeine when you have rock and roll??
RRX: I see you playing a Flying V guitar a lot. Would you consider it your signature guitar? And since you do play other guitars, you probably have the right guitar on hand for whatever occasion strikes. Can you tell us about a few of your guitars, their significance to you, or maybe why you would use one over the other?
KC: I would definitely say that the Flying V is my signature guitar. My dad got me hooked on them at a young age when he had his black left-handed Gibson Flying V rebuilt for a small right-handed guitarist. It’s adorable! When I’m at home writing and recording, I often play my Hamer Tele. I love how it has that single coil tone, but the neck feels so nice, and the scale length works for my small hands. As much as I love my V’s, they’re not very comfortable to play while sitting down. I also enjoy my red Gibson Les Paul Studio. He was the very first “real” guitar that my parents gave me when I was 10 years old so he will always be special. Another special guitar that I own is my PRS Al Di Meola Prism that Paul Reed Smith gave to me at NAMM 11 years ago. Such a gorgeous guitar! When I want to play outside on a beautiful day or work on some song writing, I often play my Taylor Doyle Dykes acoustic. It has such a beautiful tone, and the neck is very comfortable and thin, especially for an acoustic guitar. It’s one the smoothest playing acoustics I have tried so far. I am currently on the hunt for a Hamer Stratocaster for when I need that jingly tone for my songs.
RRX: I heard that you spend your time between Woodstock and Nashville. Those two places are both highly meaningful from the perspective of music. Do you have different mindsets when you’re in Woodstock versus Nashville? Obviously, Woodstock is home base, but is it more than that when you put a guitar in your hand?
KC: I will never forget the wonderful time I had working down in Nashville. I met and worked with such kind and talented people, and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I feel that working down there helped me mature as a songwriter and a singer especially. My producer, Kenny Greenberg, really helped me push the limits of my voice. During that time, I met my vocal coach, Diane Sheets, who has worked with some amazing bands and artists, such as Little Big Town and Natalie Grant. She definitely helped me sing with more confidence and style, and she’s a sweetheart as well! I loved how going down there to work with top notch musicians made me push myself as an artist. As much as I loved working with these awesome people, I soon learned that the music industry wasn’t quite what I thought. I really wanted to remain true to myself and have full control of my music so I started a series of concerts here in NY called Mondial. We often performed at Daryl’s House in Pawling, which is such a beautiful venue. It’s such a pleasure to work with professionals who make the process so easy and fun. For the Mondial Series we have a different special guest for each show, and the full concerts are all available through my website, Kristencapolino.com. We’ve had some amazing guests so far, such as Bernie Marsden of Whitesnake and Billy Sheehan of Talas. I have to say I’m having such a blast doing these Mondial concerts as well as music videos of my new songs. I have Mike Sorrentino on drums, on the bass I have Ted Nugent’s bassist, Greg Smith, and on rhythm guitar I have Desiree Bassett. I’m so thankful to be working with such killer players who are also wonderful people.
RRX: Everybody that has something to say about you says something about how genuine and heartfelt, how positive you are. When I listen to your songs, I hear someone who’s tough, someone with an edge. Do you think it easier or harder to write tough, sharp-edged songs when you’re such a heartfelt and positive person?
KC: Even though I’m usually an upbeat and positive person, I’ve always loved songs that are intense and emotional. When I was young, I would often listen to Empty Rooms by Gary Moore and cry. It’s amazing how musicians like Gary can have such power over one’s emotions through their music. I try to always keep my songs positive, but I enjoy writing songs where I can really dig in and play aggressively. It’s definitely fun to have an alter ego while on stage.
RRX: You’ve gotten tons of accolades for your work. And it isn’t just from the who’s who of opinion makers. You have a lot of accolades from fans, and you’ve put them on your website alongside the professional accolades, which I think is cool. This question may be obvious, but how does it feel to get accolades from fans as opposed to “big names”?
KC: I There is nothing better than bringing joy to people through music. My favorite part of a show is getting to chat with fans and even meet new people afterwards. It makes me feel so good to inspire the younger generation especially. I recently connected with a guitar class from the West Humber C. I. school in Canada. These kids are just so kind and talented! I did a few Zoom calls with the students these last few months, and it was so much fun to answer their questions and connect with them. Each student sent me a beautiful thank you note and even put together a school project about me. I also love performing at the Westchester Allstars Christmas For Wounded Veterans concerts. It’s just such an honor to perform for our veterans and to be able to chat with them after the show. I remember meeting one veteran who was overcoming PTSD and some terrible injuries. He told me how much I inspire him and that he wants to start playing guitar again. It was so exciting to see him improve each year we did the show. He is so much healthier now and has since been playing guitar. I just love meeting and connecting with my fans!
RRX: Speaking of “big names,” Al Di Meola said about you that, “She represents the future of the instrument.” That is a very big name saying a very cool thing. And from what I’ve heard, nothing but the truth. That seems like a lot, to be the future of the instrument. Do you accept that? And if so, where would you like to take the instrument?
KC: It was certainly an honor to receive such an incredible compliment from one of my biggest idols. My dad got me hooked on Al Di Meola when I was little, and I would often fall asleep at night to his beautiful songs. I never would’ve dreamt of getting to meet or even play with Al so I will never forget the wonderful times we had. Regarding where I would like music to go in the future, I think we need to bring back those epic guitar solos and music that is played from the heart. We need more musicians who set a positive example for our younger generation, and I’m doing my best to play this role.