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"It’s hard to be objective talking about myself, but I’ve always been personally drawn to the raw vocal quality in the artists I listen to." - Troy Redfern

Posted: April 16, 2024
I think there are some great teachers out there who can help you access different timbres withing your vocal cords, but the underlying character will always be unique to the individual due to the specific nature of the vocal tract shapes. Personally, I’m self-taught, and started signing out of necessity like a lot of guitarists do. Over the years I’ve found certain keys that work for me really well.

Photo credit: Jason Bridges

Rawness - A 'raw' voice is basically an unrefined voice, though I don't mean 'unrefined' in a pejorative sense. Rather it sounds like your voice isn't smooth but has a sort of inherent grit to the tonality.

You hear this term used all the time. Especially on the T.V. shows that judge undiscovered talent, like “The Voice” and “American Idol”. Some of the overused terms used to describe contestants is their “raw” ability.

I am willing to guarantee, that 90% of the audience in attendance, and watching it on T.V. will not comprehend what the meaning of “raw” is when applying it to singing talent. Guitar Thrills Magazine will always jump at the chance to interview artists with a raw voice quality.

The 4 Most Important Elements of a Raw Voice

  • Resonance. Resonance is defined as “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Reverberation is important to your voice because at its root, your voice is a series of vocal-cord vibrations.
  • Relaxation.
  • Rhythm.
  • Pacing.

Here are some of the examples of a raw voice quality:

Artists with a raw voice quality

  1. Kurt Cobain
  2. Janis Joplin
  3. Rod Stewart – Can manipulate his raw talent to accommodate any song.
  4. Louis Armstrong
  5. Liam Gallagher
  6. John Lennon
  7. Brian Johnson / Probably the most underrated lead singer.
  8. Jim Morrison
  9. Axl Rose
  10. Bob Seger – One of my top favorite artists of all time.

We would be doing our readers a disservice, by not introducing them to one of the raw talents that have joined us for an interview for the May issue of Guitar Thrills Magazine. His name is Troy Redfern.

Troy Redfern combines the rawness of Hound Dog Taylor, the free-form approach of Sonny Sharrock, the firebrand playing of Johnny Winter and the technique of Dave Hole, mixed with the ghost of Elmore James'.

His music is physical, engaging, and emotive and worthy of hip references like indie blues, except it's backed up by real substance and stretched to the limit by virtuoso solos. When you listen to Troy Redfern, you're buying into a new world vision where his high energy approach uncompromisingly hits you in the guts before making a cerebral connection.

INTERVIEW WITH TROY REDFERN AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Hi Troy. Thank you for joining me for a consideration of this topic today. Does the short review seem accurate to you regarding your voice quality?

Troy: Hi, thanks for inviting me. It’s hard to be objective talking about myself, but I’ve always been personally drawn to the raw vocal quality in the artists I listen to. A good example are Levon Helm’s vocals on his album ‘Dirt Farmer’. They have an authenticity to them, ‘a life lived’ sound that really resonates, they don’t sound affected or put on for effect. With my own vocals I try and sing with as much passion as I can with the limited technique that I possess. I think I’ve always seen myself as a guitar player first, vocalist second.

Guitar Thrills: Some say you can’t teach it. I believe that it must be an authentic sound that comes from within. Do you believe that it is a sound quality that can be taught?

Troy: I think there are some great teachers out there who can help you access different timbres withing your vocal cords, but the underlying character will always be unique to the individual due to the specific nature of the vocal tract shapes. Personally, I’m self-taught, and started signing out of necessity like a lot of guitarists do. Over the years I’ve found certain keys that work for me really well.

Guitar Thrills: I mentioned some amazing artists with the same quality. How do you feel about being put into the same category as them?

Troy: Well, it’s very kind that you think so, I’m honored that you would put me up alongside those great artists. I’ve always found it fascinating thinking about what personally draws us to certain voice types and not others.

Guitar Thrills: Did you aspire to be like any other artist that you grew up listening too?

Troy: As a guitar player I listened to so many different types of players, Hendrix, Son House, Allen Holdsworth, Frank Zappa, Michael Hedges, the list is endless, but I never tried to work out their licks. Their work fuels my imagination as a writer and all the influences are swirled around and come out through the knowledge and technique I have as echoes as opposed to direct imitation. I think it’s the same with vocals. Elmore James was a big influence, but you’d never really hear that unless you knew maybe.

Guitar Thrills: How do you feel about your abilities as an artist to date? Is there any room for growth, or do are you satisfied with how far you have come?

Troy: In my late twenties I spend a good year broadening my chord knowledge and learning scales/modes to try and identify and catalogue what intervals I felt drawn to etc. I found that I love the Mixolydian b6 mode and also Phrygian dominant, so these flavors I’ve weaved into my songs over the years. I’m always striving to push myself when it comes to song ideas, to get to the essence of who I am as an artist. I think that a lifelong quest and I love the journey. For me it’s also important to have what’s called ‘the beginner’s mind’. The wonder and innocence that we all have when we start out, the joy of creating with self judgement that can stifle creativity.

Guitar Thrills: Is it difficult for you to sing, and play guitar as aggressive as you do?

Troy: I’m so used to doing it now. I don’t think too much about it. The only time it’s tricky is if there’s anew song that I’m learning that may have a syncopated rhythm that is independent of the vocals. The key is to know the guitar part as well as the vocal really well. If you mind is fishing for lyrics that tends to make you make mistakes on the guitar and vice versa.

Guitar Thrills: I think you are an amazing guitarist. Why did you select he steel guitar, over other types of guitars. Could you get the same sound with an electric guitar, and brass slide?

Troy: Thank you so much. I’ve always loved National guitars since I first saw photos of Son House playing one when I was a kid. There’s something magical about them, especially the old ones, the original ones from the 20’s. I’m luck enough to have a National Triolian from 1929 and it has given me so many songs, it’s a constant source of inspiration. They aren’t particularly easy to play, like say an Ibanez or even a Fender, but the limitations and physical restrictions offer a chance to write and create in a parameter, and within that a unique musical voice can be revealed. I do use other electric guitars live, like the ’62 Silvertone Jupiter and the ‘64 Teisco Orbit 4, and surprisingly through my rig and Magnatone Twilighter Stereo amp they don’t sound out of place next to the National. The secret weapon on my National is the Barcus Berry pickup, it means I can play loud with gain in a live situation without feedback.

Guitar Thrills: What brand guitar do you normally favor and why?

Troy: You know, I don’t know if I favor any brand really. My number one is the previously discussed National, but I have a lot of brands that I’ll use for different musical situations, I love Danelectro’s and have about seven of those, but I also love my Custom Shop Historic Les Paul ’57 Gold Top. I’ve got a few Fender strats that I’ve modified that play super nice and a Maton Messiah acoustic that is a dream to play, super easy. All these guitars have personalities and souls that draw different aspects out of you when you pick them up.

Guitar Thrills: Are there guitar accessories, that you find you cannot perform well without? Does it matter? There are components that we might take for granted. What comes to your mind?

Troy: The one accessory that I would struggle without is obviously my slide. I do play non slide but slide playing has become a lot more of my musical identity over the years. There’s a fantastic company in the UK called Diamond Bottlenecks run by a guy called Ian McWee. He makes the best glass blown slides in the world and supplies to the likes of Mark Knopfler. Ian was kind enough to offer to make a “Troy Redfern’ Signature glass slide that he has available of his website. Also, because I’m almost exclusively in open tunings, capos are super important to me.

Guitar Thrills: You released the official video for “The calling”. It almost seems kind of dark. How best would you describe the meaning behind the song, and what was conveyed through the official video?

Troy: Ah, that’s interesting you saw it that way. This track is a good example of the use of Melodic Minor Mode Mixolydian b6 that I was talking about earlier. That scale has a very evocative atmosphere, which I love. A kind of yearning mournfulness with a hint of hope. Lyrically the song is about reconnecting with nature, and escaping the technology traps that we all face daily, like endless scrolling of inane ‘content’ that offers nothing except distraction from what’s important. So, with this track I think the musical and lyrical elements tie up and compliment the sentiment nicely.

Guitar Thrills: What kind of feedback have you received from your audience?

Troy: So far, the response to the new material from the forthcoming album ‘Invocation’ (out May 17th) has been overwhelmingly positive. I personally think the new album is a solid snapshot of where I’m at right now.

Guitar Thrills: I enjoy your music, it’s aggressive. I think that you are true to your style and what comes natural for you. I encourage you to continue moving forward. Excellent artist and we can’t wait to hear about what you plan on releasing next?

Troy: Thank you! Like I mention, I’ll be releasing the new album on May 17th via www.troyredfern.com. There’ll be another single come out in early May just before the release. I’ve started work on sketching ideas for the next record already and am loving the process.

All throughout June I’ll be on the road with the band on my first UK headline tour, absolutely can’t wait for that!

Guitar Thrills: Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with us. I hope we will have a chance to talk again soon.




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