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The first instrument singer-songwriter Angela Sheik ever played was her grandmother's piano. She wanted to learn how to play the Star Wars theme song, she says. But she's since branched into more unusual instruments — namely, a theremin and a loop pedal, which she uses to create lush, unique sounds. Sheik recently joined Metro Connection reporter Bryan Russo in the studio to talk about her one-of-a-kind musical style and to show us how to use a loop pedal.
On the art and science of looping:
"I had a different loop pedal for a long time¬ and I was at an electronic music festival and thankfully some guy came up to me, and he said, you should check this pedal out; I think it would really open up the possibilities for you," says Sheik. "I am so grateful for that man. I don't know who it was, but he was so right. It was just such a songwriting tool for me. It kept me from playing a crazy amount of chords. You know? The loop pedal gives you a structure, and I think changed my songwriting.
On using what she calls the queen of boss pedals — the Boss RC-300:
"It's basically three pedals smashed together with some effects, which is going to allow us to take some loops in and out. So we can record something and then we can take it out. You know, trial and error. Rhythm is key, and then you can add harmonies and take them out, and the rhythm will stay.
On defying musical genres:
Sheik says she's influenced by artists like Imogen Heap and Regina Spektor — musicians who defy genre, but she also says she's already had struggles with people who want her to embrace a genre with her own music.
"'What genre?' is the question that they usually ask and I don't have an answer for them. I love the people, especially the women icons that are the genre. Imogen Heap is her own genre. Regina Spektor is her own genre. She made anti-folk in my mind, so yeah, that's what I aspire to be."
[Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "Chickadee" by Angela Sheik from Songs From the Red Box]