Eva Walker of The BlackTones: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Eva Walker of The BlackTones Interview

Feature Photo by Ernie Sapiro

As inspirational and she is talented, young six-stringer Eva Walker is breaking down barriers bred through preconceived notions.

Unafraid to genre bend, with the BlackTones, Walker strides across the stage with savvy and wagger, strutting her stuff and selecting raw, ethereal emotion through her well-loved Fender Strat. Pridefully standing at the stage’s edge alongside her brother, Cedric, Eva Waker has taken the Seattle scene by the horns, barnstorming listener’s consciousness with searing tones and sinfully slinky riffs.

In an age where more and more young women are picking up the guitar with vigor, artists such as Walker as essential, not only for their talent but for their influence and positive nature. The music of The BlackTones is brimming with positive vibes, elation drawn upon through creation, and downright filthy guitar wizardry.

With news of a new BlackTones record being underway, Eva Walker dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount her love for the guitar, his creative process, her love for her Fender Strat, and a whole lot more.

What first inspired you to pick up the guitar?

I don’t remember what initially drew me to guitar. I remember being about nine years old and wanting a guitar so bad but didn’t get my hands on one until I was 15 years old, and that was thanks to a teacher in high school, Peter Suruda, who kept them in his classroom and saw how interested I was in them, so he let me take one home for the holiday break. I was so stoked! As far as pursuing the guitar and wanting to become a real guitarist, that credit goes to the almighty James Marshall Hendrix!

Can you recall your first guitar, how you obtained it, and if you still have it?

The first guitar that I owned was one my mom bought me from Walmart! I think it was about $75. It was a First Act. I was so happy! We didn’t know anything about guitar brands or anything like that. I think my mom just wanted to get me started on something, and us being on a tight budget; we wanted to make sure I was serious about it and stuck with it before buying something way out of our price range at the time. I still have that guitar! I carried it everywhere with me for years. I don’t play it anymore, but I can’t part with my first guitar.

What were the first riff and solo you learned?

The first riff I learned was played on the guitar my teacher first loaned me before I had my own. He handed it to me and said, “Okay, I want you to remember these numbers: 0, 5, 3, 0.” Then he proceeded to explain how the fret numbers worked. He told me to play those numbers on the low E string a few times and then move to the A string. I went home and played it, and it was the blues! The classic blues riff “da-dum da-dum.” I worked on playing that riff the whole holiday break, and my fingers hated me, but I was addicted to the instrument immediately. Fast forward years and years later, if I’m teaching someone who’s brand new to guitar, 0 5 3 0 is the first thing they learn to play. Then I tell them, “It’s the blues! Just like that, you now know about 500 songs!”

As far as the first solo I learned, I’m pretty sure it was the intro of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” I’m not 100% sure that was the first, but I remember learning it early on and spending a lot of time on it. Any other solo before that is a total blur. I love Pink Floyd, and I loved that song. I play by ear, but at that time, I was still using tabs more because I wanted to understand them. I think I started learning the solo with tabs, then learned the rest by ear. Wow, that was so long ago!

Who most influenced your sound, and how is that best illustrated in your style?

Well, Jimi Hendrix was my biggest influence with his use of the wah-wah pedal, but until recently, I’ve been really digging into a lot of psychedelic rock from the 70s in Nigeria as well as rock music from Zambia (Zamrock) from the same time period. I ran into a compilation called The World Ends Afro Rock and Psychedelia from 1970s Nigeria, and it’s some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life! Bands like The Funkees, Ify Jerry Krusade, PRO, and more! I love to muffled guitar at times, the wah-wah sounds, the organ, and almost beat-up sounding drums kits; it’s just spectacular! From that discovery, I became more interested in what other rock music was coming out of the continent of Africa, and I discovered Zamrock. Artists like W.I.T.C.H. and Chrissy Zebby Tembo immediately became my favorites. So right now, I would have to say ’70s African rock is definitely my biggest influence right now.

Tell me about any original music you’re working on, your songwriting approach, and how that continues to evolve.

We are working on a new album right now, and I think you’ll definitely notice that vintage African rock influence but also singing and writing songs that just feel right, that are about current events that have happened in my life. Some dark, some not. I like to experiment with whatever is inspiring me, and right now, the organ inspires me. The next album will be a little organ-heavy. We make what we like, we make what we feel, and if people want to stay along for the ride, that’s great! If they don’t, that’s okay too.

But I have to love what I do and believe it myself. I have a song about a murder that happened that includes a close family friend, and the song I wrote is my way of dealing with it. There are also themes of family, which I write about a lot because they are my biggest influence. I also write about death a lot because it’s something that’s always on my mind. Not always in a scary way, but sometimes just thinking of my own mortality or what’s next after living this life. I’ve also gotten to the point where I sing less and am loving the more instrumental side of music. Compared to the first record, Cobain & Cornbread, I am leaning toward my love for instrumental music more.

What songs and recordings that you’ve done so far mean the most to you, and why? What lessons have you taken from them that you’ll carry forever?

Probably the song Plaid Pants has meant the most to me. It is about my maternal grandparents, and it’s featured on the first record, Cobain & Cornbread. My mom’s life had a pretty heavy wrench thrown into it when she found out from the feds that my dad was robbing banks. She was suddenly alone with four kids and had to move back to her parents for assistance. I had the experience growing up with my grandparents in their home, seven of us in a three-bedroom house. I loved that we were all there! I loved everything about the memories of growing up with my grandparents.

I observed a lot from them, their southern hospitality and their manners. I miss them every day. This song is my way of immortalizing their memory and saying thank you to them. There’s a part of the song where we have the audience sing with us the “Ah’s,” and when we went on our first five-week national tour a few months ago, we had everybody participate in every city! It was like the ultimate homage to them. It was extra special to do it in New Orleans, their hometown. All of my songs are really special to me, but I guess you can say this one sticks out even more.

How do you balance the want to craft quality songs with the desire to shred?

That’s easy! If I want to shred, I’m gonna shred, but I know that it doesn’t always make a song sound very good or it’s unnecessary, and if it makes me like the song, I’ll do it. If it makes me cringe, it’s not happening. It’s really based on the feel for me and where the song is going. I can jam on the same chords over and over again and think it’s one of the best songs I’ve written, and then someone else will say, “Yo, you need to have a change somewhere in here!” Then I’m open to seeing what that sounds like, but I do get lost in a zone sometimes, then suddenly, it’s been seven minutes of the same two chords. Shredding for me isn’t a big priority; I really pride myself in vocalizing the lead guitar giving it more of a lead vocal spot rather than just a shredding solo.  

What guitars, gear, pedals, amps, and effects are you using, and why?

I currently use the first guitar I bought with my own money when I was 17 years old, my cream Fender Stratocaster. I love that thing! I usually almost always use the double humbuckers along with my Dunlop wah-wah pedal, an electro Harmonix cathedral reverb pedal which I first only pursued because I liked a sound another guitar player I had seen was getting from it. I love that short reverb sound that sounds like you’re playing guitar in a smallish tiled bathroom (a lot like the bathroom sound I grew up with in my grandparent’s house). For distortion, I usually just go through my amp, which is an Orange Tiny Terror, through a vintage 1970s speaker cab. When I don’t have my amp, I use an OCD pedal, and I most recently added an Orange Fur Coat Fuzz pedal to my collection to try and replicate the vintage fuzz rock sounds I like some much in the 70s African rock I’ve been into.   

What are your most immediate goals, and how do you plan to make them a reality?

I want to make kick-ass music that I love, that others love! I want to tour again and play in front of as many people as possible. It’s such a damn good feeling! I want to collaborate with some of my favorite artists old and new, known and obscure. I’m making that a reality by building our team, so I can focus on writing and making the best music I can. Getting feedback from musicians I admire, asking questions, networking but most importantly, loving music and making sure I love what I’m doing so I’ll want to do it. So I want to play it.

More young women than ever seem to be picking up the guitar. To what do you attribute that? Is the idea of the guitar being a boys club a thing of the past?

I sure hope so! It’s exhausting thinking you need to prove something because of gender or race or whatever; it’s ridiculous. I don’t actually know if more women are picking up the guitar or if they already had it, but we’re being looked over. It’s the same as when white people tell me more black people are in bands, but I don’t know if that’s true. What is true was record labels, media, and Hollywood had their “quotas” of POC bands/artists. Or they’re ideas of what a black artist should be limited to as far as what they would promote. So black bands probably aren’t a new thing, either. Instead, it could be that no one would sign them or give them the time of day because it wasn’t “marketable to the broader audience” at the time. Black people and women have been playing instruments for centuries. We’ve only credited and overrepresented a single type of person throughout history.

What’s next for you in all lanes? 

The new album, more touring, and awesome collaborations! I can’t wait!

Eva Walker of The BlackTones Interview

Photo: Courtesy of Eva Walker

Eva Walker of The BlackTones: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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