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The 27-year-old multi-instrumentalist is currently touring with her math rock trio, Covet, in support of their 2018 EP effloresce while starting to gear up for the band’s first full-length record. She also has an acoustic solo project, various visual art pieces in the work (including all her musical cover art), and is even offering guitar lessons on the road – more on that later.
But Young’s guitar playing alone is enough to keep both of her hands plenty busy. Hearing her intricate, melodic guitar runs are one thing (and effloresce is full of beautiful examples – “Shibuya” being one of the finest) but seeing her in action is something else entirely. Her masterful two-handed tapping technique demonstrates a musical grace and fluidity that stands out even by prog and math rock standards.
Speaking on the eve of a two-month tour with Dance Gavin Dance, Hail the Sun, and Periphery, Young explains how she approaches the songwriting process.▼ Article continues below ▼
“Usually what I’ll do is mess around on guitar and then play an interval or something…maybe I’ll slap on some chorus or delay and think, where do I see this going, or what story do I want to tell?” She adds, “I hear what vibe I feel and then I sing something [and] let the melody form in my head for where it naturally wants to go. And then once I sing that, I teach myself on the fretboard.”
She continues, “In terms of constructing actual riffs, I go bit by bit. So, I’ll teach myself a section, commit it to muscle memory, [then] teach myself the next section. It’s a pretty primitive, barbaric way of working…I’m forcing myself to learn it on the spot.”
This emphasis on mastering technique started when Young was a child piano and violin phenom, but not a particularly enthusiastic one. With an emphasis on competition and perfection driven by others, that level of mastery was an unhappy and stressful one.
This new level of dedication, however, has taken on an entirely different spirit since she picked up the guitar after a prolonged absence from music. As she explains, “I took up guitar because I was really sick…I was going through some depression stuff, and I taught myself guitar…and it was such an empowering thing for me to not really know anything about this piece of wood, and then teach myself acoustic and start writing songs on it. It was a really big confidence-building thing.”
It’s this enthusiastic spirit (and sense of humor) that comes through in conversation and in Young’s social media posts, where she’s racked up more than 200k followers on Instagram alone. She even uses social media as an avenue for writing – and for keeping herself on track.
“I use Instagram for documenting riffs…I use it as a way to incentivize myself to finish it because people will be like, ‘Hey, where’s the song with that riff, like years ago?’ Or people will hear a song and say, ‘I recognize that, from like a year ago when you posted that riff.” While these avenues allow her to work on her songwriting, get the word out about her various projects, and help support her music through endorsements, she’s conflicted about their impact on musicians.
“More and more I hear about just getting so disillusioned because they get caught up in numbers, and they just no longer feel like what they do is worth it…the numbers game thing is kind of dangerous because it can make you obsess about validation that you wouldn’t normally care about.”
Young doesn’t just talk the talk about emphasizing music beyond the numbers game. Throughout her current tour, as she’s done on previous tours, she is offering one-on-one guitar lessons at each of her tour stops. In the past, Young accommodated two lessons per day, something she found to be too overwhelming. This time out she’s limited her schedule to one lesson per night, and she loves what she gets out of the experience.
“I say that everyone leaves basically becoming my friend,” she laughs. “A lot of people bring me their riffs because they’re stuck on where it should go. That’s my favorite kind of lesson because that’s where I get my excitement — problem-solving songs.”
Young also has a guitar lessons and a master class posted on JamPlay, which allows for an additional way to support her work while learning even more about guitar through putting together the curriculum. “I’d never had to dissect what do before. I did the JamPlay guitar course to teach people guitar, but I think it actually taught me.”
Not only do these lessons provide an opportunity to connect with fans and fellow musicians, they also help make touring more financially feasible. “It’s a way for me to work while I work,” she says.
With multiple tours under her belt (and basically living on the road for the past two years), Young provides this perspective on what touring has done for her while not downplaying the negatives: “I was really sheltered. [Growing up], I was only allowed to listen to classical music…I wasn’t exposed to a lot of people and different lifestyles and backgrounds, and so for me, touring really opened my eyes to a whole different world out there…I’m constantly learning new things.”
As for negatives, “The dark side of it – you’re not getting a lot of sleep…you’re sometimes driving fourteen hours overnight somewhere to play a show for twenty-five minutes for not that much money and not that big of a crowd. And you have to be okay with that because it’s part of the job.” Young also recommends watching out for bird-in-the radiator accidents, which can lead to avian flu (she knows from experience).
No one said life on the road was easy.
But sometimes, an additional guitar can make all the difference on the road. On her current tour, with a tight set time, Young is being (in her words) “so extra” by having three guitars in her repertoire. This variety allows her to quickly segue from different tunings, something that’s critical to her sound, along with her trusty Strandberg 7-string and Vox amp.
The self-described gear geek loves experimenting with various pedals (especially delays), such as the MXR Carbon Copy delay, Way Huge Supa-Puss delay, and Earthquaker Devices Space Spiral modulated delay getting special mention.
These sounds will likely be a part of Young and Covet’s future full-length, and it’s a bright, sonically rich future indeed. Whatever comes next, that future is in Young’s full, busy – but very capable – hands.
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Photos by Meilene Photography