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Louise Mosrie Coombe

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

How old were you when you started playing guitar?


What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?

My brother's black Harmony guitar - I stole it from his room after he left home. No, it was stolen from my house in Knoxville two years later.

Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?

No and no.

Louise and her mom.

What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?

I play a Martin 000-21 and occasionally an Alvarez Baritone. The Martin is the best guitar I've ever owned. I used to buy Taylor guitars. The Martin sparkles and rings like a bell. No muddiness.

Louise's Martin 000-21, freshly polished, awaiting new Elixir strings.

Louise playing her Martin 000-21. Photo credit: Chris LaVancher

What strings do you use (brands and gauges)?

Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?

National medium thumbpick and I get acrylic fingernails at a salon for three fingers.

Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?

I use a Zoom acoustic pedal.

Do you work on your own guitars or do you bring them to a guitar tech? Are there any guitar techs that you would like to recommend?

I use a tech and not really. Find someone who's fast and doesn't keep your guitar for a month. Glaser Instruments in Nashville used to be good - but I don't live there now.

Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?

Cotten Music in Nashville was my favorite shop for a long time and where I found my Martin. I don't know if it's still there anymore. (Editor's note: In 2019, London based, The North American Guitar acquired Cotten Music Center. In March of 2022, The North American Guitar merged with Carter Vintage Guitars.)

At what age did you start writing songs?

In earnest, around 28-29. I didn't write a good one till I was 39.

What is your songwriting process? Is it the music or the lyrics that usually come to you first? Do you write old school on paper, or electronically?

I get an electric "zing" inside when I hear or read an inspired phrase or idea, try not to miss it or put it off till later, suss out a basic feel music and lyric together till I reach a good stopping point, then comes the months of editing....only once or twice have I written a song to completion quickly.

Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?

Nanci Griffith, Everything but the Girl, James Taylor

If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

I don't jam, but I'd love to have Amos Garrett play on one of my recordings.

What are your top three "desert island" albums?

Beatles "Abbey Road", Joni Mitchell "Court and Spark", James Taylor "Hourglass", Everything But the Girl "Idlewild" (bonus)

What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?

Rush; Tom Paxton.

The Beatles or the Stones?


Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?

A winery in East TN in 1992. Not much and the wine was terrible.

What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?

A true toss up: playing in a round at the Bluebird Cafe with Janis Ian, Cliff Eberhardt and Pat Alger OR opening for the band AMERICA at the Birchmere in D.C.

Louise and Cliff Eberhardt performing Janis Ian's song, Better Times Will Come.

What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don't have to name names).

Any number of Border's Book store gigs back in the day....mostly bad because they were just soul-sucking experiences, but even then, someone would usually come up to me and say something nice. I blame myself - I didn't have many decent songs back then.

What are some of the venues you enjoy performing at the most? What things make the venue enjoyable for the performer (location, equipment, setup, organizers)?

Club Passim in Boston, Natalie's Pizza & Music Hall in Columbus, OH; Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. All are total pros, great sound, food, but also really chill and kind-hearted.

Photo credit: Annie Kennedy

How do you work out your setlist?

I use a weird formula that performance coach, Tom Jackson, came up with that a friend of mine gave me based on tempo and subject matter to create an arc and story to the show and then sometimes, I just wing it.

Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?

It's all about the song. If you don't have a decent song, you have nothing to promote. Find a mentor who has had real success as a songwriter and bribe them to help you.

Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?

Go for long walks. Get off your phone. Break down a song you love melodically studying theory and read a lot of poetry. Write about somebody else.

Photo credit: Georgianne Nienaber

If you weren't a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?

A hairdresser.

Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise. for more info, CDs and downloads.

Photo credit: Ira Hantz


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