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Van Plating

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

Photo credit: Alfred Medina

How old were you when you started playing guitar?

23-ish, somewhere around there.

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

Yes! My first guitar – the one I learned to play on, is a beast of a 12-string from the 60s; It’s called an “EKO.” I don’t recommend learning to play on a 12-string.

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

Both my parents are musical. My dad plays guitar, and my mom the piano. My granddad on my Mom’s side had a bluegrass band with his brothers. That’s who I learned to improvise from in the pickin’ circle growing up.

A young Van with her mom.

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

I have a small but mighty arsenal at home that I use in my studio and for touring. My main acoustic guitars are a 1957 Martin 0-15, a Gibson J-45 from 2000, and my granddad’s old Yairi from the 70s. I tour with both the Martin and the Gibson. They’re all my favorites for different reasons–-they each have completely different tones and pull different things out of the songs when I’m writing or tracking. I also have a dope 1956 Gibson ES-125 hollow body electric with its original P90 pickup. It’s my favorite for rhythm work. Sounds dirty and warm and old. Love it.

Van with her Martin 0-15.

Van and her Gibson J-45. Photo credit: Jamison Swanson

Van with her grandfather's Yairi.

Van with her Gibson ES-125. Photo credit: Bryan Elijah Smith

What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?

I use 11s, and I have no shame about it. I play pretty hard and use a lot of different styles of barred chords and other formations--so lighter strings minimize the agony. I change strings every few months. Really digging the D’addario XS-coated phosphor bronze right now. They hold tune incredibly well and last a long time!

Van setting up her grandfather's Yairi in Nashville tuning.

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

Depends on the song. For my current set, I finger pick, strum, and use two different thicknesses of picks. For my higher capo Nashville strum style, I use a Dunlop Tortex light (red). They’re real bendy. I strum hard, and it sounds better. For more standard strumming, I use the Dunlop Tortex orange medium pick. For electric, I like the yellow Dunlop Tortex.

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

The only pedal I use consistently right now is my JHS Morning Glory transparent overdrive 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?

My luthiers are some of my favorite people. They’re all masters at the craft and in addition to that, they’re really wonderful human beings. I only take my guitars to Seven C Music in St. Pete. Hunter, Joel, and Dave Hosler. They’re my music family, and I adore them!

Van with David Hosler of Seven C Music.

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

See above. The Hoslers were both at Taylor building guitars, designing pickups, and Dave was a VP at Taylor until 2015, when they relocated to FL and opened their boutique luthier and guitar shop. Hunter’s background is the famous Glaser shop in Nashville. They also use the shop as a listening room after hours, and it’s my favorite room to play in St. Pete! I’m glad they decided to move here because I’d honestly be lost without them. Amazing people.

Hunter Allen and David Hosler.

Some after hours music at Seven C Music.

At what age did you start writing songs?

Ever since I can remember.

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?

It’s a combination of things. Depending on the day, the moment, the mood. I always have a journal and a pen at the ready, and my phone to capture a voice memo of an early hook or progression.

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

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Lucinda Williams. Jeff Buckley. Bob Dylan. Emily Haines. That’s five. I don’t follow the rules very well.

Photo credit: Jenn Ross Photography

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

Brandi Carlile, Lukas Nelson. Y’all got any hookups there??

What are your top three “Desert Island” albums?

Lucinda Williams “Car Wheels on A Gravel Road”

Brandi Carlile “By The Way, I Forgive you”

Tom Petty “Wildflowers”& ”Full Moon Fever”

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

The first concert was mid-90s. It was The Wallflowers outdoors at Hard Rock Live in Orlando. I was too young to be there. It was incredible.

The last concert I attended was…Mike and the Moonpies at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa. They were INSANELY good.

The Beatles or the Stones?


Photo credit: Sarah Baarns

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

I was 7. It was a recording for a children's musical in New Jersey, where we lived at the time. No idea what the pay was. Maybe my parents remember?

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

Making this new album with so many contributors and guests who have played on albums I’ve listened to for years. Making new friends through the making of this album. That’s the highlight thus far.

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

We played at a bowling alley on my guitar player's birthday, and no one showed up. And he missed his free birthday steak at the local steakhouse. OR the time my car got towed while we were playing a set at The Social in Orlando. We came outside, and the car was gone. My husband and my drummer spent the rest of the night getting a cab to the impound lot and paying to get it out so we could load out of the club at 3 am and head home.

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)?

I love playing anywhere and everywhere. The things that make it most special are the people and the other artists you’re sharing a bill with.

How do you work out your setlist?

With a lot of practice.

Photo credit: John Mazz

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

This gig is tougher than you think. But if you stick around, you’ve got a shot.

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

Go outside, get out of your head, and find some new influences. Whether it’s literature, poetry, music, paintings-–find something new that refreshes you.

Photo credit: Scout Hunt

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

I haven’t really found much I’m good for besides art, so I’d be starving at rating in some other medium.

Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.

Website is

Find merchandise (especially new CDs) here

Please, PLEASE follow here on Spotify!

Photo credit: Amy Sexson

Photo credit: Mike Dunn

Photo credit: Will Payne Harrison


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