Mary Spender says you should always be the worst guitar player in the room

The guitarist and YouTube star on backstage boxing, miniature monuments and why you should be the worst guitarist in the room.

Mary Spender with blue guitar on stage smiling
All images: Joe Supple

The moment it all started…

Top Of The Pops was extremely influential to me as a child and watching Matt Bellamy with his bright red hair perform New Born was definitely a big moment. I couldn’t believe it was possible to sing and play guitar at the same time, so I would sit in my bedroom trying to learn the riffs to their songs on an old Spanish guitar my great grandmother had once owned. Boys at my school were also being given electric guitars around the same time, so I just wanted to front a band of my own one day and be Matt Bellamy.”

I couldn’t live without my…

Mary Spender on stage focused

“Definitely my Vigier G.V. Rock in Revolution Green. That guitar has always felt so perfect in my hands and has never caused me any problems on stage. I’ve owned it for almost four years and in that time, my career has completely changed. It is eye-catching and extremely versatile, it plays like a dream and I know how lucky I am to own it.”

The first thing I do when I pick up a guitar…

“If I’m at my studio desk and need a break from editing a video or catching up on emails, I’ll grab a guitar and just sit and play through a new song I’ve written. Songwriting to me has always been therapeutic, so it hits the reset button and I’ve always loved including intricate guitar parts into my music.”

The best advice I’ve ever been given…

“Always be the worst player in the room. I learnt that from studying classical music. If you want to improve, you need to be challenged, so sit with players that are levels above you and you’ll learn a lot.”

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My Spinal Tap moment…

“I thankfully haven’t really had one yet, but there’s still plenty of time! I grew up very close to Stonehenge – so maybe I’ll just have to get a miniature version for my stage scenery…”

My guilty pleasure…

“I never feel guilty about my music taste. However, people are often surprised to know that I love electronic pop music. Artists I’m currently listening to are G Flip, Hannie and Rachel K Collier. They all write and produce their own music and I’ve learnt so much from how they craft their songs.”

Can I be in the band…

“The drama would have been too much to take, but imagine being in Fleetwood Mac!”

I wish I was there…

Mary Spender on stage with drummer

“I’d go small. I love intimate venues and would have loved to have seen Amy Winehouse when she played at The Louisiana in Bristol in 2003. She was such a great guitar player, too.”

My fantasy rider…

“I’d want gym equipment or a boxing bag backstage. I’m new to the whole keeping-fit thing, but feeling strong and healthy on stage has become pretty important to me.”

If I could just play one thing…

“Jazz. Real jazz musicians can outplay everyone. Put a jazz guitarist next to a metal shredder and just watch what happens.”

Mary Spender’s Lone Wolf EP is out in September 2019. For more info, visit maryspender.com.

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