Meet NoSo: The self-proclaimed gear nerd drawing in diverse crowds with dreamy indie-pop
NoSo’s debut album is a melodic heartfelt postcard to their younger self. We found out more about their story, and their uber-impressive collection of guitars.
Image: Sara Falco
There’s many layers to the modern guitarist – with labels wanting you to be a whizz at social media, having to tour in an industry heavily impacted by a pandemic, and the expectation that you have to be heavily political, there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of new musicians. But sometimes, the music alone does more than enough at implementing change.
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“I’m obsessed with this song. Can’t believe this is how representation feels, like wow,” reads a comment under a TikTok video of NoSo performing their song David. The LA based artist has encapsulated a variety of experiences that queer people go through on their debut album, Stay Proud Of Me.
Having studied at the Thornton School Of Music at USC, NoSo built upon their foundation of being a self-taught, fingerstyle guitarist and has evolved into an artist whose music fuses indie with pop, jazz and funk for melodic and fluid guitar.
“I always thought electric guitar was loud and distorted so I had no interest in it. When I switched to electric, I was solely playing clean. As I’m older, I’m now learning Led Zeppelin solos, stuff people do at the very beginning – I’m kind of going backwards,” they tell us on a February evening via Zoom. The sun is setting here in the UK, whilst over in LA, NoSo is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as it hits 9am.
Stay Proud Of Me was partly crafted during the COVID-19 pandemic meaning, like many artists, NoSo’s recording set up wasn’t exactly ideal: “I was living at home with my family whilst I was trying to record this album and I felt very silly throughout the process, even though it was legit because I was signed [to a label]. My manager would call me a professional musician and I’d be in my pyjamas while I could hear the TV from the other room,” he laughs.
NoSo’s music is incredibly personal, and they say it’s the one avenue that allows them to “say whatever”, having always been on the quiet side in their day-to-day life. Writing so openly about being a non-binary person (who goes by he/they pronouns), and about the shame they felt growing up whilst navigating their gender, their record has served as a magnet for those who felt alone in those feelings too: “I don’t know if it would have found those people, had I not come out during the process. Seeing the response has been very sweet and healing for me, ‘cause I felt like I was the only one on earth who was having those thoughts and feelings.”
Guitar heroes are shifting now, and our industry has grown into a much wider community: “I think Fender is marketing a lot of its products to women and younger players,” they note. “I feel like electric guitar and just guitar in general has become a lot more prominent in music that’s teetering into the mainstream with artists like Phoebe Bridgers, and I think that’s really exciting.”
Although their career is still blooming, NoSo has been collecting guitars for over a decade, “Gosh… I have a bunch of different brands,” they say, looking over their shoulder overwhelmed. “I have a Novo, I loved Dennis Fano’s work for a long time. I have a Serus J which is like the Jazzmaster style model, and it’s the first finish they did in this colour ‘cause I sent them pictures of old Danelectros and old Silvertones that have a black sparkle finish so they recreated that.
“It has two P-90s, [and] I don’t really tour with it ‘cause I’m scared to,” he chuckles at his admission. We think that’s pretty understandable. “It’s such a nice guitar and everywhere I go with it people are like ‘what is that?!’, so it would be a target.”
His main touring guitar is your typical American Standard Strat, but it’s been stripped of its paint, with the addition of Gemini Goldfoil pickups in the neck and bridge, whilst the original pickup remains in the middle.
“Harmony sent me a Comet which is a really beautiful semi-hollow model, and Fender sent me a Mod Shop American Pro Jazzmaster, [which is] pretty standard but I have it tuned down to C♯ and I put flat wounds on it,” they say.
Other gems in their collection are a Squier Musicmaster bass from the ‘90s and a couple of numbers from Martin too: “I have a few acoustics – a Martin 00-15 which I’ve had since I was 16, and then a 0M-28 which I got for myself as a graduation present.”
Oh, and pedals? There’s plenty of those too: “I’m a mess, I have so many, it took me a long time to acquire everything. I’ve been collecting since I was 14,” he explains.
“One of the first pedals I ever got was the Diamond Vibrato which has been discontinued and I’ve seen they’re being sold for like $1000, I got it way back in the day for like $200,” NoSo reflects. At their gigs, you may also spot the Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master on the pedal board, and a new found love – Shallow Water by Fairfield Circuitry.
And with being a self-proclaimed gear nerd, they know exactly what they’d like in a dream guitar, which would be a baritone. “I’d want it to be an ash body, maybe a P-90 in the neck and a humbucker in the bridge,” he explains, smiling and scratching at his chin in thought. “I love a rosewood neck or a roasted maple neck. Colour scheme wise, I like sparkly finishes but I also love an aged blonde guitar.”
Yet whilst NoSo’s head is whirring with enthusiasm for our favourite instrument, their in-store experiences have been far from ideal, “I haven’t even been to a guitar store in a long time, it’s probably been years,” he tells us. “I think I went to one on tour and I did not like the experience.”
Any woman, transgender or non-binary person who plays guitar in your life can tell you that sometimes, guitar stores aren’t the most inviting spaces (just look at the stats). NoSo went viral on TikTok for sharing an experience when they were patronised for asking a store employee if they had a guitar available in a different colour.
“It’s super frustrating and I don’t deal with it which is why I have loads of random boutique guitars because I don’t like talking to people in stores. The people I order from are so nice,” they share.
NoSo’s work on album two is already underway, and more of his exciting gear is sure to feature as he tells us he’s working on something he’s “really, really excited about” that’s also set to be the “most difficult guitar arrangement” they’ve ever written.
Sure, there’s a lot riding on the modern guitarist. Yet their fervour to experiment with new gear and new techniques is a drive that’s carried many greats before us, and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Find out more about NoSo here.
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