“I didn’t fit in,” says Arielle of the feeling she had growing up and later, trying to find her footing in music. Her self-titled EP (set for release in April, 2014 on Open E Music,) is the sound of the singer-songwriter-guitarist claiming her place – creatively, emotionally, existentially.
“I only wanted to be me/ I had the best intentions/ I was scattered in all directions,” she sings on the pop gem “California,” finally confiding, “I can’t find the sunshine in California.”
Yet the New Jersey native had lived in California most of her life. And she’d been singing since age five (with the prestigious San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula Girls Chorus), followed by playing the piano, trumpet and at 10, guitar. By 16 she’d become a rock-guitar virtuoso (soon thereafter even earning the imprimatur of her childhood idol, Queen guitarist Brian May.)
Still, she hadn’t found her voice as an artist; she’d been shredding onstage in the bands of others (like CeeLo Green) but hadn’t really been able to share her own songs.
That began to change when she graduated early from high school and moved to Hollywood. “It struck me: I want to make music my life,” she remembers. “I can do this. I’m going to music school.” So she enrolled in the guitar program at the Musicians Institute, situated smack-dab on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
She was a 17-year-old student there when she met May, at a book-signing for “BANG! – The Complete History of the Universe” (an astrophysicist as well as a rock god, May is the co
author.) She’d taken her guitar along and when he said essentially, “Show me what ya got,” Arielle complied by busting out a Randy Rhoads solo (Rhoads is perhaps best remembered for his work on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”) She and May then began a conversation that’s continued ever since. “It was like we’d always been friends,” she says.
That friendship inspired Arielle to move to London, where she attended the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.
But she had a nagging feeling that she wasn’t where she belonged: “I was a supporting player and just couldn’t see the path to becoming an artist in my own right. My intuition told me that if I kept playing in other people’s bands, I’d miss my opportunity. I was trading myself, like I say in ‘California,’ ‘Trading scars for a concrete star’; I was giving away the things that make me me in return for something that felt like it didn’t matter. I finally said, ‘Alright, this is ridiculous – I have to go do this for myself.’”
She returned to Los Angeles and started recording her own material, singing lead as well as playing guitar. “I hadn’t sung seriously for five years,” she says. “On some level I was hiding behind my guitar. By then I was 18, but I still sung like a a soprano. I didn’t know how to express myself with my voice.”
At the same time, Arielle recalls, “Being in bands never worked – I could never find a singer. I was writing music knowing no one could sing it like me. I finally just did it. It started out as this really quiet sound; it took me a while to be, like, ‘OK, I’m not the greatest, but I AM truly expressing myself.’ Just like with the guitar players I love – you don’t necessarily have to be the most technically proficient to connect emotionally.”
After working on various projects, Arielle was “discovered” by guitarist Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme, Rihanna,) who shopped her to managers and labels. Her other supporters include guitarists Steve Vai, Uli Jon Roth (the Scorpions) and Michael Angelo Batio.
In 2013 Arielle landed in the studio of Red Decibel Music Group (Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Switchfoot), where she clicked with producer/co-writers Adam Watts, Andy Dodd and Gannin Arnold. Their creative chemistry was so electric, in fact, that the songs tumbled out on top of each other and the spark of “California” was struck!
Arielle’s commitment to something she holds as dear as songwriting is The Dolphin Project, a cause she’s championed as long as she’s played guitar. Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry appears in Arielle’s video for “California” and his documentation of the yearly dolphin drive hunt at Taiji, Wakayama, Japan, forms the basis of the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove.”
On November 18, Arielle joined fellow Dolphin project advocate and drummer Matt Sorum’s band Kings of Chaos (featuring fellow former Guns N’ Roses members Slash and Duff McKagan) for a Hollywood concert benefitting Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. Also on the bill: Hughes (Deep Purple), Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) and Steve Stevens (Billy Idol). Earth Day 2014 (April 22) will find Arielle onstage at a Freedom for the Orcas benefit, where she’ll share the stage with Heart and Joan Jett, among others.
“I think I’ve connected to the plight of marine mammals partly because of my own story,” Arielle ventures. “It’s heartbreaking to see these sensitive, intelligent animals anywhere but in open ocean, swimming freely. In my life I’ve felt like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and couldn’t find my way there. But I’m working on it, for me and for them.”