Sharon Aguilar is the lead guitarist for Cee Lo Green’s all-female backing band, Scarlet Fever. You may have seen her on Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno, Ellen, and seemingly everywhere else with Cee-Lo on national television. She’s currently on tour with Cee-Lo promoting his latest album, “The Lady-Killer”, which you are all required to listen to.
I caught up with Sharon during the afternoon on one of her rare vacation days.
Guitar-Muse: Hello Sharon, and thanks for joining us! You’ve had the week off; you were supposed to be in Brazil, but you’ve got some downtime.
Sharon: Yeah, it’s a much-needed week off; I’ve had some writing sessions and things I’ve been meaning to do, so I’m happy to be in L.A. right now actually, even though I missed out on Brazil.
GM: Songwriting sessions?
S: Yes! I write mostly music but I do write lyrics as well.
GM: Multitalented! That’s great. I understand you had a bit of a mid-air adventure last week.
S: Yes. That was pretty scary. Our flight was struck by lightning and that was after a really hectic and crazy day.
GM: That won’t do much for your nerves.
S: Nooo. So much turbulence, too!
GM: Then the day after that, you had a show in New York and show in Alabama. How’d you pull that off?
S: We had to fly a really early flight out of L.A. in the morning to NYC. And as soon as we landed we had a soundcheck.
Then the next day we had to play those two shows; that was a lot for one day. I never thought I’d ever do something like that, you know? Shows in two different states on the same day, shows in two different time zones… a private jet made it possible.
GM: And by the time you hit the ground in Alabama, you were already 15 minutes late for the gig.
S: That all happened so fast! When we landed, we were frantically getting gear out. Thank God my suitcase was first to come out so I was able to open it and get my outfit out. Got in the van, and the venue was about 10 minutes away without having to stop at lights. I was in the backseat, changing my clothes, and Regina (Zernay Roberts, bassist) was in the seat in front of me, changing her clothes. It was just a panic.
GM: And you were under police escort!
S: Yeah, that was cool! There were police cars at every single light stopping traffic. And when we did make it to the venue we had to empty the van because we weren’t going to get back to it after the show. We took all of our stuff and put it in a big pile behind the venue. We didn’t have time to put it in the dressing room or anything. We had to have someone guard it.
So I took my main guitar out–no backup guitar, nothing–and handed it to my guitar tech like, “Do I even have time to tune?” Plugged it right into the amp; no time for a pedalboard or anything.
Usually we play with backing tracks with backing tracks: back-up vocals and all the other little bells and whistles and nuances that aren’t possible otherwise… and we didn’t have time for that!
And let me tell you, I was really into it. I took my in-ears out, and it’s been a long time since I did that. It’s the way you play on Sunset Strip… no fancy in-ear monitors or anything like that. We played everything faster, and I love that. More energy. So even though it was a rush and a panic and it could’ve been disastrous, it ended up being probably my favorite live show that we’ve ever done.
GM: Speaking of fancy gear, what’re you rocking?
S: I play an American Deluxe Strat through a Steve Morse ENGL head. I like my strings light, Ernie Ball Slinky 8’s.
And I just got some new pickups! Got a STK-S6 single coil in the neck, position, Screamin’ Demon in the bridge, cool rails in the middle. They sound fantastic.
Also love my RainSong acoustic guitar. It’s carbon fiber, not wood! Big, bright sound. Great for touring because I don’t have to worry about damage or tuning problems because of humidity.
MIDI controllers are really cool so I don’t have to do a pedal dance all the time. I’ve got a Holy Grail reverb, TC Electronic delay pedal, Nova delay pedals, a Supertram, an MXR Phase 90, Dunlop wah pedal, and a tuner. Pretty happy with this setup. Think I might have to add some things, though…
GM: Do you have to kick a stiletto off to use that wah or what?
S: When I play the wah in my high heels, it’s not only difficult to control the wah with my right foot, but also having all of my weight on my left foot. I mean, that little stiletto is the only thing holding me up!
GM: How did you end up in Cee-Lo’s band?
S: At the time I was a guitar student at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, and I was just going about my day in school when I was approached by one of the staff telling me they were having this audition, and asking if I’d like a slot. And I said “okay.” It was my first major audition for a Grammy winner, so I was really excited about it. And I didn’t have any time to prepare; the audition was the next day. It was a Cee-Lo song, and we we were able to play whatever we wanted. And I played what I am, which is rock. And I made it through the first audition, then moved on to the second audition in front of Cee-Lo.
I love rock and I’m very fortunate that Cee-Lo is a big fan of rock as well. He’s classified as a soul, R&B kind of singer, but I try to rock out wherever I can. We’ve incorporated some classic rock into a new setlist: “Iron Man”, “War Pigs”, “Don’t Stop Believing”… those are just some great classic rock songs. When we play “War Pigs” and Cee-Lo sings? Oh my God, it’s soo much fun–that’s my favorite Black Sabbath tune! Love it.
GM: Before you started playing guitar, you played violin, is that right?
S: Yes! I started playing violin when I was 12. It was basically an accident.
At the time I was really into art. Ever since I was a child I was able to draw whatever I saw in black and white sketches. I found that the school didn’t didn’t really have a program I liked, so I ended up in music. I wanted to play upright bass, but I was tiny, so there was no way that was gonna happen.
Sure enough, they hand me a violin. Let me tell you, I loved it! I didn’t care that kids made fun of me at the bus stop with my violin. My parents never had to tell me to practice. I played in the symphony orchestras and that was just amazing to me, how everyone could come together to create something so big and beautiful.
A few years later, when everyone’s trying to be cool and form little cliques based on the music that they like, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I found that a lot of people around me really loved hip-hop, while I gravitated toward a lot of what my father listened to: classic rock. I heard guitar and said, “I want to do that!”
I picked it up with some ease because I already had calluses on my left hand and agility thanks to the violin. Right away I thought “Oh my god, this is awesome. I want to play this.”
I still play an electric Fender violin, but not as much as I’d like to. I have to find a way to incorporate it into the set so I can bring it along.
GM: So what’s next?
S: We are touring clear through the rest of the year with Cee-Lo’s band, so that’s going to keep us pretty busy.
GM: You can catch Sharon Aguilar on the road with Cee-Lo Green. Tour dates here: http://www.ceelogreen.com/shows.htm
Sharon, thanks for talking to us!
S: Thank you!
You can keep up with Sharon Aguilar by checking her out on Facebook and Twitter: