The NAMM Show 2018 Interviews: Ariel Bellvalaire of Paradise Kitty
One of the many superb guitarists making their way to The Namm Show at the Anaheim Convention Center this year was the one and only Ariel Bellvalaire. Whether performing with Paradise Kitty – All Girl Guns N’ Roses Tribute Band or with the iconic Cirque du Soleil, Ms. Bellvalaire absolutely shreds with an epic guitar virtuosity which is absolutely inspiring. Highwire Daze Online interviewed Ariel The Aerialist at The Namm Show in the Media Center to find out more about her work with Paradise Kitty, appearing in the Cirque as well as on Broadway, an upcoming solo EP, how a classic song called Crazy Train changed the way she approached playing guitar, and a whole lot more rocking and rolling! Read on…
What was the name of the very first song you ever wrote, how old were you, and what was that song about?
I think I was about 10. The song was called Why?. It sounded like a relationship song, but in all actuality, I’m pretty sure this girl just stole my lunch money or something random like that. I was mad! I wanted my $1.50 back, man!
What are you looking forward to the most about NAMM this year?
I’m really excited to be a Fender artist now. I’m just walking around representing my favorite brand. Ernie Ball as well – I love their strings – I’m happy to be on board the Ernie Ball team as well. I’m just happy to play catch up with everybody I haven’t seen in years. NAMM is like one big musical family – it’s great!
What is your weapon of choice live onstage?
I love my tapping riffs – and then the splits onstage. It will pretty much end any shred off! You could be playing the most complicated riff ever, but if you do the split, then it’s all over. So probably stage gymnastics – and tapping while doing it. It’s fun!
How did you wind up becoming involved with Paradise Kitty?
They were actually a pre-existing band and they needed another Slash. Their other guitar player was off doing her own thing and doing really well. They were just looking for a female lead guitar player who could perform, get the audience going, and actually play Slash solos note per note. They found me and I auditioned. And I love it! I’m so glad to be playing with them.
Have you met Slash or any of the other Guns N’ Roses members – and have they commented on your performance?
I haven’t met Slash in person, but he did see a couple of my YouTube videos – and he said he liked the split – and I said “Yes!”
Slash approved! So what is your favorite G N’ R song to play live and why?
I like a lot of them! Slash has the bluesiest solos – there’s amazing riffs in each one. But I think my favorite is probably Mr. Brownstone – just because I love that solo – and then it’s in all positions on the neck – which I like. But it’s still so melodic you could sing it. And then the WAH pedal is also fun too.
You and Jenna Syde definitely have a good chemistry onstage. Tell us about that…
We don’t actually map anything out. We’re going to sit down and actually try to come up with some non-organic things. We get along so well and we have that personality that meshes together. We just love to mess with each other. So onstage, we will just amplify it to 10. She’ll say something and then I’ll just throw it back and vice-versa. Next thing you know we’re right on top of each other and just battling out and having so much fun. And the audience loves watching it. We’re just looking forward to coming up with some actual planned out things as well, but we’ll still throw it back every now and then. You never know…
What has the experience been like working with Cirque du Soleil and how did you become involved with the show?
Cirque – and in every Circus based show I’ve done – they did not know that I was an aerialist at the time. Ariel The Aerialist! I do a lot of aerial work and I’ll actually play guitar upside down. All the circus based shows I’ve done – I was literally just playing guitar. I was going to be working with the acrobats – and I was like “Just wait till they see when I put them together…” But just playing with such talented people. They hire the best. It’s just amazing working with them – either up in the air or on the ground playing guitar. They have an amazing cast, so it’s pretty great.
Where do you develop skills like that?
I was a gymnast growing up and I was always hanging upside down from pretty much anything possible. If there was a tree, I would probably be in it hanging upside down. So my parents were like, “Alright, we’re going to put her in gymnastics so she doesn’t break her head open.” When I moved to L.A., I just saw an aerial workout – and I was like “Oh, I’m a gymnast! I’ll probably have fun with it.” And I absolutely loved it! Anything I love and it comes naturally – I’m like, “How could I incorporate this into my stage show?” Naturally I was like, I have to figure out how to do complicated guitar solos while upside down hanging from a hoop. So I tried it – I didn’t break my head – and we’re good!
And you’ve done Broadway – appearing in a show called Dearly Beloved. What was that experience like?
That was probably the coolest show I’ve ever done. It was a Broadway Prince tribute. All the stars on Broadway came together to put on the show Purple Rain. The main star in Wicked played Prince – the star in Hedwig played Apollonia – Carole King played Morris Day – and I was Wendy from the movie because they needed a female guitarist. That was when I was living in New York. That level of talent is just unbelievable! These Broadway singers, man – they can sing, but when you’re actually behind them, you don’t realize just how talented they are! We only had one rehearsal and a sound check – they hired the best – and the show was just incredible!
How close are you to writing and recording your own solo material?
I actually just finished an EP. It was recorded in Nashville. it’s pop rock because I have to have my guitar solos – but it has a slight, slight, slight hint of country since I’ve been in Nashville so much. Working with Nashville musicians, you’re going to get a hint of country. But I absolutely love it. It’s just driving pop rock. And the musicians out here are incredible. You bring in a song – just a rough skeleton of acoustic guitar and vocals. And you go into the studio and say, “I want like Carrie Underwood meets Megadeth.” And they’re like “Alright, cool!” And they count it off and then you have a song –and you’re like, “What just happened? That was amazing!’ So I have four original songs we wrote and recorded out there. We just got the masters back. We’ll be releasing it pretty soon, but we’ll probably do a video first.
Select one of the songs from the upcoming EP and what inspired the lyrics.
My favorite song on there is called Walking Wires. It kind of has a double meaning for me. The song is about trying to get that one person you want. You kind of feel you have them but you don’t really know – you’re on the edge. Being an aerialist and a gymnast, I’m literally going to be walking a tightrope and doing aerial tricks. So Walking Wires just seemed perfect all around. And it has an epic guitar solo, so I’m happy. You’ve got to have the solos. Every pop song needs one!
If you could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Well, there’s two. I would love to play with Pink, just because she’s an amazing singer. Live, her shows are pretty rock-based. Her recording are pop, but live she really rocks it out! And she’s doing the aerial stuff too. I think she just needs a little guitar upside down, but she just doesn’t know it yet. She will soon. And I will love to play with Randy Rhoads and Ozzy. Randy Rhoads completely inspired me to play guitar. I was playing my little power chords before I heard Crazy Train. But once that came on, I was like “I want to do that!” So I did. It took a while. Crazy Train was my first song, but once I was able to do that, I was like “Alright, I was meant to be a rocker! It’s happening!”
What’s on the agenda for you for the rest of the year?
Now that the EP is done, there is going to be a tour in the works. I’m booking a lot for TV appearances as well as a guitarist. I’ll just be playing my way through. But a tour is definitely in the works – we’re hoping to the US and Europe and performing as much as humanly possible – both in Paradise Kitty and as a solo artist.
(Review and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)