As a young hopeful in Los Angeles, Arielle confronted label execs who wanted to turn her into something she wasn’t. Now an independent artist with a 1973 VW van, a signature instrument by Brian May Guitars and some of the lushest chops in the business, she’s hit a peak with her new album ’73.
Songs about love. Songs about remembering to stop and look around once in a while. All of it in a gorgeous palette of guitar tones (from rootsy slide to Zeppelin-esque rock) and clear, emotive vocals that land somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow.
“I feel like I’m learning what life is about,” says Arielle, who threw herself into guitars aged 14, after the death of her father. “I get it wrong a lot.”
Happiest making music, working on guitars or walking her border collie, when we speak, she’s in Norfolk helping a friend build a recording studio.
Arielle is a lifelong nomad.
With previous addresses including Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, Texas, LA and the UK, Arielle tentatively cites Nashville as her current base. Not that she doesn’t dream of a more fixed abode…
“I would love to have a farm and to build a recording studio there, and a garage to work on my buses, a few sheep for my dog to herd, maybe a separate cottage where my friends would be able to come and get to be in nature and create or rest or whatever. I’d really like to have a little home base like that.”
As a child she craved guitars, but started out as a singer.
By the age of five, Arielle was already a promising singer, touring across the length and breadth of Europe with a choir. The classical nature of the gig (reading sheet music, singing in Latin and German) gave her a good theory-based foundation, which would later hold her in good stead – feeding into the melodic, vocal-like quality of her playing.
“The guitar sings,” she says proudly, of her own instrument ‘Two-Tone’, “it does things that I can’t do with my voice. But the choir really helped with understanding theory and harmonisation.”
In a past life she worked as a clown.
Aged 16 Arielle graduated high school and moved to Los Angeles to study at the Musicians Institute. To pay her bills she took a slew of jobs including dogwalking and shifts in a pizza kitchen. One day she answered a Craigslist ad, which led to a lucrative period entertaining Bar Mitzvahs and making balloon animals.
“It’s great because I’m short, I’m five foot one, and a lot of the costumes like Elmo and Dora The Explorer are for small people. It’s thirty degrees and you’re in this disgusting thing… it was really funny.”
Her friends include rock A-listers.
Arielle’s first rock gig was in a Dio covers band, in California, opening for Sammy Hagar and Nightranger. Famously she befriended Brian May at a book-signing, going on to perform in We Will Rock You and enjoy a lasting kinship with him. She’s still on friendly terms with collaborators like Eric Johnson and Vince Gill, but May has a special place in her life.
“I grew up with Brian. I’m friends with his kids. And because I didn’t have a father figure around that time, he kind of became that to me. Most of what we talk about is typically animals or mental health stuff, he’s very open about his struggles with depression and just being human.”
By the age of 21 she’d seen the dark sides of show business.
Relations with her record label had begun to sour. A personal trainer was hired, who put her on metabolism-boosting hormones, leaving her battling anorexia in rehab. Broke and suicidal, she wound up living in her car. Legal battles over her music ensued, which escalated to the Supreme Court level. She came out a free musician, albeit robbed of the masters to her pre-2015 catalogue.
“My attorney said, ‘are you sure you want to do this? Because this will give you the freedom to do what you want with your career, but at a cost.’”
Now she’s doing things on her terms.
Since cutting ties with her label, Arielle has operated in a proudly DIY fashion. It hasn’t always been easy but the quality of ’73 proves that musically it’s worked out for the best.
“I still struggle,” she admits of the shadow cast by the experience. “It used to be something that was very shameful for me. I used to be so depressed, as recently as last year; I didn’t want to get out of bed.” Getting her dog, she says, has been a big help: “I think having something to take care of really helped; it took me outside of myself.”
’73 is out now. Learn more and get physical copies of the album at Arielle's website.