Many kids have an imaginary friend, but not many build that character in the image of one of the world’s most famous guitarists. Fewer still see that dream come true. And yet that’s what happened to singer-songwriter Arielle, who spent her school days telling friends about her made-up friendship with Brian May.
Years later, having left her Florida home to study music in the UK, she met her hero at a book signing, and Queen‘s resident professor has been a close pal and mentor ever since. A stint as guitarist in the London stage production of We Will Rock You followed, and now, as she prepares to release her new album, Analog Girl In A Digital World, she has her very own two-tone signature guitar in production with Brian May Guitars.
“It’s going to sound really weird, but I always knew that we’d be friends,” she says, at her home studio, the prized instrument lying alongside her. “He plays guitar and music in a way that I understand more than anybody else. I get what he does. So it made sense to me at a young age that we were friends.”
Analog Girl In A Digital World is a concept album about being born into the wrong generation and trying to make it in the 21st century without going crazy. It’s the product of a modern woman whose heart lies in the 60s and 70s. It was recorded – half in analogue and half digitally – entirely live, with no click track or digital tuning. The result is a sunny, timeless collection of American rock to soothe the soul.
“I hope that future musicians can rely less on the technology and use it as a tool instead of over-polishing things,” she says. “Because it feels more than ever that people want something that’s real.”
It could have all turned out very differently, had she not fought the entertainment industry for her own identity. Returning to the US after graduating, she pitched up in LA and played with various musicians including CeeLo Green. Having signed a bad record contract, she was encouraged to go down the pop route. When she voiced her desire to move on to the musical path she follows now, things got ugly. A financially ruinous and emotionally exhausting series of court cases followed, and she lost vast swathes of her own music. Badly burned by the experience but determined to rebuild her life, today she puts out her records on her own label.
“It’s funny, because I’ve been doing this so long as an unknown artist, and I’ve seen things change,” she says. “I’ve tried almost every genre. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that I can do it. I could pull it off. But it wasn’t something I could sustain long term because it wasn’t authentic. It’s taken me another ten years to come full circle to something that is actually me.”