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INTERVIEW: Daisy Rock's Tish Ciravolo on doing whatever it takes to get more girls playing guitar

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: Daisy Rock's Tish Ciravolo on doing whatever it takes to get more girls playing guitar

Since its launch in 2000, Daisy Rock Girl Guitars has created numerous guitars and basses specifically for women, making instruments with a look and feel that appeals to young girls as well as helping them play more comfortably.

Over the years, Daisy Rock has produced a number of signature models by influential female musicians, including The Bangles’ guitarist Vicki Peterson, the ‘Queen of Rockabilly’ Wanda Jackson, and Sugarland bassist Annie Clements.

With such a long history of making instrument’s for women and teaming up with renowned female players, Daisy Rock founder Tish Ciravolo was understandably disappointed by a recent VICE interview with artist St Vincent (guitarist Annie Clark), which claimed that with the release of her new Ernie Ball signature guitar model, Clark was the “first woman ever to create her own electric guitar for the mass market”.

After Ciravolo spoke out, asking for the industry to “give credit where credit is earned”, MI Pro decided to catch up with the guitar-maker herself to find out more about Daisy Rock’s history, how its guitars are designed for women, and why it’s so important that young girls have female role models in music…
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Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the industry.

I played in a lot of bands in the '80s and '90s. And I worked a gazillion jobs to support my music career. When I first started Daisy Rock Girl Guitars, no one thought a girl guitar company would work because they didn’t think that young girls wanted to learn how to play more than air guitar. So I had the opportunity to launch my company at the Rockrgrl Conference in Seattle, Washington in October 2000. I had given birth to my second daughter in March. I had five samples shipped to the show, put up my first pipe and drape display and the response was overwhelmingly positive.  

The Bangles’ guitarist Vicki Peterson with her signature Daisy Rock guitar.

I asked Courtney Love at the closing ceremonies to sign my first Daisy Rock sample and today, that guitar hangs in the NAMM Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad as an innovation to the guitar industry.

When I was leaving the conference, I decided to fly back with the two signed samples and ship the other three guitars back… they never arrived. When I called the hotel, they watched the security tape and discovered they had two hotel employees steal the three guitars out the back door through a laundry basket. They fired the two employees and the three guitars were never located. So, my first thought was if someone was willing to lose their jobs over stealing my product, I must have created something amazing!

The following January, in 2001, I displayed the guitars at my first NAMM show. Over 1,000 people came by my booth and all the guys would say something like, “this will never work” and then they would be back in my booth with their wife, or girlfriend or whatever giving me an order.

I asked Courtney Love to sign my first Daisy Rock sample and today, that guitar hangs in the NAMM Museum as an innovation to the guitar industry.

Tish Ciravolo, Daisy Rock Girl Guitars

I heard the word “cute” about a 1,000 times that weekend. But, I did sell my guitars in the beginning on consignment with the condition that it would go into a music store window. If it did not attract attention or get a new customer for the store owner, I would take the guitar back, free of charge. I NEVER had to take a single guitar back, and I sold out of all my stock.

Did you always set out to make guitars specifically for women?

When I started playing bass, the first bass I bought was at a guitar store on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood, CA. My boyfriend and I entered the store and the salesman decided what bass I should play… after consulting with my boyfriend, not me. This was because very, very few females went into music stores to buy basses in the early ‘80s. It just didn’t happen.

So, I took the bass home, tried to play it and took it back the next day. It felt like a baseball bat in my hands. I proceeded to play every single bass in the store until I could find something comfortable. All of them were so heavy to hold and the necks were so thick. Fast-forward 10 years and my husband, Michael Ciravolo, who is the president of Schecter Guitars, makes me a bass with a slimmer neck and lighter weight. I could really play that bass comfortably. So I had endured this problem that every female had dealt with that wanted to play guitar since its invention: How to find something that was comfortable to play for a woman.  

A couple more years and my daughter, Nicole, is 1 ½ years old and does a drawing of a daisy…. I drew a neck and a headstock in the shape of a leaf on the picture. I showed it to my husband and we talked about how we should make guitars for girls, for little girls, that would be easier to play and fun to play. And they should be lighter in weight. That way, we would answer all the problems I had dealt with as a player.  

The Daisy Rock Candy Classic

So we designed the first Daisy Rock Guitars. The Daisy Rock in Peppermint Pink was the first guitar that matched Nicole’s drawing. And I wrote the first mission statement for Daisy Rock Guitars: Doing whatever it takes to get more girls to learn how to play guitar and enjoy music.

How important is it for young women to have access to instruments designed with them in mind?  

I think it’s the most important thing to help a girl or women over that first hump of how to play a guitar. And having a guitar designed to be easier to play helps them.

With regards to the VICE/St Vincent comments, do you think this was simply someone not doing their research or have you found female-led companies in this industry tend to be overlooked more often?  

I don't think VICE did their research, but I KNOW that female-led companies are always overlooked in our industry.

Do you have any new gear you’d like to tell us about?  

We have our amazing Rock Candy Classic models coming out of KMC Music for distribution, which means we have guitars in stock right now! I am so excited!

In the UK, we’ve seen more and more supermarkets starting to sell cheap musical instruments, the most recent one being Aldi. How does this affected businesses like Daisy Rock?  

I think when places like Target and Toys R Us etc jump on the bandwagon, it just increases the consumer interest to buy a real instrument from a music dealer.

What’s next for yourself and Daisy Rock?  

I am writing an autobiography about Daisy Rock Guitars, which I hope to have out next year! And look for us at NAMM 2018 to check out some super cool designs you have never seen before!

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Tags: guitars , Daisy Rock , Interviews , women in music , Tish Ciravolo , Daisy Rock Girl Guitars

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