Vixen: The world of a session guitarist

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Vixen: The world of a session guitarist

Words by Benjamin Lamb

"I think the true value of a session player is being irreplaceable."

Pop music sometimes gets a pretty bad rap. But in reality, we’re in a special time for the charts, some of the world’s most famous acts are doing some cool stuff. Pop’s top stars are backed by some killer bands doing some even cooler stuff, including Vixen, guitarist on stage and in the studio.

Vixen Guitarist

Guitarist Vixen has played for a bunch of talented stars, Zara Larsson, Rina Sawayama and Craig David to name a few. She’s been very busy with her session playing, and we caught up with her to dive into her love for the axe.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.

“I do remember when I fell in love with it all,” Vixen says. “I must’ve been 10 or something, and I was at summer camp.

“A couple of the instructors pulled out some acoustics and started taking requests, and we just did a singalong. That sort of camaraderie was the first little taste of what I now search for.”


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A post shared by VIXEN (@vixens_diary)

Musical influences

Vixen’s influences come far and wide, making her the perfect candidate for the world of session playing. Session players need to be pretty adept in all types of music, one week it might be a wedding, one week it might be a metal band, one week could be a jazz gig.

“My first CD was Spice Girls’ Spice World, and then it was Nickelback Silverside Up. Then it was Nevermind, and Avril Lavigne’s Let Go.

All that really influenced me. I feel like it influenced my sense of melody quite a lot. Then it just went kind of went from there, those albums were my gateway drugs.”

Being a session musician isn’t a job that anyone can fall into, Vixen notes that being at a school with a bunch of like-minded people was the catalyst.

“I went to a music university in London, and that’s where everything in my whole career sort of started.

“There would be things like an audition on the notice board of the uni, or people in my year being like, ‘can you just play for free in a performance next week for my music assignment?’

“I’d be like, ‘Yeah, okay’. Five years down the line, they might be a gigging guitarist and get offered something small, like a wedding band, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve been offered two gigs, can you do this other one for me?’ It just kind of goes up from there.”

Jackson American Series Soloist

When you check out a Vixen video, there’s almost no doubt she’ll have a Jackson in hand, a guitar she can’t get enough of, the guitar manufacturer working with Vixen on their all-new American Series.

“The reason why I’m attracted to this brand and this guitar is because it’s just the sharpest tool, it’s the easiest playing guitar I’ve ever played.

“At the moment, my favourite Jackson is the SL3, it’s their first American-made production model, it’s built for speed, marketed as a rock guitar, but I love using it for pop too, it’s really versatile.”

The Jackson being the perfect choice for moving from gig to gig, and when it comes to backing up popstars or being a “bit of a chameleon” as Vixen puts it, it’s easy to think session musicians don’t get a lot of opportunity for originality or to add their own flair into the tracks. But Vixen details the special space that the songs sit in that allow you to add your own spin.

“I used to just play the songs exactly how they are, the parts I would play were identical to the songs, and that does have some value, you need to be able to do that as your first port of call. However, there’s loads of people that can do that. I think the true value of a session player is being irreplaceable. You do have to go the way of knowing how to play the song perfectly before you know what is tasteful to tweak it.

“I did a gig with Rina Sawayama recently, and the team were like, we trust you, you can choose to do this, or you can choose to add something. So, I added everything. The whole live show is like new bits.

“So as a session player, I think it’s easy to become like a robot, and you need to just still know that you are a creative being. And yeah, you can put your own ideas into it, you need to just not be afraid to and if it gets rejected, that’s fine. But you should at least try because you probably know some stuff that they don’t.


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A post shared by VIXEN (@vixens_diary)

Like so many of us out there, the pandemic allowed for some self-reflection, Vixen finding it an opportunity to discover her sound.

“In the pandemic, I didn’t have any songs to learn for other people, which is what I’ve done for many years. So, I’m just going to do what I want, just figure out my own thing. Obviously over the couple of years I’ve really developed my own sound and now I much prefer sounding like myself than trying to sound like someone else.

“So now I get hired to sound like me. So ideally, you should know that it’s me when I play the song.”

Dive into the world of Vixen on her Tiktok here.