Arielle: From Girl Next Door to Rock Queen (and everything in between) in one gig

Arielle in her Vera Black gambler hat that matches her Two Tone guitar

Researching Arielle for this Vera Black Ambassador article was an interesting experience. Arielle is one of those musicians who seem to defy genres – although 21st century classic rock is a useful description. She has a ‘girl next door’ vibe, but she can shred a guitar with the very best – she’s even designed her own guitar – Two Tone. 

She took it to meet Brian May at a book signing event when she was a teenager. They became friends, and ended up designing a guitar together – the Arielle guitar sold by Brian May guitars. Arielle went on to play a key role in May’s Queen musical and she has since worked with artists like Eric Clapton, Guns N’ Roses, Vince Gill, Nuno Bettencourt, Graham Nash, Joe Bonamassa, Heart, Eric Johnson, Joan Jett and Gregg Allman. She’s kind of a big deal.

But that doesn’t mean she has had it easy.  She quickly hit a glass ceiling. She was advised by a music teacher that she ‘should just wear a skirt and push-up bra because that was the only way she would get attention.’ She felt she gave a lot of herself away when she got a record deal in terms of the way she had to dress and be. She had issues with her weight and mental health.

Arielle found herself again when she left her record label and became an independent artist. Fast forward to 2021 and the release of her Analog Girl in a Digital World album that riffs on her love of the 60’s and 70’s and her retro vibe. This was followed in 2023 by the album 73 with the title track being a rip-roaring fun tribute to her ‘73 Volkswagen Camper.

Meeting Arielle

I arrive to meet Arielle, suitably attired in a retro shirt that looks worryingly like a lava lamp, in The Fleece in Bristol. As always with these interviews there are timing issues. The main band of the evening, When Rivers Meet, are just finishing their soundcheck, moving annoyingly easily from going through the motions to blasting out full throttle in a matter of seconds. Grace’s beautiful ‘fallen angel’ voice soars over Aaron’s slide guitar. Arielle and her band are due up next.

Arielle appears, wearing a t-shirt and relaxed cut-off skirt, her long brown hair down to her waist. It’s impossible to talk. When Rivers Meet are so loud in the empty venue that you wouldn’t hear a fog horn. Arielle seems a bit on edge, she doesn’t want me to have to wait around, but I’m quite happy to watch her soundcheck.

When Rivers Meet finish their sound check and there’s a lot of chat from bassist (and record producer) Adam Bowers about a place that apparently does fantastic burgers nearby. Grace disappears out the side door and reappears with Elles Bailey (another Vera Black Ambassador). This is a lovely surprise, but it’s a social call (Bristol is Elles’ hometown) rather than a musical collaboration. 

Finally the soundchecking starts and Arielle fusses around. I instantly know she is a perfectionist. It also quickly becomes apparent that Arielle and her band are a tight unit. She has Sam Tookey on bass who is giving off effortless bassist vibes and Emma Taylor on drums who is never far away from an infectious smile. They get the sound they want for each instrument, plus Arielle has three guitars with her: Two Tone, an acoustic guitar and her brand new ‘spare’; Saban, that is rocking a wood veneer vibe rather than the striking orange and white of Two Tone.

Everything seems sorted, but Arielle wants to run through Kalypso again – the rockin’ instrumental from the ‘73 album. I’m delighted to hear it twice and Arielle is obviously in her happy place. She seems ridiculously relaxed playing that level of complexity on a guitar. 

With the soundcheck completed we’re off to the green room to do the interview. It’s a bit cramped. I’m sitting a metre away from Arielle and her band mates are not much further away. They’re trying to have some down time on a sofa while I attempt to ask the right questions. 

How did you first start working with Vera Black?

“I was working with photographer Rob Blackham and he suggested using a stylist and said we should work with Vera Black. So I said Okay! It kinda started from there. They work together a lot and I think they are a cool dynamic duo.” (Arielle is wearing this in the main photo at the beginning of the article.)

I was interested in how Vera’s influence fits in with Arielle’s vintage vibe.

“There is something really cool about the edginess of it and there’s where I kinda try to add some of my style with the 60’s and 70’s thing. They really have a grasp on that with all the feathers. It’s just really dynamic and whilst there’s a lot of black, there’s also a lot of colour. When we did the photo shoot there were so many clothes and items that I would never have thought to wear. I just love what it brings out. It’s nice to have an outside perspective because I think you can get stuck in a certain mindset with certain things you are comfortable with. My hat is awesome too. I have a custom two-tone Vera Black hat that matches my guitar.”

Arielle styled by Vera Black
Arielle with her guitar Two Tone
Arielle playing her guitar Two Tone

Photos from some of Arielle’s shoots styled by Vera and photographed by Rob Blackham.

I mention Elles Bailey’s comments when I interviewed her on how she gained extra self-confidence after being styled by Vera when returning to the stage after having a baby. I asked her if she found that the process gave her more confidence. 

“Absolutely! It’s funny actually. Vera had these flags as background on one of the shoots and she said ‘Hey, you should wear these jeans and these shoes and no shirt!’ Which is super risque for me (Arielle laughs at the memory, her eyes widening as if remembering the shock of the suggestion). That photo is on a full page of Classic Rock magazine. I never thought that would be a thing! I said to Vera that I wanted to go for alluring and sexy without being over the top and she managed to find a way.

“I also told her that I want something I would functionally use. I don’t do a ton of jewellery because it gets caught in things on stage. So we found a good balance that I can replicate without having an amazing stylist with me.  Any time I want to look extra, extra cool I talk to Vera and tell her that ‘I want this to be epic’! And so many of the photos I did with her are the ones that people bring up and say ‘What was that outfit? It’s so cool!’”

(The photo of Arielle with flags and not much else.)

I discuss the difficulties she has experienced with her image and mental health and ask her if she feels in a good place at the moment. 

“Yeah, in a lot of ways, better than ever. It’s funny, because they are sitting right here, but the band is really strong and this takes so much pressure off me. I never worry about them, the only things I worry about are the things I really can’t control. 85% of my brain is willing things to not go wrong!

“There are so many things that can happen out of my control. Even brand new strings can break, the power sometimes gets weird and makes noises. I worry a lot because we are the opening act of this tour so I can’t have as much help as I need to not have that amount of pressure. So I am stressed out all the time. When I’m not working here I’m fixing gear, trying to make all of it better, because when it is right, it is just so amazing. 

“I’ve learned a lot of what I need to have in order to feel okay, but emotionally I’m feeling really good. Maybe worrying about gear is actually stopping me from going into a dark place I dunno.” She laughs. “That sounds kinda creepy. I’m better, I’m doing okay. Thanks for asking.”

(Photo by Rob Blackham, styled by Vera, taken soon after this interview.)

The musician Arielle by photographer Rob Blackham

Arielle and the guitar geeks

I change tack and move on to the way people in the often unforgiving guitar-led Facebook groups seem to have nothing but respect for Arielle. 

“Yeah, I think in some ways I’m really spoilt because I am so like the girl next door, but I’m also like a rock guitar chick. I think that balance has made people nicer because they see me as a human, versus just some person they are only judging based on my abilities. 

“There is one percent of people who say something like ‘You ho!’ or something critical like ‘Yeah, it’s okay but blah blah is better’. But it’s unusual. It’s often attention seeking, whether or not the person knows it. I had one guy who said something like ‘You should just put your tits out and do that instead because you would get more attention, because you’re not good enough to stand there and play without that.’ 

“I try to just say something nice when people are mean.  So I said something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry you think that. If you don’t like the music that I do, that’s okay, but I wish you the best’. The guy replied saying ‘I’m really sorry. I am just going through a hard time at the moment’!

“If it’s really bad I’ll just try to get rid of it. Not because of me, but because other people will try to protect me and I don’t want that either. But I am very spoilt. If there is an interview in something like Guitar Player magazine, people who are not in my fanbase will destroy anything I have to say! But in my own little bubble and in similar bubbles I am okay.”

People with far better musical knowledge than me have praised Arielle’s vocal range as well as her guitar skills. I was interested in whether she writes songs to showcase either or both of her skills. The track The way you look at me from the ‘73 album seems to do both on one beautiful song. 

“I don’t think about it in terms of separating the voice or guitar, but I write for a moment in a performance. I used to just write what I thought were strong songs and put the strongest songs on the album. But I realised during a live show that I was missing certain tempos or faster moments, or times when I just wanted people to have an emotional break. All my songs were deep and intense and I could feel it in the room.

“So I wrote certain songs, like ‘73 which is not deep at all. It’s something you can bang your head to, it’s fun to play. Once in a while I’ll do something that’s more about a vibe. You can tell which ones they are, some are slow; it doesn’t have a strong feeling in there, it’s not super deep. But I don’t write to show off guitar, that’s just not what I do.”

Arielle shot in black and white and styled by Vera Black

Do you get a lot of guitar geek questions when you are on tour?

“Some people are really observant. I do a lot of hybrid picking so I’ll hold the pick in my thumb and forefinger and also pick with my fingers, probably three quarters of the time. People bring that up, which I think is really observant. A lot of people ask about my guitars because they look unique. 

“Some people will ask what gear I use, which pedals and that sort of thing. I always tell them I just use the amp, which is why I am loud! And this surprises lots of people. I like it when people ask. It means they are paying attention. Or more importantly, it means they like it.

How is Saban bedding in?

Saban and Two Tone are not that different as literally every piece of Two Tone was taken apart to create Saban. This is the second prototype I have with this guitar builder Andy Guyton. He’s the guy who took apart Brian May’s Red Special guitar and rebuilt it to try to get a replica. So it is almost identical, apart from the colour, but also the tuning. It is tuned a full step up which is like having a capo on the second fret. This is because I was playing the songs I wanted in E that I didn’t think would fit my voice very well. I think the electric guitar sounds better in E. So there are a couple of differences in the way the stacks are to make that happen, because there is a lot of tension on a guitar to be tuned that high. Other than that they are really similar. We even took apart the pick ups that are in Two Tone to match it. 

“Saban is brand new, only 3 weeks old, and Two Tone is 16 years old so it’s got some breaking in to do. But I don’t have to change the way I play when I pick it up and this is the first time in my life I have ever had that luxury, so they are very close.

(Photo of Arielle playing Saban on tour with When Rivers Meet.)

The '73 album

I ask Arielle how the new ‘73 album has been going.

“It’s been good! People seem to be enjoying it. I’ve gotten sort of a split opinion on it. Some people; my fans, say it is the best thing I’ve done yet. The people who are not familiar with me often say it is not as up tempo as they like. Which is kinda surprising, because I think there is a lot of rocking going on in there. 

“I just didn’t want every song to sound the same and to be the same tempo, the same energy, the same story. Because I get bored and I just don’t think as a songwriter that’s the best I can do. This might be the duality of the girl next door and the rock star again. It is really hard for people to understand that both can happen and it’s okay. 

“I always think of Billy Joel. He has this split. He can be a bad ass New York dude and the  rocker guy and he has the sweet Piano Man song. I feel like it was what people did in the 60’s and 70’s. Queen was like that, and the Beatles. They all did different things. But for some reason some people have a hard time understanding that both of them are me, and they can switch within a few minutes.”

Tonewood Forest

While researching Arielle I had discovered her Not For Profit Tonewood Forest, so I was keen to find out more. 

“The ToneWood Forest started when I realised how old the trees were when we cut them down to make an instrument. I freaked out when I heard they were 110 or 120 years old because I was thinking – who is replanting them? It’s hard to equate how many guitars you get from one tree, especially because most people have multiple woods. I have two woods on mine. One is ebony, one of the most endangered trees in the whole world. But selling the Arielle Guitar means the cause of at least 20-25 trees to be cut down which is horrifying and upsetting.

I realised that I wanted to have a way to give back and make sure we are replanting the trees, so hopefully people in 120 years time can use and enjoy them. We’ve just bought 20 acres just outside Nashville. We just grow native trees so we’re planting a lot of maple and alder, birch, maybe ash in Nashville. We use maple a lot and so do Fender. We also have a plot of land here in the UK and Nicuagua, Hawaii, Maui and Belize as well.

(Photos shows Arielle at one of the Tonewood Forest plots)

What’s it like supporting When Rivers Meet?

“It’s been really nice. I’m sort of the opening act, but they are giving me 45 minutes. They have been so thoughtful and conscious of us. They put on a great show every single time and people leave all pumped up that they got to see them. They are making a lot of people happy. I have really enjoyed it. I feel really lucky that they invited us on this tour.

What's next for you?

On June 4th there is a James Burton benefit show for his charity and Brian May asked me to play the show. They are about to announce the main people but Brian May, Van Morrison and Albert Lee have been announced so far.  We’re all playing James Burton stuff so that should be really good.

(Photo from the rehearsals for the James Burton benefit show)

“When I go back to the US I’m going to be working on two new albums. One is going to be a broken down version of my current album. We’re going to do it with harps, bring in different instruments and we’re just going to play it live and record it direct to vinyl. And in the fall I’m doing another album, and we are working on a tour for the second week of October.”

Which rock stars drink sherry before a gig?

Russ King with When Rivers Meet

When I return to the performance area of the venue after finishing my chat with Arielle, I find I have intruded on the When Rivers Meet – VIP Meet and Greet session. There are about 20 guests chatting with Grace and Aaron while drinking sherry – which is apparently the WRM’s preferred pre-show tipple. I’ve never attended a meet and greet event and I have to say that the punters are getting value for money here. Grace and Aaron exude genuine friendliness. 

To cut a long story short I end up staying to see Grace and Aaron perform two beautiful songs with Aaron on acoustic guitar and Grace singing. Their voices harmonise, they gaze into each other’s eyes and it’s ridiculously romantic. 

After it’s over I go to apologise for crashing their event and end up having a chat and my photo taken with them. They truly are the friendliest rock stars in business (and yes, I was very good and didn’t steal any of the sherry!).

Arielle’s live performance

It’s showtime and the venue looks pretty full already. Arielle lets her band start the show before appearing on stage to blast out the infectious ‘73. She’s wearing a gold waistcoat, platform boots and she’s swinging her long hair as she makes Two Tone sing. Emma Taylor on drums is lost in the rhythm (she also provides backing vocals) and Sam Tookey’s bass is flawless. 

A couple push their way into a space beside me and the woman turns to her partner and says “Aww, she’s cute!” Twenty seconds later this turns into “Hey! She can really play.” The girl next door has blasted onto the stage with a super cool guitar and the crowd know they are in for something special. Everything about the sound is crisp and clean. Two Tone lives up to its name, not just from its colour, but from Arielle’s playing: she can switch from precise and beautiful to full on gnarly rock n roll within a song.

Arielle shows off her range, playing songs with different tempos across the rock n roll, blues, country and folk genres. It even includes a lively cover of You wreck me by Tom Petty. Her voice gets its moments in the spotlight earning her the comments of “That was beauuuutiful!” and “I’m so glad we got here early”, from the woman beside me.

Arielle also has lots of chat for the crowd. Her appealing chuckle as she hams up her accent when talking about living in Nashville, or returning to her roots for the blues of Texas has everyone smiling.

She quickly switches between Two Tone, Saban and her acoustic guitar between songs, but just as she feared there is a technical issue. She plugs in a new guitar and thrums it, but nothing happens. The band continues to play the song’s opening loop as she fiddles with the power cord. The crowd has time to look at each other. It’s getting awkward. Then the power returns and without missing a beat Arielle teaches the stupid power cord a lesson, riffing straight into the song. Emma is grinning on drums, and so is the audience. It is a classy response.

The crowd are bouncing nicely by the time Arielle reaches her last song – the instrumental Kalypso from the ‘73 album. She really lets rip and the crowd loves it.

“Oh my fucking god she can play!” the woman next to me screeches. Arielle has gone from the girl next door to rock queen in a 45 minute set, while playing most genres in between. She may be hard to classify, but she is ridiculously talented.

Brian May is quoted as saying “Her musicianship is a clear indication she has been here before” and Arielle does look as if she has already enjoyed a previous life as a musician – no doubt it in the ‘60’s and 70’s!

I make my way towards the merch table after her set, but there’s no way I can get to her before When Rivers Meet take to the stage. She has a crowd of people wanting to talk and buy signed CDs. I end up having to wait for some time after the end of the gig to get my own CD as her merch table is packed again. Perhaps helped by her blistering solo in Testify, one of the When Rivers Meet encores – a lovely touch that the crowd really enjoyed.

I eventually find her looking a little tired, but happy. My only complaint about my whole experience is that she didn’t compliment me on my lava lamp shirt!

Russ King interviewing Arielle
All about Arielle

Arielle shares a lot about herself and her work on her social media feeds and in her newsletter (where you get free music instantly after signing up) so do check it out. She also provided a ‘virtual access’ pass to her tour so people around the world could follow the experience that I was briefly a part of.

You can buy all her music on her web site – with a 10 percent discount if you sign up to that newsletter. You can also find her on YouTube, Insta and Facebook.

If, like me, you’ve become intrigued by the concept of designing your own guitar here’s an article that gives background on how Arielle and Brian got together with technical information about the designs and builds.

Buying the Arielle look
The Gold Pharoh Beaded Hair Clip

Arielle wears a number of different pieces from the Vera Black collection. In this photo she is wearing the Gold Pharaoh beaded hair clip. We also sell similar items as earrings like the Black Gold earring set shown in the carousel below. She is using our Vera Black guitar straps in a few of the photos in this article. And she is wearing our Raven Black Onyx beaded necklace. While her gambler hat was designed just for her, you can find similar style hats in our online shop and a couple of them are shown below.

The When Rivers Meet live experience

I can sum up the When Rivers Meet show with two words: Mischief and fun. 

It starts the moment they hit the stage. I need to know what burger Adam Bowers the bassist had because he springs with energy. He bounces all around the stage behind the star duo, sharing little quips and nods with the rest of the band. The drummer James Fox is knocking merry hell out of the skins while Grace and Aaron pour out their distinctive sound with huge grins on their faces.

I saw When Rivers Meet last year after interviewing Troy Redfern (they have excellent taste in support acts) when they were finding their feet after a surge in popularity. They were the cutest rock couple in town and had the audience quietly urging them on. Now they have a confident swagger; although they exude mischief rather than arrogance. But the real highpoint is the way the crowd feel included in the fun. Everyone is smiling; we’re part of the party, not just watching the performance.

They play 19 songs, including the encore. They stop mid-set to add in a song, seemingly at the demand of Adam. Aaron plays a variety of styles on different guitars including his ‘cigar box’ guitar and (in my opinion) is never better than when he plays slide. Grace plays her electric violin and mandolin, but it’s her beautiful rock voice that always stands out. They blast it out, they harmonise, they briefly slow it down for their duet Talking in my sleep and create a genuine warm and fuzzy moment together. Before hitting us with more blues-laced rock n roll.

There is lots of chat. Grace heckles the crowd halfway through for being quiet between the songs. She’s rewarded with good-natured backchat for the rest of the show. They finish with I want your Love which includes the perfect section for the crowd to sing along. Of course we do. We continue to sing after the band finally put their instruments down. Grace can’t help but return to the front of the stage to conduct us.

Eventually they leave the stage. But not very far. They join the crowd chatting, posing for photos and signing merch. The crowd becomes part of the band’s family. They are certainly welcome to drop in for sherry at mine at any time, as long as Adam brings the burgers!

You can catch up with When Rivers Meet on all the socials. You can find all the details on their web page here. They have also just announced the release date for their next album Aces are High (8th Sept) which you can pre-order at their online shop here.

And don’t forget – if you want to dress like a rock star we have all sorts of kick ass hats, jewellery and accessories that are hand made by us so you can look awesome! Take a look round our online shop and find the perfect piece for you.

How to boost creativity using live improvisation with rock star Troy Redfern

Troy Redfern doing live improvisation

Photo by Mal Whichelow

I first interviewed Troy Redfern in 2022 when he was touring with When Rivers Meet. It was just before he released his Wings of Salvation album and a key part of our chat was Troy’s fascination with live improvisation. I’m now waiting to interview him again, sitting outside the Louisiana venue in Bristol where he is co-headlining with the Canadian band The Commoners.

He’s due on stage very soon so time is short, but when he arrives Troy is calm and friendly. The only sign of the raw energy he exudes on stage is the intensity behind his eyes when he talks about his passions.

Of course, my first question is about his trademark hat. Vera originally designed what became the Redfern Rambler hat for Troy, but his latest bespoke hat is about a year old and I wondered how it had been faring on the gig / festival circuit.

“It’s awesome, and I get loads of compliments about it. But it’s really been put through its paces,” Troy laughs. “I get very hot on stage so it has to put up with lots of sweat every night. I look after it though, and it’s looking great.”

I ask if it has it’s own rider yet. Maybe a preferred brand of rum?

“No, not yet,” Troy grins. “Just a nice dark place to sleep.”

Hard working it may be, but Troy’s hat has its fans too. I talk to a few people before and after the gig and explain that I’m here with Vera Black. My favourite quote is “I mean the moment he walks onto the stage in that hat he just looks like a fucking rockstar!”

She had a good point. When Troy stepped onto the Louisiana stage in his hat, all in black, his shirt open to the navel, his chest covered in beads, trouser chains swinging – the audience immediately knew they were in for a memorable experience.

But at the moment we’re sitting outside the venue having a chat. It’s the peace before the storm, but I have an annoying question to ask. There were a few comments in the reviews of The Wings of Salvation finding comparisons with T. Rex and Glam Rock. Listening to the album takes me back to my teens when I listened to a lot of 70’s rock, but I can’t place a specific link. It’s unmistakably a Troy Redfern album as his raw, high gains, slide style is unique. So what does Troy think of these comparisons? This potentially awkward question turned into a fascinating discussion about the power of improvisation.

Writing music with an unconscious stream of thought

“It’s an unconscious mix of influences because of the way I write music,” Troy replies as he looks away to collect his thoughts. He takes a deep breath and gets stuck in.

“I am not a natural writer. I don’t try to construct a product for a market. I have an unconscious stream of thought process where I will pick up the guitar with no idea and just start playing and improvise a vocal melody on top of that. Once that idea is recorded I can go back to it and build the idea up to a finished product. It gets designed. It becomes the decoration of an idea

“But all musicians are a product of everything we’ve grown up listening to, or that we listen to now. When I was younger I listened to a lot of T. Rex, hard rock from the late 80’s, blues, – all that sort of stuff, so I think all these things are kicking around in my subconscious. They will come through when I’m improvising ideas. Hopefully these influences aren’t too apparent. It is still distinctly me.

“People have mentioned a T. Rex and Glam Rock link. In the 70’s the verses had a lot of tom drums and maybe it’s that. Maybe my vocal timbre is in the same sort of Bolanesque zone. But when you listen to T. Rex and do a side by side comparison it’s really not similar.”

Can you spot any similarities in the single Come on? See video below.

Unconscious coincidences

Troy then discussed a really strange coincidence that revolved around his love of improvising live on stage.

“I was talking to my producer Dave Marks, trying to work out what my set for these live shows. Is it playing songs that people go home remembering the tunes? Or is it the jam thing? I think that it’s really important to have a place where you know the key, and roughly what the structure is and you can let that go where it goes. You just try to get into a flow state where you’ve just switched off all conscious thought of thinking ahead. You’re just responding in the moment.

“It would be very interesting to see what an MRI scan would make of that kind of mental process, because it is a very strange thing to have musical impulses coming through faster than the speed of thought. It’s not like you are thinking ahead: Shall I play this scale? Shall I play this note? You don’t have time because if you would have thought that, the moment would have gone. So you are responding in real time without conscious thought and that always fascinates me.

“The creative part of the song is when you write it. That initial inspiration when you get something down on the block, that’s where the greatest part is, so playing songs live doesn’t feel like a creative process. I need the improvisation process in there to fulfil that need instead of just punching the clock.

“So I was making this point to Dave and he referenced the style of the Ozric Tentacles and I was hugely into them in the 90’s. I played festival recently called Off the Tracks and Ozric’s were there on the Friday night. I really wanted to see them play, but we didn’t arrive until the Saturday. When I was getting into my improvisation on the end solo, I was in the moment and it was just lifting and lifting, and I looked into the audience and I saw Ed from Ozrics.

I went and found him after the set and told him how much I have loved his stuff and how much of an influence he has been on me. He messaged me later on Facebook and told me that was the best guitar playing he had seen for a long time.

“That meant the world to me and it was so strange that Dave had referenced Ed a few weeks back when we were planning the set. And it ended in one of the best compliments I’ve ever had! That reinforced that the jam section can’t be wiped out of the set. The last thing I want to do is to go out with backing tracks, doing music by numbers with in-ear monitors. To me that’s not music, that’s something else.”

The thrill of live improvisation

In my first interview we discussed how the extra fear of live improvisation drives Troy on, when he explained the challenge of basically jamming by himself. So I was keen to find out how different it was playing with his band.

Finn McAuley, the drummer, and I have played together since lockdown, and we’ve done a lot of duo shows with lots of improvisation. Both Finn and Kiera Kenworthy, who plays bass, (pictured with Troy below) are super attuned to this stuff. In this set we have at least two really good points, especially on the last song that is probably an eight minute solo. We’ve done this in the previous six shows and each one has been completely different.

“It is a lot easier with the band, than solo. You’ve got that rhythmic interaction, sort of like Indian music when you’ve got tabla players playing off the top line and you are echoing rhythmic and beautiful ideas off each other. This is when you can do things that you couldn’t normally do, because it’s a mix of adrenaline, non-thought and reaction.

So what’s on the new album?

I was keen to find out about the new album that should be ready for release soon after Troy finishes this tour.

“We did Fire Cosmic, and that was what I consider to be my first proper album in the way that I used a producer, great musicians, and good studios. The next step was refining it and getting a clearer, cleaner sound, and we did that with the Wings of Salvation. I wanted the whole album to be a strength of choruses and concise songs. A couple of the songs are longer, but they are all generally around the 3.20 mark so they are super trimmed.

“We’ve tried about four or five of them out on these shows. I just wanted to get them out because I really like them. I wanted to see how they work. There is always a risk in playing a large section of unheard songs. But they have been going down really well.

The Wings of Salvation and the Fire Cosmic, both lean towards the rockier end of things and the new record is going to be a refined version of that. Similar to bands like Supergrass who delivered great rock songs with a guitar vibe like Richard III. It’s basically high energy rock n roll. Great songs with good hooks. So if you’re looking for my subconscious influences you’ll probably find Supergrass and Spacehog – I’m such a huge fan of Spacehog!

The Fever – see the video below is the first single from the new album.

Hangin’ with The Commoners

I asked what it was like doing a co-headlining tour with The Commoners.

“Fantastic!” Troy beams. “They are an absolutely beautiful bunch of guys. We feel like brothers already. We’re travelling in one van, really living in each other’s pockets and it’s great. They are a fantastic band. Their songs are super solid. We’re close enough, yet we’re different enough for the night to really work for the audience. They are a five piece hi-fi sounding band with keys and double guitar, and we’re a raw three piece. We’re swapping who goes on first and last and it doesn’t really matter because we’re both giving it our all.”

So what is the Troy Redfern Band live experience like?

It’s loud and raw and comes at you at 100 miles an hour – and there are only three of them! They kick off with All Night Long, one of the new songs, and Troy is true to his word as it is full of hooks and foot stamping fun from the get go. They move on to hits from the Wings of Salvation album – Sweet Carolina and Come on – which really get the crowd going.

It’s a frenetic set with Troy deftly switching between guitars in seconds. While he is the showman, he is not the only focal point. Keira makes bass playing look ridiculously easy, not to mention effortlessly cool, while also providing backing vocals. Behind them Finn is bashing merry hell out of the drums, his arms flying everywhere, yet pounding a perfect rhythm. It sounds great and they look awesome.

The fans in the front row are nodding their heads in unison, their eyes fixed on Troy’s fingers as they punish the strings and somehow keep perfect control of the demonic slide. This is a band who are having fun, spearheaded by a ridiculous guitar playing talent. But they really come alive when they go off piste. They share a secret language of smirks, eyebrow raises and eye contact as they react to each other.

All the new songs go down well and the new album sounds like a huge hit to me, but then I’ve been bowled over by the sheer rock n roll energy so consider me biased!

Below – Finn in action on the drums.

They round everything up with the big jam song and it’s Sanctify from The Fire Cosmic. By this time Troy is dripping with sweat. He’s holding nothing back. They fall into the live improvisation section and Troy lets rip. The crowd are with him, but no-one knows where he’s going – not even Troy! But it’s a hell of a ride; a stunning experience. Finn is laughing as he belts the skins, Kiera has gone into a mini-trance and the front row fans start watching her fingers too, as she works her magic on the frets.

They finish with a crescendo and acknowledge the crowd. In the sudden quietness that follows, people around me are swapping erudite comments like “Wow!”

Feedback from the crowd

There are two ideal places to pick up comments about a performance: in the toilets and at the merch table.

At the urinals two friends who obviously came for The Commoners are tempted to take the piss (sorry, couldn’t resist!) as they found the set a bit too full on. But they counter before they finish their business by agreeing that Troy fitted in a lot of songs and energy, and that it was a unique experience. By the time they had washed their hands they agreed it was probably worth the ticket price by itself.

At the merch table, Troy is back to his calmer persona, although still obviously on a bit of a post-performance high. The people picking up CD’s and T-shirts give compliments and tell him their favourite songs – things you expect from people motivated to buy merch after a performance.

However, it’s a conversation between Kiera and a fan after Troy has left the merch table that really grabs my interest.

“Which album is that last song on? I have to have it!” The guy says.

“Well, it’s from The Fire Cosmic,” Kiera replies, “But it won’t be the same.”

The guy is mystified. “But why not? That was amazing. That was… everything. I need to hear that again.”

“But it won’t be the same,” Kiera explains. “We jam on that track, it’s really different every time we play it.”

The guy is still confused. “But how can the same song be that different?”

Kiera shrugs and says something along the lines of “It’s what we do.”

The guy is still on the back foot, but he buys the CD and compliments Kiera on her playing.

I introduce myself to Kiera and ask her what it is like to play live with Troy when he’s improvising. She tells me that she feels very lucky as so few bands do it. I ask if it is ever daunting not knowing what Troy is going to do next.

She looks at me as if I am mad.

“It’s what I do and it’s a privilege to be part of it,” she says.

So it looks like there is definitely no chance of Troy dropping the improvisation element of his set and that’s good news for everyone. Just spare a thought for the strings on his well loved collection of guitars. Oh yes and his iconic hat that needs some restful downtime after a frenetic performance – just like the rest of us.

The Commoners

The only (devastating) downside to my evening was that I was not able to catch The Commoners set. However, the reviews show that while Troy was a tough act to follow, they also totally ripped the house down with their mix of deep Southern soul with a hard rock edge.

Not a bad double bill for a ticket price of just £18.50…

 

Check out Troy’s web site to buy all his music and merch (he designs his own t-shirts and creates all the art for his album covers), and while you’re there why not sign up to his newsletter to get the latest on when the new album is out?

Check out our epic Vera Black hats on our web site to find one that’s perfect for your rock n roll swagger. Maybe even the Redfern Rambler hat that was designed for Troy. There are more ideas for shopping Troy’s rock star look at the end of our first interview where we also cover Troy’s music and art influences. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get the latest news on our ever-changing range and to get more creative tips and inside knowledge from our ambassadors like Troy.

Ambassador Interview: Joseph Lynn – Photographer and director with the mantra ‘Do it now and learn from it’

The Dandy Mini Top Hat

I first met Joseph Lynn at a party Vera and Luke threw for their son Bobby’s first birthday at Primrose Hill in London. It was a scorching hot day and London seemed torn between partying in the sun and just surviving the heat. Finding the Vera Black group was easy. I just found the group of people who looked like rock stars! 

I was introduced to a number of fun and very talented creative people. Aside from Olivia who I have interviewed before, I had only met Vera and Luke. But after a quick chat with Joe it already felt like I had met a new friend. We didn’t agree on everything, but there was a creative energy that bounced out of him as he stood in front of me in his fedora hat and a broad smile.

The next time we met was not in the company of birthday boys, rock stars and models, but on a Zoom call. Joe was just as warm and funny as before, but it wasn’t until I transcribed our interview that I discovered just how fast he talks. So if you want the real Joseph Lynn experience try reading this at double speed!

Luke often describes Joe as a brother so I asked Joe when they first met.

“I distinctly remember meeting Luke. It was about nine years ago at the Southbank Christmas markets in London. There were lots of little stores there, but a lot of the stuff was tat really, or just uninteresting. And then I saw Luke’s stall and thought ‘Wow, this is so cool!’ I instantly fell in love with what they make and I couldn’t help but verbalise this to Luke. That I had been looking for stuff like this my whole life. I’ve been re-appropriating items to feel like this, and yet you’re doing exactly this. You’re hitting it right on the head, the right amalgamation of interest and aesthetics into one accessory.

“I still hear people saying this when they discover Vera Black, which is why they are so special. They are filling this gap which so many people want, and no-one else is doing it. I spent what student loan I had on accessories and spent about an hour talking to Luke. As anyone who shows any interest will know, Vera and Luke give you the whole story: how they got there; what they have done; their music career; people they’ve worked with and people they are interested in.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

Luke in the Vera Black stall in Camden.

“But there was absolutely no aspect of him that felt like he was selling. He just seemed to love talking to like-minded people. By the end I was just enamoured with him and the work. I gave him my contact details just in case there was anything we could do together and I kept in touch on social media. I think they were interested in me because I looked like someone who would wear their stuff and I was working with interesting people. At the time I was doing everything I could: self-shooting, videography, editing, anything! 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

Vera and Luke centre, with Olivia on the left and Gene Clark on the right.

“I ended up helping them with a fashion shoot in Portobello Road. But it didn’t feel like a product shoot. More like a lifestyle, all encompassing shoot. Everything fuelled the piece. They turned up in their iconic van and rolled out with this pile of clothes, and they were swapping jackets and trying things on. It was very rough around the edges and I was making it up as I went along, but it was great fun and they really liked it. From there we collaborated every six months or so.”

hombre fedora hat
Musicians Jade like the stone and Lewis Floyd Henry wearing Vera Black

Joseph Lynn’s big advice? Fail on someone else’s time!

Joe moved to London from Manchester so he could meet artists, creatives and people he felt spiritually akin to, and Vera and Luke helped him develop his skills.

“I look back and think ‘Wow, there really were some people who really let me fail on their time!’ I was 19 and I wasn’t super confident or anything, but I said, ‘I’d love to do this’. Sometimes things didn’t go right, but these people liked me and trusted me enough. I wasn’t even that good! 

“Without these experiments I wouldn’t have improved as a visual artist. They let me in and let me work with them and I don’t know if they just thought I’d get better, or if they were just super generous with their time. They were never critical and they didn’t pressure me. It was all about collaboration. It was never like a job, it was more like, let’s hang out and make this.

“I think it’s great that every year or so we’ll get back together and do something in some capacity. The last thing I actually did was the stills for the Sleepy Hollow fashion film that Denson (Baker) shot.

“Luke describes me as a brother, but he and Vera are also my unofficial mentors. We’re always talking about doing stuff, there’s always something spinning around. I hope they will keep making stuff with me for the rest of our lives.”

Festival hat scene from the Vera Black Sleepy Hollow fashion film
Love look from Sleepy Hollow fashion film by Vera Black
The Sleepy Hollow Top Hat by Vera Black
The Nighthawk black Fedora hat
The Vamp Top hat by Vera Black

A selection of Joe’s stills from the Vera Black  Sleepy Hollow fashion film. You can buy the look on our site at verablack.com

group photo for Sleepy hollow fashion film by Vera Blackfilm , Vera Black Custom Designs

How did you end up taking photos of famous people for a living?

A quick look through Joe’s Instagram account shows a selection of portraits of actors pulling unusual poses in urban settings. I wanted to know how he ended up taking photos of famous people for a living.

“This links back to having people who trusted me and let me work on their time. As well as Luke and Vera there was Noel Fielding, the comedian, actor and artist. I met him soon after moving to London. He was just turning 40 and I was just turning 20. I’m quite mature for my age and he is quite immature for his age, so we probably both met at about 30! I did some behind the scenes stuff for his TV show. It was a complete fluke. I bumped into him in a pub and he said “Come and do this!” He was just being polite and he was drunk! When I turned up he looked at me and said, ‘Oh yeah, shit. Okay.’

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

Noel Fielding

“I was really rough around the edges but I think he liked my potential and the energy I put into it. He took me on tour with him and we shared a studio for a bit. I was very insecure about the work I was making then. He helped me. He told me to work on specific points and what I needed to get better on. But he never said ‘Look you’re not really very good’. He just let me make mistakes with him. 

“Noel was the crux of pretty much everything because I met lots of other famous or interesting people when I was working with him. They assumed I knew what I was doing and would ask me to do stuff for them. That was the start of it. Now as an aspiring director, I work with a lot of actors. I have a lot of friends who are actors and they are doing successful things. So I do their press shots for them and they have friends of friends who see that and want to work with me.” 

So how did this lead to Joe making actors do strange things in the streets?

“Ironically I started to do this just as lockdown was happening. I was enjoying portraiture, but it was very controlled, with a backdrop and lots of light. I was trying so hard to learn and create stuff that I wasn’t trying to make a bond with the subject. They were more like a prop. I worked out that I needed to spend an hour with a camera and an actor and come away with four or five really good shots.”

Joe started to do a series of black and white portraits of people outside, using only natural light. Due to covid he had to create a connection with the actor from a distance and make the image interesting through emotion or movement.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

Actor, Adam Gillen

“Working like this with actors can be 50/50. They are usually open, free, physical people with a lot of energy. A lot of them come from a dancing background so they are good at physically presenting themselves. They often don’t need much persuading to do something different. Actors who have a bit of a profile are often bored of headshots that make them look smouldering or handsome. They want something that makes them look a bit more fun. 

“But some actors are very protective of their image. It can be tricky, especially if we only met an hour ago, to make them feel comfortable enough to do something unusual. I try to get around this by doing a lot of talking. I’ll tell them that I want them to do something that might feel a bit weird, but will look great. And we’ll put it in the bin if they don’t like it. It’s important to give them the right to veto. I only want to do this if the subject is going to love it.” 

I ask Joe for the story behind this fantastic photo of the actress Katherine McNamara doing the splits in Soho.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

“Kat is a good friend of mine. I basically said, ‘Wear this. We’ll go to Soho. We’ll work out what to do’. On the shoot I discovered she is a dancer and that she could do the splits. But it’s not just the actors who look silly. I’m right there with them. I was lying down on a dirty road opposite her with my camera, telling her to shout if she sees a car coming!”

I ask Joe if he is ever worried about the light being too poor to get a really stunning shot.

“It’s not so much if the light doesn’t work, it’s more about the location. I tend to ask the actor to choose a spot they have always liked or that they have a connection with. I’ll visit the spot and take a few photos to get a few ideas to get us started. But they’re never the ones we end up using. 

“Sometimes I don’t like the location, but I always have faith that something random will happen. The subject will say something like ‘I can do this jump,’ like Kat told me that she can do the splits, and all of a sudden we have something interesting.”

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

 

Actor Eilidh Loan

Is being friendly a core skill for a portrait photographer?

I point out to Joe that he was very friendly and approachable when I met him at the party. I asked if he is naturally like this, or whether it has developed as one of his core skills as a portrait photographer.

“Maybe! My natural personality has been informed by many years of doing what I do. As a freelancer I am doing something different every week. Sometimes I will get thrown into a room with 30 people I haven’t met before and I’ve got to make a decent impression pretty instantly. These atmospheres are usually quite tense, there are a lot of moving parts. You really can’t get in the way. So I’ve become good at being quiet, but polite and good at talking to people. 

“Weirdly I also think I’ve become quite good at talking to people like plumbers when they come round, and with strangers in a pub. I suppose it all revolves around being genuinely interested in people.” 

When doing portrait photography there is often a conflict between the subject’s desire to look young and attractive and the need for the interest that lines and even wrinkles provide. I asked Joe how he balances this in a world where ‘youth’ is power.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

 

Writer/Actor Sarah Kendall

“This is interesting as the photos we like of ourselves don’t look like us. They tend to be a slightly better version of us, maybe one we see in the mirror when we get ready. However, a really good friend will probably say ‘Oh no, that doesn’t look like you, you don’t look good in that’. Whereas they will love a photo that shows us as we really are – how they see us all the time. 

“99 percent of people hate having their photograph taken and I understand that. I hate it too! I’m often asked to touch up photos that I take before they are published. Especially for on-line images or for magazines and it can be frustrating. Sometimes I really love the original images, especially in black and white, because of the definition that lines or features, such as a mole, bring to the image. I had to edit one client’s face so much it looked like a blank baby’s face and their management team loved it! I actually find blank, pale faces boring. I’m so not interested in shooting young beautiful models. The craggier the face, the better!

“My favourite part is when my subject says, ‘Yeah, you’ve captured me’. Even when it’s not the perfect version of themself they want to see. But you have to be sensitive too, especially when it is a famous person.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Joseph Lynn (@joelynntw)

 

Comedian and actor Julian Barratt

Joseph Lynn the director

I asked Joe how he got into directing and how different is it from being a photographer

“I guess I always wanted to make films but I didn’t know you could do it as a job! I’m one of four kids; my family didn’t have a lot of money. We wouldn’t go on holiday, do days out or eat out very much. The one thing we had, being kids of the ‘90’s, was VHS tapes. We were allowed a little telly with a built-in VHS in our bedroom. So I have been inundated with sound and image since a child.

“When I was about 13 it became clear that there was a job called the director and the director makes the film. So I resolved to try and do that. The only thing remotely close to film-making at school was drama and I can’t act for shit, but I did it. Then I did film studies in college and university and I loved learning about film. 

“I moved from Manchester to London because that was where they made TV; it’s where they film Dr Who! My association with places always revolves around films that I love. When I went to Florence I scouted out all the filming locations from Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. I’m going to New York in April so I am literally making plans around film locations!

“As a student I was trying everything. I did a lot of self-shooting documentary stuff and I made silly short films and sketches with my friends. But when I moved to London I was on my own. So I borrowed a camera and thought, ‘I can shoot out, I can’t film in, but I can shoot out’. I was asking musicians and comedians if I could film them and I ended up circling through to Noel that way. 

“I directed my first short film when I was 23 for Channel 4 called Swan Song. It featured Noel Fielding as an angel in a wheelchair at the end of his life. Channel 4 had some funding for young directors via their platform Random Acts. It is a very moody, movement film.

“We shot that at the same time that my Grandma, who I was very close to, was dying. The day after we finished shooting I had to go to Manchester for her funeral. So there was a lot of emotions that were linked to what I was watching through with my Grandma in hospital”

Joe followed Swan Song with a number of other short films: Grin where people who can’t cope with the monotony of life have to wear grins painted on their faces, and Drown about a man who struggles to cope with the death of his partner. I wondered whether this dark element was an ongoing theme to Joe’s work as a director.

“Those first three films happened in a succession of two years and they were me wanting to work with those people – Martin Quinn, Noel and the people in that clown film. It was where my visual style was at the time. I was also working with sound designers and movie directors whose stuff always leans that way, so it felt like an easier aesthetic or mood to achieve than levity. However, I always try to challenge the things I am comfortable with and since then I’ve been trying to write straight forward comedy. My latest film Mint Chocolate Chip is doing the festival circuit and it is extremely colourful.”

What is the ideal next step with your film making?

I plan to make a feature film this year, entirely on my terms, I don’t mean that no one is going to interrupt my vision. I mean it purely as the only way I can afford to do this is to do it super DIY, with my small group of people. Without trying to raise money or apply for funding as that takes so much time.” 

Any advice for people starting out in your line of work?

“Just do stuff and learn from it and move on. By the time I’ve finished my feature film I’m going to know how to make a much better one. Some people are so scared that their filmmaking won’t be good enough that they don’t actually start it. It won’t be good enough yet. But if it’s 10 percent of what you wanted it to be, the next time it will be 15 and the next 20 percent. You have to start somewhere. 

“This is even more true with photography as it is so instant. You’ve got an iphone, just go and do it. The moment I do something, I love throwing it over my shoulder. I don’t tinker. This is why retouching pisses me off. I just want to throw it out there and move on. I’m always eager to finish something, so I can learn from it and be better next time. I don’t dwell, or over think it. I’d rather just shoot it and move on.

“Stop trying to be the best person now. You’re not going to be. You’ve got time!”

Joe’s portraits are currently on show at the Maison Bertaux Gallery on Greek Street in Soho, London in his exhibition called Finding Colour. You can buy signed prints from this exhibition here.

Full contact details for Joe and examples of his work can be found on his web site here.

Joe’s film Mint Chocolate Chip has just won Best Comedy Short at this year’s New Renaissance Film Festival 

 

Our other Vera Black Ambassador interviews include: 

UK King of the slide guitar Troy Redfern.

Smoky blues and Americana artist Elles Bailey

International model and face of Vera Black Olivia Harriet.

Brand new up and coming Americana artist Lloyd McGuigan.

Plus our first book review, for the astonishing Seek the Singing Fish novel by Roma Wells.

Win a unique £500 Vera Black custom designed hat!

The limited edition Black Stallion gambler hat by Vera Black

We’re giving away the chance to have your very own Vera Black custom designed hat worth £500! Vera will consult with you and design and create your very own fedora or gambler hat. Vera has designed kick ass hats for lots of celebrities and musicians – so why not you?

All you have to do is sign up for our newsletter and we’ll pick the lucky winner on the 10th of March at the London C2C Show.

If you’re already subscribed to our newsletter you’ve already been entered into the competition! You’ll also know that subscribers are the first to hear about our brand new designs and our sales. However, we pride ourselves on on our creative community and we also have in-depth interviews with some of the fantastic people we work with.

So far this has included:

UK King of the slide guitar Troy Redfern.

Smoky blues and Americana artist Elles Bailey

International model and face of Vera Black Olivia Harriet.

Brand new up and coming Americana artist Lloyd McGuigan.

Plus our first book review, for the astonishing Seek the Singing Fish novel by Roma Wells.

Our ambassadors rocking our designer hats

Elles Bailey in a bespoke fedora
Olivia Harriet in the Strawberry Fields fedora
LLoyd McGuigan in a bespoke fedora
Roma Wells in her bespoke fedora
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So how do I enter the competition again?

Just sign up to receive our newsletter that comes out a few times a month – you won’t get spammed by us! You can sign up in the box below.

Subscribe to join the

Inner City Outsiders

Sign up to our newsletter and join the ‘Inner City Outsiders’ for exclusive discount codes, competitions and more! And don’t worry, we won’t bombard you with loads of emails 🙂

So, who else wears our custom designed hats?

Oritsé Williams marrying Kazz Kumar in a designer Vera Black Rose Sunset Fedora hat

Pop star Oritsé Williams wore our Rose Sunset fedora in his wedding to Kazz Kumar. We are now designing a brand new hat design with Oritsé that will be available soon.

Nadia Parkes wearing a Vera Black festival hat

We have also designed hats for a number of actors such as Nadia Parkes, pictured here, and Eva Green.

However, we’re not just about the celebrities. There are loads of super cool people out their rockin’ our hats. Below are just a few photos of happy customers at our pop up festival shows.

Susie Williams wearing a Vera Black festival hat
Customer buying a Vera Black gambler hat
Customer at Black Deer festival buying a fedora hat
Customer wearing a custom fedora hat

Of course it is always fun when international musicians like Drake White pop in to buy a hat from us at the festivals! See below Drake White on stage after a fedora hat from us earlier in the day. Top photo by Philippa Myall-Chance

Drake White wearing his Vera Black fedora hat
Drake White at the Vera Black stall at Long Road festival

"

Vera came out, looked at me and said “I might have a hat for you”. I just said “Just make me look nice.”... "She took a picture of me with the hat and showed it to me and I fell in love with it. I felt confident and comfortable with myself, and it’s who I should have been a long time ago. Now, this doesn't come off!"
Lloyd McGuigan
Singer songwriter

So what type of hat would you choose? A classic fedora? An edgy gambler hat?

Vera will work with you to create the perfect hat to suits your personal style. You’ll be turning heads wherever you go!

Just don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter before midnight on the 11th of March to be included in the competition!

Gambler hat

Model and actress Stephanie Tripp wearing one of our bespoke gambler hats.

5 reasons why everyone loves black cowboy hats

Luke wearing one of the black cowboy hats at Long Road festival

Our black cowboy hats are always popular with our online customers or in one of our pop up shops in the Americana festivals. Of course, our cowboy hats are a bit different: designed by Vera Black herself and handmade in the UK, they fuse Americana, rock’n’roll with a cheeky edge of pirate mischief. As shown by Luke in the photo above as he takes a break in front of the Vera Black pop up shop at the Long Road festival.  But why are our black cowboy hats so popular? We’ve got five reasons for you.

1) Black cowboy hats are iconic

The black cowboy hat is one of those iconic looks. Black goes with everything. The hats can be formal or informal and they never go out of style.

Check out this epic El Noro Oro fedora (the name means Black Gold in English).

2) Black cowboy hats can lend an air of respectability or mischief

Confused?

It’s a bit like the British love of tea. Need a quick pick-me-up? Have a cup of tea. Need to calm down and relax? Have a cup of tea. 

A black cowboy hat can add gravitas to an outfit, yet the same hat worn with a different style of clothes – or even attitude – can suggest an air of mischief, or even an edge of danger.

Here is the talented model and photographer Matthew Jake Pomroy with a moody black and white self-protrait in one of our bespoke black fedoras.

3) Black cowboy hats work with many different styles

They can suit the gothic look as shown by the Nighthawk Fedora in our Sleepy Hollow fashion video, the rock star look with our ever-popular Hombre hat. Or with a bit of extra pazazz, they merge with the steampunk look as shown by our Vamp top hat.

4) And black is the perfect base for bold colours

Black cowboy hats don’t have to stay black. Check out our stunning Ruby Tuesday gambler hat. We also do a vibrant Midnight Express model in both fedora and gambler hat styles. For the times when you really want to turn heads!

5) But black and silver will always be a kick ass combination

Black cowboy hats always look fantastic with silver features. Two colours; perfectly suited to give an air of laid-back class! Take our killer Tomahawk fedora, with the silver and black amhurst pheasant feather, that matches perfectly with the labradorite and blank onyx stone pendants. Or the Copperhead Gambler with its extra silver crescent moon and skull pendant at the back. 

The dilemma is not about whether a black cowboy hat is perfect for you, but which of our black cowboy hats are perfect for you!

Check out our full range of cowboy hats here.

 

The Black Stallion: Limited edition gambler hat

The limited edition Black Stallion gambler hat by Vera Black

Every now and then Vera creates a special limited edition hat and she has gone wild with this Black Stallion limited edition gambler hat. Inspired by the style of Andalucia in Spain, this gorgeous black gambler hat has stunning, gold detailed black onyx stones and a large amhurst pheasant feather. Guaranteed to give anyone some laid-back Spanish swagger!

It is modelled by Vera’s muse, Olivia Harriet who has such a special connection with horses and photographed by Vera’s award winning cinematographer brother Denson Baker.  This kick ass hat is sure to be sold soon so grab it before it disappears off into the sunset!

It’s available only in size medium and large. And as the saying goes; once it’s gone it’s gone so check it out here!

The Black Stallion limited edition gambler hat

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The Black Stallion gambler hat by Vera Black with a stallion

Although if you missed out on this idiosyncratic gambler hat there will always be other limited edition hats to choose from. Sign up to our newsletter to be kept in the loop for all Vera’s new creations. You can also have a bespoke hat designed to your specifications, choosing from fedora, gambler or top hats. Perfect if you want a truly original festival hat or something special to take your look to the next level.

If you’ve been dazzled by the hair feathers Olivia is wearing you can find feather hair clips, feather hair braiders and feather earrings in our shop. Not to mention the beautiful choker, necklaces and finger bracelet that Olivia is wearing.

And check out our current range of gambler hats here.

Sorry, but we don’t sell the bridle that Chomp our black stallion is wearing!

The Festival Hat : Designed to make you feel fantastic!

Susie Williams wearing a Vera Black festival hat

A festival hat is not just to make you stand out (or even fit in) at a festival. Whilst it’s true that a festival hat will turn people’s heads, it doesn’t mean they can only be worn where there’s a party vibe. You can wear it when you feel like it: when going to a bar, out for a walk, maybe when you’re buying groceries. Sure, you can keep it for when you want to feel special, but a festival hat can spark up any outfit.

The three main benefits of wearing a festival hat:

  • You feel great
  • You look great
  • People will want to interact with you

Some people feel as if they need permission to wear a Vera Black festival hat, but that’s just nonsense! They say things like “I’m not sure it’s me” or “I’m not really cool enough to carry it off” Eventually they buy a hat that is perfect for them and we know we’re going to hear from them again:

“I love my hat, it’s given me so much confidence!” or “I get so many compliments when I wear it” 

It’s so rewarding hearing your customers thanking you for selling them your hat! We’ve written more about the psychological benefits of wearing festival hats here.

So who actually wears a Vera Black festival hat?

The obvious point we are making here is that anyone can rock a festival hat. The photo at the top of the article is of a customer, Susie Williams, not a celebrity. However, we have lots of celebrity customers.

Eva Green wearing Vera Black

Here’s film director Tim Burton’s muse and James Bond actress Eva Green wearing a bespoke gambler hat, plus bespoke necklaces designed by Vera.

Staying with actresses here’s Doctor Who, The Spanish Princess and Half Bad actress Nadia Parkes in her bespoke gambler.

Nadia Parkes wearing a Vera Black festival hat
Elles Bailey wearing a Vera Black fedora hat

Moving to the rock star look we have the award-winning blues and roots singer Elles Bailey.

Elles was styled by Vera for what has now become an iconic photoshoot. You can read about this in our interview with Elles about self image, touring in covid times and opening for Van Morrison here.

Elles has no end of our hats, but here are two of her bespoke fedoras.

Elles Bailey in a white Vera Black fedora hat

Another familiar face wearing our festival hats is the King of the Slide Guitar Troy Redfern and his trademark Vera Black gambler hats. You can even buy the Redfern Rambler that one of his iconic hats was based on. See our interview Troy where he discussed his own style of live improvisation, his love of art and the making of his new album The Wings of Salvation here.

We have also styled Oritsé Williams, once a member of pop group JLS, now a singer-songwriter, dancer and record producer.

Here he is wearing our El Capitan fedora hat which looks amazing on people who like to wear a lot of black – even to festivals! 

Oritsé Williams wearing a Vera Black festival hat

Here is classic rock star Arielle with her Vera Black gambler and her guitars that she designed with Queen legend Brian May.

The many styles of a festival hat

Photo: Photographer and artist Tegan

The basic job of a hat is to keep the wearer warm, cool, dry or shield them from the sun. The festival hat does all this in style! If you’re going to a music festival like Glastonbury or Coachella, or maybe something outrageous like Burning Man, you might want something a bit special on your head. Aside from making you look awesome, it can also help your friends find you in the crowd!

But not everyone wants to be that flamboyant. You might be heading to a local gig, an open mic night at your local bar, or just a friend’s barbecue. A good festival hat brings the happy, free-spirited vibes wherever you wear it. It is also perfect for those times when you really can’t be bothered to dress up, but it is expected of you. Just put on something easy and slip on your festival hat and you’re good to go.

So what is the best style of festival hat?

The easy answer here is whatever you like and that suits your own style. Just a quick reminder that you don’t need anyone’s permission to wear a kick ass hat! Wear what you like. You can message us here to talk about what style of hat might suit you best – just drop a link to your Instagram or other social media account so we can get a flavour of your style. You can also take it further and order bespoke hats that are specifically created for you.

You can see all of our festival hats here.

Fedora hats

The fedora hat is the classic rock n roll hat. They’re classy and can just as easily be worn to a wedding as a festival. You can keep it fairly simple like our Tomahawk fedora or make an entrance with something like our El Nero Oro fedora.

The Tomahawk fedora hat

The El Nero Oro fedora hat

You can see the full range of our fedora hats here. They are a fantastic festival hat that you can wear to a variety of occasions. We’ve written a number of articles about fedoras to help you decide which style is right for you.

Gambler hats

Gambler hats have a rebellious edge to them. In a movie you would might expect the dashing hero to wear a fedora (like Indianna Jones). The maverick character who can’t be relied upon to play it straight (like Crocodile Dundee) would wear a gambler. This is not a huge surprise as this hat style originated from the hats that gamblers wore on floating casinos in the US.

So if you’re feeling full of mischief (or think it’s about time you got up to some mischief) a gambler makes the perfect festival hat. It’s not a one trick pony either. Gamblers look very sharp with formal clothes. They are just as happy in the middle of a festival field, in a late night speakeasy bar, worn with jeans on the school run, or with a LBD or sharp suit at a business event. 

You can see our full range of gambler hats here. You can make a big statement with our Ruby Tuesday gambler hat or the Tequila Sunrise gambler. Or rock a more muted vibe with the Sierra gambler, or the Copper Head gambler.

If you want more information about gambler hats see our article What is a gambler hat and why should I wear one?

When does a festival hat become a cowboy (or cowgirl) hat?

The UK Americana music scene is massive and growing year on year. We practically sold out of our hats at the 2022 Country to Country (C2C) show in London and Black Deer was also insanely busy. You can read our report on the 2022 C2C show here.

Many of our hats have an Americana vibe – you can check out our full range of cowboy hats here. Our Arizona fedora hat and the Rose Sunset fedora hat are great examples. But our whole range of festival hats are very popular with Americana fans, especially when they are feeling the festival vibe!

Arizona fedora hat

 Rose Sunset fedora hat

Vera Black and Luke wearing cowboy hats at the C2C show

Here’s Vera and Luke celebrating selling pracitcally all their hats at the C2C stall in 2022. They are pictured in front of their iconic 1972 Dodge Boogie van. 

They have since added a vintage caravan called Elvis to their pop up shop experience. Keep an eye out for it at future shows!

Vera with Crissie from The Shires who has been a long time customer of ours. They were filming for the UK TV show This Morning where the presenter Josie Gibson had a country music style make over and had to choose the perfect hat. The video clip from the show is below.

Crissie Rhodes from The Shires and Vera Black wearing their cow girl hats at the C2C festival.

Are top hats the ultimate festival hats?

Festival hat scene from the Vera Black Sleepy Hollow fashion film

Fun, daring and achingly cool; our top hats really turn heads! They become the centrepiece of any outfit and it’s no surprise that they make you feel taller the moment you put them on. Perfect for any festival outfit, they also fit right into the bohemian, gothic or steampunk vibes. If you like your festival hat to be black and gothic you should check out our Sleepy Hollow fashion video. 

Check out our range of top hats here. 

Our standard (if you can call them that!) top hats are below but contact us if you need a bespoke version.

Rhiannon top hat

Inspired by Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow film and Stevie Nicks, this gorgeous hat features ostrich and peacock feathers. The hat itself is carefully distressed, wrapped with lace and embellished with conchos and moonstone.

The Sleepy Hollow top hat

A gothic beauty featuring black ostrich and pheasant feathers, ebony wood, paua shell and intricate beading.

Take a look at our article Top hat time – inspired by Sleepy Hollow and Stevie Nicks for more ways to wear these iconic hats.

Can I wear a festival hat to a wedding?

Hell yes! Our rock n roll hats love to party, but they can also behave themselves during the boring bits – sorry the formal bits. Hats always used to be worn at formal events so you will look quite the part in your festival hat. After all, it’s not your fault if your hat makes it look as if you could get up to mischief at any time is it?

Check out our article on bohemian wedding hats here. 

Photo by Roxane Nicolas

bohemian wedding photo

And finally…

If you’re thinking of buying a festival hat as a present we have some cunning, outrageous and almost sensible suggestions for finding out their hat size without them realising what you are up to.

How do I buy someone a Vera Black hat as a gift?

If you’re still not sure which hat is perfect for you just browse through all the hats we have in our hat section

Troy Redfern ambassador interview: The King of Slide Guitar

The Troy Redfern Rambler gambler hat

Troy Redfern is a busy man. I meet him in the middle of a tour supporting blues duo When Rivers Meet  – he has only just arrived at the Exchange in Bristol after playing in Manchester the night before. Earlier in the week he finished mastering his latest album at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

I walk up to the Exchange to find him sitting outside on a bench relaxing with a coffee and a cigarette. He’s wearing a wide-brimmed hat, his long, dark hair falls down to his shoulders. 

Troy looks up as I introduce myself and he shakes my hand with a broad smile. He’s quickly fitting me in before doing his soundchecks, yet he seems completely relaxed. The only sign of the frenetic energy of the distinctive Troy Redfern performance I’ve seen on his YouTube videos lie behind his intense dark eyes. We settle down to our in-promptu interview inbetween him having to respond to messages about final issues with his new album and saying hello to fans – he arranges to meet them after our interview is over.

Obviously our conversation starts with discussions about his partnership with Vera Black for his trademark gambler hats, but it takes in a whole range of areas from playing live, advice for building a brand for your band, designing his own merch (he used to work in a tattoo parlour) and his love for improvising on stage in front of an audience.

I start by asking him how he first connected with Vera Black. 

“I’ve been buying Vera Black products for maybe three years. I actually met Vera and Luke when I was promoting my last album. I have been wearing hats for some time and I had a photo shoot with Rob Blackham and I decided to cold call Vera and ask if she would come and style the shoot. 

“She said it was something she was thinking about doing so she was really pleased to get the call. She came to the shoot, she brought lots of hats and lots of different clothes and we did a shoot. She’s gone on to do quite a few shoots with Rob, so it’s a good partnership.”

How did you first find out about Vera Black?

“I just saw stuff come up on social media, like Instagram. People I know have been wearing her hats.”  

Troy Redfern’s love for his distinctive gambler hat

The Redfern Rambler gambler hat

The Redfern Rambler gambler hat was designed for Troy Redfern by Vera and it quickly became a popular item in our shop. It also became a key part of Troy’s stage identity. 

“Before I had Vera’s hats I was wearing similar sorts of banded hats, but I was never really happy with them. The brims were too small and because I’ve got long hair the small brim really doesn’t suit, so the wider gambler is absolutely perfect.

“I’ve just got Vera to design a new one with Conchos that I’ve just received on the first date of this tour. I really liked another hat of hers I’ve got, a brown one with conchos, so we had a discussion on the phone. I explained the kind of thing I was thinking of and she designed one from that. I love it, I’ve been wearing it every night.”

How is it going with your new hat? Do you feel as if you need to break it in or anything?

They all fit differently. My gamblers fit slightly tighter, the new one is absolutely perfect. The last gambler I had has seen lots of shows and lots of sweat! So it’s nearing the end of its life. I need to retire that one, but yeah they fit perfectly which is important, because if you’re moving around a lot on stage it needs to stay on! Everything about the product is perfect for me.

Is it part of your stage persona, getting your hat on? Is it almost like putting on a uniform? 

Yeah, there is a school of thought for having separate clothing for the stage and I’m sure that psychologically alters you in some way that prepares you for performance. There are different schools of thought around this. You have the Kurt Cobain grunge era, but even that is a uniform because whenever you go on stage you are saying something. I think the gambler hat feels right, along with the Vera Black jewellery. It just feels right for my brand. I hate to use that word but it’s true.”

Troy Redfern the artist

Troy’s skills just don’t lie in music. He also designs his own album covers and T-shirts. I wanted to know if his music and art go in the same vibes. 

“Yeah, I was always into comic art as a kid. I had a stint designing tattoos and working in a tattoo parlour for a while. Key influences were the Blue Rider group like Kandinsky and Franz Marc, people like Jack Kirby, the comic guy. I’ve always had an interest in the visual arts and the last album cover was a bit of a revelation because I never thought I could do that. It was nice to have the complete package: the musical content; my artistic output; plus the visual package.

“I’ve done this again on the next album, which is a completely different style – charcoal and pastel. So I am just taking a side turn, but it is all representative about the way I feel about the music – grainy and organic.

My partner and I have a clothing company, so not only do we design them, but we actually print them. It’s really important to get decent quality products. Some band merchandise is really cheap. We use organic cotton, it’s really high quality so we know it’s going to last. So when you buy a t-shirt you know it’s not going to just last a few wears. 

“I absolutely love it and love that I can design t-shirts. I’ve designed two t-shirts for this tour and they’re selling really well. It’s so cool seeing people respond to those designs and having this direct thing when I can design something and have it on the merch stand in a couple of days.

Troy Redfern being endorsed by Ernie Ball

You have a very distinctive style. You’re known as the King of Slide Guitar, and you’re now endorsed by Ernie Ball guitar strings. How cool was that for you?

“It’s really cool! I’ve used Ernie Ball strings all my life, as soon as I started playing guitar. Some people don’t really get the thing about always using the same string company, but I’ve always used them. It was a huge thrill to be endorsed by that company! All my guitar heroes when I was a kid used Ernie Ball and they still do. I never thought that would happen. The success of the last album Fire Cosmic definitely opened a few doors.

Stepping up a level with The Fire Cosmic and another new album

Troy had a very busy lockdown period when he released five (!) albums that he recorded with his own home set up. I asked him how this process differed from the creation of his current album The Fire Cosmic and the new one he completed this week.

“Touring and playing in a festival in Poland was really the genesis of the Fire Cosmic. I met Darby Todd [from The Darkness] who is an amazing drummer, a world class drummer, who has just recently joined up with Devin Townsend. Devin is massively respected by folks like Steve Vai who is quoted as saying that he has only ever known two geniuses Frank Zappa and Devin Townsend. 

“I also met Bumblefoot [Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal who played lead guitar for Guns N’Roses] at that same festival and those two guys ended up being on the album. That really made me realise that you can get these amazing musicans to play on your album. So on the new album I got Paul Stewart from The Feeling  and he’s a phenomenal drummer. In The Feeling he does a different style, a more pop sensibility, but he’s just an all rounder, an amazing player.” 

The video for Waiting for Your Love – the lead single from the album Fire Cosmic.

“It’s great to know that I can get those guys in and also that I can use good studios. I did Fire Cosmic at Rockfield in North Wales and this last one at a private studio which is a converted chapel, which is absolutely exceptional for the drum sound. So I may track guitars if I go back to recording in my place, but I’ll always track the drums in a good studio, because it’s all about tracking good drums.

“We’ve just been down to Abbey Road Studios to master the new album with Sean Magee [who has remastered the Beatles amongst many others]. He did a brilliant job and I’ve just literally received the masters back and they sound great. Really crystal clear and punchy. I’m super happy with that.”

Troy’s advice for new musicians

Going back to the music you did over lockdown. Have you got any advice for the musicians who are trying to get themselves out there?

“I’m from a rural area. I live on the Welsh border by a town called Hay-On-Wye. I didn’t know anyone when I started my band. I was just playing in the local counties. I didn’t know any festival organisers. I didn’t know any venues. I was starting from scratch. So the first couple of years was all about meeting people. 

“If you’re starting out you need to get out and meet people; get your stuff out there. Get a good social media presence, get a good quality demo or album, and then be nice. It’s a people business. If you’re not a nice person, if you’re arrogant, or anything like that, it’s not going to go well. You’re not going to move forward because people don’t need to deal with people like that. You don’t need idiots!

You crowdfunded your latest album on Kickstarter and got about £1000 more than your original goal. What was that experience like? What was it like to have that much support from your fans?

“I’d never done a Kickstarter so I had no idea how that was going to work. Kickstarter works on the principle that if you don’t hit the target, you don’t get anything. So I set a relatively modest amount of £3,500. I was blown away when I saw the response. We got half of that in the first 24 hours, and from what I heard that’s exactly what you need to achieve. We hit that milestone and then it just carried on, so that was great. Unfortunately the album cost about £20,000 in total. So the £4,500 just about covers the physical costs of buying in the cds. It’s an expensive game!

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Troy Redfern (@troyredfern)

Troy Redfern playing his solo set on the When Rivers Meet tour in Birmingham.

What’s different about the new album?

So what can we expect from the new album? How is it different to Fire Cosmic?

I would say the new album is slightly less rock. The Fire Cosmic was produced in a very rockesque sort of way, but the new album is a bit more varied. So you’ve still got a few rock tracks on there, but there’s a couple of Americana-ish tracks too so it’s just a bit broader. It’s not radically different. It’s just like the sort of thing I do because I’m the one doing it. You can’t get away from that, but production wise it’s a little less intense.

“I’m very pleased with it. We wanted to get a sort of open mix with space where we could listen into different instruments really clearly and I think we achieved that. It was all about getting strong songs. And also stamping a point in time that represents now because the album from conception, from no songs to finished songs only took five weeks! We started from nothing. 

“I worked with a guy called Dave Marks who played bass on the last album. Mark is from Belfast. He’s just a phenomenal all round musician and a very organised creative guy. He helped me speed that process along and I wouldn’t be able to do it that quickly without his help. So it’s another example of having a team of people who are great at what they do, and these are the things I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along. When you work with people who really push you, it  moves things along quicker and more efficiently, and you get a better product.

The video of Ghosts from the album Fire Cosmic.

The support act experience

Troy has played with a number of different bands over the past few years: The Sweet, The Quireboys and now When Rivers Meet. I was interested in how the different fans reacted to his live experience. 

“When I was with The Quireboys it was a full band show and the response was great. I felt that was a good partnership. They’re doing rock’n’roll and I’m doing bluesy sort of rock, slide playing and that really worked. But I would say that playing with When Rivers Meet is the perfect match. You can tell by your sales I think, as I’ve had such great responses. 

“I’m a band player, but I’m going out solo on this tour and I’m always shocked by how well the solo thing is received. The merch sales on this tour are probably double any previous tour I have done. That’s a good indicator of a good match between the support act and the main act. Maybe it’s because Aaron plays slide guitar too. They’re coming to see the headline act and they’re coming to see that type of guitar style.”

I ask Troy about the fact that some people come to see him and end up becoming fans of When Rivers Meet. 

“Ah, it’s a really good mix of people. It’s a similar type of music, we’re in the same ballpark. There will be a few people who come because they have heard of me and not When Rivers Meet, but it’s mainly the other way round! I just think it’s a perfect match.

Troy with Grace and Aaron of When Rivers Meet.

The obvious next question is when Troy is going to be touring as the headline act? 

“That was going to happen in October, but now it’s going to be the beginning of  2023. I’m out with a band called Dare. But that’s going to be the last support act that I do and 2023 is going to the headline tour. I will be playing music from the Fire Cosmic and the new album.”

Cheeky question – but who would you choose to support you?

“It’s a tricky one because when I’ve been supporting, people generally want a solo act because it is so much easier. If you have a drum kit it has to be taken on and taken off stage. If there were no geographical constraints it would be a guy called Keith Hallet from Canada who is just a phenomenal musician. But whether he’d be supporting me, or the other way round I don’t know! He’s another slide guitar player and just an all round great guy.

Playing solo and improvising in front of a crowd

So how challenging is it to play solo?

“It’s definitely a different thing. I hadn’t played solo until I played the Robert Jon & The Wreck tour in September. That was the first time I had been out on my own ever and it was quite scary. I did it with a kick drum and a guitar.

“Later I got on The Sweet tour in December and just went out with the guitar and two resonators. I remember walking out onto Birmingham Town Hall stage and that is a monster, it’s huge, by myself and it was pretty scary. But three or four gigs in and you start getting into a pattern and it gets easier. You start knowing what you’re doing. It has been a long time since I’ve been out solo before this tour with When Rivers Meet so it took a little while to bed in. We’re at the back end of the tour now and things feel completely comfortable.

“It’s just remembering that you can do anything. In my set I have set songs but I have improvised sections for each of those songs. It’s all about remembering, while you’re in the moment, that you can go anywhere. Because you’ve got no band. You can take side turns, you can stop; you can take it down, you can take it anywhere. So it’s remembering that freedom while you’re in the moment, and trying not to think at the same time. Because when you’re improvising, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking.”

Troy onstage in Glasgow.

“It’s like a tightrope walk of a mental state where you are not aware, but you have enough of an awareness so you know you can deviate at a particular point. That’s a lot of freedom and it’s all about remembering that you have that freedom. I think what I do is unusual in that a lot of people rehearse their sets, while I enjoy going out and putting myself in a position where I could play better than I normally could in a normal state of mind at home. It could go one of two ways, but I like taking that risk. The adrenaline of that risk, and the situation of having an audience when you are improvising, definitely makes you play things you would never think of. That’s what I live for really. It’s what I enjoy the most about music, it’s almost like the jazz school of thought, but using the vocabulary of blues.”

The last section of our conversation is interrupted by a customer of the venue asking for some of Troy’s tobacco – which he hands out with hardly a pause in conversation – and by a phone call he has to take about the vinyl orders for his new album. The interview lasts about 20 minutes and then Troy takes time to ask me about my writing projects and we discuss various aspects of creativity. I can’t wait to see him in action later on the stage.

So what is Troy Redfern’s solo live show really like?

A few hours later and I’m a few metres from the stage waiting for Troy to appear. The guy next to me is a When Rivers Met fan. He’s telling his friend that he’s not sure what to expect. He’s not left waiting long. Troy hurries on the stage in his distinctive new gambler hat, smiles at the audience, plugs in one of his vintage guitars and proceeds to create merry havoc, blasting out the thundering riff of Scorpio from his latest album The Fire Cosmic

“Wow.” The guy next to me mutters. My friend Matt, a Troy Redfern newbie, looks at me with his eyebrows heading towards his fringe, a huge grin plastered on his face.

Troy has received rave reviews from the music press so it seems wise to include a few examples here:

‘Delta blues brought into the space age, hard and heavy, cut with diamond steel, and layered with almost supernatural vibes’

 Liz Medhurst – Metal Talk

‘His performances are passionate and intense, and while his style certainly references its delta blues roots, his delivery pulls it into the 21st century through a swamp of distortion and contemporary rock n’ roll aesthetics.’

Martine Ehrenclou – Rock & Blues Muse

‘Troy Redfern rightly owns the title “Britain’s King Of Slide Guitar”‘

Pete Finn – Metal Planet Music

His next song, John the Revelator from the Island album brings in an Americana blues vibe that highlights his smoky blues voice. Then it’s back to The Fire Cosmic album for the real mix of blues and rock Waiting for your Love and the more drum-driven rock of Sanctify. Only there is no drummer. Just Troy, his vintage guitars and his Akai Headrush 2 looper. He makes a hell of a noise. 

The energy Troy Redfern gives out is astounding. It’s hard to believe there is just one person on stage. His use of the loop is subtle; there’s no hanging about to lay down key sections before moving on. I only really notice it when he starts soaring away from the main rhythm. He looks towards the crowd and smiles at times, but when he’s improvising he’s not really with us. It’s incredibly intense.

Suddenly his discussions on live improvisation make total sense. You are watching one man and his guitar weave around the rhythm and melody; his slide travelling manically as the music rises and falls. 

It gives two main elements of joy.

  1. When Troy veers away from the expected route of the song
  2. When he drops you back in it from an impossible place.

This is most obvious with his final track Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. It’s true that I don’t get out enough, but whenever I hear musicians cover Hendrix it’s always followed by the crowd nodding and muttering that it was a “decent enough effort”. 

Redfern totally owns the track. It is brutal. The crowd is entranced. He crashes out the riffs, the crowd joins in with the words and then he goes off piste. The crowd nod their heads, willing him on and he pivots from a riotous crescendo right back into the Voodoo Chile riff. The crowd gasps in appreciation. Troy finishes his set. The crowd cheers and the guy next to turns to his friend and mutters, “Wow. Just wow”.

No-one could accuse Troy of leaving anything behind in his live performance. He is still catching his breath when I catch up with him by his merch stand a short while later, sweat pouring off his face. He still has enough energy for a triumphant grin though.

Troy Redfern and Russ King
Troy catching his breath while Russ continues to ask more questions

So what about When Rivers Meet?

Grace and Aaron are THE cutest couple in rock.

It must be hard to follow an act like Troy who is not so much a warm up, as a blow your socks off, act. The good news is that When Rivers Meet are dripping with talent themselves. The husband and wife duo Aaron and Grace Bond have teamed up with Roger Inniss on bass and James Fox on drums and keyboards for their live act. They make an amazing team. 

Aaron plays a variety of guitars (and styles) including his cigar box guitar that gets a cheer from the crowd whenever it appears. Grace plays electric mandolin and violin and sings like an angel. Whilst she is the main vocalist, the interplay between her and Aaron’s voice add complex dimensions to their songs that cover a wide range of styles, all with a nod to blues, but a twist of something else.

They are the cutest couple in rock and it is a pleasure to watch the interplay between them. They also have a really close connection to their fans who are quietly willing them on from the crowd. They cheer when the cigar box guitar comes out, but there are also mutters of “Come on Aaron” as he starts to play it. When Grace plays her violin, or hits yet another perfect note I hear “Ah, that’s lovely Grace”. And although Grace is the spotlight singer, Aaron gets appreciative murmurs whenever he sings.

They certainly converted me into their rapidly growing fan base, and from the many comments I overheard, it seems that many of the fans have accepted Troy Redfern into the When Rivers Meet family. 

Which is great, because not only is he ferociously talented, he’s also one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. 

More information about Troy Redfern

You can buy all Troy Redfern’s music and merchandise on his website troyredfern.com or from your favourite music store. You can find him on the socials here:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

And check out his music videos on his YouTube channel.

Plus anyone who wants information about the technical set up of Troy’s resonator guitars and the pedals he uses for his distinctive slide guitar sound will really enjoy this video for Guitarist magazine.

Shopping the Troy Redfern look on Vera Black

Troy Redfern styled by Vera Black

Troy is wearing a custom made Vera Black gambler hat. Similar gamblers in our shops include the Redfern Rambler, the Jefferson gambler or the Copper Head gambler hat. He is also wearing our Hollywood Vamp necklace.

The bracelets he wears include our Pirate’s Treasure cuff, the Indiana bracelet set and the Black Knight bracelet set (see images below).

Troy also wears our trouser chains like our Black Sea trouser chain and the Bandito trouser chain below.

Check out our full range at verablack.com!

Cowboy hat sales go crazy as country music takes hold of the UK

Vera Black and Luke wearing their cowboy hat

A cowboy hat was the most popular item at our pop up shop at the recent Country to Country (C2C) festival. Maybe it was because the C2C festival was cancelled for the last two years due to Covid? Or perhaps that this years London event could have been cancelled due to the 02 Arena being damaged by storm Eunice? Whatever the reasons, the 2022 C2C festival was a huge success, especially for our stall. We almost sold out of our cowboy hats on the first day! You can check out our range of cowboy hats here.

What actually is a cowboy hat?

Admittedly not all our rock n roll hats are specifically cowboy hats. Just as not all UK country music is specifically country music – it takes in pure country, Americana, blues, soul, gospel and rock n roll. Our hat range includes fedoras, gamblers and even top hats. They are worn by musicians, actors, celebrities and all sorts of kick ass people. Especially country music fans! 

Luke and Vera are both wearing a fedora hat in the photo above and this can be thought of as the ever-stylish hat to wear at both informal and formal occasions. Whilst a true cowboy hat with its extra wide brim would be used by a cowboy working out in the sun all day, he would probably wear a fedora for Sunday best or going out in the evening. 

See our in-depth look at the fabulous fedora here. We also have reviews of the perfect fedora for men and women.  And you can see our selection of fedora hats here. 

Is a gambler hat a cowboy hat?

Hell yeah! The gambler hat has a bit of a rebellious streak to it – just as the name suggests. The photo above shows model and actress Stephanie Tripp on the left and Vera both wearing gambler hats, while singer/song writer Abi Phillips on the right wears her custom fedora. The gambler hat is often referred to as a cowboy hat, but it is also the preferred hat style for many musicians such as dirty blues star Troy Redfern who wears his iconic Redfern Rambler

You can find more the history of the gambler hat here and you can see our gambler hat selection here.

Cow girls Stephanie Tripp, Vera Black and Abi Phillips rocking their cow girl hats at the C2C festival.

Yeah, but top hats…?

The Rhiannon Mini Top Hat by Vera Black

Of course top hats aren’t cowboy hats, but who wouldn’t love one of our steam punk inspired top hats? Especially if you really want to stand out at a music festival! There’s no sign of the boring Victorian top hat heritage with our toppers, as you can see with the magnificent Rhiannon Mini Top Hat here.

Our top hats sold ridiculously quickly so we’ll be sure to keep adding them to our online shop. See our article for more information about our super cool top hats and when and how to wear them.

But doesn't it become a cowgirl hat if a woman wears it?

Crissie Rhodes from The Shires and Vera Black wearing their cow girl hats at the C2C festival.

Absolutely! And while many of our cowboy hats are unisex there are a quite a few that are definitely cowgirl hats. You can see Crissie from UK country music super group The Shires wearing her bespoke fedora hat with Vera at the C2C show. Crissie has been a long time customer and she took This Morning presenter Josie Gibson to her favourite festival shop,  Vera Black,  as part of her country music make over! Take a look at the video below to get a feel for the fun of the C2C festival. And to check our Josie’s gorgeous Traveller fedora hat of course! 

The C2C festival is never all hard work…

Whilst we were delighted to be rushed off our feet, we really enjoyed meeting new and old friends. We got to hang out and work with our models, friends and cowgirls. 

Plus we showcased the new cowgirl boot wellies Vera designed for Talolo Boots. Here’s Olivia, Abi and Stephanie rockin’ the “Dallas Dreamer” cowgirl wellies.

Olivia Harriet, Abi Phillips and Stephanie Tripp model festival wellies designed by Vera Black and sold by Talolo boots
Vera Black in her cowboy hat with Bobby Ryder at the C2C festival.

Plus our newest member of staff Bobby Ryder attended his first festival and proved to be a big hit with visitors in his country-style shirt.

 

Luke Bourne and Bobby Ryder at the Vera Black stall at C2C
George Boydon playing his guitar in the Vera Black Dodge van at the C2C festival.

And keeping up with tradition, we were visited by George Boydon who comes to see us every year at C2C to play guitar in our iconic 1972 Dodge Boogie Van.

See below for a quick tour of the stall with Vera (while carrying baby Bobby Ryder!) – before all the cowboy hats sold out!

But if you’ve sold out of cowboy hats - can I still buy one?

Oh yes! We’re mad busy making more – we still make them ourselves by hand. Most of the hats sold via our online shop are made to order anyway so they are the best size for you. Check out one of Vera’s latest designs below – The Arizona Fedora hat. You can check out our range of cowboy hats here – do let us know if you have any questions.

And pop in and see us at C2C 2023!

13 mood-boosting benefits of wearing festival hats in winter

festival hats purple haze

We are living proof that festival hats bring pleasure all year round! We wear our Vera Black hats all the time for work, rest and play. Admittedly, it is easier to imagine a rock star wearing their hat to work than the average person (Like Singer/songwriter Abi Phillips above). But we know that  you don’t want to be that average person!

Here we bring you scientifically-backed (probably) evidence of the mood-boosting benefits of wearing your festival hat all year, and whenever you can.

If you have a very short attention span, you’re allergic to lists, or if you really want to choose your hat NOW you can browse our festival hats here.

1) Festival hats lift your spirits

You don’t buy a boring hat to wear at a festival! Your hat looks fantastic, but it also has a sense of fun and adventure. Once you slip on your happy hat, your lips will start turning up at the ends into a beautiful smile.

2) Festival hats bring back your happy memories

It may be cold and dark outside now, but putting that hat on your head will remind you of sunny summer festival moments:

  • Crying with laughter when your friend tries to dance on top of the camper van only to fall off on top of a tent
  • Dancing to your favourite band while the sunset paints the sky with vivid colours
  • Kissing that cute stranger who said they liked your hat
  • Maybe even watching the crowd sing back the words to your song while you dazzle them on stage!

3) Your cool hat makes other people happy

You can brighten up other people’s day on a dark Monday – or usher in the weekend early on a Friday. Bring some informality to the workplace, or brighten up a chilly trip to the pub in the evening.

Making other people happy feels good and is sure to lift your own mood.

4) Your warm hat makes YOU happy!

Your festival hat’s original job may be to protect you from the sun (while looking fab obviously), but it also keeps you warm in the winter. Heard of the saying “keep your feet warm by wearing a hat”? It might be something your gran says, but she knows what she’s talking about.

You can keep warm at work by wearing it at your desk, or at home on the sofa while binge-watching Netflix.

vera black and luke bourne with their festival hats

Vera Black, Luke Bourne and their family rockin’ their festival hats over Christmas.

5) You can look damn sexy when it’s cold outside

It’s no secret that festival hats have sex appeal all of their own. It’s the perfect way to stand out of the crowd! You can grab the attention of a special someone with the right hat and just a waggle of your eyebrows? All without splashing bare skin. Then again…

… a warm head may stop you getting cold feet (see previous point), but it will also compensate for a short skirt and boots combo; a plunging cleavage, or the male rock star look of an open shirt with a tangle of necklaces.

6) People want to talk to you when you wear a festival hat

You might be looking sizzlingly sexy, or fun and intriguing, but you’re never alone when you’re wearing a Vera Black hat. It’s not just “I love your hat!” either. People will ask you for directions; have a friendly chat when waiting to be served at the bar, or maybe make a funny comment while you’re waiting in a queue in the supermarket. 

Your fabulous hat makes you interesting and approachable. And good things come from random encounters.

7) Get an instant confidence boost

Not only does a rockin’ hat lift your outfit, it also makes you walk a bit taller (or maybe slouch a bit more artfully?) and if you look more confident, you feel kick-ass!

The Dandy Mini Top Hat

Stephanie Tripp – Model/Actress

8) Your hat can become your muse

Wearing something that has been designed and hand-made with love can’t help but spark creative juices.

Artists of all types often have specific music playlists, drinks, or areas where they get into the zone to write, paint, compose or design. And you don’t have to be a creative genius for this to work. 

Need a new angle for your sales pitch; your customer service email; your blog post (it worked for this one!); your class plan; the way you’re going to propose to the love of your life; the posh dinner you volunteered to cook when you’d drunk too much tequila; your new herb garden design when you only have pots and containers? You get the idea!

9) Keep the rain off your head

Rain falling on your head is one of the most depressing things ever. You can feel your hair getting wetter by the second. Then it runs down your neck. 

Don’t let your smile get washed away, send that cold, wet stuff elsewhere.

10) Look fantastic in the snow

I mean just how Insta friendly is wearing a festival hat while you’re making a snowman?

Just don’t lend your favourite hat to your icy creation!

11) Never have a bad hair day again

Okay, we can’t guarantee  a festival hat will banish all bad hair days, but who gives a crap when your hair hates you when you can cover it with a stunning hat?

You just need to keep it on all day – or at least until you can jump in the shower.

12) Avoid bed hair embarrassment

You get woken up by a delivery (we hope it’s something outrageous, not something mundane) and you have to open the door. 

Wipe the sleep out of your eyes and plonk your festival hat on your head. You’ll look like you’ve been partying all night, so it’s perfectly acceptable to still be in your PJ’s. It should also draw attention away from any nightwear that’s not perhaps as concealing as it could be…

festival hat midnight express

Oliva Harriet – International model

13) You can leave your hat on…

What better way to liven up a dark, boring winter’s evening for your partner than a striptease that leaves you wearing nothing but a stunning hat?

Fluffy bed socks are strictly optional…

Get your festival hat for all seasons!

Grab your hand-made Vera Black festival hat today and wear it for the rest of the year! 

Vera Black hats are made to order so each one is unique/ You need to allow around 4-5 days for the fun side of your life to be created!

Not sure which hat is right for you? Take a look through our entire range of festival hats or check out our posts on our specific types of hat:

Fedora hat

Gambler hat

Top hat

What does your festival hat style say about you?

Now you know the wisdom of wearing your festival hat 365 days a year, it’s time to discover which style of hat is best for your personality. Or maybe you just want to match it to your sense of mischief!