Photo by James Minchin
For the past decade, the five lady rockers of Antigone Rising have been
criss-crossing the country, playing as many as 250 shows a year. Hard
work and distinctive talent have paid off for the New York City-based
quintet. The group's 2005 live album, "From the Ground Up,"
became a big hit, and early in 2006 Antigone Rising opened for The Rolling
Stones, a desirable spot which put the group on stage in front of stadium
Kristen Henderson, guitarist and vocalist with the group, recently completed
the Blues Guitar Workshop at Berkleemusic, the online extension school
of Boston's famed Berklee College of Music. Henderson studied online while
in the midst of a grueling tour schedule which included opening for The
Rolling Stones earlier this year.
Interview with Kristen Henderson
BONZAI: When did you start playing the guitar?
HENDERSON: Actually, I didn't start playing guitar until I was
in college. Originally I was a drummer, the drummer in our band, and one
of the songwriters. My sister Cathy plays lead guitar, so there were always
guitars laying around. I would pick up the guitar and pluck away, and
then in college I started writing songs on the guitar with the three chords
that I knew. When I became one of the primary songwriters in the band,
it was decided to bring me up front, because we got some gigs that were
acoustic only. I was brought forward to play guitar on these dates, and
people decided I was better up front, playing guitar and singing harmonies.
Management and producers started looking for another drummer, and I thought
this big change was just crazy enough to work. I started playing rhythm
guitar in the band, but I still thought of myself as a drummer and not
a guitarist. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to take the Berkleemusic
BONZAI: How did you learn about the online school of Berklee?
HENDERSON: I recently got a new Mac computer with the GarageBand
software, and I have been demo-ing my songs in GarageBand, working around
in the program. I wanted to learn more about that, so I did a search on
the Internet and Berkleemusic came up first. It was a Sunday night this
past January, and it said this was the last chance to sign up for the
class because it started the next day on Monday. I cruised around the
site and I found three courses that I really wanted to take, the Blues
Guitar Workshop, the Garage Band course, and one on Sequencing.
I signed up for all three on Sunday night and then Monday I logged on
and looked at the course load and I thought, "My God, I'm insane,
I will never be able to keep up with all three of these courses."
I dropped two and stuck with the Blues course, because we were going out
on tour and would be doing some dates with the Rolling Stones. I knew
it was going to be a crazy schedule, but I stuck with the Blues course
because I really did want to learn how to play more leads. My sister and
I do a dueling lead at times in the show, and some songs I will play lead
with Cathy. But she is usually showing me exactly what to play. I didn't
have the confidence to step up with my own ideas, and I didn't know the
scales well. I wouldn't know where to go.
You know, sometimes when we are out touring, we are on the same bill
with jam bands, like The Allman Brothers, and the Dave Matthews Band.
There are times when the guys might say, "Come on out and join our
band, we're playing in A." I don't even read music, and I didn't
always know exactly what type of chord I was playing. I really wanted
to have some fundamental basic stuff under my belt.
BONZAI: Did studying online work for you?
HENDERSON: Oh, totally. It was amazing.
BONZAI: It seems that intuitively you have the chops, and you
have experience. Did a class like this help you to organize your own knowledge?
HENDERSON: Yes, exactly. I never had time to take lessons, because
my schedule is so crazy. I am never in one place for very long, so I can't
get into it with a teacher you see every week. I have tried studying with
DVDs, but I was never able to get my head around the instruction. By doing
it online, and having the weekly assignments that are due, it was so much
more in depth and thorough. It was great to work with the teacher, Mike
Williams, who is awesome. He gives you the charts, and everything is laid
out for you. It was perfect for me, and suddenly it all made sense. I
looked at the neck of my guitar and it no longer looked like a foreign
object with a foreign language anymore. I know where things fall now.
BONZAI: Did you get to hang out with the Stones backstage?
HENDERSON: We did a little bit and it was great, but the security
is very tight during the shows. There are so many people backstage that
its like a small city. We got to meet them, and they sat and watched our
shows. We play a Faces song, "Stay With Me," that Ron Wood wrote
when Rod Stewart was in that band. Ron heard that we covered that song
and called out for us to play it, and they all watched us. It was very
BONZAI: What are your recording plans?
HENDERSON: Our first major label record came out last May, "From
the Ground Up," and was a joint effort between Lava Records, a subsidiary
of Atlantic, and the Starbucks Hear Music label. Right now we are writing
material for our upcoming studio album.
BONZAI: Has your Berkleemusic study effected your songwriting?
HENDERSON: Yes, it already has. In one of the writing sessions
that we just had, I started playing one of the Blues licks that I learned
in the course, one of the Blues progressions. And it morphed into something
else, which then inspired one of the new songs we wrote together. I am
now playing leads, and if I write a song I come up with the lead riffs.
After the Berkleemusic experience, I am now a different player.