Vixen Guitarist Brittany Denaro Talks Songwriting, Gear and New Music
After being discovered performing in an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band, guitarist Brittany Denaro—or Britt Lightning—was invited to join the ranks of hard rockers Vixen.
Denaro’s impressive musical resume also includes performing alongside such artists as Alejandro Sanz, Rachel Platten and Jason Derulo as well as on television shows like Good Morning America and the finale of America’s Got Talent.
Vixen—which also consists of Janet Gardner (vocals/guitar), Share Ross (bass) and Roxy Petrucci (drums)—and whose hits include “Edge of A Broken Heart,” “Cryin’” and “Wrecking Ball,” is the only all-female hard rock band from the 80’s to sell more than a million albums. The band is currently in the studio working on a live project along with their first new music together in years.
Guitar World recently spoke to Denaro about her role in Vixen, gear, songwriting and more.
How did the gig with Vixen come about?
I was playing with an all-female Guns ‘N Roses tribute band at a pre-party for The Monsters of Rock Cruise. Coincidentally, the person who put it on also happened to be Vixen’s manager. He had known that there was some tension in the band and that they were looking for another guitar player.
After the show, he spoke to the girls and told them he thought I’d be a perfect fit. Ironically, around the same time Janet, Share and Roxy had been asking around and my name kept popping up, so they followed up. It was that simple.
What was it like for you getting together with them for the first time?
I was a bit nervous. Growing up, I had been in all-girl bands but there weren’t many of them to really look up to. I remember the first time I got together with them was without Janet. It was just the music and that took a little bit of the pressure off. Because everyone lived all over the country, the first time I actually met Janet was the night before we did a show together!
What can you tell me about Vixen’s current projects?
We’ve just recorded a live album from a show we did this past summer in Chicago. We’ve been working with Michael Wagener, who mixed Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and has a really cool studio in Nashville. We’ve also recorded a new single as well as an acoustic version of one of the classic hits. It has a bit of a different vibe than the original, but it came together pretty spontaneously as we were jamming on it in the studio.
What’s the band’s writing process like? Does it begin with a hook or lyrical idea?
It can come from anything. One of the cool things about this band is that everyone writes. So, sometimes Roxy will sometimes send a chorus idea over and other times Share, Janet and I will send riffs back and forth. It just depends on the situation.
What’s your current setup like? Is there a particular guitar/amp combination you prefer?
My current set up is a Marshall JCM 2000 stack and I’m also using Mooer pedals. They’re small but powerful and are perfect for travel and fly dates. On my board there’s a tuner, a chorus/rotary/vibrato, an analog delay and digital delay, overdrive and a Crybaby Wah.
With Vixen, I’ve been playing my Charvel Wild Card guitar a lot for the Floyd Rose and then sometimes throw in one of my Les Pauls.
Was a career in music something you always aspired to do?
I was always into music and started out playing the flute in jazz and wind ensembles. When I got to high school I discovered that they didn’t have a music program. So, I started hanging out with kids after school and we got really into rock music. Some of the guys played guitar and that’s when I started getting into it too.
I remember borrowing one of my friend’s guitars, taking it home and locking myself in my room. My parents barely saw me [laughs]. I started touring with my own band when I was sixteen. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What’s the best bit of advice you can give to guitarists?
There are people from my past who come up to me now and are surprised that I’m doing it and I tell them that it’s because I never gave up. Any career in the arts brings a lot of challenges, and there will always be tons of roadblocks and obstacles along the way, but you only live once. So, just stick with it and follow your heart. At the end of the day if you know that you gave it all you had you can go to bed feeling satisfied with yourself.
What are you most looking forward to about this next phase of your career?
I’m looking forward to playing out the new music. There’s also some festivals we’ll be doing that I’ve never played before and am very excited about. The best thing about this business is that you never have the same day twice. There’s always something new and different and something to look forward to.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.