Start me up: Jess Lewis

(Image credit: Jam Track Central)

Who is she?

Jess Lewis is a 22-year-old guitarist whose prodigious talent has attracted plaudits from no less than Guthrie Govan, Alex Hutchings and Larry Carlton. Always fascinated by music, surprisingly the guitar wasn't her first instrument.

"I think I've always liked music. My dad gave me this keyboard when I was about five and I used to mess around on it till I was about 10 or so. I couldn't play but I'd just go and mess around and get lost in it…"

Who has she listened to?

My nan said, 'The best guitarists in the world are Joe Satriani and Tony MacAlpine.' She gave me a tape and from then on it was all change

Jess has one of the most unique ways we've heard of getting into rock music. It was the soundtrack to the computer game Grand Theft Auto that first caught her attention - as well as a little help from her grandmother.

One day, while playing the game, Jess's grandmother noticed her bopping away, identifying the music as being that of Billy Idol. On her next visit, she gifted the young Jess with a tape.

"My nan said, 'The best guitarists in the world are Joe Satriani and Tony MacAlpine.' She gave me a tape and from then on it was all change."

What's so great about her playing?

Amazing ability. After seeing a video of Jess playing a track from the first Aristocrats CD, Guthrie Govan said, "I don't even know if it's physically possible to smile while your jaw is on the floor, but that feels like the best way to describe how Marco, Bryan and I reacted when we saw Jess's rendition of Get It Like That… She's definitely one to watch."

It wasn't long before her talents attracted the attention of the folk at JamTrack Central.

"When I was 15 I learned some Alex Hutchings' solos and put them on YouTube. They saw that and invited me to go to the studio to record them."

Why do you need to hear her?

Anyone who exhibits considerable talent on the instrument at such a young age is usually bound for a bright future. After the initial influence of rock, Jess found herself wanting to expand her vocabulary. Her father gave her jazz CDs that featured players such as John Etheridge and she was hooked.

She attended the International Guitar Festival's summer school at Bath Spa University, studying with John Wheatcroft and Dario Cortese.

"I loved it. The first time I went I was quite naïve and young. I was very introverted. When I went when I was 16, I was more confident."

What gear does she use?

As far as guitars are concerned, Jess has worked her way through a few makes and models in the past, including a Charvel Charvette, an Ibanez RG, a Fender Strat and an Ibanez Prestige S Model. These days, she uses guitars made by Dave Walsh at Eternal Guitars in Chichester.

She has one that is based on a Stratocaster, but is hollow-bodied with an f-hole and P-90 pickups, and there are plans afoot to get hold of a Tele-style guitar with P-90s and a Bigsby. Amps-wise, she has a Fender Deluxe Reverb. And pedals? Even at the tender age of 22, one can still be prone to lapses of memory.

"I bought some pedals for doing gigs with a function band. I've got one of those Electro-Harmonix Memory Boys, a Boss delay and a Mooer Cruncher, but I don't remember the names of the rest."

Where should I start?

At present, Jess is making plans to form her own band and aims to make an album as soon as she can, which will most likely take the form of a trio. As far as the music is concerned, it will be jazz, but, she insists, not straight standards.

So, we'll have to wait for the debut album, but meanwhile, there is plenty to see on YouTube. Get your fill while being astonished that she worked out most of it - including the Guthrie Govan and Larry Carlton material - solely by ear!