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Ella Feingold: The Mister Rogers of funk guitar

Ella Feingold
Ella Feingold

She has spent three decades devoted to the soulful side of the electric guitar, and has worked with an impressive list of artists, including Bruno Mars, Erykah Badu and Common, The Roots, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Queen Latifah and many more. On her Instagram and TikTok she is a rhythm ambassador, focusing on the importance of groove, pocket and feel in her playing and demonstrating various techniques and traditions in rhythm guitar.

Hearing Ella play and talk about music, it’s clear that she has thought deeply about her craft for a long time. Guitarist Charlie Hunter recently referred to her as “one of the baddest, greasiest guitar players on the planet.” (Of course, in this context “bad” and “greasy” are two of the highest compliments one can pay.) And yet she is also very much a new arrival.

Feingold has been hiding in plain sight for years—both figuratively and literally—standing in the shadow of giants, just out of the spotlight and not attracting too much attention. This may have been partly a musical disposition, but it was also a function of feeling that she was simply in the wrong body. Ella is transgender, and after transitioning several years ago, she began to share more of herself online including regular musical dispatches which have exposed her to a steadily growing audience of students, fans, followers and collaborators.

She describes the process of transitioning as less an act of creation and more one of excavation. We spoke recently about her personal and musical rebirth, the importance of rhythm - she tells me “I don’t want to impress anyone I just want to make people feel good,” discovering inverted tuning, orchestration, transphobia, and why she hopes to be the Mister Rogers of funk guitar.

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Leo Sidran is a Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist and podcast host based in Brooklyn, New York.