Isabel Torres - Declan McKenna
^ Image: Neil Shukla
Isabel Torres is a Portuguese-born guitarist currently based in London. A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Isabel is an in-demand session musician who has worked with many artists including, Mimi Webb, DYLAN, and Tom Aspaul. She has extensive international touring experience, including multiple appearances at the Glastonbury, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Reading, and Leeds festivals. She’s also performed on support tours with Muse, Foals, and The Head and the Heart. Isabel also regularly works in radio, television, and musical theatre, having done sessions on BBC Radio 1 and appeared on 'The Ellen Show' and 'Late Show with Stephen Colbert.' In 2020, Isabel recorded guitar and backing vocals for Declan McKenna’s album Zeros and has been collaborating with him since.
FIVE MINUTES WITH ISABEL
PRS: How did you initially discover the PRS brand and what are your current go-to models for touring and recording?
Isabel: One of my first ever concerts was Carlos Santana’s show in Lisbon, Portugal which I went to by myself when I was 15 years old. He played so many beautiful PRS guitars and I loved the warm and smooth tones he got out of them so that really sparked my interest in the brand. I later watched Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ documentary and fell in love with Orianthi’s beautiful Custom 24 covered in Swarovski crystals and decided I needed to save up and get a PRS myself.
For a long time, the Custom 24 was my absolute go to and I use it a lot for anything that requires a real full-bodied tone. That’s actually why I love them so much, the fact that they sound amazing for anything heavy and distorted but also beautiful and warm if you keep it clean. Recently, however, I have been using the new SE Silver Sky pretty much on every gig because I absolutely love its crisp sound and the smooth maple neck.
PRS: Who are some of the guitarists who have had the biggest influence on your own playing?
Isabel: I would say I am most inspired by players who are extremely melodic whilst still being technically interesting and challenging to me as a player. I grew up listening to a lot of Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, so he has certainly been a big influence as well as Andy Timmons. Lately I have been really inspired by John Mayer and Lari Basilio and their new albums.
^ Image: Citizen Kane Wayne
PRS: You’ve shared the stage with a wide range of artists. What would you say is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?
Isabel: I have realized that in the pop world most pro musicians would be able to play what is required of them, so your attitude and work ethic is what makes you stand out. When touring, the actual gig only represents a small fraction of the time you spend together with the other musicians so having the right energy and being fun to be around is arguably as or more important than being the fastest or most clever player.
I have also learned to take the time to appreciate that I get to play music for a living and being grateful for it every day. I think that in such a fast-paced industry it is very easy to fall into not taking the time to feel proud of yourself when achieving professional goals because you are usually already onto the next project.
PRS: Do you have any pre-performance rituals, or perhaps a certain piece of gear that must be present at every gig or recording session?
Isabel: I am biased, but I do feel very comfortable bringing my own guitars into sessions even when there’s a big spread to choose from at the studio. I am quite specific with tuning and everything feeling right so I think it puts my mind at ease knowing that I have a reliable instrument to work with. Plus, my Custom 24 for example, I have had for 10 years so that’s a lot of time of my fingers shaping the fretboard!
As far as any preshow rituals, I personally like to be as healthy as possible when I am touring like getting enough sleep and not doing anything that would cloud the experience of being onstage. I like feeling present in the moment and not getting into auto-pilot mode.
^ Image: Sinead Grainger
PRS: Are you currently working any new projects that we should be keeping an eye out for?
Isabel: I am about to start playing on a new West End show called 42 Balloons which should be really fun as I will be on stage and part of the action as opposed to the traditional theatre pit experience. I just finished a US tour with Declan McKenna which was great fun so definitely keep an eye out for 2023 touring dates!