Rockford Rocked: A blues prodigy at 19

By Todd Houston 

This week’s Rockford Rocked Interview catches up with 19-year-old blues guitar prodigy Raine Stern for a quick chat. Raine has been the lead guitarist of the New Glarus, Wisconsin-based band New Image for over a year and has been causing quite a stir with her guitar prowess. Read on.

RRI: Tell us a little about your hometown of New Glarus Wisconsin.

RS: New Glarus is a beautiful Swiss-German town and it’s also where I went to middle and high school. I ended up moving to Madison after graduating high school.

RRI: It looks like a beautiful place to live. Have you ever been to Swissland Miniature Golf? Be honest.

RS: I believe I’ve mini-golfed once in my life! (laughs)

RRI: You’re the lead guitarist of a very popular local band called New Image. The band plays blues rock by the like of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Allman Brothers and Santana. Tell us who or what inspired you to pick up the guitar in the first place.

RS: Well, when I was about 5-years-old, I remember strumming on an old acoustic guitar and feeling something stir in my core. After months of asking and reassuring my parents that it was a purchase that wouldn’t go to waste, they bought me a guitar for Christmas. It was one of those $100 Fender Squiers that are built to deter people from music. (laughs)

I was surrounded by poetry as my mother is a jewelry artist, and she’d write small poems on the inside of bracelets. Rhyming and rhythm were not foreign to me. I started writing songs with not even knowing how to tune a guitar. I tuned my guitar strings to what I’m sure was just a pleasant sounding chord. One day I invited my parents to come hear a song I’d written. My parents looked at each other like “Aw, how sweet our kid thinks she’s a rock star,” but then they saw I had a sense of rhyming, storytelling, and I could hear what was good and what was not. They immediately reacted with praise which was the only fuel I really need to start taking guitar even more serious. At the age of 12, I had a few guitar lessons.

RRI: So when your friends in school were listening to Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Ludacris you were busy at home learning Albert King and Jimmy Page licks. Do you ever end up converting any pop rockers to blues rockers that you know of?

RS: Yeah, I still listened to pop though. I wouldn’t say I dislike pop music as a whole. For one, I really enjoy some Bruno Mars songs! I think they’re funky and easy on the ears. I also listened to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rush, The Police and a lot of others growing up.

RRI: Who are the other members of the New Image?

RS: Cedric Square is the lead singer, Kelly Schauf plays bass and sax, Dave Gauze plays keys. We play with a couple different drummers, Jeff Holden and Glenn Fischer.

RRI: I see you guys have been playing the Rockford area a lot lately. What’re your favorite places to play around here?

RS: I really enjoy playing at Tad’s (10 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park) and Grand Avenue Pub in Beloit (132 W. Grand Ave.). We also just played a place last week called Neighbors in Machesney Park (7745 Forest Hills Road).

RRI: When you’re not gigging with your band New Image you also work as a guitar instructor. What advice do you give to students who are very passionate about music and tell you that they want to join a band someday?

RS: My students all consist of elementary school age kids, the average being 10-years-old. I very much enjoy teaching and exploring the different learning and teaching methods that work to encourage personal and musical growth. With this age group, I’m not giving a lot of advice for music careers as much as I am focusing on the love and enjoyment of music and playing music. I think it’s healthier to focus on personal satisfaction at such a young age and to reward the small things like remembering the different scales and their appropriate names. I’d rather instill the idea that you can achieve and be happy without the world having to know about it than to encourage the seeking of fame, glory, and attention in my students.

RRI: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Raine! When and where can we catch New Image live?

RS: It’s been my pleasure! We are at O’ Riley Conway Irish Pub in Janesville, Saturday, July 1 and back at Tad’s on the Rock, Sunday, August 6. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more: R.

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