Chris Wrate is a guitarist, songwriter and musical director that works with Ariana Grande, David Foster, Randy Jackson, Daniel Powter, Cher Lloyd, and Charice, among others. Chris originates from southeastern Wisconsin, where he got his first live experiences sitting in with local blues musicians around the Chicago and Milwaukee area. He recently sent us a photo of his pedalboard, and we wanted to learn a bit more about it.
What was most important when first starting building your board?
Having a good overdriven tone. A lot of guitar players I looked to when building my board (Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio) weren’t necessarily using a large amount of effects—but had these great overdriven tones that they are noted for. So I kind of looked to them when I first got started out.
What type of pedalboard is this?
PedalTrain 3. I’ve been using their boards for a while and they seem to withstand the abuse from frequent traveling well.
What is your signal path?
Sonnus Wahoo Wah, Ernie Ball Jr. Volume Pedal (modded by Mercy Seat Effects), Empress Effects Compressor, Em-Drive by Emerson Custom, Walrus Audio Mayflower Overdrive, Mercy Seat EffectsTree of Life Overdrive, Empress Effects Multidrive, Xotic Effects EP Booster, Mercy Seat Effects Zacchaeus Boost, Electro Harmonix Micro POG, Strymon Mobius, Strymon TimeLine, Strymon BigSky.
When you are on the road what is the biggest challenge or advantage of your pedalboard? What about in the studio?
I think both in touring and in studio work, the biggest advantage I find with my board is it’s versatility and my understanding of it’s capabilities. The guitar is often thought of as a lead instrument but is capable of so many sounds and textures that can be used in great support to the music and musicians around it. Once I started to invest in modulated effects, delays, and time-based effects I really started to understand their power and ability to make you more valuable as a player when you understand how to use them in context. Especially in the studio, I do a lot of work with film and writing cues. Having a wide range of sounds to pull from can again really increase your worth to other composers/producers. The disadvantage I’ve found at times, mostly when playing live, is that I might find myself trying to do too much with my effects. It also becomes another thing you have to be paying attention to when playing, aside from remembering the form of the song, vocals and lyrics if you’re singing—now you are also thinking about what effects come when throughout the song. It can trip you up and take a little more time to become comfortable with each song especially if the set gets long.
What current project are you working?
Currently I am the musical director and guitarist for Ariana Grande. I have also recently been writing and recording a lot of cues for TV and commercials.