Karen Ogden on Curtis Fields: The Smartphone Guitarist

Guest Contributor: Karen Ogden. Ms. Ogden is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism. In pursuit of her goal of working for an established lifestyle or culture magazine, she writes on topics related to music, film, and pop culture.


In this day and age, we’ve all grown used to the idea that a lot of popular music is supported by electronic sounds and technological equipment. Creative DJs are in some respects the rock stars of the 2010s, consistently putting out the hottest songs on the radio and collaborating with established, major artists. Even Coldplay – on a new album being praised by many for its personal and deeply emotional undertones (a contrast to the soaring, radio-friendly singles of the band’s recent albums) – saw fit to partner with Avicii for what is quickly becoming the album’s most popular song, “A Sky Full Of Stars.”

None of this is news to modern music fans, but if you thought non-instrumental music only went as far as DJs, you may have another thing coming in rising R&B star Curtis Fields. An unknown talent just a few years ago, Fields is now the proud beneficiary of a major record deal with Epic Records. He has a widely released EP (titled Cherish The Day), he has a performance at the 2013 BET Music Awards under his belt, and he has shared the stage with artists as renowned as John Legend. Plus, he did it all with music he produced on his smartphone.

If you watch the performance from the 2013 BET Music Awards, you might not quite believe what you’re seeing. A naturally gifted singer, Fields sits confidently on stage strumming and picking at his phone. The phone, hooked up to an ordinary amplifier, puts out a pure and rich guitar sound that you would never suspect to came from an electronic source. It was almost alarming for me to watch as I began to wonder how many amateur musicians out there could already be in the process of trying to duplicate Fields’ talent.

But why use a smartphone? It sounds primarily as if the initial inspiration was financial in nature. In a Verizon Wireless post in which Fields demonstrates how he plays on his phone, the artist explains that with limited income it was simpler for him to organize and record his music via his smartphone. He used the iShred and GuitarStudio apps to avoid spending money on an actual guitar and expensive recording equipment. Though these frugal methods have no doubt alleviated his financial strain, I suspect due to the popularity they have granted him, he may continue in this fashion.

It’s quite possible there are a lot of traditional musicians out there rolling their eyes at the popularity of Curtis Fields. And, for some, it may be easy to dismiss him as something of a gimmick. Love it or hate it, however, Fields may have opened a new avenue for singer/songwriter artists. While not every amateur musician with a smartphone can obtain the kind of success Fields has, many of them might now find it easier to try.

Curtis Fields

Image courtesy of Curtis Fields’ Facebook Timeline Photo