Apart from demolishing her mother’s violin with Pete Townshend-like vehemence at age three, Gretchen’s passion for all things guitar didn't fully surface until her early teenage years. It was under the tutelage of classical guitarist Phillip DeFremery, a student of Andrés Segovia, that Gretchen began her path on the instrument. Her father, noted writer and former editor-in-chief of Guitar Player Magazine, Don Menn, was quick to point her in the direction of the greats as soon as she expressed interest in guitar.
While earning a degree in music at Smith College, Gretchen’s adventurous approach to her education would foreshadow her approach to the guitar. She convinced a professor to allow her to launch a special studies project on the intricate and unclassifiable music of Frank Zappa. Her analyses of “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress” showed a love for epic, melodic, genre-shattering rock and roll composition that would manifest later in her original instrumentals.
After college, Gretchen began heavily incorporating her love of rock guitar into her daily regime, the only hitch being that the music of her rock gods, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, and Frank Zappa, wasn’t exactly Guitar 101. (Luckily, Gretchen has always relished challenges, and the more daring the guitarist, the more likely it is she has set out to reverse engineer some of the magic.) She also began considering her career path, and how she might prevent a situation she sought to avoid: tainting her love of music with the necessity of paying rent.
The solution? She went directly from college to flight school, and two years later was flying regional jets for the airlines. Yet Gretchen was never without her guitar.
After a year in the jet, with the life of an airline pilot being more than a little incompatible with a career in music, Gretchen relinquished her position with the airlines, knowing that there was a pilot out there somewhere who would appreciate the opportunity. She decided to take a more direct approach to realizing her musical dreams.
Playing with tireless passion and constantly seeking out new challenges, Gretchen’s projects have spanned the genres of jazz, funk, rock, progressive, and metal. Sketch was a band of youngsters playing jazz and funk. She donned a schoolboy uniform to step into the role of "Agnes Young" in the popular AC/DC tribute band, AC/DShe. There she met and formed a creative alliance with the amazing and heavy-handed drummer, Clementine. Ever thirsty for new adventures, she happily jumped onboard Clementine’s brainchild, Zepparella. Gretchen toured America on the final tour of the metal band, Bottom. The House of More was a dive into original music with the previous members of Zepparella (singer Anna Kristina and bassist Nila). Gretchen collaborated with Clementine as Clem stepped out from behind the drums to front her solo project, Francis Bakin. In 2007, Gretchen formed Sticks and Stones, the high-energy, instrumental “bassless power trio” with guitarist Mickael Tremel and drummer Sam Adato. Lapdance Armageddon, was an aggressive, genre-bending acoustic duo, featuring her alongside Jude Gold, Guitar Player Magazine Los Angeles editor Jefferson Starship guitarist.
In 2011, Gretchen released her first solo album, Hale Souls. It features the talents of drummer John Mader, bassist Stu Hamm, as well as guest artists Emily Palen (violin on "Walking Shadow," "Struck Sleepless," and "Fading"), Angeline Saris (bass on "Scrap Metal"), Jude Gold (acoustic guitar on "Fast Crowd"), and Gretchen's sister, Kirsten Menn, an opera-trained soprano (vocal on "Fading"). The album was met with critical acclaim (link to PRESS page of my website), and earned her a number of magazine features in publications all over the world. Gretchen Menn Band plays live with Angeline Saris (Zepparella bassist) and drummer Thomas Perry. She has been thrilled to play alongside one of her greatest heroes, Steve Morse--both opening for him as well as playing together at the Jason Becker 2013 Not Dead Yet benefit.
Gretchen is currently working on her second album of original music, and she has continued to study of classical and modern compositional techniques.
Conversation with Francis Bakin (self-released, 2009)
A Pleasing Pounding (What Are Records?, 2008)
STICKS AND STONES
THE HOUSE OF MORE
The House of More (self-released, 2006)
Live at 19 Broadway (Bonny Boy Records, 2005)