What guitar did you use on that?
Oh gosh, I want to say it was a Les Paul.
Mike McGuire over at Gibson has made me
a few reissues of those classic Bursts. I can’t
pull the trigger on buying a real one, as
much as I want one. There’s just no better
sound in the world than those PAF pickups
from ’59-’60. I probably played a ’59 tweed
Fender Bassman. It’s a pretty good go-to
amp. I never write any of this stuff down, I
just go in and try stuff out. I did get to play
Duane Allman’s ’57 goldtop a few months
ago and it was one of the highlights of my
life. The sound of it was unlike any Les Paul I had ever heard and a lot of it has to
do with those pickups. The history of that
guitar and everything was pretty magical.
I know you lost quite a bit of gear in the
flood. Were there any guitars that you
thought were lost that came back to life?
There were a few things. I had a ’54 Strat
that I thought was a goner. It came back
to life with a little bit of finish damage. I
have a Gibson Johnny Smith that I think
is gonna live [laughs]. He is still in pieces,
but I have a feeling that it will turn back
up. I messed it up once before by forgetting
it was in the car and the neck bowed like a
bow and arrow. My friend Joe Glaser saved
it before, so I think it will be fine. I lost a
ton of stuff but the hard part was losing
some stuff that had been on certain solos
or intros over the years. I got killed on the
cases. I lost 60 of them and a lot of them
were vintage cases for Martin guitars from
the ’20s and ’30s. The insurance adjuster
was shocked that a case could be worth four
or five thousand dollars. It was painful. I
lost a lot of stuff that was very unnecessary.
It could have been a lot worse. It could
have been a lot better. It was what it was. I
have been having a pretty good time replenishing
and finding cool stuff. That is the
one thing that I am just completely nuts
about is finding great guitars.
When you are out on the road do you
search out cool gear?
Sure. I occasionally search them out. A lot
of times guitars will find me. People know I
like old ones and I have had a few show up
that were great, old guitars that might have
belonged to their mom or dad or grandfather.
One thing that I am proud of is that
I am a collector, not so much a buyer and
seller. I have never gotten rid of any guitars,
so I’m not the type of collector that takes
them and puts them under the bed and
never plays them again. I buy these guitars
and take them on the road, find a way to
put them on records or take them out to
the Opry and play them. I think guitars are
meant to be played, even though some of
them are six-figure instruments. I just strap
them on and go play them.
I once heard that you should be weary of
vintage instruments that are in pristine
condition because that meant they weren’t
good enough for someone to really play.
It’s true. I mean just the value of collectable
instruments is more based on its condition
rather than how good it sounds. I never got
an instrument that didn’t feel good in my
hands. A couple years ago I played a ’59
ES-335 and the neck profile was just a hair
big for me. I know ’59 is the most soughtafter
year, but my hands are not big enough
to where that neck profile feels comfortable
for me. This guitar was unbelievable. I knew
how good it would sound because of the way
it sounded acoustically. I can tell a lot about
an electric guitar because of that. I told the
guy as much as I want this and knowing how
savage it would sound, I don’t think I would
play it just because it didn’t fit in my hands quite right. All the stuff I have picked up is
pretty great. I am not interested in collecting
a mass of stuff that doesn’t speak to me.
It sounds like you are really focused on
the connection between a specific guitar
and amp to get your tone. Do you use
Occasionally. In the studio I want to get
the amp to do the right thing just plugged
straight in. After the fact, you can add delay
or whatever you want on it. I use some pedals,
not a lot. It’s usually something to give
it a little more gas. I really like this pedal
made by Hermida Audio called a Zendrive,
which I think is really great. I have another
pedal that is really just a boost [Creation
Audio Labs MK.4.23]. It kicks it just a hair
and doesn’t alter the tone drastically and
adds just a little sparkle. In the studio, it’s
really all about getting the amp and the guitar
to do just the right thing.
Where did you record this album?
At my house. I put a studio in my house and it
has been the most life-changing thing I think I
have ever done. The atmosphere here is relaxed
and it’s a peaceful feeling here in this house.
There are windows all around the studio and
you look out and see blue skies and trees. It’s
gorgeous here. The guys really enjoy the vibe
here and it really made for a creative stretch.
How do you balance being a songwriter,
a singer, a guitarist, and in some cases,
I think you have to be wise enough to edit
yourself and play what fits.