Q: What's the first thing you do to a new guitar once you get it? Why?
A: I’ve only gotten a brand-new guitar twice in my life. I didn’t do anything to them. I didn’t know I should’ve maybe gotten them set up properly. I mostly have gotten used/vintage guitars. Still, I just basically play them for a while and change the strings. I mostly tour with the same two to three guitars all the time and I keep them relatively in good shape, setting them up when absolutely needed.
Current obsession: I’m not really one to get obsessed, but I’ll play an album a lot if I really dig it. Currently, it’s Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising, which has been played a lot in my house recently. It’s an album where everything came together perfectly. Songwriting, performance, production.
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A: I put on new strings (D’Addario NYXL .009–.046), set the intonation and action, and cut two inches off the tremolo bar as it fits better in the hand, stays out of the way better, and I stopped doing dive-bombs in the ’90s.
Current obsession: I’m currently building a new guitar out of an old 1988 Fender Squier HM3 body, which was my first guitar. I’m also recording a solo album in my home studio, where I write, record, and mix all my own instruments. The recording process is as much an art (and challenge!) as playing the instruments themselves!
A: Doesn’t happen often, but I’d likely spend a few minutes just smelling it—especially a nicely crafted acoustic—since it even beats that new-car scent or an ocean breeze. I love the smell of new guitars. I’d probably also take it to my go-to repair person down the road for a setup.
Current obsession: I loaned a P to a friend more than a year ago, sort of forgot about it, and she made a quick move to Oregon when COVID hit—bass accidentally in tow. I just got it back a couple weeks ago when she visited. It’s like having a really nice new bass!
A: I usually re-string them and, if it’s an electric, plug straight into a Fender amp. It’s very likely I purchased a guitar entirely based on how it feels and sounds unplugged. I figure if the pickups aren’t exactly what I’m looking for I can always swap them out later. Occasionally, I will take them to a tech for a full setup, but most of the time if I’m buying a new axe it’s good to go.
Current Obsession: After an inspiring talk with Molly Miller on the Chasing Frets podcast, I have a new motivation to develop a book of trio tunes. Her take on Tom Waits is breathtaking, and I’ve recently dived into a pile of Beatles tunes with the goal of playing a trio gig … someday.