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.