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SUMMER 2017 EDITION

T H E J O U R N A L O F ACO U S T I C GU ITAR S

VOLUME 7


20

A RECORD OF TIME PASSED JASON ISBELL’S NASHVILLE SOUND

10

28

THAT’S WHAT I LOVE JAMES VALENTINE & HIS FSC ®CERTIFIED MARTIN CUSTOM

46

MAKING LITTLE GUITARS

THAT SOUND HUGE FRED GREENE ON ED SHEERAN’S CUSTOM SHOP MODEL

THAT OLD FAMILIAR SPIRIT MARTIN’S AGED GUITARS


SET LIST 6.

LINER NOTES

From the Community

8.

TAKE IT FROM THE TOP

A Word from Chris

10.

THAT OLD FAMILIAR SPIRIT

MARTIN’S AGED GUITARS

By Jonathan R. Walsh

18.

NORTH STREET ARCHIVES

20.

A RECORD OF TIME PASSED JASON ISBELL’S NASHVILLE SOUND

By Melissa Faliveno

28.

THAT’S WHAT I LOVE | JAMES VALENTINE &

HIS FSC®-CERTIFIED MARTIN CUSTOM

By Daniel Long

34.

NEW RELEASES

46.

MAKING LITTLE GUITARS THAT SOUND HUGE FRED GREENE ON ED SHEERAN’S CUSTOM SHOP MODEL

By Sean Campbell

52.

FROM THE WORKBENCH

54.

THE 1833 SHOP

56.

IN MEMORIAM

Cassandra Frantz & Chris Cornell

60.

SOMETHING OLD

®

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4 | LINER NOTES


VOLUME 7 | SUMMER 2017 EDITION

T H E J O U R N A L O F ACO US T I C G U I TA R S

PUBLISHER C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF C. F. Martin lV CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Jonathan R. Walsh CREATIVE MANAGER Mandee McEvoy

DESIGN & PRODUCTION Lehigh Mining & Navigation CREATIVE DIRECTOR Denis Aumiller DESIGNER & ILLUSTRATOR Laura Dubbs ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Joe Iacovella COPYWRITER Scott Byers PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Pat Lundy

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Daniel Long, Melissa Faliveno, Sean Campbell, Kaitlin Vadyak, Dick Boak, Kristi Bronico, Jonathan R. Walsh

PHOTOGRAPHY Zachary Hartzell, John Sterling Ruth, Mandee McEvoy ® MARTIN | THE JOURNAL OF ACOUSTIC GUITARS

C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. P.O. Box 329, Nazareth, Pa. 18064 P. 610.759.2837 F. 610.759.5757 MartinGuitar.com

© 2017 C. F. Martin & Co., Inc., Nazareth, Pa. All rights reserved.

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FROM THE COMMUNITY

LINER NOTES

Gaylon Ryan, a retired high school teacher from Virginia, is a passionate Martin D-45 player who also has a zeal for American horsepower. After treating himself to a 2009 Corvette Coupe, Gaylon had the hood liner airbrushed by a commissioned artist to showcase his love of two true “American Classics.� Then Gaylon (pictured left) made the road trip to Nazareth, Pa., to share his tribute with fellow car enthusiast Chris Martin IV.

Dear Martin & Co., After returning to camp from one particular patrol to refuel and resupply, I was surprised to see Ed Sheeran just casually chatting with some of the men during a visit to Camp Bastion. I climbed out of my vehicle, guitar in hand, and promptly asked if he could sign my guitar. He seemed very surprised and pleased to see his favorite choice of guitar out there in Afghanistan. Once he had signed it, he took the time to sit and play a few of his songs for the guys and me on my guitar! It was quite a surreal moment. CPL Tom Dempster Royal Air Force Regiment

6 | LINER NOTES


Photo courtesy of Christopher Gagliardi

of t he to r to ise s he ll features o n my d a s hb oa rd a nd t he o ra nge l i g hts illuminating the speedometer. Wait, tortoise shell features? Orange lights? Hold on, this isn’t my car! In disbelief, but too focused on getting to the gig in time to really take in the situation, we tu r n ed aro und, and af ter as much confusion and consternation as you can imagine, got the RIGHT b l a c k V W Jetta and made our way to Midtown Manhattan. W hile we were driving, t he te m p e rature ha d d ro p ped significantly. I gingerly walked to the agreed upon spot in the park, but still slipped and fell hard on the ice hidden beneath the new snow. After recovering from my fall, I got my guitar out and tuned up the ice cold strings. Within a minute, snow was accumulating on the fretboard and turning to cold moisture. I could see the couple approaching. When they were a few feet away, I bega n strumming their song. I actually don’t reme mb er what it was now. But before I made it through the first verse, I was already losing dexterity in my hands. By the first chorus, I couldn’t form chords anymore or hold the pick. My hands were like claws. For the rest of the song, all of my energy was occupied by trying to look like I was really playing, and with the requisite feeling. As I air strummed the last “chord,” he asked, she said “Yes,” Dear Friends at Martin, I was already late to this wedding proposal gig in Central

and the guy palmed me the agreed upon cash, appearing more than satisfied with the whole thing.

Park. I sighed dramatical l y at the parking lot attendant who finally retrieved my car, and Christopher Joseph and

Thanks again,

I were off to the city, driving tentatively over unplowe d

Garrin Benfield

streets. The snow was still coming down hard. Two blocks

184 Kent Ave. Apt B308

from the garage, I calme d dow n enough to take notice

Brooklyn, NY 11249

Martin District Sales Rep Dante Gulino was shopping one afternoon at Nordstrom, and as he often does, he got to chatting with one of the sales people. She asked him whether he was a musician. He, of course, answered yes and explained that he was a sales rep for Martin. She practically screamed and rolled up her sleeve to show him this! She absolutely loves Martin.

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A WORD FROM CHRIS

TAKE IT FROM THE TOP

C hr is i s h o l d i n g t h e Mar tin O MC-16E g u i t a r signed by m e m b e rs of Maroon 5 . Ch ri s perso n al l y purchased the guitar during the Rainforest Alliance silent auction and then donated it back to the Ra info rest Alliance. P hoto by S ilk Studio.

8 | TAKE IT FROM THE TOP


Dear Martin enthusiast, Sustainable: adj. (ca. 1727) of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. People often ask me why guitars are made out of certain materials. My initial response is because they work well, better than other materials. Then they ask me who selected them. While Martin guitars have used traditional materials forever, we cannot claim to have started the trend. By the time C. F. Sr. started making guitars in the early 1800s, rosewood, mahogany, ebony, and spruce were already highly regarded by both builders and players. Imagine the challenge of procuring high-quality exotic timbers two hundred years ago! Along with the tonewoods, other exotic materials were popular. Tortoise shell, elephant ivory, and abalone pearl were used extensively on well-made guitars. Today all these exotic materials are regulated. My family’s business has tried hard to take a leadership role in the ever-evolving availability of traditional components while being open to considering and embracing viable alternatives. When the Lacey Act was amended a few years ago to include wood, we had a three-year window to comply. This gradual phase-in allowed us to develop the proper procedures and controls so we could be in compliance. When CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) implemented its new regulation of rosewoods, the timeline was much, much shorter. This has caused significant disruptions in the marketplace. We are working diligently to integrate the cumbersome documentation requirements into our export business. The intent of CITES regarding rosewood may have been well intentioned, but onerous documentation required is, in my opinion, penalizing many for the bad behavior of a few. Fortunately, we are Forest Stewardship Council ® certified (license code FSC ® C008304) by the Rainforest Alliance, who helps us with sustainability of our stock of exotic wood. I’d like to ask you personally to be open to the use of alternative materials. I love tradition as much as anyone. I believe it’s possible that the new woods we are introducing today can become the accepted and traditional woods of tomorrow.

Thanks for listening,

C. F. Martin IV Chairman & CEO C. F. Martin & Co., Inc.

2017 Corporate S u stai n abi l i ty Ch am pi o n Award presented by th e Rai nfo rest Al l i an ce


M ART IN ’S A GED GU ITARS

MART IN ’S AGED GU

10 | THAT OLD FAMILIAR SPIRIT


S UITA RS

MOJO: 'MŌ-( )JŌ | NOUN ' A POWER THAT MAY SEEM MAGICAL AND THAT ALLOWS SOMEONE TO BE VERY EFFECTIVE, SUCCESSFUL, ET CETERA.

Aging: to imbue brand-new instruments with older souls.

Depending on where you stand in the Martin factory, those around you will be bending time in two very different directions. In the repair department, they’ll be taking America’s old, worn-out, beat-up, well-loved, and most-played Martins and giving back some of their youth: resetting old neck joints, patching cracks, replacing tuning gears and frets, and giving them a fresh finish so wizened instruments can come out looking like new. Over in the Custom Shop, they’ll have begun pulling the other way: Starting this year, Martin is introducing a process they call Aging, whose goal is to imbue brand-new instruments with older souls.

BY JON AT H A N R. WALSH

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12 | THAT OLD FAMILIAR SPIRIT


LAYING WITH TIME THIS WAY ISN’T NEW. The hallways of junior high schools across the country are filled with boys struggling to produce peach-fuzz mustaches, girls in heels and their mother’s lipstick. New pairs of designer jeans hang on racks already worn, with tears and holes and prefaded knees. Antique shops everywhere offer the trappings of experience if you can afford it. It’s a strange paradox in a youth-obsessed nation, where cosmetics and plastic surgery and the swelling tide of new technology seem to argue that age is a liability. Why spend more for something old? Part of it is the hope that some of that experience will rub off on us. To look perhaps more comfortable with ourselves and our possessions than we actually are, to imply that our scuffed vintage boots were the result of miles of travel rather than a new charge on the Visa ® card two months ago. Another reason might be the feeling that, when it comes to anything store-bought, they don’t make them like they used to. That it’s better to own a 1968 Fender Bassman with point-to-point wiring and vacuum tubes than a 2017 reissue with a circuit board under the hood. That doesn’t hold up with Martin, though: Quality and handcraftsmanship are just as important as they were in decades past, and the machines and techniques used today are far more accurate and consistent than they were a century ago. The reason folks will pay a premium for an old Martin, then, may be that, like us, guitars get better with age. They sound better, some of them play better, and perhaps most importantly, as Jeff Allen, Martin’s Senior Director of Global Manufacturing and Operations, told me, “There’s something about the way they feel, the way they feed back against your body,” that makes vintage guitars different. That a 1957 Martin D-28 can go for $119,000 at Norman’s in California and a pre-war Dreadnought for far more isn’t mere market speculation or becau se v i nta ge B ra zi l i a n rosewo o d is more va l u a b l e than its modern Madagascar counterpart (at least not entirely). It’s because those guitars, especially from the 1930s, have grown into themselves to become a holy grail of sorts for sound and tone. Years of play have thinned and cracked the lacquer that coats their bodies and relaxed their glue joints; time has tinted their binding and finish, and even changed the structure of the wood at a cellular level. Just as importantly, as Allen puts it, “After 50 years of playing, that sharp corner on the fingerboard is rounded over and slick, the way the edge of the soundhole feels, the way the corners on the bridge feel when you strum and your palm rubs against it—it feels different than a new guitar.” And those older guitars show it. One look at Willie Nelson’s famously broken-in Martin N-20, “Trigger,” will tell you: Time transforms the guitar, but so does the player. Years of resting a thumb on the same spot, a hand following the same route along the neck night after night, the peculiar arc of a person’s strumming pattern will eventually wear through the finish and even the wood itself. In every bald patch on a guitar top, every nick on the binding, it seems, is a picture of the person who played it. Part of what you’re buying when you pick up a vintage instrument, then, may be a chance to be a part of that history.

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OME C A LL I T MOJO . Those weat h e re d, battered, and faded spots t hat would be devastating on a new instrument but that make old guitars so special. Something intangible that lets a worn-out instrument sing in a way that new guitars simply can’t, as though the energy from players past has somehow been imparted into the wood. Martin’s new Aging process seeks to offer brand-new instruments with decades of mojo crafted right in. Physics will tell us this is impossible: In almost all situations outside of a black hole, time travels at a rate of exactly one minute per minute. So how can Martin expect to fast-track 80 years of life into a guitar that’s only a few days old? For one thing, Allen says, the process isn’t fast at all. “I really wish it was something that we could do really quick, have it be fast and easy, down and dirty kind of thing.” But the Aging process takes time—roughly twice as long to build an Aged D-28 Authentic than a non-Aged one. Pa r t of t h i s is b e cause it’s not a simple matter of taking a finished guitar off the rack and then, as some might imagine, beating the heck out of it.

“THERE ARE TOO MANY UNIQUE THINGS THAT WE’RE TRYING TO DO,” SAYS ALLEN. SO TO CREATE A GUITAR THAT DOESN’T JUST LOOK OLDER, OR SOUND OLDER, OR FEEL OLDER—TO CREATE A NEW GUITAR THAT ACTUALLY HAS A HALF CENTURY’S WORTH OF MOJO—“WE HAD TO START FROM SCRATCH.” That begins with the wood itself. In this case, the top and braces are made from Adirondack spruce treated with Martin’s Vintage Tone System, a variation on a process that’s been trusted by builders to treat wood since the turn of the 8th century. By heating it in a low-oxygen environment, Martin is able to alter the cell structure of their tonewood so as to be nearly indistinguishable from a slab from the 1930s. The initial run of 50 Aged instruments will be based around their 1937 D-28 Authentics, which means the build itself is also period-correct, from hide glue construction through to historically accurate bracing and components. The earliest part of the Aging process focuses on recreating the telltale shrinking of older pickguards and working with the lacquer so that it reflects years of play. The result is a guitar that not only feels and looks different, but that sounds different as well. “That’s something we weren’t really expecting to get out of this, but we actually found this sound improvement from it, especially in volume,” says Allen. “The lacquer on this guitar is so much thinner than what we normally do”—about half as thick, he says—”and when you crack it or it’s shattered, that also allows it to move more, so the top, back and sides can vibrate more freely. So now when you hit a note, the guitar’s way more open; it breathes easier.” Allen, who was fortunate to be a part of the the aged-instrument programs at Fender and Gibson, was able to bring much of his expertise to bear in making Martin’s Aged guitars look a ccu rate. But with these, he wanted to capture the ineffable—the mojo or, as he put it, that moment when someone picks up a guitar and everyone asks, “Why are you smiling so big?” To do that, he enlisted the help of some of his colleagues in the factory: Vice President of Product Management Fred Greene, Instrument Design Manager Tim Teel, and Custom Shop Manager Mike Zehner.

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16 | TUNING THE HARMONY OF TIME


HERE WERE TWO ’30s M ARTINS IN THE MUSEUM THAT I TOOK AND JUST SAID, ‘Hey, listen, let’s sit down, let’s blindfold ourselves, and I just want you to tell me what you feel,’” says Allen. That sessio n, he said, was the key to perfecting the Martin Aged process. “When you play new guitars every day, they’re tighter, they have s ha rper edges, they have more finish on them, and you get used to feeling that. And then when you play one of these old ones, where the wood’s all dried out, it’s lighter, and all the edges are all smooth—you can feel that; you can feel that difference.” It’s a difference you can see, too. The Aged guitars have the look of a well-loved instrument from long ago, weathered, but never mistreated. They look like someone cared enough to play them and preserve them, and maybe that reflects the extra hours of care the women and men at Martin took to give them the feel of a guitar from the 1930s. As Allen puts it, they’re guitars for those more likely to leave an animal shelter with an old German shepherd rather than a sprightly puppy— folks in search of “that old familiar spirit.” Some people call that spirit mojo. On old guitars, it’s the result of a player—or many players—devoting hours to their instrument. In the case of these Aged guitars, that time and attention comes from the craftspeople in Martin’s Custom Shop. It’s a chance for them to use their talents to make a guitar that feels and sounds like it has that something extra. “I felt like, if we were going to do it, we needed to try to create something that we wanted to purchase ourselves—and if I don’t want to purchase it, then I really don’t want to do it,” says Allen. And while there are quicker ways to make a new guitar appear older, that’s “kind of what we in the factory call cheating,” says Allen. “But it would never be what we really want, which is to create a program that lasts.”

THE NEW AGED AUTHENTICS REQUIRE AN EXTRA AMOUNT OF TIME, CARE, AND EFFORT, AND PART OF THAT MAY BE THE PASSION THAT ALLEN AND HIS TEAM HAVE FOR THESE NEW INSTRUMENTS. “That’s the big key—we’re making something that we love,” he says. “This makes us exci te d , and we want people wh o ca re a b out these things to get excited too, whether they want one or not. If we take the time to do it, it needs to be special.”

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MARTIN ARCHIVES

NORTH STREET ARCHIVES

HELLO, I’M JOHNNY CASH The Johnny Cash Show was a weekly musical variety show that ran from June 7, 1969, to March 31, 1971, on ABC. It was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and featured regular artists like June Carter Cash and Carl Perkins as well as episode guests like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Merle Haggard, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson and (as shown here) country-pop star and “King of the Road” Roger Miller. Of course, many of these legendary artists appeared with their Martin guitars. This photo was taken on Saturday night, August 30, 1969. When still photos like this one become available for sale, the Martin Archives is ready and waiting to acquire them! Photo courtesy of C. F. Martin Archives

18 | NORTH STREET ARCHIVES


Photo courtesy of C. F. Martin Archives

A GIANT AND THE PIONEERS Well, what can we say about this amazing photo? That’s one big string bass and an even bigger bass player to play it! In fact, it is Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–1940), also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, who became famous as the tallest documented individual (8' 11.1") in the history of mankind. That’s quite a claim! The Sons of the Pioneers look on, not knowing quite what to think. In the lower right, playing second fiddle to Robert is the one and only Roy Rogers (aka Leonard Slye) with his OM-45 Deluxe Martin—the first one ever made in fact and deserving of more attention than this priceless guitar is obviously not getting!

UKULELE IN THE WIND In the two decades following World War II, there was a second wave of ukulele popularity spurred, in part, by the return of Navy personnel from the Hawaiian Islands. Add to this movies that featured ukuleles like Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii (1961) and Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot (1959). This terrific image of Marilyn is from a series of photos taken with her Martin 2C Concert ukulele. As can be seen in music videos from the movie, she clearly was a talented singer and musician and had achieved a degree of mastery on the ukulele.

Photo courtesy of Tom Walsh

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A R EC O R D O F T I M E PASS E D JAS O N I S B E L L’ S N AS H V I L L E S O U N D BY MELISSA FALIVENO PHOTOS BY DANNY CLINCH

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Martin Ambassador Jason Isbell called his new album, The Nashville Sound, “topical, current, a record of time passed.” When studied closely, the word record is an interesting one. As a noun: “something that recalls or relates past events.” As a verb: “to set down in writing; to furnish written evidence of.” In musical terms, a record is both a physical and ethereal thing: a piece of vinyl, CD or tape onto which music has been recorded—voices and guitars and drums and keys captured and etched permanently onto an object you can hold in your hands (or, at the very least, digital tracks you can download to your device). And at the same time, it possesses something even harder to hold: a story, a narrative, a collection of experiences and ideas that, not unlike a person’s life, together make something whole. But look even closer at the word record and you’ll find this: derived from the Latin recordari, its root in that ancient language is cor—a word that, like its modern equivalent, core—means heart.

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Jason Isbell is inte reste d i n l an gu age—in the lyrics that make up a song, in the words and details that tell a good story. But more important, he’s interested in creating something meaningful that might reach other people, something that lasts. Not just an album, but a work of art—a record of his life and the world around him, a story from his heart— that recounts and preserves a moment in time. Isbell’s sixth solo album, The Nashville Sound, was released in June, almost exactly a decade since he put out his first. At 38, Isbell’s career has already been a long and fruitful one: Born in 1979 near Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in the small town of Green Hill, Isbell grew up playing music. His grandfather, a Pentecostal preacher, taught him to play guitar by age six, and he performed at the Grand Ole Opry by 16. Isbell landed a songwriting deal with FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals at 21, and a year later joined the Athens, Georgia, rock band, the Drive-By Truckers, of which he was an integral part for six years. In 2007, shortly after leaving the band, Isbell released his first solo record, Sirens of the Ditch, which was followed up by two releases with the 400 Unit, a band composed of musicians from Muscle Shoals. The Nashville Sound is Isbell’s first record with the 400 Unit behind him since 2011’s Here We Rest; his wife, singer-songwriter Amanda Shires, also plays fiddle on the album. Like his last two records—2013’s critically acclaimed Southeastern and 2015’s Something More Than Free, which won a Grammy for Best Americana Album—the new record was produced by Dave Cobb (who has also worked with Martin Ambassadors Sturgill Simpson, Brandy Clark and Anderson East, among others) at Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A and released on Southeastern Records, Isbell’s own label. While his last two records have erred on the slower side—their melancholy, sometimes mournful songs dealing in darkness, not least a tormented relationship with alcohol (after a long battle throughout his early career, Isbell has been sober for over five years)—the new record is a little more rock ’n’ roll, recalling the energy of his early solo efforts and Drive-By Truckers days. “The first couple solo albums had some rock songs on them, but then my life started to change,” Isbell says. “So I started writing a lot more about introspective subjects, and the songs just came out like ballads more often. For this project, there are four or five songs that are loud and fast, and I like that; it’s fun to play and listen to.” He cites the Rolling Stones, the Replacements, and Creedence Clearwater Revival as some of his rock influences, and adds that it’s been a positive experience to be working with a full band again. “We have a lot of fun together,” he says. Isbell wrote and recorded all the songs on The Nashville Sound in early 2017, in just a few short months. “That’s how I always approach a record,” he says. “I don’t go back and look for old songs that didn’t make the cut on previous albums. I try to write and record in the same sort of motion—in the same year, at least. That way it serves as a document for where I am in my personal life, and hopefully where my particular environment is at that point in time too.”

22 | A RECORD OF TIME PASSED


When asked to expand on this, Isbell points both inward and outward. “I had a daughter since I wrote a record last, so that’s a big deal,” he says. “Marriage, getting older, trying to take care of a family and still having a rock-and-roll career” are all elements he says influenced the album. But Isbell says the recent election and current political climate in the United States also had a significant impact. “The climate in our country right now is just bizarre,” he says. “It’s just a strange, strange time. It’s a time when everybody’s political beliefs become very personal, and everybody spends a lot of time during the day thinking about government and about civilization and about big concepts—freedom and liberty, and what those things mean.” As a musician, he says, it’s part of his job to think about such things. “I hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m tired of talking about politics; I’m tired of hearing people talk about politics.’ But it’s really important to discuss those things if you’re at all interested in art. You can make things to sell and not have to worry about the touchy subjects, but you can’t really call it art.” For artists working in any form, the idea that art is “more important than ever” seems to be a common refrain these days, as is the notion that it’s artists’ responsibility to use their public platform to respond to the state of the world. But for Isbell, part of what makes a true artist is that they’re always responding. “The best ones do it all the time,” he says. “No matter what our environment, they’re always concerned with people who don’t have it as lucky as they do,” he says. “That’s what an artist does, among other things. I think if you can listen to somebody’s music or look at someone’s art and not pretty easily discern what their belief system is, that person is probably not an artist. They’re probably something different—a craftsman or entertainer. I think the word artist gets used a lot; record labels want to call everybody a recording artist. I laugh at that term, you know? Where is the art in a lot of that? I’m at least attempting to make art, and when it works like I want it to work, I think you can call it art. I don’t think you aim art at a particular group of people in order to sell them something; I think if you’re an artist, you’re really trying to communicate with as many people as possible, and trying to explain the world to yourself.” But with the country increasingly divided, Isbell does feel a sense of urgency to stay aware, and that urgency is part of what helped propel the record. “It’s a big deal for me and for everybody I know,” he says. So he keeps working, attempting to chronicle and preserve a moment in time, to reach people with his music. “Sometimes it feels like if things don’t change quickly, then we’re headed for a lot of trouble,” he says. “But the timeline of progress is a long one, and it’s a ladder that you don’t climb up without stumbling occasionally. So I think it’s important that we don’t confuse a stumble with a fall.”

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24 | C. F. MARTIN & CO.–THE OLDEST SURVIVING MAKER OF UKULELES


“I T A LWAYS FA L LS O N T H E D E TA I LS .”

Jason Isbell pays atte nt io n to d eta ils. A s a so ng w r ite r, t hose details exist in language, in the words he chooses to describe a character or a place—the elements that, if rendered well, create an image that feels authentic, a song and a story that lasts. “It always falls on the details,” he says of his process. “You have to pick the right details. It’s really important. You can have a piece of music that’s three minutes long, and if you can make someone feel like they understand a character or place—if you pick the right details, that goes a long way.” Isbell, who went to college at the University of Memphis for creative writing, is an avid reader. “If you’re going to write songs for a living, it sure doesn’t hurt to read good novels,” he says, citing authors George Saunders and Paul Auster as recent influences. Narrative isn’t the only method of creating a great song, of course; the instrumentation, the melody, the music itself can be what transports a listener to another place. “That’s the thing about songs,” Isbell says. “You don’t always have to rely on the lyrics. For me, though, it’s usually a lyrical trick; I’m really trying to find out, ‘All right, what is important about this person?’ I only have 13 sentences, one of which I’ve got to repeat four times. So I have to really try to pick the right details. It’s a lot of editing. I’ll write and rewrite a song over and over trying to find the absolute best way to describe a character, and rarely do I go in with a fully developed story. If I’m writing a narrative song, usually I’ll try to go in with a character in mind, and allow that character to behave as naturally as he or she can, in the length of time that we have.” That attention to detail is not unlike the making of a Martin guitar, a process that involves careful consideration and important decisions about structure and design, which result in a beautiful, resonant, and lasting instrument. For Isbell, who grew up around Martins, being an Ambassador for the company is no small thing. “It’s a big deal for me,” he says. “I grew up around those guitars and wasn’t really able to afford them when I was a kid. I started playing really early on; my granddad had me playing gospel music when I was six, seven, eight years old. Martin guitars were very important in the house. My granddad’s brother had one, a herringbone D-28 that he was really proud of. He brought it over to the house a lot and showed it off to us, but we couldn’t afford those guitars. The older I got, as I worked more as a professional musician and had a little bit of success, I started playing Martins exclusively. So I’m happy to work with them. I think they make a great instrument.” Isbell has a Custom D-35, and two guitars from the Authentic series, a D-18 and an OM-28. “Both of those I take on tour p retty much all the time. I fly with them, and they hold up great. I love those guitars. I think they’re incredible.” He uses SP Lifespa n strings, which he says are also great for the road. “They don’t start out painfully bright, and I’ve never had any problems with them breaking or slipping out of tune. They usually hold up for quite a few shows.”

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“...I WANTED TO MAKE THE LOUDEST D -18 WE COULD MAKE.”

His new custom signature guitar, the Jason Isbell D-18, was released by Martin this month. Isbell helped design the guitar, another process that was all about the details. His new D-18 boasts an Adirondack spruce top; mahogany back, sides, and neck; and rear-shifted scalloped bracing. “For all intents and purposes, it’s going to be real similar to the Authentic series, which I like a whole lot,” he says. “Those guitars are great, I think about as good as you can get. I’ve been taking that D-18 Authentic on the road for the past couple of years and have just really fallen in love with it.” The new guitar comes with a truss rod, and like all the guitars in the Authentic series, Isbell’s D-18 is built using hide glue— which, unlike newer synthetic reproductions, dissolves into the grain of the wood and creates more resonance throughout the instrument. He c h ose to l eave off t h e p i c k g u a rd , a d e c i s i o n t h at h a s to d o w i t h making the guitar louder. According to Vice President of Product Management Fred Greene, who Isbell spoke with as they were building the new model, a pickguard can cause a guitar to lose up to five decibels in volume. “Growing up with my granddad and his brothers and their Martins, whoever had the loudest guitar always had the best,” Isbell says. “So I wanted to make the loudest D-18 we could make.” Those who play the Jason Isbell Signature D-18 will find out for themselves just how loud it can get. But you can bet that the new guitar, much like Isbell’s new record, is sure to feel authentic. Like anything Isbell has a hand in making, it will hold within it a story, a moment in time, a piece of the lives of those who made it and the lives of those who play it. It will be a work of art—one whose beauty and resonance will be found in the details, one that’s made from the heart, and one that will last.

26 | A RECORD OF TIME PASSED


RESHAPING MUSIC TAKES

LONG HOURS OF RECORDING,

A DEMANDING PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE AND

STRINGS THAT CAN KEEP UP WITH ALL OF IT.

#staytuned

martinstrings.com/LifespanSP

JASON ISBELL

Something More Than Free jasonisbell.com


28 | THAT’S WHAT I LOVE


James Valentine & His FSC -certified Martin Custom ®

By Daniel Long

J ames Valentine is one of th e m ost

In January, Martin presented Valentine with

successful guitar players in the world. As

a custom guitar made of woods certified

lead guitarist for Maroon 5, the longtime

by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®),

Martin Ambassador has toured the globe as

meaning that his guitar is made from legal

a professional musician, playing for sold-

wood that was harvested in a sustainable,

out crowds at a platinum pace, with over 17

ecologically sound manner. Martin, along

million albums sold worldwide. This is no

with Valentine, has worked hand in hand

small feat for a Nebraska boy. But Valentine

with both the FSC and the Rainforest

made an important step in his global trek

Alliance to draw attention to this issue,

when he paid a visit to the protected

while also creating high-quality guitars

rainforests of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in

that meet the needs of a changing, more

Guatemala. It is no secret that the world’s

environmentally aware world.

natural resources are becoming exhausted,

In this interview, Valentine talks about

all while the global population climbs at a

sustainable harvesting practices, the

pace even faster than Maroon 5’s record

problems posed by illegal logging, the

sales. After seeing firsthand the toll that

virtues of heightened consumer awareness,

decades of illegal logging practices have

and his longtime love of jazz. James talks

taken on the South American rainforests—

with us about his experiences playing his

and seeing sustainable solutions that also

FSC-certified guitar, which should be of

empower the local communities—Valentine

interest to anyone with a love for music

has become an outspoken leader in raising

or the environment.

awareness about the global need for ecologically sound harvesting practices as well as more informed consumer choices.

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DL – I understand you took a trip to the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Very few people have an opportunity to actually see where their wood comes from. What did you take from that experience? JV – It was amazing just to be in the forest. I have such a close relationship with my guitar, so to be at the actual source of the wood was breathtaking. The Maya Biosphere is beautiful anyway, but there was an extra layer of reverence in just knowing that this was the source of so many great guitars. We learned some very practical lessons in terms of the experiences the Guatemalans have had in building a system to conserve those amazing forests. They’ve pioneered the concept of basically giving the local communities these concession areas to harvest the wood themselves. They’ve found that when you empower the local communities to be good stewards of these forests—to harvest them in a responsible way—it encourages conservation. In the U.S., we have a national parks system, so we designate these huge areas as national parks. And here we have the resources to protect those forests, but in a lot of countries, just designating an area as a national park won’t cut it because they don’t actually have the resources to protect them. By giving the control over to the local communities and allowing them to harvest and make money from the land in a responsible way, they find the communities act as great stewards. It’s in their best interests to preserve the forests, not only for their own livelihood but also for future generations. It removes the incentive to just clear-cut or strip the land, which is a shortsighted way to do it. I wasn’t really familiar with all of these policy issues or all of the ways that were available to protect the forests. We learned a lot on the trip. DL – Many of the ancient Guatemalan cities were abandoned as a result of overusing available resources. Writers like Jared Diamond have done a good job of showing that this has been a recurring trend throughout human history. What lessons from history are you finding most applicable to our current world situation? JV – It was amazing to be on top of those Mayan ruins and to look out onto the thick, lush forests. And then we heard that the forests had been completely clear-cut at one time—that they did a poor job of managing their resources—which led to the end of this massive civilization. So there are very clear lessons to take from that. If anything, it’s a little more frightening these days because we see it happening on a global scale. DL – Does a musician have a responsibility to know where a guitar comes from?

30 | THAT’S WHAT I LOVE


JV – I believe so. But I want to come clean and admit that I hadn’t really thought about it myself until a few years ago. Maybe that’s embarrassing for me, but I hope by admitting it, other musicians will realize that it’s okay as long as we start to pay attention right now. I think as consumers in general, we really need to start asking where the wood comes from for all the products we buy. But I feel as if it’s especially important for musicians, because as musicians we tend to be a pretty progressive and ecologically minded bunch. We’ll be out there playing songs with messages of world peace and love, but if we’re playing guitars made of wood that comes from a sketchy source, we’re being kind of hypocritical. Beyond musicians, it’s incumbent upon consumers just to ask the basic questions: “Where does this wood come from, and was it harvested responsibly? Did this wood add to the unnecessary suffering for people?” I think it’s an important issue right now. DL – Many performers find that with a growing following, they feel a heightened responsibility toward being a voice of positive change in addition to entertaining. Has this been your experience? JV – I think of it in pretty simple terms. I have certain opinions and feel very strongly about certain things, and if I had five people listening to me on Twitter or a hundred thousand people, those opinions wouldn’t change. I think especially with these issues, awareness is one of the biggest things. Like I was saying, I wasn’t aware of all of the problems surrounding illegal logging, and it just took someone telling me about it for me to get interested and make that change in my own life. So we happen to have a forum that can reach a lot of people, and we hope to spread that awareness. DL – In January, Martin presented you with a one-of-a-kind custom guitar made from Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) wood as part of the Follow the Frog campaign. Do you mind talking about the guitar, now that you’ve had time to play it? JV – It’s an amazing guitar. It definitely has that Martin mojo and feels even more special just because I got to visit the actual sawmill where the wood came from. To have been there in the forest was pretty special. But I’ve been a longtime Martin player. As far as acoustics go, that’s what I love, and this one has all the special Martin juju. And knowing it is fully FSC-certified makes it an absolute pleasure to play.

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DL – You’ve been a Martin Ambassador for a few years now. How has it been working with them on this project, and do you anticipate future projects to help raise awareness? JV – Absolutely. I’m very excited that Martin has been so enthusiastic about the campaign with the Rainforest Alliance. I hope we can continue to partner and spread awareness on this, and I hope that more companies follow suit. This issue isn’t going away, and it’s only going to become more important in the coming years. DL – Many guitar players put great stock in the traditional tonewoods and worry that if they move away from them, they’ll be sacrificing tonal quality or playability. What are your thoughts on those concerns, now that your guitar is made from FSC ® woods? JV – I think that anyone who picked up my new guitar would have no problem with the sound or playability of this fully FSC-certified wood. As guitar players, sometimes we become stuck in our ways or get obsessed with recreating the sounds of the musicians we grew up listening to, so we want to use the same sort of equipment. But keep in mind those guys were pioneers, and they were looking for new materials and new sounds, too. There are a lot of great woods besides the traditional tonewoods we’ve become accustomed to. But also, there are responsible ways to get those traditional woods, and it just takes a little extra attention to find out if the wood is coming from a responsible place. As years go by, it’s going to become less and less of a choice. Some woods simply aren’t going to be available. But there are a lot of beautiful FSC woods out there, not just aesthetically but tonally. DL – Why did it feel like the right choice for you to move toward a guitar that comes from sustainable practices? JV – This whole issue of illegal logging reminds me a lot of blood diamonds. We’ve sort of compared it to that and have even come up with the term “blood wood.” Blood diamonds were something that grabbed the attention of the public, and now people ask where their diamonds are coming from. And I think we’re going to see that same sort of thing with wood. Knowing about all of these issues made it unthinkable for me to continue playing something that could have contributed to the organized crime of deforestation. It became an ethical issue for me. I would be willing to consider sacrificing some aesthetic or tonal concerns over it, but luckily I don’t have to. Martin has made this beautiful guitar that fulfills all of my needs. DL – Is there any news on Maroon 5 that you would like us to share? JV – We’re finishing up our sixth album right now and hope to have it out by the summer. We just released another single. We’re not doing much touring this year, but in 2018 we’ll be back, all around the world. DL – What other musical projects are you working on at the moment? JV – This year I’ve started to play a little bit more jazz again, which is what I set out to do 20 years ago before I started getting pulled into rock bands. Actually, I get to go back to Nebraska to perform with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra with one of my old teachers I grew up playing with, so that’s going to be a lot of fun. But Maroon 5 keeps us pretty busy.

32 | THAT’S WHAT I LOVE


Left to right: James Valentine and Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5, Adam Gardner of Guster and Reverb.

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NEW RELEASES

® 34 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES


STANDARD SERIES

D-28 (2017) Sometimes innovation is in the details, and this is certainly true with Martin’s reimagined D-28. After nearly a century at the helm, and as the quintessential workhorse of music legends like Hank Williams, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and so many more, Martin’s legendary D-28 has been lovingly and artfully enhanced. “The post WWII D-28 had a slightly different look than its predecessor and became the centerpiece of the folk and folk rock movements at their pinnacle in the 1950s and 1960s,” says Chris Martin IV, Chairman and CEO of Martin Guitar. “We have extracted the finest features from the D-28 of both my grandfather’s and my father’s respective eras.” The all-new D-28 blends the rich history of the guitar with Martin’s newest and most heralded innovations. The 184-year-old guitar maker has combined vintage appointments, including open gear tuners, an aged toner top, antique white accents, and a faux tortoise pickguard, with a new neck profile to give D-28 enthusiasts a modern feel and comfortable playing experience. Martin has also added forward-shifted bracing to allow greater vibration of the top. The legend just got better! (MSRP: $3,299)

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STANDARD SERIES

MODEL AMERICA 1 This limited edition “Made in USA” Dreadnought is based on Martin’s legendary D-18. This guitar features all United States sourced woods, including sycamore back and sides, a cherry neck, black walnut fingerboard, headplate and bridge, as well as an Adirondack spruce top and bracing. The tuning gears are also “Made in USA” by Sperzel. (MSRP: $3,499)

® 36 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES


CUSTOM SIGNATURE EDITIONS

ED SHEERAN

÷

(DIVIDE) SIGNATURE EDITION

Ed Sheeran and Martin Guitar have joined forces, once again, to deliver the third in a series of Ed Sheeran Signature Edition guitars. The newest installment celebrates Sheeran’s longawaited third album, ÷ (Divide). Sheeran’s newest signature model stays true to his love for Martin’s LX1E Little Martin, which offers unparalleled tone from a small body guitar, and continues with his mathematical-themed album cover art, which adorns the guitar’s headstock and the solid Sitka spruce wood top. The guitar also features a matching blue rosette around the soundhole and is constructed with mahogany high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides. The model comes stage ready, equipped with Fi s h m a n ® Sonitone electronics, SP Acoustic strings and a padded gig bag. (MSRP: $699)

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CUSTOM SIGNATURE EDITIONS

D-18 JASON ISBELL Jason Isbell worked with the Custom Shop at Martin Guitar to design his new Custom Signature Edition D-18, which is closely modeled after Martin’s Golden Era series. The model boasts an Adirondack spruce top; mahogany back and sides; and rearshifted scalloped bracing, which produces more natural volume and a clear powerful tone. Similar to Martin’s Authentic series guitars, it is constructed using hide glue, which, unlike newer synthetic reproductions, dissolves into the grain of the wood and creates more resonance throughout the instrument. Isbell chose to leave off the pickguard, a decision that has to do with making the guitar louder. Mission accomplished! Isbell also added a personal touch by including a custom inlay of one of his tattoos at the twelfth fret. (MSRP: $5,999)

® 38 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES


D-BOAK Martin is proud to offer this Custom Signature Edition Dreadnought featuring imprinted original “Inside Out” artwork by illustrator, luthier, musician and Martin archivist Dick Boak. In creating the artwork, Boak wanted to reveal and embellish the quintessential scalloped X-bracing of the Martin Dreadnought—the most beautiful and rarely seen internal structure of the company’s flagship guitar. Personally signed and numbered in sequence, the D-Boak Dreadnought is crafted with a Sitka spruce soundboard, genuine mahogany back and sides, a modified low oval neck, simple dovetail neck joint, bone nut and saddle, and an ebony fingerboard and bridge. Tonally, the guitar is clear, projective and glassine. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Dick Boak over the past 40 years knows the impact that his creativity and love of guitars have made upon the company and the industry. This edition celebrates and shares his long and storied tenure at C. F. Martin & Co. (MSRP: $2,999)

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CUSTOM SIGNATURE EDITIONS

D-18 RG This Custom Signature Edition D-18, featuring imprinted original artwork by the talented Robert F. Goetzl, is a tribute to the Lakota Sioux Native American Tribe. The guitar features a single arrowhead inlay on the headplate to symbolize a tool that was essential to the tribe’s early survival, along with four arrowheads on the fingerboard, each facing outward, to represent the four directions that were sacred to the Lakota Tribe. Martin will be donating a guitar to the Native American Heritage Association (www.naha-inc.org), a charitable organization whose mission is to provide food and other essentials to the people of Crow Creek and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota. Pine Ridge has the second lowest survival rate in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti. The donated guitar will be auctioned off to raise much-needed funds for the organization. (MSRP: $4,699)

ÂŽ 40 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES


LIMITED EDITION

SS-00LART DECO-2017 LIMITED EDITION Unique 14-fret slope-shoulder 00L guitar, limited to a run of 30, is only available at Summer NAMM. It has a custom paper label signed by C. F. Martin IV and is the same size and shape as the popular CEO-7 model. The SS-00LArt Deco-2017 features a design motif in collaboration with luthier Bruce Petros in the form of wood purfling that extends around the top, back and fingerboard. The purfling is laser cut from beautiful flamed maple. The top is Adirondack spruce with an antique toner, and the guitar is further complemented with open gear Schaller GrandTune vintage copper tuners. (MSRP: $7,499)

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D-15M STREETMASTER

® 42 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES

TM

000-15M STREETMASTER

TM


15 SERIES

D-15M STREETMASTER TM & 000-15M STREETMASTER TM Martin Guitar has expanded their popular solid mahogany 15 Series line with a respectful nod to the working musician. The StreetMaster models are built to the TM

same specifications as the 000-15M and D-15M models, but Martin has added a beautifully distressed satin finish. The StreetMaster is perfect for your next gig, TM

whether it be at the historic Ryman Auditorium or a day of busking in the big city. Enjoy the look and feel of a well-worn instrument with the superb playability of a brand new guitar. The 15 Series StreetMaster models come with a gig bag, making TM

them ready to hit the streets. (MSRP: $1,799)

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16 SERIES

GPC-16E Martin has expanded their popular 16 Series with the addition of the GPC-16E. Each model in the 16 Series is designed with the tonewood that best complements the body size and shape of that particular model. With the new GPC-16E, which is a Grand Performance size with the depth of a 000, Martin selected solid koa back and sides to enhance the easy, natural resonance of this guitar, making it great for recording. (MSRP: $2,999)

ÂŽ 44 | NEW MARTIN RELEASES


X SERIES

0X2MAE Designed for those who have fallen in love with the look of Martin’s 15 Series solid mahogany guitars, this small-bodied X Series version features mahogany high-pressure laminate (HPL) top, back and sides, a herringbone applied rosette, a high performance neck and a Forestry Stewardship Council ® (FSC ®) certified Richlite® fingerboard and bridge. This guitar is road ready and built to last. (MSRP: $729)

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MAKING LITTLE GUITARS THAT SOUND HUGE FRED GREENE ON ED SHEERAN’S CUSTOM SHOP MODEL BY SEAN CAMPBELL

Welcome to the Golden Thread, where we’ll be looking at the thread of craftsmanship, artistry, and family that weaves through every part of the Martin Guitar factory. One of the most important connections at Martin is that between artist and luthier, and perhaps nowhere is this connection more apparent than at the Martin Custom Shop. A Martin Ambassador since 2012, Ed Sheeran has packed arenas from New York’s Madison Square Garden to London’s Wembley Stadium—and he’s done it with one of Martin’s most affordable guitar models by his side. With a stable of trusty Little Martin LX1Es in hand, he’s released multiplatinumselling records that have held top spots in charts worldwide. After working with Martin to produce three series of Signature Little Martins and a Custom 00-28VS, he recently got to work with Fred Greene, Martin’s Vice President of Product Management, on his second Custom Shop model. We spoke with Greene to discuss what it’s like working behind the scenes with one of the bestselling artists in the world, and the thoughts behind Sheeran’s new Custom.

46 | MAKING LITTLE GUITARS THAT SOUND HUGE


How did you first get into designing custom guitars for Ed? We were tu rn ed on to Ed via our distributor in the U.K. They said, “Hey, we’ve got this guy we should keep an eye on. We think he’s going to be a big deal.” So we went and saw him play for the Today Show in the morning and hung out with him for the day. Later, I talked to him over the phone about what he wanted to see in a guitar and the rest evolved from there. We knew the Signature Model was going to be based on the LX, because that’s what Ed was playing, but when he decided that he wanted to build an all wood custom guitar for himself, then things became a little more complex. We were starting at ground zero. We went back and forth a couple times with Ed, and in the end, it worked out great. That’s kind of the way it works with a l ot of a r tists. A lot of times th ey ju st wa nt to talk to yo u o v e r t h e p hon e a n d g ive yo u t h e ir thoughts. But then there are other artists who are way more involved, who really know a lot more about the technical stuff and are guitar geeks. They want to get way more involved in what’s going on. John Mayer and Seth Avett were like that. Ed’s well-known love of Little Martin guitars means they’ve been heard on top-selling records and stages around the globe. What kind of sound does that Little Martin style offer that sets it apart from other guitars? The Little Martins have a more intimate sound and their own voice. And because of the way they fit into your hands, they make you play in a sp ecific way. When you have a big guitar in your hands, you kind of want it to play loud and hard. You can imagine yourself playing alone with a small guitar, and Ed’s songs are very personal songs. I think they really lend themselves to the sort of music that he is playing. It’s also a sound that is easy to control, and you can move around on stage pretty easily with a small guitar. Sometimes a big guitar can become a little unwieldy. But at the same time, they’re really tight and strong pieces, so Ed’s able to get physical with them and they hold up. All that being said, I don’t know if it’s something in the water out here, but all our guitars have the signature Martin voice, and the Ed Sheeran Martins share that exact same DNA thread for sure.

48 | MAKING LITTLE GUITARS THAT SOUND HUGE


What’s it like to work with Ed on his customs? He’s super collaborative and someone who invites opinion. Going through the process with him, I can see why he is good at collaborating with other artists. He’s willing to try lots of things, and he’s a super easy guy to work with, really laid back. You work with so m e people, and they’re really not open to anything other than what they’ve thought of. Ed’s not like that. He was much more like, “Now tell me what you think of this.” Or, “Why is this a good idea or a bad idea?” Ed is one of those guys, from the limited amount of time I’ve worked with him, that I’m not so sure an idea is ever done. He’s so creative that I don’t think the ideas ever really stop. And at some point you just have to go, “We’re done. We can’t keep talking about it. We have to start getting this thing built!” So what’s changed with Ed’s new custom? Well, he’s obviously got a theme going with the multiply and plus through his albums. His new record is divide, so this new guitar will have that on it. It has a pearl border outline of a shark designed by Damien Hirst, who is a friend of his. We also added a few accoutrements to change it up a bit. It has a much fancier bridge on this one—a softer pyramid-style bridge that is very old school and really cool. But, for the most part, it’s not that different in terms of construction. Ed’s very thoughtful in theming his guitars to his records and where he is with his sound at that particular moment. He uses the same strings and the same strap, everything. His guitars are sort of a reflection of that same thinking. The way all the things fit together for him, it’s smart. When you’re playing music, you’re communicating your singular message, and the choices you make are a reflection of that message. I think he’s very conscious of that. Inside, it’s Martin Custom Shop throu gh an d th rough. It’s a dovetail neck joint and the best of everything we have. Ed’s piece is a handmade guitar with a hand-carved neck, and the body and everything is put together by one person. It’s an expensive guitar, around $9,000. It’s not a casual piece. It’s like buying a Rolex ®. Koa is an interesting choice for this custom. Are there any qualities of the wood that resonate with Ed’s percussive playing style? He needs something that is robust with out being too heavy. Ed is real physical with his guitars, too. He beats on them quite a bit. So we wanted something that wouldn’t crack or warp with all that abuse and, at the same time, wouldn’t sound too bassy or boomy, the way rosewood can be sometimes. And Ed wanted something more visually dramatic than mahogany. Koa really fits the bill for all that. Did Ed play any of the preliminary models and give you feedback on those? He did, but it’s funny because sometimes the feedback we got wasn’t through Ed, but his guitar tech. Many times, Ed is fine with an instrument when he goes out and plays it, but the tech says, “You made this one with a slotted peghead. Never do that again because it takes me too long to change strings when we’re on stage. It’s beautiful and we love it, but I can’t use it on the road because it’s a pain in the rear.” Most of the time, it’s just tweaks and adjustments to the proto[type]s, and some of that is based on where they’re touring. A guitar is going to react differently in South America versus Scandinavia, so we hear about those differences. When you’re traveling around the world like that, your guitars are going to be exposed to a lot of environmental changes that are going to create issues if you’re not careful. So we made sure to refine our designs with that in mind.

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50 | MAKING LITTLE GUITARS THAT SOUND HUGE


Speaking of the environment and wear and tear, Ed’s Little Martins quite literally take a beating, and he’s known to play them pretty much until they fall apart. What role did durability play in the overall design process? It’s definitely something that we kept in mind, especially when we were talking about the bracing process. We didn’t want to make a guitar that was braced too lightly because it just wouldn’t hold up. He’d be knocking holes and cracking the top of it. The lighter you build a guitar, in many cases, the more responsive it can be and the better it can sound, but you don’t know if you’ve made it too light until it’s too late. So we didn’t want to start in and say we’re going to make the top of his guitar really thin just because we want it to be responsive—I just wouldn’t do that with his guitar. But Ed still needs a responsive top to go along with his finger style, so we put on an Engelmann top that’s about an eighth of an inch thick. His guitars go through so many temperature changes from traveling throughout the world, so we couldn’t make it too thin and have it reacting too much to those environmental challenges. If that starts to happen, all of a sudden the bridges will start pulling forward and a bunch of weird things will start happening. You keep all that in your mind when you’re putting these guitars together, but you don’t want to get too far from home in the name of creativity. So this is a guitar that works for him in both the studio and in life. It’s not a one-trick pony. Have you heard Ed play one of your custom guitars? He sent us a rough cut of him in the studio, and I think that’s the first time I saw him playing one of the older customs. Later, I saw him playing on one of the late night talk shows. With Ed or any of the artists we make guitars for, seeing them play or create cool music is the big payoff. The d es i g n i n g and building process, that’s the journey, and it’s fun. Watching them play is the destination, and it’s satisfying. For me, when I see the artists making good music, I finally release the guitar in my brain and go, “OK, I can move on to the next project now. This one’s doing what it’s supposed to do––help someone make good music.” Seeing other people enjoy the guitar and appreciate the guitar, that’s always a really cool feeling. Though Ed’s Koa Custom Shop guitars are his alone, he has also designed a special LX Signature Model available to fans around the world. Thanks Ed! After selling millions of records and taking a yearlo ng c reati ve hiatus, Ed Sheeran has re-emerged in 2017 with a new chart-busting album and his latest Martin Custom model, the Ed Sheeran ÷ Signature Edition. Built upon Ed’s love of the LX1E Little Martin, and continuing with his m ath e m ati ca l themed album cover art, the “Ed Sheeran 3” forms a trilogy of signature guitars that have supported Ed along his soaring career path to pop stard o m . Featu r i n g a so l i d S i tk a s p r u ce to p etc h e d wi t h Ed ’s a lbum art and a blue soundhole rose t te to m a tc h , th e Ed Sheeran ÷ Signature Edition is constructed with mahogany HPL back and sides and sports blue ÷ symbols across the fingerboard and headstock. Equipped with a Custom interior label, Fishman ® Sonitone electronics and a gig bag, this little Martin with a big sound is ready to hit the stage, just as Ed intended.

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WE ARE FAMILY

FROM THE WORKBENCH

RICK KOVAL Rick Koval has been working at Martin Guitar for two years. He dreamed of working at the Martin factory for quite a while and has been trained in polishing and s praying. Rick’s favorite part of working at Martin Guitar is being a part of the iconic Martin family. He describes his coworkers as dedicated individuals who ensure quality products. From one guitar player to another, Rick says to enjoy playing your Martin guitar from start to finish.

NICOLE ZAHN Nicole Zahn is a two-year employee at Martin Guitar. She currently works in Body Rim Assembly; within the department she is trained in ribbons, top bracing, and top shaping. Her favorite aspect of working at Martin Guitar is the incredible detail that goes into creating every single acoustic guitar. Nicole is excited about the opportunities that are available to her through the company and describes her coworkers as friendly and helpful.

52 | FROM THE WORKBENCH


JASON AHNER Jason Ahner began working at Martin Guitar five years a go in the Polishing Department, before movi n g to Cu sto m e r Service. One of the most rewarding experiences for Jason is partaking in the Factory Delivery Program and watching how excited someone gets when they first lay eyes on their new Martin guitar. He has been fascinated with guitars since an early age and gushes about the Martin history while facilitating museum tours. Recently, he has been spending more time in the Martin Archives and is excited to pass on the rich Martin Guitar history to future generations.

NICOLE HABERLE You can say that Martin Guitar is in Nicole Haberle’s blood. Her mother, who recently retired from the company, was a main reason why Nicole started her career at the acoustic guitar manufacturer. Nicole is an 18-year employee of Martin Guitar. She currently works in Accounts Payable, but previously worked in the Binding and Filling Department, as well as at the switchboard. One of the most memorable events that Nicole has celebrated with Martin Guitar is the company’s 175th anniversary. She credits her coworkers for their commitment to the company and each other.

RANDY FLYTE After 20 years, Randy Flyte still enjoys coming to work at Martin Guitar every day. He has devoted his career to the Finishing Department and focuses primarily now on shaded tops. His days are never the same, which is one of his favorite parts of working at the Martin factory. Randy says that many people may not know how much is involved in building acoustic guitars, but urges those people to come take a factory tour.

CATHY MARTH Twenty-two years ago, Cathy Marth began working at Martin Guitar. She started her career in the Martin String Division; from there she moved to Final Assembly and currently works in Rim Assembly. Cathy enjoys meeting the thousands of visitors who travel to the Martin factory each year. She loves to tell others about the amazing acoustic guitars she has a hand in creating. Oh, and meeting Vince Gill and Marty Stuart wasn’t to o shabby either!

M A R T I N G U I TA R . C O M |

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54 | THE 1833 SHOP ®

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M A R T I N G U I TA R . C O M |

55


THE UNFORGETTABLE

IN MEMORIAM CASSANDRA FRANTZ 1943–2017 Anyone who ever walked through the front doors of C. F. Martin & Co. most likely had the great pleasure of being met by our receptionist of many years, Cassandra “Cassie” Frantz. Sadly, she passed away in early January of 2017. She was greatly loved by everyone. Cassie held many different positions at Martin in her 45 years of employment. She worked in Personnel, Customer Service, Order Scheduling and Billing, and she was the Assistant Manager of Martin’s Telemarketing Department. She was originally hired in 1971 and served under t h re e generations of the Martin family: C. Frederick Martin III, Frank Herbert Martin and current Chairman and CEO C. F. “Chris” Martin IV. It’s hard to believe she’s gone. She’ll be greatly missed by employees and visitors alike, but her spirit will always pervade the Martin lobby.

56 | IN MEMORIAM


THE UNFORGETTABLE

IN MEMORIAM CHRIS CORNELL 1964–2017 Chris Cornell is one of those rare artists whose music is just as relevant today as it was in the heat of ’90s grunge music when his powerful voice, unique style, and enthralling lyrics first captivated the world and forged a whole new genre of music. His voice is unmistakable. His energy was contagious. His talent is undisputed. The Grammy Award-winning artist’s career spans three decades as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, composer, lyricist, and philanthropist. He founded three legendary bands, sold over 30 million records, and fostered some of the most powerful musical collaborations in modern history. Chris Cornell will forever hold a place as one of the world’s greatest rock voices of all time and will live on in the hearts and songs of musicians and music lovers across the globe.

Photo courtesy of Paul Lorkowski

58 | IN MEMORIAM


BOBBY JOE FENSTER

SOMETHING OLD A MYTH UNTO HIMSELF In 1967, toward the end of the folk music revival era, C. F. Martin & Co. mirthfully invented a geeky guitar

Levy is actually the guy in the old BJF ads, despite the

endorser whom they named Bobby Joe Fenster. The

photographs being taken over 35 years prior to the movie.

Vega Martin Pro-5 banjo was quietly redesignated as the “Bobby Joe Fenster model� for a few years, until 1972 when the tongue-in-cheek ad campaign was retired.

It appears Levy is not BJF, a nd that there was more than one model who sat for the ad photos. Look at these pictures, and decide for yourself.

Yellow stickers inscripted with the BJF name were

In the Boston pre-M a r t i n d ays, Vega banjos were

adhered to the inner rim of those Pro-5 banjo pots, and

endorsed by 5-string legends Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs,

these rare birds are occasionally sighted on eBay.

and Sonny Osborne. Only the longneck Pete Seeger

Over the intervenin g d e c a des, a s m a l l my thology

model transitioned into the 1972 Vega Martin catalog,

has evolved around this humorous footnote in Martin

and it was replaced by the No. 2 Tubaphone XL in the

lore. It has been suggested that comedy actor Eugene

1976 product list.

Levy, supposedly a favorite comic of the Company vice

It was, nonetheless, a w h i m s i cal and endearing

president, invented a skit character named Bobby Joe

moment in the too-sh o r t Ve ga Martin banjo epoch.

Fenster, and so C. F. Martin & Co. adopted this imaginary

Although C. F. Martin now has over 80 special edition

persona and name for the ads. Copyright infringement

and signature model guitars, the only banjo endorsee

notwithstanding, there is no mention of BJF on the

establis h e d d u r i n g t h e 1 970 - 1 979 VM era was the

Wikipedia page devoted to Eugene Levy or anywhere else

uniquely amusing and fictitious Bobby Joe Fenster. What

online. In the 2003 hilarious mockumentary film A Mighty

other stringed instrument endorsee is so enshrined in

Wind, Levy skillfully portrays a nerdy folksinger named

mystery and shrouded by the mists of Time?

Mitch Cohen. This bookwormish BJF look-alike prompted

60 | SOMETHING OLD

so m e enthusiasts to m u se t h at t he C a n a d i a n actor


C. F. Martin & Co., Inc. 510 Sycamore St., Nazareth, PA 18064 MartinGuitar.com MartinGuitar.com/Blog

VOLUME 7 | S U M ME R 2 0 17 E D IT ION

MARTIN | Journal of Acoustic Guitars | C. F. Martin & Co.  
MARTIN | Journal of Acoustic Guitars | C. F. Martin & Co.