The award winning singer-songwriter talks us through his stage and recording gear…
‘I’ve got a 1964 Gibson J-50. For the first time in my life I was recently in the position where I could go and get myself a fancy new guitar so I bought the ’64 J-50 – it’s a pretty indulgent purchase, right? I went to this guitar shop in Guildford on a Sunday afternoon, just spending a couple of hours playing guitar. At this point I’d spent the last six or so years playing the same acoustic – a new Epiphone jumbo body that I’d drag around open mics. I wanted something nice, I guess, and I wanted to take some time thinking about what felt good under my fingers – and this is great. There’s a lot to be said about old guitars. The wood is often so resonant and not covered in lacquer, and this one is amazingly warm – it does the right thing. I’ve got a Fishman soundhole pickup in it at the moment, and I’m not too sure about it. I’m probably going to take it out – it’s just not the right one for the guitar, and I’m not into the soundhole thing. This guitar is best unplugged and mic’d up.’
‘I’ve also got this Gibson SJ-200 [pictured above] I’m using. The jumbo Epiphone I had did the job, but I borrowed an SJ-200 out in the US recently and it was so great. I love the dark sunburst on this one I’ve got. I wrote a lot of Chaos And The Calm based around the low, big-bodied sound. I tune my guitars down a whole tone (DGCFAD), and the jumbo body gives me that low, guttural sound which I love and which is becoming one of my things. I’ll try and go guitar shopping when I’m in different countries, but I just seem to stumble upon things. There’s a Gibson ES-330 1964 that I found in this ramshackle old shop called the Music Inn in NYC which was full of these homemade fretless guitars with aluminum fretboards – it was just a really bizarre shop – but in the corner was this guitar and it was perfect. I couldn’t turn it down. I’ve got Ernie Ball Earthwood 13s on my acoustics at the moment – I fell in love with those strings. I’m pretty much set up with what I need guitar-wise, and I hate to be “that guy” but I’m in a good place with my guitars. I love those Harmony Buck Owens guitars Ryan Adams uses – he really bashes those about – and I’ve always felt like Patrick James Eggle acoustics are some of the best.’
‘I play through an LR Baggs Venue DI and I’m about to check out some new pickups from them, too. On the electric side of things, the Tone King Sky King amp, made by a called Marc Bartel in Baltimore, just sings. All the sounds have to be clean, clear and then hitting the guitars harder is how I make the sound break up a little. I like the idea of putting an acoustic guitar through a VOX AC30 – I love that combination. It’s still very real and wooden, but driven with so much power.’
Chaos And The Calm is out now.