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The Fretboard Journal Guitar Podcast

Each week, the Fretboard Journal interviews some of our favorite musicians, instrument builders and historians.
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The Fretboard Journal Guitar Podcast
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Aug 11, 2020

For forty years, Bruce Harvie (Orcas Island Tonewoods) has carved out a nice existence for himself in the instrument making world as a tonewood supplier. His one-man operation is based in one of the most beautiful spots in North America (Washington State's San Juan Islands), where he sells spruce, redwood and other raw materials to mandolin and bowed instrument makers around the world. He's also a prolific musician. 

Though he makes his living selling hand-selected wood, Harvie is quick to point out that there's great instrument-making materials all around us, for cheap. "It's amazing how many mandolins get burned," he says. "I've gotten a lot of wood out of firewood piles."
 
On this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to Harvie about his early instrument building days, how he sources his tonewoods, and about some of the lesser-used woods in instrument making that deserve a chance. 
 
Follow Orcas Island Tonewoods here and listen to Bruce's new album here

This episode is sponsored by Mono Cases and Retrofret Vintage Guitars

 
Jul 31, 2020

Musician and singer-songwriter Mac McAnally has led quite a life: As a teenager, he was a studio musician in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, able to jump from between sessions and studios as an in-demand acoustic guitarist. He soon started writing songs, got a record deal of his own and penned hit songs for Jimmy Buffett, Alabama, and other top country acts. Since 1994, he's played guitar in Buffett's Coral Reefer Band.

As you'll hear on this podcast, McAnally is as humble as it gets, but he's also a ten-time CMA Musician of the Year winner. In 2007,  he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

McAnally just released his latest solo record, Once in a Lifetime. On this week's podcast, he recounts his early days in the Muscle Shoals scene, tells about his gear of choice (including his cherished, slot-head Martin guitar), and we talk about the making of the new album. 

This episode is sponsored by Mono Cases and Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Jul 23, 2020

As a kid, guitarmaker Sherwood "Woody" Phifer would tinker with everything, from model airplanes to his high school track shoes. "I would look at something and I'd be redesigning it as I was looking at it," he says. Eventually, he was taking guitars apart, which led to him building his own instrument and stumbling upon Charles LoBue's Guitar Lab in 1970. Within a couple of visits to that influential NYC shop, he found his passion for lutherie and his life's calling. During this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast, Phifer tells us about that fateful trip to Guitar Lab (a shop that employed soon-to-be-legendary employees Larry DiMarzio, Charles LoBue, Ralph Novak and Steve Kauffman), walks us through some of his thoroughly original creations (including his archtop guitars, his chambered-body electrics, his unique bridge system and more), and describes what it's like to be one of the only Black guitarmakers in the country.

https://www.phiferguitars.com
https://www.fretboardjournal.com

 

Jul 20, 2020

Earlier this month, Gibson announced a $59,000 reward for the safe return of their 1959-1960 shipping ledger, a book that, if it exists, has been missing for decades. If found, the ledger could shed light on the details of Gibson's production of guitars during a legendary period of time, including the variations found on all those famed, uber-collectible '59 and '60 'Bursts.

On this bonus episode of the Fretboard Journal podcast, we talk to Cesar Gueikian (CMO) and Mat Koehler (Head of Product Development) from Gibson about where they think the ledger might be, why they're on the hunt for it, and what they think they could learn from it. We also hear about some new and forthcoming Gibson projects, including collaborations with Jerry Cantrell and Adam Jones, forthcoming Flying V and white SG Custom Shop tributes to Jimi Hendrix, a Slim Harpo ES-330 reissue and a lot more.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Jul 16, 2020

Michael Millard of Froggy Bottom Guitars reflects upon 50 years of guitarmaking with one of our most insightful podcast interviews to date. Millard is a legendary figure in the world of musical instruments, using the lessons he learned working alongside Michael Gurian in the early 1970s to create one of the most collectible acoustic guitar brands of the modern era.

During this nearly hour-long chat, he talks about the unique ways Froggy Bottoms are made, describes his company's unorthodox business model, and announces his plan for retirement at the end of 2020. Millard was trained as a psychologist and his unfiltered thoughts on social injustice, the opportunities afforded him, and the danger of expectations are a breath of fresh air. 

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases

 
Jul 8, 2020

For years, ragtime guitarist Craig Ventresco was one of the music world's best-kept secrets: The only way to see him was to catch him in his hometown of San Francisco, playing a solo show at a small cafe or with his gypsy jazz band, Gaucho. He seldom left the city and recordings weren't a big part of his career.

Like many others, when COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders hit, Craig and partner Meredith Axelrod turned to the internet to keep performing. Here's where things get interesting: With a minimalist setup, Ventresco and Axelrod started live streaming their performances on Facebook... not once a month or weekly, but every single night. As of this interview, Ventresco and Axelrod were up to 100-plus shows. And their unique take on ragtime guitar is suddenly finding new fans around the globe.

On this week's podcast, we chat with Ventresco about growing up in Maine, getting turned on to 78 records, the years he spent busking around SF, his role on the 'Crumb' soundtrack, and his life online. We also talk about his Fraulini guitars, the music he's been obsessing over and much more. 

Links:
Meredith Axelrod's Facebook page (where Craig and Meredith perform every night at 8pm PT): https://www.facebook.com/meredithaxelrod

Their tip jars: Paypal.me/meredithaxelrod Venmo: @meredithaxelrod

Fraulini Guitars: http://fraulini.com

Fretboard Journal: https://www.fretboardjournal.com
(Use the discount code PODCAST when you check out and save $5 off any order)

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases

Jun 30, 2020

If you've read any guitar magazines over the last several years, you've probably seen the bylines of today's guests: Teja Gerken and Doug Young. The two Bay Area fingerstyle guitarists have written extensively about gear and technique for a variety of publications and today Teja is a partner at online music instruction portal Peghead Nation. On this week's podcast, they talk about their beautiful new instrumental album, simply titled Duets. They tell us about some of the unique guitars they used on the recording, give us tips for recording remotely via Zoom/Skype, and much more.

Check out Duets here: https://tejaanddougguitar.bandcamp.com

Order the Fretboard Journal's new Electric Guitar Annual here: https://shop.fretboardjournal.com/collections/all/products/2019-electric-annual-pre-order

This episode is sponsored by Mono Cases and Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Jun 20, 2020

Jontavious Willis is only 24, but he's already earned numerous accolades - and a Grammy nomination - for his mastery of the blues. On this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to Willis from his home in Georgia about being a largely self-taught guitarist, the one standard tuning guitar lesson he took (just five years ago!), the gear he uses today (including his Fraulini 12-string guitar), and his love for original 78 records.

We hear about the influence that Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal had on his career (Mo' produced 'Spectacular Class,' the album that earned Willis the Grammy nod) and Willis tells us how, even during COVID-19, a community of young Black blues musicians is mentoring each other through social media. Willis also explains the #RobertJohnsonChallenge, where he and fellow musicians Christone "Kingfish" Ingram and Marquise Knox are interpreting Robert Johnson tunes online, every Wednesday. Inspired by the recently discovered third photo of Johnson, the challenge is required viewing if you're a blues fan. 

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.  

Watch Willis' most recent Robert Johnson Challenge contribution here: https://www.facebook.com/JontaviousWillis/videos/250502482919394/

Follow him here: https://www.facebook.com/JontaviousWillis/ or here: http://jontaviouswillis.com

Subscribe to the reader-powered Fretboard Journal here: https://shop.fretboardjournal.com

 

Jun 5, 2020

Sarah Jarosz just released 'World on the Ground,' her first solo album in four years. On this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast, she talks to us about the making of the album, working with John Leventhal (who produced the project and helped co-write a few songs), her favorite songwriting tools (including her Collings D1A and her Fletcher Brock-built octave mandolin), and much more.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.  

https://www.sarahjarosz.com

May 27, 2020

For the last decade, luthier David Murray helmed an audacious project: Teaching the craft of guitarmaking to young Tibetan refugees in foothills of the Himalayas. It was one of the least hospitable places imaginable for a woodworking business (from both a climate and political perspective), but somehow the Dehradun Guitar Company steadily produced about one custom acoustic guitar a week. As David says goodbye to this chapter of his life – which we originally profiled in the Fretboard Journal #38 – we wanted to bring him on the podcast to hear what transpired. From Thailand, where his family currently resides, we talk about the challenges he experienced setting up Dehradun: the climate, CITES regulations, prohibitive shipping costs, an Indian government that threw his family out of the country and more. Despite all the above, Murray and his team were able to create around 200 amazing instruments and, he admits, “it was a dream come true.” We also talk a bit about the Fretboard Journal today, the influence Bob Taylor had on him as a builder and business owner, and what's next for the Murrays.

 

May 12, 2020

Twenty years ago, former president Jimmy Carter planted a grove of Paulownia trees on his Georgia property. Wood from those trees was recently harvested and, thanks to World Tree and FJ contributor/luthier Todd Lunneborg, some of that wood harvest is currently being turned into some rather special guitars.

On this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to Lunneborg and acclaimed acoustic guitarmaker Jason Kostal about the project. Kostal recently completed his guitar featuring the Paulownia from Carter's grove and, thanks to a bit of a luck and some social distancing, he was able to show the former president his finished instrument. It's an unforgettable moment and a great story that we think you'll love. 

See pics of the finished guitar and of Carter with it here.

Enjoy this episode? Share it with friends and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

Support the Fretboard Journal by getting a digital subscription to our magazine for just $30. 

This week's podcast is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Apr 28, 2020

Tom Power is a Canadian broadcasting great and frontman for folk band, The Dardanelles. He's also the host of 'Toy Heart: A Podcast About Bluegrass,' which has quickly become one of our favorite listens. On this week's FJ Podcast, we talk to Power about growing up in St. John's, Newfoundland, discovering bluegrass music through the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' soundtrack, and his unlikely and fateful meeting with Blue Grass Boy Tom Rosenberg (one of only two other St. John's residents who played the banjo). Power walks us through his career in broadcasting (he hosts the popular, nationwide Q show), explains why he decided to travel through America interviewing bluegrass legends, and shares some of his favorite memories from meeting Alice Gerrard, Del McCoury, Bela Fleck and others. If you're into bluegrass music (or the roots of Americana), we can't recommend Tom's podcast enough.

Listen to Toy Heart here or through Apple Podcasts.

Support the Fretboard Journal by getting a digital subscription to our magazine for just $30. 

This week's podcast is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.


Apr 15, 2020

French-born, Rhode Island-based luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz (Atelier Rosenkrantz) is a tireless experimenter. Inspired by her years working in industrial lighting and design, she’s embraced some truly unique, sustainable and downright wild materials. She also, of course, makes many traditional steel and nylon-string instruments out of classic tonewoods.

During this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, Rosenkrantz walks us through some of the eye-opening projects she’s currently working on, including a ukulele constructed out of a mushroom, pickguards fashioned out of fish skin, banjo heads formed from kombucha mothers, and even an ondes Martenot. We also talk about working alongside archtop maker Otto D'Ambrosio, her appearance on Anthony Bourdain's show and more. Sit back and enjoy this conversation with one of the guitar world’s true mavericks and be sure to watch the video she just submitted of our shop for #FJFest here: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/video/fjfest-rachel-rosenkrantz-atelier-rosenkrantz-shop-tour

https://www.atelierrosenkrantz.com

https://www.instagram.com/atelier_rosenkrantz/?hl=en

 

Apr 6, 2020

Fred Greene is the Vice President of Product Management for C.F. Martin & Co. in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. There, he oversees the research, development and production for Martin’s numerous guitar models and strings. Typically, our conversations with Fred center around the new models Martin is unveiling, but this talk is a little different. With guitar production at a standstill due to COVID-19, we instead have a frank talk with Fred about how the guitar community has come together during this pandemic, the fears he has about the industry as a whole, the issues he foresees in the manufacturing supply chain when Martin gets back to work, and so much more. Fred is one of our favorite people in the guitar industry and is a repeat guest on our podcast (we loved talking to him and Tim Teel for FJ Podcast #254, check it out).

If you enjoy this conversation, you may also like hearing our chat with Richard Hoover of Santa Cruz Guitar Co. from last week, where we discuss how his company is dealing with current events and much more.

Support the Fretboard Journal by getting a digital subscription for just $30: https://shop.fretboardjournal.com/collections/downloads/products/fretboard-journal-digital-subscription-offer
 
See our entire (and growing) lineup of #FJFest content here, including shop tours with TJ Thompson, Mark Stutman of Folkway Music and others: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/tag/fjfest/
 
Mar 28, 2020
This week's podcast is about a lot more than guitars: In the midst of a global pandemic, Richard Hoover, founder of the Santa Cruz Guitar Co., joins us for a candid conversation about running a successful small business, innovations in lutherie, his "bank of goodwill," being open-source, and so much more. We hear about his childhood growing up in California's San Joaquin Valley, the influence of the Whole Earth Catalog, the perils of dulcimer building, the serendipitous path that led him to guitarmaking, and even the books Richard is currently reading. He also offers us all a "logic array" that may help you re-frame your thinking through these challenging times. 
 
Note: There is unfortunately some Skype latency around the 49 minute mark. It only lasts a minute but we decided to leave it in to keep this conversation intact. 
 
https://santacruzguitar.com
 
Other Santa Cruz Guitar Co. content from the FJ that you may enjoy: 
Richard Hoover on the Fretboard Journal Podcast #116: https://www.fretboardjournal.com/podcasts/podcast-116-richard-hoover-santa-cruz-guitar-company/
 
Richard Hoover profile from Fretboard Journal #1
https://www.fretboardjournal.com/features/richard-hoover-santa-cruz-guitars
 
Support the Fretboard Journal by getting a digital subscription for just $30: https://shop.fretboardjournal.com/collections/downloads/products/fretboard-journal-digital-subscription-offer
 
Mar 19, 2020

Since 2005, Henriksen has created amplifiers for discerning jazz players. On this week's podcast, we talk to Peter Henriksen about the company his father (Bud Henriksen) founded in 2005, the specific needs jazz players have, and about some of the company's creations that cross genres and would appeal to players of all stripes. Peter is also the founder of the Rocky Mountain Archtop Festival, which takes place every September in Arvada, CO. 

https://www.henriksenamplifiers.com/

https://www.archtopfestival.com

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Want to support the podcast? Get a digital (PDF) subscription to the Fretboard Journal magazine here and get six issues for just $30. Click here

Mar 1, 2020

A couple of years ago, Sacramento’s Tré Burt lugged his Flinthill acoustic guitar onto a bus from Northern California to Los Angeles to record some demos at a friend’s studio. When that was done, he assumed he’d turn around and get started on another record. What Burt didn’t realize was that those Dylan-inspired songs would end up being released on John Prine’s Oh Boy record label as his debut album, Caught It From the Rye. (Even more impressive, Burt is just one of two artists to get signed to the label in the last 15 years.)

On this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast, we talk to this singer-songwriter about his start, his signing to Oh Boy, his countless evenings as a busker in California, Oregon and Australia, getting heckled by Prine and a lot more. It's quite a journey and Burt is just getting started... 

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Want to support the podcast? Get a digital (PDF) subscription to the Fretboard Journal magazine here and get six issues for just $30. Click here

Feb 17, 2020

Want to support the podcast? Get a digital (PDF) subscription to the Fretboard Journal magazine here and get six issues for just $30. Click here

Christopher Paul Stelling joins us on this week’s Fretboard Journal Podcast to talk about the making of his new, Ben Harper-produced album, Best of Luck.

Stelling’s journey is a fascinating one and we hear all about it: Mowing lawns in Florida so he could get his first guitar; honing his chops on the open mic circuit; discovering his first nylon-string guitar; his ‘50s Martin 00-17; getting signed to Anti- records; and even a brief stint building instruments alongside Rono mandolins in Boulder, Colorado. 

This is one of our favorite interviews to date and we wholeheartedly encourage you to check out Best of Luck.  

Stelling will also be appearing in the Fretboard Journal #46, out in April.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Feb 10, 2020

This week, we're sharing an epic conversation with one of our favorite musicians, guitar great Jim Campilongo. Jim shares stories about growing up in San Francisco, his early guitar lessons, his ever-growing LP obsession and some of the fateful encounters that helped shape his point-of-view as an instrumentalist. We then discuss his move from San Francisco to New York; his new, Sundazed Best of compilation; his ongoing collaborations with luthier Chihoe Hahn (Hahn's Model C tele-style guitar); plus a lot more.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Support the Fretboard Journal Podcast by getting a digital subscription to the Fretboard Journal magazine for just $30 a year. You’ll get our new issue (#45) immediately on the house and get four more issues. Click here to join us.

Jan 30, 2020

Dan Erlewine is, quite simply, a legend when it comes to lutherie. Through his countless videos and articles for StewMac, he's helped thousands of aspiring and veteran guitarmakers hone their craft. On this week's podcast, he reflects upon two of his most famous creations: A Strat-style guitar he built for Jerry Garcia and the Flying V he built for Albert King. Erlewine is building all-new replicas of both guitars and had examples at the 2020 NAMM Show. We also talk about naming Iggy Pop (his former bandmate), Dan's latest guitar creations, taking lessons from Clarence White and a lot more. A must-listen episode... 

This podcast is sponsored by Mono Creators and Retrofret Vintage Guitars.  

Jan 8, 2020

Henry Kaiser and Rick Turner take over this week’s episode of the Fretboard Journal Podcast to share H-13: A Tribute to the Santa Cruz Model H Guitar with us. This is a collection of newly-recorded tracks celebrating the musical life and legacy of Paul Hostetter (1945-2019).

Growing up in Detroit, Paul Hostetter took up guitar as a teenager, dropped out of high school and got a job at Joe and Mary Fava's music shop teaching blues and folk-style guitar. He knew Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye. He played rhythm guitar in recording sessions at Motown Records. And, while still in Detroit, he attended Monteith College, a liberal arts branch of Wayne State University, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy. His experience there was broader than it sounds. He worked in a range of disciplines, among them metal-smithing, a skill that enabled him to support himself designing and making wedding rings.

In addition, Paul was the inspiration for the SCGC Model H guitar. These instruments exist in 14-fret, 13-fret and 12-fret versions. All of the tracks on this album are recorded with SCGC Model H guitars. Most of the musicians were friends with Paul and chose tunes and musical modes of expression that would have made Paul smile.

Beyond the incredible playing, this album is a tremendous showcase of just how varied one guitar model can sound, thanks to differing tonewood choices. It’s also fascinating to hear Kaiser and Turner’s expert commentary between songs. We hope you enjoy it.

Track Listing

1  Martin Simpson – "When First Unto This Country" 3:30
2  Rick Ruskin - "Medley: Buck Dancer's Choice / Arkansas Traveler"  1:45
3  Happy Traum - "He Was a Friend of Mine" 4:42
4  Bruce Molsky - "Lasitera"  3:06
5  Josh Michaell - "Evening Reflections by Laguna Creek" 4:04
6  Kevin Carr - "Foliada de Bearducido" 3:27
7  Jody Stecher - "The Spider Hop" 4:57
8  D'Gary - "Mpiarak' Aomby" 4:39
9  Tony McManus - "Bach Cello Suite #1: Prelude" 2:20
10  Michael Gulezian - "Oh! Suzanna" 4:48
11  Rick Chelew - "It Could Be an Antelope"  3:18
12  Ed Pettersen - "The Harbor Road"  3:44
13  Paul Kotapish & Dan Warrick - "Belgian Waltzes" 2:58
14  Rick Turner - "Smith Grade March"  1:47
15  Marc Silber - "Searching for Spence > Leavin' You"  4:40
16  Rev. Heng Sure - "She Carries Me"  4:47
17  Eric Thompson - "Shake Shake Mama" 2:51
18  Henry Kaiser - "Hard Time Killin' Spoonful Blues" 7:25

 

Dec 27, 2019

Professional snowboarder Russell Winfield has had quite a life, filled with both sports and music. On this week’s podcast, he talks to us his early love for the Grateful Dead; how he discovered guitar playing on roadtrips with fellow snowboarders; some of the influential music moments he had growing up; and his new project, Shout the People.  

Follow Shout the People here

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Dec 14, 2019

"It wasn't like I was looking to make pedals my career, at all… it was just, 'I bet I can sell one to buy parts for this other one.'" –Robert Keeley, on his early work

On this week’s podcast, we talk to Robert Keeley of Keeley Electronics. When it comes to the world of effects pedals, Keeley is, quite simply, a legend. During our conversation, he recounts his early days flipping hi-fi gear he'd find at estate sales; explains why he never became an amp builder; outlines the importance of a great education for all of his employees; and walks us through the lifecycle of a pedal currently in development (the ECCOS delay/looper).

Whether you know Keeley for his old Tube Screamer mods or for his more recent, digital signal processing effects, you're bound to learn something during this hour-long chat.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Dec 3, 2019

You may not know who singer-songwriter Odessa is, but chances are you’ve heard at least one of her songs. "I Will Be There," a tune found on her 2014 self-titled debut album, was used in a national car commercial and ended up being one of the most searched-for songs of the year. It also brought with it some of the headaches of the music industry: Managers, major labels… and expectations for another hit. "It was kind of a wild ride," Odessa tells us, looking back. "I'm still not exactly sure what happened."

On this week's Fretboard Journal Podcast, Odessa walks us through what transpires when a major label and an artist have differing views on success and how one recovers to stay true to their vision. We also talk about Odessa's a new, self-released Jonathan Wilson-produced album called All Things. It’s an album that we can’t recommend enough.

This episode is sponsored by Retrofret Vintage Guitars and Mono Cases.

Nov 21, 2019

For years, Nelson, British Columbia's Craig Korth could be seen at bluegrass festivals sharing a trio of exceptional (and extremely pricey) instruments - his 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin, a 1937 Martin D-28 and a pre-war Gibson flathead 5-string banjo - with nearly anyone. But Craig is a lot more than just a laid-back instrument collector. On this week's podcast, he fills us in on his early love for bluegrass, how he accumulated a world-class array of instruments with a blue collar job (hint: a lot of hard work, hustling and trading up) and about the Nimble Fingers music camp he ran for many years.

We also talk about Craig's foray into lutherie, the lessons he took from archtop maker Bob Benedetto and how Craig is currently coping with focal hand dystonia. Whether or not you're a fan of bluegrass music, we think you'll love this episode and Craig's outlook on life.

Note: The first few minutes of our interview have some internet connection issues but it clears up very soon. 

This episode is sponsored by Mono Cases and Retrofret Vintage Guitars.
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