This month's featured songwriter is the amazing David Rovics. David and I met again this year at the People's Music Network. This organization promotes music for social change, and certainly David is all about that.
Can you remember the first guitar you owned? What was the make and model and how did you acquire it?
i guess the first guitar i owned was a bass guitar (does that count?). i grew up playing classical cello, so when i got into rock and roll and other less stilted forms of music as a teenager, i figured bass would be the place to start. The first 6-string guitar i ever got was a very cheap, half-size (or so) instrument mass-produced in china that was really barely playable, but that was it. i mostly got it because i couldn't take a bass guitar on my acid-induced romps through the woods near my home that dominated much of my free time as a teenager.
What are the qualities that matter to you when deciding on buying a guitar, and how has this changed over time?
Gosh, there are so many factors. Price is obviously one. Otherwise factors like how easy it is to play, the feel of it, the depth of the bass and richness (or not) of the overall sound, and how it is as far as the intonation. The most obvious way the change has happened over time is when i was in my teens and twenties i didn't make much money, so when i managed to cobble together enough money buy a martin d1 when i was in my mid-twenties, this was like a dream come true, to have a guitar that sounded that good. it wasn't until i was in my mid-thirties that i was able to spend a lot more than that, and get a much nicer guitar. But the other factors haven't changed, really.
How did you discover your present guitar, and how did it find its way home to you?
It was somewhere around 2002 or 2003, i can't remember exactly, when i was spending a lot of time in Houston, Texas. Houston is a big city with a lot of money in it, and lots of music stores that sell really nice instruments. i had been making a living as a musician for some time by then, and was starting to have enough disposable income to afford a nice instrument, so i went shopping. i tried out lots of guitars. My favorites that i tried then were martin and collins guitars in the $5,000 range. i couldn't afford them, though, so i settled for a santa cruz that cost half that. In that price range, it seemed to me that santa cruz had the best guitars. I've been really happy with it ever since then, though it lacks the huge bass that i love so much that you get out of a high-end martin or collins, it has fantastic intonation.
What historical aspects, if any, have you unearthed about your present or past guitars?
For years my main guitar was an old guild 12-string with a massively cracked finish, which is probably how i was able to afford it in the first place. It probably had some history to it, but i don't know anything about it. Every other guitar i've bought -- seagull, martin, santa cruz, godin -- has been new, so from a historical point of view, terribly boring.
What was the most recent song you composed on your guitar, and how did your present guitar tool lead you to discover the right music?
What kind of instrument you're playing can make a big difference in terms of what kind of music you come up with, for sure. (Though it's probably far from the biggest factor.) Cheaper or less resonant guitars are going to lead you in different musical directions than a guitar with a big, resonant sound. A more resonant guitar might inspire more open tuning stuff, for example. But to say with any certainty how my guitar has shaped my music would be pretty impossible, overall. So i can say with certainty that the last song i wrote was one called "bubbling up," about the hubbub surrounding scarlet Johannes’s soda stream commercial and all that. But whether my guitar had a significant impact on how the music went, who knows...
Catch David touring globally by checking out his site: http://davidrovics.com