I've been acquainted with the bluegrass singer-songwriter Jen Larson since my arrival in NYC. Her name was one of the first I heard, and her voice had timbers that few can match. I was fortunate, as were many others, to hear her up close at jams and to have opportunities to share vocal duets. Here she discusses her unique approach to her songwriting, and informs us of her new solo EP.
- Can you remember the first guitar you owned? What was the make and model and how did you acquire it?
My very first guitar was a Sigma--but I quickly was introduced to a lovely 1990s Martin D-2 which I still have as my back-up, go-to instrument.
- What are the qualities that matter to you when deciding on buying a guitar, and how has this changed over time?
In my case, affordability! But also, as I've evolved as bluegrass musician and had the chance to try out a lot of amazing and not-so-amazing guitars along the way, I've discovered that prefer a boomy, but well-balanced dreadnaught. I tend to gravitate towards rosewood (solid or plywood) because to me, that kind of wood seems to lend itself to a darker, moodier sound on the low end that not only compliments my singing style, but can also more than hold it's own in a full bluegrass ensemble.
- How did you discover your present guitar, and how did it find its way home to you?
I currently play a 1970s Martin D-28, which I love. It used to belong to the great NJ-based banjoist, Terry McGill, and when we played together in our bluegrass band, Straight Drive, I used it quite a bit. After that band ended, I realized that I wanted to continue playing it for both technical and sentimental reasons, and it was my good fortune that he was ready to graciously part with it.
- What historical aspects, if any, have you unearthed about your present or past guitars?
1970s D-18s aren't necessarily known for their great sound, but I've found this particular guitar to have a lot of volume and beautiful tone. I call it my "workhorse" and it's never disappointed me!
- 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?
I've recently completed a solo EP recording project (produced by NYC bluegrass powerhouse, Michael Daves), and all of the original songs on that project were written on my beloved "workhorse." I particularly enjoy working with drop D-tuning, and because this instrument is well-seasoned from years of use, and because it has such a powerful low-end, it provided all the inspiration I needed. I owe this guitar a great debt of gratitude and my goal is an instrumentalist is to honor that by continually striving to make sure that my playing techniques bring out the best in all that it has to offer.