Taylor Guitars’ master builder Andy Powers tells us life as a luthier has always gone hand in hand with his playing...
I got my first real six-string…
“My parents both really loved bluegrass and country music so they took my older brother, younger sister and I to go hear Doc Watson play. I went into this theatre as this wide-eyed kid and I listen to him. He’s playing guitar, telling stories, cracking jokes and singing these songs and it’s just incredible.
“After the show he’s standing up in front of the stage shaking hands and saying hello to folks. So I go up to him and ask for his autograph on the programme. He starts laughing and says, ‘Well, I never learned to read or write because I can’t see.’ So he rubs me on top of the head and says, ‘Maybe some of the guitar playing will rub off on you and maybe that’s a way you could remember me.’
“Shortly after that I started fooling around with our family guitar - a Gibson LG-1 - and learning some chords on it, and after that I tried building one. My guitar playing and building have always gone together.”
Just a castaway, an island lost at sea
“If I’m on a desert island, I might take an upright bass so I can break the neck off and paddle away! It’s hard to say what I’d take as I typically like the guitar that’s in front of me.
“I have a flat top guitar I built for myself years and years ago that I really love playing. I’m a huge fan of acoustic archtops so I’d probably take one of the archtops that I’ve built because I don’t think there’s anything I can’t play on that. Though the [Taylor] Grand Pacific guitars, those are pretty close. It seems like every note that comes off it, sounds like music.”
Get down deeper and down
“At this point the biggest strength I have as a player is to recognise my limitations. Because the more I’ve learned, the more I realise how much there is to learn. Music-playing, whether it’s guitar or any other instrument, and the same with guitar-making, it feels like an infinite endeavour. The further on you go, the more that music has to teach you.
“So I got very into gypsy jazz, I got very into classic rock and blues, and West Coast, straight-ahead jazz, I got into bluegrass… all of these things you can get interested in it and you start learning about it and you realise how much depth there is. Every one is like this deep well that you can start drawing material from.”
Money for nothing, tips for free
“There’s a whole bunch of players I’d love to get a lesson from. I love Mark Knopfler’s playing, I love his songwriting and the stories that he tells, the band that assembles around him with Richard Bennett playing guitar. Just some amazing musicians around him. I’ve never got a chance to sit down with him and talk to him but I’d love to hear what he plays, because I love the music he makes.”
“Your life as a player continues to develop as your circumstances change. My wife and I have three young kids and every night they have their favourite bedtime songs, so when I come home from the shop I get guitars out or whatever instruments they’re asking for and I play. It’s something my parents did for me as a kid and I have very fond memories of that. Even with those songs, you take these seemingly childish melodies and they can be beautiful.”
More than words
“I’ve had some pretty funny experiences onstage, but what I’d tell a younger version of me is to go out and just enjoy it, express yourself. Tell your stories, play your songs and don’t worry too much about what people are thinking of it. Because music is the rare avenue in life where you can say what you really want to say without being ridiculed. You can say in the context of a song what you want to say but are too afraid to elsewhere.”