We should lead this off with a bit of a warning: what you’re about to read is very geeky, and may not be especially pertinent to the average reader. That said, if you have any interest or fascination with instruments and music gear whatsoever, this is for you!
Gear Geek is our chance to shine a light on local musicians and talk about something musicians love perhaps more than anything: their gear. This week we’ve got guitarist and all-around multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, Andrew Sovine.
A lifelong guitar player, Andrew is best known for his work as a guitarist with Ashley McBryde, Big Kenny, Chase Rice, and more. He calls Savannah home, and some of the most fascinating work of his career has come in the last several months of quarantine—in the form of daily improvisational offerings.
He’s an inventive and versatile guitarist, and his vast and varied collection of gear proves that.
Do you remember what age you got your first guitar?
I was four years old when I got my own guitar. It was a cheap acoustic from a department store in Nashville. It possessed no redeeming qualities aside from it being the instrument that got me started.
Was there a moment or a particular time in your life when you really started getting into guitars and gear?
I started working at a vintage guitar store when I was in high school. That got me hooked. We would go to guitar shows all over the country and buy the coolest pieces. As a result of that I was able to play a lot of the “holy grail” instruments and begin to understand the appeal. Around that time I started noticing the oddball guitars (Silvertone, Harmony, Wandre, Airline, etc.) at the shows. That planted the seed.
You have lots of fun things in your arsenal, lap steels and other things like that, but guitar is clearly where your heart is. Why is that? What is it about guitars that you love so much?
There’s something beautifully organic and unforgiving about playing guitar. There is nothing between your fingers and the sound being produced. It’s addictive.
Tell me a bit about what you’ve got in your collection right now.
We don’t have that much time! I try to never use a piece of gear that is stock and/or “normal.”
The highlights of my current arsenal would be my 1958 Wandre Tri-Lam, a Sierra pedal steel, a TVL Fender Jazzmaster, a jarana segunda that I picked up in Oaxaca, a Chandler lap steel that’s been heavily modified with Mule Resophonic pickups and a Hipshot palm bender setup, my 1972 Fender Thinline Telecaster, Casio SK-1 keyboard, Suzuki Omnichord, a Vox Pathfinder, a 1964 Fender Vibroverb, and my old Vox AC30 Top Boost.
I have way too many effects pedals to list here. I’ve recently started tracking down old microphones too. That’s a whole other rabbit hole.
Do you have a favorite piece of gear? Something you find yourself going back to as of late?
Lately I will grab my jazzmaster and plug it into the large pedalboard I recently assembled. That all goes into the Vibroverb or AC30. Sometimes both! After that I’ll mic them up with an SM57 and one or two of my vintage Telefunken dynamic mics. The old mics are great for lo-fi sounds.
Is there something in your collection that was a dream guitar or piece of gear for you? Something you always wanted and finally was able to acquire?
Yes! Long ago I saw Marc Ribot holding a weird guitar in an issue of Fretboard Journal. I fell in love with the guitar. It was funky looking and spoke to my heart. Several years later I ended up buying that exact guitar from Marc. It’s a 1958 Wanre Tri-Lam. It was designed by an artist named Antonio “Wandre” Pioli who also did some work for Ducati.
The whole line of guitars and basses looks like an acid trip. Mine is a great example of what can be done with a combination of fiberglass and aluminum. It’s the guitar I will bring to a session if I can only pick one. It has a sound that’s a bit like a telecaster meets a 335, but with a character all it’s own.
What guitars inspire you the most as a songwriter?
Recently I have been writing more ambient stuff. So I tend to grab an electric (lately the Wandre or Jazzmaster) and start manipulating sounds through the pedalboard. Honestly, the instrument I grab doesn’t matter much. They’re all tools, and I try to keep them all in working order.
Lastly, I’m curious who your heroes/idols were in terms of guitar players, and especially when it comes to the guitars you play. There are a lot of players out there who really made it cool to collect guitars, amps, etc.
I remember stumbling onto David Lindley’s website several years ago. He had photos of some of his instruments up and it floored me. That definitely got me started “collecting” in a real way. Though, while I am always buying and acquiring gear, I don’t keep anything around very long if I’m not using it.