It was time for a new guitar and a new sound.
My custom Ovation Adamas was unlike any ordinary Ovation because it had been built especially for me, using special materials and a special pickup system.
It had been my primary instrument for fifteen years of global touring and recording. It was a great guitar.
Its replacement would have to be just as good or better.
I wanted a custom-made acoustic six-string baritone guitar built to the scale-length and dimensions of the Ovation, only this time made of wood, and where possible, of reclaimed and British-sourced woods.
Since I live in Scotland, I also wanted to support a Scottish business, so I was looking for a local luthier.
I had met a luthier at a gig I played in Ayr a few years earlier named Mark Bailey. He was displaying some of his guitars in the foyer of the venue, and I had admired the beauty of his archtop jazz guitars.
His company, Bailey Guitars, was located in a solar and wind-powered workshop near Maybole in the Ayrshire countryside a beautiful half-hour drive from my house.
I called Mark and asked if we could get together to talk about creating a custom guitar. He said he was interested and we arranged a meeting.
Decades of performing and recording had taught me the features and characteristics I wanted in the sound and design of a guitar, as well as those I did not want.
Mark seemed to understand what I wanted intuitively.
We agreed on a price and a timescale.
Consultations were needed from the outset. Body dimensions needed to be changed to accommodate the extended scale-length. Considerations of how the guitar would balance when worn with a strap had to be worked out.
I came to realise I was a demanding customer with very particular requirements. But Mark always seemed to enjoy the challenges and problem-solving involved.
I visited the workshop many times during the two-month build. It was exciting to watch the progress as the woods were chosen (I went for a cedar top and mahogany back, sides and neck because I love the sound of those woods), the body assembled, the trim inlayed, the neck fitted on, the spraying completed, and the electronics installed.
At the beginning of each visit, Mark would show me the most recent progress he had made.
He would tap on the English cedar top at each stage of the bracing process, showing me the percussive live-ness and resonance he had managed to bring out.
He made me do little things — write an inscription on the underside of the top, bend a piece of trim on a wood-bending iron — so I would feel I had been part of the build.
He also listened to my music a lot on the workshop stereo while building the guitar.
The resulting instrument exceeded what I had envisioned. It was and is an awesome example of the luthier’s art, beautiful to play, to hear, and to look at.
The sound is powerful and clear, yet warm and intimate. I’ve had the guitar for several months now and it’s getting bigger and deeper as it ages.
What I appreciate most about Mark is that he asked for, and welcomed, my input at every stage of the build. I think he really wanted me to love the instrument he was creating.
Because of that I have ended up with a very personal instrument that fits me.
I got the guitar I wanted, and I love it.