KURT VILE
Guitarist|December 2020
From battered Martins and vintage Gibsons to pre-CBS Fender offsets – we find out why the Philadelphian songsmith can’t bring himself to sell any gear…

What was the last guitar you bought and why?

“I was up in Massachusetts recently hanging out with the guitar god that is J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. It was pretty inspiring being around him. He’s a friend of mine and we’ve toured together. I happened to be up there when he was working on some music and a ’65 sunburst Fender Jazzmaster fell into my lap. It came from a friend of his.”

What was the first serious guitar you bought with your own money?

“In my teens, I had a cheaper Les Paul called The Paul. My early recordings have that cool sound from The Paul, along with a Fender Vibro Champ and some filters. Around 2010, I was borrowing my buddy’s Martin dreadnought. I would always take it on the road and, finally, it got stolen, much to his chagrin. So I had to get two of the same model guitar [DC-16RGTE] from the Martin factory – one for him and one for me. That’s what’s over most of Smoke Ring For My Halo. It’s great for live and in the studio. It’s also on the song How Lucky [from Kurt’s new EP, Speed, Sound, Lonely KV (ep)] featuring John Prine, which is a special thing.

“But the guitar I bought right at the beginning of Wakin On A Pretty Daze is a Martin Custom Shop. It’s a 00, a 2011 Philadelphia Folk Festival 50th Anniversary model. I play and sing live on every song on that record with that Martin. It was a smooth guitar then, but it’s even smoother now. They evolve. I got the neck reset, which I regret because now it feels like a different instrument – the action is too low. It’s kind of tricky with acoustics because you’ve got to take care of them. Martins stay pretty solid, but acoustics just get beat up by the road. I have two little Martins, but the neck on one of them is loose and is literally moving around.”

What’s your best guitar-buying tip?

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