Friday’s Coffee Episode #001: Ben Payne Kicks the Tires on His New Guild Acoustic, Podcast Transcription

Ben and Ron discuss the sound profiles of Ben’s new Guild guitar and his old Seagull.


(Video transcription below)

RON: The thing I love about Ben is, he’s an incredible musician. He just got a Guild acoustic guitar, and it’s beautiful, but on the other side of this conversation is his Seagull. I wanted him just to play a little bit of each so you can hear the difference. But also, we talked about some really cool opportunities that the difference of sounds of having two acoustic guitars that are similar, but have a different depth. They’re both amazing instruments. He’s just out there getting his acoustic guitars right now. We’ll have this conversation.

[cut video]

RON: Ben, what did you do?

BEN: So, I bought another guitar. I couldn’t resist. But this has been Old Faithful for most of our sessions this year, and with good reason. It’s a Seagull, Cedar Series, and I don’t think they make this series anymore, so it’s cedar back and sides, and solid top—I believe it’s spruce—or no, I believe it’s mahogany, sorry. So cedar back and sides, mahogany top, darker profile. Still has a lot of body. [strums]

RON: I can never resist, when you get up to that chord [hums]—I can’t resist!

BEN: So, we’ve tracked with this on many songs, not just for my project but on some others as well. And it’s been wonderful. And then, I picked up this other pretty lady, from the Guitar Department up in Kenmore—shoutout to Ed and the crew up there—but it’s a different setup here, slightly wider body, full-on dread knot, solid spruce top and laminate sides but mahogany back. And it does its own thing. So I’ll play this and we can talk about the difference in profile.

RON: Here’s the crazy thing. Last time, when we had the real conversation—this is all contrived because it’s our second time through—

BEN: We mean what we say though.

RON: Yes, that’s true. He was sitting over there facing me, so I didn’t have the sound hole right in my ear. And I’m getting a whole different sound profile from over here.

BEN: So what that tells us is—

RON: How we mic.

BEN: Mic placement. So that’s another part of the conversation. ‘Cause a lot of stuff you hear from the stage is going direct. And I do like that the battery access on this particular series is easier, the input is right there—that Seagull you have to kind of undo four screws and pull out the face plate, but then go in through the sound hole, pull that out to change the battery. So it’s an older model, but it’s worth it because of the sound. But they’ve made—thankfully Guild has made that easier, and obviously it’s a newer series of guitar, but again these—

RON: This is new, right?

BEN: Yeah, yeah. This is—I bought it brand new, it’s not used—
RON: So was it built this year? What’s the date say inside?

BEN: It doesn’t give us the date. It’s the D240E model. So you can look that up online. And it’s got more, for my ears, when we’re doing stuff with Yankee Bravo that’s more on the roots-rock side or the darker side of Americana, I would go for the Seagull. But when we’re playing something a little bit more jangly and almost with a country undertone, like our song “Gone, Gone, Gone,” it starts… [plays example] You know, it just sings out.

RON: That word “jangly” just came out of my mouth as soon as I heard this.

BEN: Right.

RON: And you talked—talk a little bit about the strings, because that’s one of the first things you said about the—

BEN: Right. So the disclaimer on this, is, these are brand-new strings from SIT, they’re the bronze, and they don’t have any coating. The strings on the Seagull are Elixirs, and they’re older, they do have the coating on them. And for example… [plays example] They both sound nice, but tracking those stereo, putting Guild on the left, Seagull on the right—that would be a whole nice experience, because they do different things, but they do complementary things.

RON: That’s right. Well, the thing that I threw out, because you know I’m an oddball with tuis stuff—but, instead of doing production things to make the chorus bigger, like I was thinking the darker sound, the Seagull on like the verse, and then when you want the chorus to get a little bit bigger, either you’re doubling, or you just jump to the Guild, that’s a lot brighter and janglier. Is that a word?

BEN: Janglier. I think you just made a word.

RON: Hmm.

BEN: And you know, if this is our verse guitar—[plays example] by the time we get to the chorus, you could keep that as your—

RON: Because there’s still some beautiful deep, warm lows in that.

BEN: Right. So you don’t want to lose that. But then maybe off on the right side, you add—Right? And it pulls your ear a little bit this way.

RON: Adds interest.

BEN: Exactly. Adds interest.

RON: You don’t know as a listener what—well…

BEN: Some would.

RON: There’s freaks—you bunch of freaks.

BEN: Yeah. The audiophiles would go, “Oh, they added another guitar!”

RON: Yeah. “And I hear it over there—it’s leaning left” or “It’s leaning right.”

BEN: But the average listener is just going to feel like, “Oo, something happened!” And that guitar, it’s darker, it does its thing—this guitar, it smiles. Like, when I play it, I just start to smile. Because it’s brighter, it’s not gonna be for everything, because again, the Seagull does this mysterious, nice dark sound. And this kinda brings that—I don’t know, I’m being too artistic and poetic here—but it brings the sunshine and the sparkle. [plays example] But it still has depth to it. [keeps playing]

RON: Oo!

BEN: And it’s just fun to play.

RON: I was shocked how light it is.

BEN: It’s very light, and very playable. And, you know, the oversized head stock is something I’ve always loved about the Guild look. It’s just beautiful and the way that the top is, it’s very—it’s kind of like how Gibsons have that scroll top. But at the same time, I’m the fan of the old Martin just square-top as well. I think that each guitar has its own characteristic.

RON: But are there certain genres that the Guild will find itself in a lot?

BEN: I imagine so.

RON: Is it a folk kind of vibe?

BEN: That’s my experience with it. You know, one of my favorite artists of all time, Richie Havens, always played Guild. That was his guitar company for as long as he was out doing it, and I always loved the sound of his guitars. And of course he did the drop alternate tunings and played a lot with his thumb. Which is where I picked that up.

RON: Yeah, I’ve seen you do that before.

BEN: Yeah, so—I mean, I totally stole that from Richie Havens, because I saw that and I thought “Oh, that’s cool, I should try that!” In standard tuning, it’s more difficult. But yeah, Guild, I guess you could associate with more of the folk artists. But there are definitely some rock artists that I’ve seen use Guild as well. But it’s a good conversation to have when you’re in the studio and saying, “Okay, this song—” Especially if we’re doing something wnith a different artist in mind, and it’s not our music—“Okay, what does this particular artist’s music call for?” And then go ahead and pull out different guitars and try them and say, “Okay, that profile’s nice, but not for this song. We need something a little bit more jangly and bright for this song.” Or, “We need something a little bit more dark, and that’s going to sit in the mix more.”

RON: [laughs] You know what’s going to happen, right? When Ben is producing a song, he’ll say, “You know, it probably should be a brighter sound.” And when I’m producing a song, “Oh, you probably need the Seagull, probably need to be darker.”

BEN: Right, exactly.

RON: And that’s why I think—that’s one of the beautiful things about working with you Ben—No matter what I say, you disagree with me.

BEN: [laughs] That is not true. We agree an awful lot.

RON: Yes, I know. [laughs]

BEN: But the beauty is, we see things differently.

RON: From a different perspective.

BEN: We’re like these guitars. We’re complementary.

RON: We are. What I would like to do sometime, because we both know and love Ryan Gerber—

BEN: Hmm.

RON: [to camera] He’s a guitar builder.

BEN: He’s a wonderful guitar builder.

RON: I would like to hear his perspective on some of the things that we’re talking about, and, also, from his offerings, which guitars might be a little darker that go on that Seagull side, which ones are Guild. And see, I don’t—there’s probably other markers out there—you mentioned Martins and Gibsons—I wonder what the sound signatures are and how they fit into the overall—

BEN: Right.

RON: Because I would really love, you know I talk about Bring Your Song all the time, I would really love to provide this kind of content for people who are making early choices. Maybe they got a learner guitar, and what they’ve learned about it is, they don’t like it.

[both laugh]

BEN: That’s an important thing to learn.

RON: Yeah, and they want to move on. “What’s my next guitar pick going to be?” It would be really cool to be able to give them some tools to make choices.

BEN: And some live, in-the-room reference that a lot of folks don’t get when they’re going to shop for guitars. A lot of folks are left to their own devices.

RON: It is. That’s very true.

BEN: So if we could provide something that you’re like, “Okay, here’s this guitar with this profile, here’s that guitar with this profile—It’s got these kinds of woods, here’s the kinds of strings that are on it…” And, you know, do the old taste-test thing. And eventually something’s gonna hit your ear, and you’re gonna go, “That’s my guitar. That’s what I want.” So…hopefully we can have those conversations at one of these Bring Your Songs next year.

RON: But right now, we gotta get busy. Love you all, talk to you later!