A little over one year ago, Carrie and I went to Joshua Tree to stay at the Joshua Tree Inn and see the place that Gram Parsons found so inspirational. While visiting Pioneertown, we met Eric Bevel, who, as it turns out, does some amazing woodworking. Somehow we started talking about musical instruments, and he showed me a really nice bass he had made. I casually talked to him about having him make me an instrument and got a business card, but it took me awhile to email him about making me something.
I’d been wanting to start playing octave mandolin; I’ve always enjoyed the sound, and I often found myself wishing my mandolin had a lower range. Having a fairly uncommon instrument I’d never played custom-made seemed like a great fit, so I contacted Eric about the project. He was excited and willing to take it on, even never having built an octave mandolin before. Since I’d been impressed by his work, I wanted to give him as much freedom with the design as possible. I gave him my feedback on body style, color, some of those things, and even those elements came out strikingly original.
We were in communication throughout the whole project (I got to see a lot of neat in-progress pictures, and since then have seen a bunch more), and we met at Kelso Depot in California for the exchange, in the middle of the desert, old time Vegas style. It was so exciting to play this instrument for the first time. Even being outside it sounded amazing (better than the fancy acoustic rooms in certain bigtime music retailers), and even after seeing all of the pictures I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the instrument, and I’m still marvelling over all of the unique handmade touches. I just can’t believe people can do such amazing things with their hands. Most of my other instruments are factory made, and they still sound nice, but meeting the person who made this instrument, seeing all of this hand-crafted detail, hearing the difference in the sound of the wood, and knowing where pretty much every piece of it came from is something entirely different.
I plan on incorporating a good amount of octave mandolin into my new songs, so stay tuned! (Pun definitely intended.) For now, here is a little song I wrote on the octave mandolin. At different points, this song includes guitar and regular mandolin; I wanted to play around and see how it sounded with these instruments. Expect some more elaborate arrangements in the future. It’s going to be like a hootenanny up in here.
Also, if you think Eric Bevel’s work is absolutely amazing, unique, and beautifully crafted (which you should) and you want to talk to him about making you something, I bet he’d love it if you email him.