I woke up this morning in the parking lot of a resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. Grabbed my guitar and room key and headed through the lobby to find the elevator bank.
There's a talking red parrot being heckled by chubby kids in shorts and swim goggles. I can’t quite hear the parrot’s retort.
I am pretty sure I'm being stared down by a man in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. A woman corrals her Disney-clad children closer to her as I walk by.
I realize that while my bed-head hairdo and derelict-sheik clothing might look good on stage, it’s currently making me look like a homeless dude who stumbled into the lobby with an acoustic guitar.
The fact that I didn't shower after last night’s gig doesn't help. I’m usually pretty self-confident, but I don't feel cool right now. I actually feel quite lonely. The sight of kids on vacation with their parents laughing and skipping through the lobby makes me miss my girlfriend and our daughter terribly. I get hit with a wave of depression.
So far, my morning isn't starting out great. I consider the fact that our tour bus, conveniently located in the parking lot outside, is stocked with beer and liquor. I could drink my way through the day in a hammock on the man-made beach, watching stray alligators swim past sun-burnt tourists in paddle boats.
It's aptly named Hemingway Beach, which makes the thought of drinking all the more appealing. Considering how easy it would be to become a full-blown alcoholic on a tour with so many days off, I change my mind and continue up to my hotel room. I make a healthier choice and suit up for a 5-mile run around the resort golf course.
There's a saying in the music business: "I play the shows for free, it’s the rest of the day I get paid for."
Like most men, I like to fill the holes in my life with tools and toys. Since my work is play, my tools are toys: guitars. I love guitars — lust for them, actually. I care more about guitars than I do about my own body. Case in point: I recently opted out of getting an abdominal MRI because when I heard how much it cost, all I could think about was how I could buy that gold top I've always wanted with the same money. I realize that kind of thinking is sheer insanity, but when love isn't crazy, it's not really love.
On the subject of love, I just bought a 1968 Martin D-35. I bought it from my friend Doug at Mountain Cat Guitars. The guitar is the rarer 12-fret model with a slotted headstock. I've wanted a D-35 ever since I saw Bernard Butler of Suede play one at an acoustic performance in the Bowery Ballroom.
It's got a beautiful three-piece Brazilian rosewood back and a super-slack tension that's great for fingerpicking or a deep Norman Blake-like bluegrass tone. Normally these guitars are pretty pricey. I've seen them at Guitar Center for upwards of $7,000, but that’s for a super-clean one. Mine's dirty, and I like it that way — a real "player’s guitar."
When I say "player’s guitar" I don't mean it in a "Pimp My Ride" sort of way; nor is it a value judgement on the level of skill a guitarist has. A player’s guitar is a familiar term in the vintage guitar business that means a great-playing vintage guitar that's probably cosmetically messed up with swapped-out parts.
Many guitarists prefer "player’s guitars," because they were mostly likely played to death for a reason; they are great guitars to play. The ones that sat underneath someone's bed in pristine condition for 25 years were obviously not all that inspiring to pick up.
My newly acquired, yet beat-up old Martin is inspiring to pick up and to play. Each crack, ding and dent on it adds more character; just like your favorite pair of jeans or that threadbare T-shirt your girlfriend loves to sleep in.
Earlier in the week, I had a chance to walk around my friend’s farm and play the guitar for six gigantic horses called Percherons. The youngest of the six giants tried to join in the jam by biting the headstock of my guitar. The horse’s giant teeth and slobbery mouth nicked a bit of the old Martin logo off.
If the guitar were a mint-condition closet classic I'd probably be bothered, but on this old player Martin, a horse bite just adds character.
Chris Traynor plays guitar in Bush. Visit him on Facebook.