The Current's Guitar Collection: Valerie June

by Luke Taylor

  1. Listen Valerie June, 'Workin' Woman Blues' performed at The Current

    May 14, 2014

Valerie June visited The Current's studio on August 10, 2013, to play a few songs and to chat with Mac Wilson. After the session, the Memphis singer-songwriter took some time to talk about her then-new acoustic guitar and the mystical connection — prompted by a coincidence involving her phone number — she felt with it.

Valerie June plays Rock the Garden on Sunday, June 22. Here's what Valerie told us about her guitar last August:

What kind of guitar is it?

It's a Martin dreadnought guitar.

Do you recall when you got it?

It was two years ago, now, and I got it in Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee. It's a really cool place, full of good guitars.

The guitar was very green. It was my first brand-new guitar. The other one that I had, I bought off eBay, so somebody else had had it before. But this one? Only me.

And the cool thing about it is, the guy brought out three of 'em, and I said, 'No, just give me the one I just played.' And he said, 'I'm not letting you walk out without making a bond with the instrument.'

And so I played all of them, and the third one that he brought down was the one that I needed to have. And it's got the same digits in the serial number as my phone number! So that's a sign. After I had chosen it, he asked me what the serial number was because he was making out the ticket, and I told him the numbers, and it had [the same numbers] and I was like, 'Oh my God — that's my phone number!'

I just thought, 'Oh my goodness, this is so my green baby.' Because it smelled green, it smelled like a new, fresh-cut tree.

I wish it still smelled like that; now it smells like the dirty clothes that I keep in the guitar case!

What do you like about the sound of the guitar?

It's really, really warm. I got the guitar because my other guitar was modeled after Robert Johnson's, the L-1 Gibson. But I was coming back from the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and it got destroyed. And so the airline sent me a check, but they didn't send me enough to buy another small-bodied, parlour-room-style Gibson.

And so I was sitting with Dan [Auerbach] and I told him, 'Man! I'm out of business, and I've got some shows coming up this week and the rest of the month, but I don't have another guitar.'

He has a candy store full of guitars, and he said, 'Well, why don't you go and take the check and get a Martin.' Because [the airline was] kind enough to send me enough to get a Martin. Dan said, 'They're the best acoustic guitars anyway. Use Gibsons more for your electric purposes.'

So I went and I got a Martin, and I love it! He knew what he was talking about. He's a great guitar player for a reason!


Related Stories

  • Valerie June performs live in The Current studios The Tennessee singer-songwriter feels a deep connection — if not responsibility — to the great musical traditions of Memphis. She describes this and more during her in-studio chat with The Current's Mac Wilson.
  • Valerie June On Learning To Love 'Perfectly Imperfect' Voices On the new album Pushin' Against a Stone, the Tennessean surveys a spectrum of her home state's signature sounds. She tells NPR's Audie Cornish that she got over old anxieties about her singing voice by embracing it as a storytelling tool.
  • Rock the Garden 2014 Why Rock the Garden for one day when you can rock it for two? The Twin Cities' favorite annual summer concert returns with the first two-day format in the event's history. The weekend festival blowout will showcase some of the best music from our backyards and from around the world.

2 Photos

  • Valerie June plays a Martin Dreadnought guitar, purchased in Nashville, Tenn.
    Valerie June plays a Martin Dreadnought guitar, purchased in Nashville, Tenn. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Valerie June in studio at The Current
    Valerie June in studio at The Current (MPR Photo / Nate Ryan)
View 1 more photos

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