The Current's Guitar Collection: Benjamin Booker

Benjamin Booker's Epiphone hollow-body guitar.
Benjamin Booker's Epiphone hollow-body guitar. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  1. Listen Benjamin Booker, 'Violent Shiver' performed at The Current

    Jun 30, 2014

When Benjamin Booker stopped in to The Current for an in-studio session, he played a Fender Stratocaster, but he told us that's not the instrument he typically uses when he's performing.

Instead, he told us about the hollow-body guitar he purchased without even playing it. Fortunately, it's worked out very well for him.

Tell me about the hollow-body guitar that's your primary instrument.

I usually play an Epiphone Riviera. That's my main guitar; I guess it has been since February.

Before then, I was playing the Strat, but one time I left it in Austin, Texas, and we were in Miami and I just had to get a guitar really quick, so I just picked up the Epiphone without even playing it and it happened to be, like, the best guitar ever! So I've had it ever since then.

You just bought it without even playing it?

Yes — it was at a guitar store in Miami. I just saw it and picked it up and paid for it. We didn't have any time to try it out or anything, but it's incredible. And it's like a tank.

It's a touring workhorse for you?

Yeah — I've broken some guitars before, so yeah, it lasts a little bit. The shows get rowdy sometimes, so I need a guitar that's a little sturdier.

What is it about the tone that you like?

It's got three humbucker pickups, so it's really beefy — the beefiest guitar sound I've ever heard. The Strat is nice and I use it as a backup, but it's so bright.

Since we started off playing as a two-piece, I got really used to trying to get a beefy sound. Even though we have a bass player now, I still like to try to get a beefy tone out of the guitars.

When you ran into the guitar shop and Miami and picked out a hollow-body guitar, was it because of some of your influences or because you'd always wanted a hollow-body?

I don't know if it was because of the blues artists of the past. I just liked the way it felt. It feels like you're playing something when you have a big, hollow-body guitar as opposed to just a tiny Stratocaster, you know what I mean? You feel pretty powerful with one!

I think it was more just a feel thing than anything inspired by other guitarists.

Because the Epiphone is so new, I suspect you didn't write these tunes on it. How do you usually write?

I usually write on an acoustic guitar, just me doodling around outside or wherever I am. I like to write in different places, so I usually never write on electric guitar. But that might change in the future.

In what kinds of different places do you like to write?

Parks. It's nice by the Mississippi River in New Orleans. There's a nice place there where you can just sit and play guitar for as long as you want and nobody bothers you. I just write wherever I can.

I was really shy when we first started. When I first started writing the songs in New Orleans, I had roommates, and so I would just go in the closet and write songs in the closet because I didn't want my roommates to hear them! So I'll write anywhere!

What kind of acoustic guitar do you have?

I don't have an acoustic guitar right now. About a month ago, I sold it to get an amp. So I'm acoustic-free right now but I've got to get another one ASAP. If anybody wants to send me guitars, I'll take them! (laugh)

Benjamin Booker plays the Epiphone Riviera in the official music video for 'Violent Shiver':

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3 Photos

  • Benjamin Booker poses outside the MPR building with his Epiphone hollow-body guitar.
    Benjamin Booker poses outside the MPR building with his Epiphone hollow-body guitar. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Benjamin Booker poses outside the MPR building with his Epiphone hollow-body guitar .
    Benjamin Booker poses outside the MPR building with his Epiphone hollow-body guitar . (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Benjamin Booker
    Benjamin Booker (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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