The Current's Guitar Collection: Sam Beam of Iron & Wine, Asturias Spanish acoustic

Sam Beam
Sam Beam of Iron & Wine performing live in The Current studios. (MPR / Nate Ryan)

When Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) stopped by to play a few songs in The Current studios, we asked him about his guitar(s). Here's what he had to say:

Leah Garaas: What guitar do you have with you today?

Sam Beam: The one here is by Asturias and I had a Yamaha. I'm always partial to nylon strings; that's what I learned on and what I bang around on most at the house. I don't really get too precious about guitars. They're like colors to me. Different ones are good for different reasons, and they all have their own personalities and their own sounds. They're very different. I don't get too caught up on one. I definitely have some that feel better in my hand. The wide neck, I kinda like that. Do you play guitar?

I don't, but I know about 'em. [laughs] So what about steel strings?

They sound great. Although I play nylon strings all the time at home, I don't really play it on stage because I haven't one that I thought sounded good through the PA. It all sounds tinny and weird. I guess you can always keep trying.

Any new additions?

Lately I've been fooling around with this tenor guitar, a four-string guitar. I don't really have a go-to. I also have one that a friend gave me from a Dumpster. It's a little miniature guitar, so that's fun. It sounds halfway between a guitar and a banjo, but it's mostly broken.

That brings me to my next question: Where do you buy guitars? Is there a specific shop you frequent, besides maybe the occasional Dumpster?

Some of them I bought from friends. There's a great shop in Austin [Texas] called Austin Vintage that I would buy them from. — [aside] What's that one in Chicago? Chicago Music Exchange? — Man, they have a lot of nice stuff. But they definitely know what they're worth. The days of finding vintage old guitars and stealing them practically are over. Everybody knows what they're worth now. With the Internet, it's really easy to find out what your granddad's guitar or uncle's guitar is worth. There's no more bargains. eBay's a different story. You kind of take what you get; it's a gamble.

Any advice for someone in the market for a new guitar?

I always feel funny giving guitar advice because I just play by ear. I don't know what the hell I'm playing. Y'know? I never took lessons. The only advice I would say is try as many different guitars as you can. There's lots of different types. They all have their own little attitudes.

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