The Current's Guitar Collection: George Ezra's 1959 Gretsch

George Ezra
George Ezra performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)
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For George Ezra, it was love at first sight — for his guitar, that is. When he walked into a guitar shop in London's fabled Denmark Street, a 1959 Gretsch hollow-body instantly caught his eye, and he was also glad to see it was missing something.

On his recent visit to The Current studio, George Ezra took some time to tell us about his hollow-body guitar in the latest addition to The Current's Guitar Collection.

Tell me about the guitar you're playing.

It's a Gretsch Anniversary, it's from 1959, and I was lucky enough to find it in a vintage-and-rare shop in London.

Did you find it in Denmark Street?

Yeah, it was indeed! I'm always sure you kind of pay a bit more just for the sake that they have all the beautiful guitars in one place, but I wouldn't have found it by myself without them.

What struck you about this one?

I think initially — I won't lie — just the way it looked! That's got to be the first catch, so it was that first. That's how I remember it.

And then you tried it out?

Yes. I tried it out in the shop. I wasn't fussed about using any of the amps there, because they were all amps that I wasn't familiar with. And then when we got it, me and Lee on the road, we used to just DI it. It still sounded just as good. We've just recently started using the Fender amp live.

Had you specifically been looking for a hollow-body guitar?

See, I love hollow-bodies, but I prefer them without the scratch plates because often they have the scratch plates that are kind of hovering. I walked on into the shop and this one didn't have one on — if you look closely, there are two holes where there should be, and it was kind of just perfect for me. It's a bit temperamental just because of the age, but there are ways round it.

You're able to get a big, bottom-y sound out of it.

Now what I do to the guitar — which some people shake their heads at — is I tune it down to C instead of E, because when I was gigging by myself, I needed to fill the stage somehow, so I thought I'd drop it down and add those lower notes. So it's just a really thick-gauge string, and I tune it down to C.

I think Leadbelly used to do it as well on his guitars and I thought, "Ah! I'm going to try that!"

Because it's a hollow-body, do you write songs on this one?

There's a guitar in my dad's house that he learned to play on, which is a little quarter-size classical guitar that me, him and my brother all kind of fight over. I don't know why — I think it cost him about £20 — but there's just something special about it. So that's what I normally find myself writing on!

But it's good to have this one around the house because I don't need to plug it in and I still get something back from it.

Were the tunes on the album Wanted on Voyage written on your dad's guitar, then?

Actually for the album, a lot of them would have been on this Gretsch.

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  • George Ezra performs in The Current studio In town to play a sold-out show at the Varsity Theater, singer-songwriter George Ezra chats with The Current's Jill Riley and plays a couple songs off his debut album, 'Wanted on Voyage'. Ezra explains how the album title was partially inspired by Paddington Bear, and how the song 'Budapest' has less to do with the Hungarian capital than with a visit to Sweden, the Eurovision Song Contest and a bottle of rum purchased from a stranger. Listen to the full session.
  • The Current's Guitar Collection: Dave Bayley of Glass Animals Glass Animals' front man Dave Bayley loves Hofner Guitars, even though he says they are made of 'annoyingly cheap' wood. But it's the guitars' sound that draws him in and has made him a collector. Bayley purchased his guitar in a shop in Denmark Street in London. "It's called 'Guitar Alley'," Bayley says. "There's loads of vintage guitar shops."

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  • George Ezra
    George Ezra performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Leah Garaas)

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