Before David Ryan Harris discovered the magic of the acoustic guitar, he’d played an electric for years as front man of the early-’90s punk-metal band Follow for Now, whose self-titled debut got a big buzz on the alt-rock scene—and a big-name producer in Brendon O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers). But O’Brien’s slick production failed to capture the Atlanta-based band’s gritty, Bad Brains-level energy and intensity. Soon after its release, Follow for Now called it quits.
By the mid-’90s Harris had begun a musical partnership with former Arrested Development singer Dionne Farris, producing and playing on her 1995 solo debut Wild Seed – Wild Flower. The album included a slinky, soulful cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” and Harris realized he needed an acoustic guitar for the gritty blues licks he wanted to play behind Farris’ vocals.
“I didn’t really even have a nice acoustic, so I went and got this Guild,” Harris remembers in this week’s Acoustic Guitar Sessions. “We ended up tuning it down really low—almost to, like, below baritone.” That Guild D-55 changed Harris’ life. “I kind of got connected with the power of the acoustic guitar,” he says.
Harris has owned numerous acoustics since then—a Lowden, and more than one Gibson, including the 1968-style limited edition J-45 cherry-finish guitar he plays in this session. He bought that one at the Gibson factory in Bozeman, Montana, while on tour with John Mayer in the mid-2000s. “They opened the doors for us and this guitar was at the end of the hall with this little light shining directly on it,” Harris says. “I was like, if that guitar sounds as good as it looks, I’m probably going to have to get it.”
You can decide for yourself if Harris’ J-45 sounds good when he performs “So Is Mine”—from his upcoming album Lightyears, available February at his website—in this edition of AG Sessions. The singer-songwriter also turns in an extra-soulful version of his love song “For You,” from his intimate 2004 album The Bittersweet. You can check out more of Harris’ acoustic and electric rock, soul, and funk at iTunes.
For more Acoustic Guitar Sessions, check out the archive.