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Bashkin Owner: Jesse Michael Howard

michael bashkin

Jesse-Michael-Howard_sm-.jpg

My knowledge of Michael's guitar began with my guitar teacher. He owned one of Michael's guitars and I was always amazed by it but never thought I would be able to afford a custom guitar. 

As I was looking at high end factory guitars I realized that I was going to be spending several thousand dollars anyway. I had never heard any factory guitar, no matter the price, sound like one of Michael's guitars. I put in my order and it took about a year to get it. I visited the shop about once a month and Michael always let me check out what he was doing. Although it only took about 4 months to build mine I was able to see many of Michael's guitars come to fruition. I only became more certain that I had made the right decision to have him build me one. Since I got it I have never looked back. 

I got the Placencia body style with a cutaway, custom inlay, Italian spruce top, ziricote back, sides, and headstock. It has a K&K dual source pickup in it. And of course I got the custom Calton case. You don't put a Bashkin in anything but a Calton :)

I have been doing music professionally for over 10 years and had my Bashkin for about 8 years now. It is by far the best instrument I own. I admit that I am very particular when it comes to acoustic guitar sounds. Frankly I think most acoustic guitars sound sub-par both recorded and plugged in live. My guitar sounds like a symphony. The amount of tone that comes out of it never ceases to amaze me. 

For a long time I was primarily a live performer. I started off in an original band in Colorado but moved to Nashville in 2010. When you come to Nashville you are surrounded by the best musicians in the world and gear is a big deal here. You can lose a gig simply by the gear you have, or don't have. Since I have been in this town, everyone has always asked me what kind of guitar I have. There is no shortage of custom guitar owners in Nashville and Michael's guitar has held its own against every one of them. 

I have toured extensively since I moved here. Many of the gigs I have played were radio tours. When you do a radio tour it's just your guitar and the artist. The thing I love about Michael's guitar is that it allows me to have the highest level musical expression possible. This last year I did a radio tour with Susan Ashton. In the 90's she had 14 number hits on the Christian music charts and then did two country records for Capitol Records. She has played and recorded with the greatest musicians this town has to offer. Her music is very acoustic driven and very complicated. There are altered tunings and many keys. When we play it's just her voice and my guitar and background vocals. Not only was Susan totally impressed with the sound of my guitar but everyone we played for was amazed at how much sound the two of us produced. 

Susan is the only singer I have ever played for that my guitar cannot overpower. Most people say it sounds amplified just on its own and I have to make sure I don't overpower singers normally. When you push it, it just keeps giving you more. Yet it is crystal clear even when I play incredibly quiet. The spruce top is perfect for fingerpicking, but I've never had any issue with harshness using a pick. The guitar really settled into its tone after about a year of playing it. It's warm, full, clear, defined, and true. Yes it is possible to have all those things in an acoustic guitar. No it is not possible with a factory guitar, at least none that I have ever heard.

My other steel string is a Taylor 514 CE. Honestly it is a great guitar – and my Bashkin makes it sound like a toy guitar. About the only thing my Taylor does really well is strum, but not too hard or it starts to get harsh. The only time I use my Taylor over my Bashkin is when I'm scared something might happen to the Bashkin and I'm less concerned about the Taylor. 

I now spend most of my time producing and making records for people. Again the Bashkin is the focal point of my recordings any time there is an acoustic guitar. You can't make a bad guitar sound good. Everyone who comes to my studio is blown away by the sound. I use it almost exclusively in my recordings. There are times where my only issue is that it has too much tone for a particular mix. Not a bad problem to have because you can always pull back frequencies and levels. But the tone remains. I use it for every style and never have a problem with it translating well.

The greatest thing I can say about Michael's guitars is not that they are beautiful, which they are; not that they sound good, which they absolutely do; not that they blow away any factory made guitar I have ever played, which they do; or that they are easy to play, which they are; or that they hold their own against the greatest luthiers out there, which they do. The greatest thing I can say about my guitar is that it inspires me. 

When I play it I am moved. It makes me want to pick up my guitar. It makes me want to create. It makes my life as a musician easy. It frees me to create knowing that the only limitations are my own, not my instrument's. It makes me want to be a better player. That is what a great guitar does. 

It also helps me make a living. As I said, you have to have outstanding gear to be a musician in Nashville and my Bashkin has never let me down. On the contrary, it has impressed everyone I know here. 

When I lived in Colorado I would take it to Michael every once and a while to have him look at it and make sure everything was set up well. He was always willing to check it out for me and never charged me. My guitar has seen a lot of miles on the road and I've never had any structural issues or building defects. I've checked it on planes in my Calton case and stuck it under busses. It has never had a problem. I baby it not because it can't handle real life but because I love the thing so much! :)

 I will never buy a factory guitar again. And if I can never afford another custom guitar, I will have no regrets with my guitar.