The Current's Guitar Collection: Martin Courtney, Martin 000-28

Martin Courtney, Martin OOO-28 acoustic guitar
Martin Courtney holds his Martin OOO-28 acoustic guitar. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

When Martin Courtney's other band, Real Estate, visited The Current back in March 2014, Courtney was playing a sea-foam green Fender Stratocaster. He likes not only the sound but also the look of it.

When Courtney returned in February 2016 with the band he worked with on his solo album, Many Moons, he was playing a Martin 000-28 acoustic guitar. Similar to his Strat, Courtney was struck by the instrument's sound and aesthetics.

Here's what Martin Courtney had to say about his Martin acoustic.

There's a strong acoustic thread to many of the songs on the new album. Are you using acoustic guitar much more on Many Moons?

Yeah, that was one of the founding ideas for making this record. I wanted to make it sound different from Real Estate. We wanted to have the record be mostly acoustic based.

I've always liked the idea of a rock band that's driven by acoustic guitar; a lineup of electric lead guitar, electric bass, and drums, but with a lot of acoustic at the center of it, keeping it kind of open sounding. I feel like the Kinks did that a lot, and a lot of other bands back in the day. That was part of it for sure.

As a kid, I was really into Weezer, and they even do that sometimes. They have these songs where they'll have acoustic guitar in there but it's like a rock band. Like B-sides of theirs from the 90s, there are songs that are acoustic guitar forcefully strummed, but there's drums and electric guitar and a shredding solo happening. I always thought that sounded kind of cool.

With these songs — pretty much every song on Many Moons — I could probably play live on acoustic, which I can't necessarily say for Real Estate's stuff because a lot of the stuff I do in Real Estate locks in with the other guitar, so it sounds incomplete by itself.

How long have you had this guitar?

I've had it about three years, now. Real Estate's management company used to manage John Mayer, who has a relationship with Martin. And so, through the management company and their relationship with Martin, I was able to get a discount, which was really nice because I wouldn't have been able to afford this guitar otherwise. So I bought it directly from the company, which is nice.

I went to Guitar Center and played a bunch of Martins to decide which one I wanted. This is a 000-28, and it's just nice because it's a little thinner — the body is not as wide as a dreadnought, so for me — I'm more of a strummy kind of guy — it feels good to strum it, especially live, because my arm isn't craning over a big guitar body.

I also think I got lucky because this instrument just feels really nice to play. The action is really nice and it has a really nice tone. It works really well for what I was describing: strummy and fitting within a band. It's like the perfect guitar for that.

The other thing I'll say is purely aesthetic: I don't think they make this particular guitar in sunburst, at least not mass produced that way. I know there's an Eric Clapton signature model, which is basically this guitar. The neck might be different or something, but it's a 000-28 and it's sunburst. But this is just a regular 000-28; it's not the Eric Clapton model. But I asked them to make it sunburst just because it looks really nice! I just wanted it to be sunburst, so that was what was kind of nice about ordering it directly from Martin.

Did you go to the Martin factory?

No; they just shipped it to me. That was a very exciting day! But I would love to go visit the factory. I've heard it's really cool, but I've never been there.

Sometimes people are nervous about getting an instrument online and just having it show up without having played it. Had you had some of that trepidation?

A little bit. I'm not a huge gearhead. I feel like, it's possible that I could've maybe spent the same amount of money on a vintage Martin … but I don't know, maybe I would have had to spend more for that. Any older guitars, I feel like, obviously, with age, they sound really good. I've noticed that as just a casual guy that plays guitar.

But that's why I say I got lucky with this one: This guitar sounds really good. And it's kind of cool being the original owner of it and knowing eventually it'll be an old guitar. Over the years, it'll just sound better, so it's kind of nice to know I'm the first person to own it. I'll obviously hold onto it.

The last time we spoke, you talked about how you have a Spanish acoustic guitar that you keep around as your writing instrument. Did you write a lot of the songs for Many Moons on that, did it become more on this Martin? And even though you say the songs can stand up as solo pieces, did you hear band arrangements as you wrote?

I think a lot of the songs on Many Moons were probably written on this guitar, but also I think some songs were probably written on that little classical guitar. It's just this little Yamaha, and it's a nice guitar to just sit on the couch and play. It's a nylon-string guitar, so there's no effort involved. You can kind of just come up with riffs that way and translate them to either this acoustic or to an electric guitar.

I do kind of try to write with a band arrangement in mind, usually. I'll try and think about what the drums might be doing, for instance. I'm usually thinking about how it's going to sound with the band, for sure.

Related Stories

  • Martin Courtney embraces the collaborative solo approach Martin Courtney's new album, 'Many Moons,' came about through collaboration but was dubbed a solo project for lack of a better band name. 'It's definitely a group effort,' Courtney says, 'but it's really hard to come up with a good band name.' Courtney has no trouble writing good songs, though; listen to some of them in this session hosted by Bill DeVille.
  • Real Estate perform in The Current's studio In town to play a gig at the Fine Line in Minneapolis, five-piece Brooklyn, N.Y., indie rockers Real Estate stopped in to The Current's studio to play some songs off their album, 'Atlas', and to chat with The Current's Mark Wheat.
  • The Current's Guitar Collection: Martin Courtney of Real Estate Real Estate front man Martin Courtney's sea-foam green Fender Stratocaster certainly catches the eye. Courtney tells us how it also caught his ear.

2 Photos

  • Martin Courtney, Martin OOO-28 acoustic guitar 2
    Another view of Martin Courtney's Martin OOO-28 acoustic guitar. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Martin Courtney, Martin OOO-28 headstock
    Headstock on Martin Courtney's Martin OOO-28 guitar. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)

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