The Current's Guitar Collection: Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Segarra, 1950s archtop

Hurray for the Riff Raff perform "Living in the City" from the album "The Navigator" live in the studios of 89.3 The Current. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
Hurray for the Riff Raff - Living in the City (Live on The Current)
Download MP3
| 00:03:17

When Hurray for the Riff Raff were at The Current for an in-studio session hosted by Mary Lucia, on the final song, "Living in the City," frontperson Alynda Segarra picked up and played a beautiful, golden archtop guitar.

After the session, Segarra took some time to tell us about the instrument. Here's what she had to say.

How long have you had this guitar?

I bought it when I was probably 22, so that's eight years ago. And I got it at a really small, little guitar shop in Asheville, North Carolina, that doesn't exist anymore, actually. I bought it for 500 bucks. I remember him saying that it was a Kay and that it was from the 1950s, but I can't find any markings on it.

And I've Googled it, I've looked up "archtop" and "golden archtop Kay," and all the ones that show up — especially '50s or '60s — nothing looks like that. So I'm really curious. It's kind of like this mystery guitar, but I love the pickup in it, and it has really great tuners that they put on — Grover tuners, those are new. But I think that's the only thing that's new on it.

When you went into this shop in Asheville, did you happen upon it or were you specifically looking for a guitar?

I happened upon it. At the time, I was actually playing banjo with a traditional jazz band from New Orleans. They had a gig for a wedding or something in Asheville. I was just learning and getting into the guitar. I played the guitar when I was in like, middle school; I would play Nirvana songs. But I'd been playing banjo to make some money, playing weddings, chunking on chords with trad jazz, but I really wanted to get back into guitar, and I knew that Maybelle Carter had an archtop guitar, so I really wanted one like Maybelle Carter because I wanted to learn how to do her strumming and picking, and I just really wanted to get into playing a guitar for songwriting. So I saw that one and it was just so beautiful, and I'd just made some money, so I was like, "I'm going to get it."

And then I didn't play it until like last year! I held onto it, I knew it was a beautiful guitar, I lent it to my buddy who took it on tour, and he traveled all around with it. And then just last year, I was like, "I want to try this out again with the band," because I had been playing my Gibson, and we were just having trouble amplifying an acoustic. So I plugged this into an amp and it was kind of like magic. It was just the right moment. It was a real journey, me and that guitar!

Did you use this while writing songs for your album, The Navigator?

Oh, yeah — definitely! I had this. In the studio, I didn't have it, but we actually had one that looked exactly like it, it just never stayed in tune. That's why "Settle" sounds so funny because we layered a bunch of this guitar that couldn't stay in tune!

But I wrote a lot on it at home.

So it's really this guitar that I felt like we've been growing up together, you know? I felt like I knew one day was going to be the right time to use it, and now is the time, so it's really cool.

And you had that sense from the first time you played it in Asheville?

Yeah, but I felt like it intimidated me at that time. I wasn't sure how to play it, and I definitely wasn't working with amplifiers. I was kind of a purist, just playing everything acoustic. But I knew there was something to it, and I just knew it was so magical or something. It just looks magical, so it just one day, it just felt like, "This is the guitar I need to use."

Can you identify this guitar?

The exact make and model of this guitar remain somewhat a mystery. See more photos below and let us know what you think in the comments section.


Hurray for the Riff Raff - official site

Kay Guitar Company

Related Stories

  • Hurray for the Riff Raff share powerful songs, powerful messages With their latest album 'The Navigator,' Hurray for the Riff Raff look to the past and present to speak about the future. 'There's so much about turning 30 that I think did that to me,' says frontperson Alynda Segarra. 'I'm like, I'm inheriting the Earth and the way it is right now, and what do I want to do with what I've learned from my experience to make it better?'
  • The Current's Guitar Collection The Current's Guitar Collection is a look at some of the instruments that have been played in The Current's studios. Check out the full collection.

5 Photos

  • Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar
    Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar
    Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar
    Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar
    Alynda Segarra's 1950s archtop guitar (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff perform in The Current studio
    Alynda Segarra Hurray for the Riff Raff (and her guitar) in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)

comments powered by Disqus