PHOTO : RICHARD SIBBALD
( L-R ): BRAND PRESIDENT CESAR GUEIKIAN & CURLEIGH
RUSH ’ S ALEX LIFESON ( WITH GEDDY LEE ) PLAYING HIS SIGNATURE GIBSON CUSTOM SHOP ES-355 IN 2015
a great job . Last I checked , Taylor Swift was playing a Gibson guitar . When Brandi Carlile stepped up and did her John Prine tribute , she was playing a Gibson guitar . Post Malone plays a J-200 . So , I think we ’ ve got to just amplify that next generation . And sure , we ’ ve got our amazing legends , and there ’ s this new fan base around Taylor Swift and Post Malone , but who ’ s the next generation beyond them ?
So , that ’ s where we set up our Gibson Generation Group ( G3 ), and there ’ s going to be more women in that group this year than guys . And so , we ’ re leaning into this notion of generation , genres , and then the gender balance , and it ’ s awesome to see this happening . And so , that ’ s where it should go . That ’ s where we ’ re targeting it to go . And so , going back to this generation having so much choice , how do you make sure they ’ re choosing music and guitar for the rest of their life ?
CM : It seems that for too long the guitar has been seen as the domain of white guys who play rockand roots-based music . The reality is the guitar needs to be valued and understood beyond those genres and associated more frequently with women and artists of colour . There needs to be a broader vision people get when they think of who plays guitar and what it ’ s used for . So , that said , who ’ s responsible for that image and marketing shift for an entire product category ? And who builds those bridges into new musical scenes and demographics ?
Curleigh : That ’ s a really good question , and it ’ s a fair question . If we all of a sudden made a hard pivot to the next generation and said , “ All those old rockers were awesome but we ’ re moving on ,” it ’ s like , “ Hold on , wait a second , that is literally the golden era that got Gibson to where it got to .” So , let ’ s pause there , because for years , years , Gibson didn ’ t have a relationship with these artists . Now we do with Alex Lifeson , with Slash , with Adam Jones of Tool , with Dave Mustaine , and again , I am listing off these amazing rockers who have aged gracefully and still continue to be relevant … But I mean , when I saw the Grammys , I saw Taylor Swift and last I checked , she ’ s not an old white dude . She ’ s playing a Gibson guitar last I checked . Post Malone would be part of the relevant progressive step and he ’ s playing this J-200 . Also , Brandi Carlile , who is an amazing artist . Those are just three from the Grammys alone .
And so , I know what the perception is but the reality of the actions will always lag the perception , right ? So , we have to set those conditions for success with youth , with the next generation , whether it ’ s on the female side , whether it ’ s with country , whether it ’ s understanding how to play a relevant role in modern hip-hop through a guy like Post Malone , as an example , or there ’ s other artists that are coming out playing guitar .
The great thing about the guitar world , which I ’ ve learned having been in the sports world and in fashion where it ’ s highly competitive , is we ’ re all frenemies . Even our competitors , we want each other to succeed because our players don ’ t typically stick to one brand . So , what I recognize now is as a guitar industry , how do we take advantage of this new resurgence and energy on guitar and keep it going across generations ? Across genres of music and across gender balance ? We ’ re obsessed with that right now , but not in a contrived way — in a very , very real way .
CM : When you look at popular music from , really , the 1950s to the early 2000s , the guitar was always the centrepiece . As you point out , there ’ s obviously lots of guitar-based popular music still , but R & B and rap are now the most popular genres , and the guitar isn ’ t the core sound of popular music anymore . Obviously popular music does more to sell instruments than any marketing department . So , what does that mean for the health of the guitar market ? Do we need to start readjusting our expectations or ideas of what a healthy guitar market looks like ?
Curleigh : You know , I ’ ve been in very similar situations … Take skiing , because I was the president of Salomon North America and spent a long time over in Europe with Salomon . Think about what happened
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