Among Epiphone's earliest endorsees at the dawn of its new golden age was Luke Sullivant, one of Nashville busiest studio musicians and today still a die-hard enthusiast for all guitars great and small. Luke stopped by to check out the new Epiphone showroom and talk about his work with multi Grammy winner Mandisa and the Epiphone Les Paul that inspired him to let go of some of his - well - more expensive models.
LS: My first guitar was an Epiphone - my Dad gave it to me. It was the old EA series with a bolt-on neck. A crazy old acoustic that actually sounds amazing. That's how I got hooked playing Epiphone. Over the years, I've probably had every model at one time or another. Before I came to Nashville, I was playing straight ahead jazz. I had a Joe Pass model and even the Alley Cat ... several Epi models I had worked with jazz.
Then, when I moved to Nashville, I really moved here to do session stuff and you need to have a lot of instruments in hand. So I kept my Epiphone addiction going (laughs) - kept Luke Sullivant buying more guitars.
E: What's changing about Nashville sessions? What are producers looking for?
That's a great question. In the country thing, pop has become such a big part of country now so that can mean a lot of different things, obviously. I think you just have to be versatile - that's the main thing because you really don't know what a producer is going to be looking for.
The great thing about Nashville is that most producers appreciate great tone, so you're not having to make a good guitar sound like crap. You're supposed to make it sound good. I think, obviously, there's a lot more overdubs for guitar players and maybe more overdub sessions than tracking sessions than there used to be.
Do producers still care about tone?
Yeah. I think for me. I've just always had that mind - thinking: 'This guitar speaks to me and makes me want to play that style.' When I was playing jazz, it was great to just bring one guitar to the gig. That was it. But I think its still like that - you need to have the tools to get the job done.
One of the things I like about Epiphone is the consistency that I've found over the years with the instruments. A lot of it for me is the feel - the range of guitars that are available so you'll be able to nail most styles. So, I'm grateful for the relationship we've developed. But in the studio, man, you have to have the food groups covered - something that's mahogany, maple or ash, single coil pickups, humbuckers ... they can kind of make or break a take for you.
What are you looking for today in the Epiphone showroom?
I've checking out the Epiphone Swingster, which I've been using that a lot live with Mandisa - who just won two Grammys - which is cool. I've never had a Broadway and some of the Anniversary models like the Sorrento. I've played the vintage models and I had a chance to buy one and I missed it. I've always been a huge Casino fan - I have a vintage Casino. I'd like to try the new Les Pauls too, like the Ultra series. I've had an Elitist for a long time that honestly, it kicked out some other guitars that bear that same name (laughs). It actually helped me to pare down my collection a bit. So that Elitist Les Paul has been with me a long time. It was actually an Elite - before Elitist. I could probably play all of them and find something fun to play.