Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: L'Esperance Guitars - Interview

Sunday, November 28, 2010

L'Esperance Guitars - Interview

One of the greatest things about being a guitar player and enthusiast these days is the sheer number of incredible products that are available out there. We are truly in a "Golden Age of the Boutique", and nowhere is that more evident than in the hand-built guitar market. Enter Paul Gagnon of L'Esperance Guitars. Nashville session player and instructional guitarist, Robbie Calvo, met Paul this past September at the Southeastern Guitar and Amp Show and was knocked out by Paul's instruments. So much so that Robbie commissioned him to build a Tele-style guitar with certain unique specs, such as a 24 3/4" scale length and a Bigsby tremolo bridge unit. I caught up with both guys at Robbie's home studio in Nashville to witness the delivery of the L'Esperance T-Series prototype and I also got to sample some of Paul's other 6 string L'Esperance models that he brought along for the ride. Awesome! Above photo: Paul Gagnon (left), Robbie Calvo (right)

The first thing you notice about Paul's work is the attention to detail. He creates all the wood parts himself, by hand. With gorgeous tops, beautiful nitrocellulose finishes and stunning designs these are some of the best looking boutique guitars I've seen. One of my favorite models is the 629 Doublecut, which is a PRS-like shape with a more aggressive carve in the top and a much thicker overall body profile. It's a beautiful design with a great feel.

While Robbie was down in the studio playing some tasty licks on the new L'Esperance T-Series, I sat down with Paul to ask him a few questions.

Ryan: The new L'Esperance T-Series seems to be a departure from your normal line of guitars since it is a basic Tele shape with Tele headstock. You seem to prefer to do original designs, right?

Paul: Yeah, Robbie really wanted a traditional shape and I was happy to do it for him, but what really excites me about building guitars is coming up with original designs. It is important for me to design something different… to find that right shape and go for something no one else is doing. A lot of people enjoy playing a shape that is new and unique.

Ryan: How did you get started building instruments?

Paul: Well, it started out as a challenge with my bandmates. I am actually a bass player. I made the comment one day at band practice that I was unable to find a bass that pleased me, so they said I should build one myself. A light bulb went on in my head and I started smiling. They were like, "Hey! We were only joking…" but at that point the damage was done and I became obsessed with the idea of building guitars. (laughs)

Ryan: What do you like the most about building custom guitars?

Paul: I think the friendship that develops between me and my customers is my favorite part of the whole process. All of my sales up to this point have been word of mouth… these guys hear about me, we chat and plan out the build and due to the time it takes to create a guitar you really get to know a person. I have found a friend in each and every customer I've built a guitar for.

Ryan: What makes a custom-built guitar worth the price?

Paul: I was building a guitar recently for a local guy and asked him to come down to the shop to see the stain that I had applied to the top. He really loved it, and while he was there I put the neck of the guitar, that I had just shaped, in his hands and asked him what he thought. He wanted a little more shaved off the profile, so right there I just did it and we got it to exactly the right shape and profile for him. You just can't get that in a music store. What you get off the shelf is what you get.

Ryan: And the quality of a hand-built guitar is top notch, as well…

Paul: My guitars have a limited lifetime warranty, which means I will fix anything wrong with that guitar for the life of the instrument provided that the customer hasn't abused the instrument excessively. My primary goal is to create a guitar that plays perfectly and performs like a professional tool should with minimal need for maintenance. I always build my stuff right from the beginning… then I focus on making them beautiful.

Ryan: Thank you for your time and for letting me play your beautiful guitars!

Paul: It was my pleasure.

Check out L'Esperance Guitars if you are in the market for a beautiful custom-built guitar. Paul is a great guy and great builder!

All photos in this post courtesy of my beautiful wife, and fantastic photographer, Claudia Lopez Rhea: http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudiarhea/

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