Photo: Simon Emmett
It Goes To 11: The Darkness' Justin Hawkins Shares The Story Behind His One-Of-A-Kind Gibson Guitar
The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins recounts the fateful day he discovered his one-of-a-kind custom Sea Shell Gibson guitar in this episode of It Goes to 11.
Justin Hawkins may be the frontman of glam-rock group the Darkness, but he identifies most with the guitar. "I started as a guitar player. I always see myself as a lead guitarist, really," he says.
As Hawkins explains in this episode of It Goes to 11, his most prized guitar — a custom Gibson electric — took some effort to find. He had to travel from the band's hometown of Lowestoft, England, all the way to Nashville, Tennessee. But the trip was worth it: The guitar has become a "family heirloom" that he hopes to pass down to his daughter one day.
"It is the Gibson Sea Shell. There's only one of these in the whole wide world. Isn't she lovely?" the singer/songwriter gushes, holding up his cream-colored electric guitar that features a seashell pattern and three holes carved into the body.
He first encountered the Sea Shell while the Darkness was on tour in the U.S., and the band was invited to tour the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville. "We watched the process, we saw how they selected the woods, did all the carpentry stuff, and then they said, 'Why don't you have a look through some of these drawers?" Hawkins remembers.
Inside the drawers, Hawkins found custom guitar after custom guitar — and specifically, he noticed the instruments that had been crafted by a particular luthier well-known for decorative inlay work, named Bruce Kunkel. That's when he first saw it: The Gibson Sea Shell, hand-crafted to look just like a shell that you might find on the beach of the coastal English town where the Darkness first became a band.
"It was destiny. That's what it was," Hawkins says, speaking of the first time he laid eyes on the instrument. "It's a family heirloom now, as I've gotta look after it and keep it all nice. I've got to save that one. That's one that my daughter will have after I shed this mortal coil."
Press play on the video above to see the guitar in action, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes to 11.
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It Goes To 11: Orianthi Introduces The Signature Guitar She Designed With Gibson
Australian guitarist Orianthi has gone through hundreds of guitars in her 30 years of playing, but her most beloved one is the model she created in partnership with the iconic guitar brand Gibson.
Australian musician Orianthi has spent her entire life surrounded by guitars, first introduced by her father, who decorated their home with Gibson 6-strings. Orianthi's years of playing landed her spots in the bands of Carrie Underwood and Michael Jackson by her early 20s. Now, her world-renowned career has landed Orianthi her own guitar in collaboration with Gibson, the brand that started it all.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, Orianthi introduces her bejeweled, cherry-colored Gibson signature guitar. While working on the design, Orianthi had the final say, from selecting its large size to etching lotuses on the neck and pickguard in homage to her name, which translates to flower in Greek.
One of the first songs she wrote on the guitar also happens to be one of the most meaningful in her catalog. "It's called 'White Dove.' It's a song about my grandpa, because he caught me this white dove in the backyard when I was really young," Orianthi explains. "It represented freedom and love."
Although Orianthi's guitar might be one of the newest in her collection, it has a lot of sentimental value because of the memories and songs she has made with it already: "It truly is a part of my family. It has a spirit to it."
Press play on the video above to learn more about Orianthi's favorite guitar, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.
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Photo courtesy of the Recording Academy
It Goes To 11: Debi Nova Reveals The Magical Guitar That Cures Any Creative Block
Four-time Latin GRAMMY nominee Debi Nova shares the history behind her favorite instrument, a nylon-string guitar passed down to her through her mother.
When Costa Rican singer/songwriter Debi Nova writes on her favorite guitar, everything feels enchanting.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, Nova introduces her Mexican nylon-string guitar, an heirloom that entered her family line as a 30th birthday gift to her mother. Although Nova has played the guitar since she was a little girl, she didn't officially inherit the guitar until she moved to the United States alone.
"This guitar was like a lucky charm my mom gave me when I moved here," Nova explains. It was a symbolic pass of the torch from her mother, who originally inspired Nova to pursue her musical dreams.
Nova recognizes that this guitar might not be the most glamorous, but it's the sentimental value it holds that makes it meaningful. "It's very easy to look at guitars that cost thousands of dollars and acknowledge that they're better instruments than this one, but this one has something that is priceless."
The guitar has become more like a reliable friend to Nova, offering support and, sometimes, a burst of creativity. "There's some magic when I start playing chords. There's a spark and suddenly a song comes out. And that has happened to me a lot with this guitar."
Press play on the video above to learn more about Debi Nova's nylon guitar, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Rose
It Goes To 11: The Rose Introduces The Acoustic Guitar That's Been Part Of Their Career Since The Beginning
South Korean indie-rock band The Rose raves over their prized Taylor guitar, an instrument that has been part of the band's whole career.
The four members of The Rose have shared a lot of instruments in their five years together, but their favorite one traces back to the first song they wrote and recorded.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, meet Mol, the sunburst-finished Taylor guitar whose name fittingly translates to "sunset" in English. "We got to record our first song that we wrote together as the band with this guitar," Dojoon, the group's vocalist and acoustic guitarist, explained.
The quartet describes the guitar as one of the most precious and beautiful items in their collection, and the lengths they went to acquire it makes the item even more meaningful.
"I remember that day it was super rainy," bassist Jaehyeong recalls. "[Dojoon] went to the guitar shop, and he took a taxi, and then he brought this car in the heavy rain." But Dojoon reminded the group that the rainy venture was worth it: "But I was so happy!"
What makes the guitar most memorable is that it's a bearer of the band's history, from the live tour performances to late-night recording sessions. It's been with the group since 2017, and it doesn't seem like it will leave their possession anytime soon. "I will never, ever get rid of this guitar," Dojoon declares. "It will always be right next to me, every time. Right next to The Rose."
Press play on the video above to learn more about The Rose's shared history with the guitar, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes to 11.
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Photo: Courtesy of Cuco
It Goes To 11: Cuco’s Favorite Instrument Is Also His Music Teacher And Songwriting Muse
Mexican American singer/songwriter Cuco shares the story behind the first synth he ever bought, and explains what the instrument taught him about making music.
Singer/songwriter and producer Cuco has lots of gear to choose from these days, but his favorite piece of musical equipment is the first synthesizer he ever bought.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, Cuco introduces his Yamaha Reface CS. While it's a big part of his artistry now, when he first bought the instrument in his home state of California, he didn’t really know how to use it.
“I was kinda confused when I was using it. I was like, ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing,’” he explains. “But when I finally got some sounds out of it, I was like, ‘This thing is gonna be really sick, now that I’m getting something, something’s happening with the synth.’”
As he continued to practice and experiment with different sounds, Cuco started to realize that the keyboard itself was teaching him how to be a better musician and songwriter. “It inspired me to just wanna keep writing more,” the artist adds, “because when you kinda get those resources, you get a new wave of inspiration.”
Cuco acknowledges that eventually, he’ll have to retire the synth, as it already has some knobs that "are a little janky," as he puts it. But even after he replaces it, the Yamaha will always have a permanent place at his home.
“I’m never gonna get rid of this specific one right here,” Cuco adds.
Press play on the video above to see Cuco’s full thoughts on his favorite synth — and learn what his mom thought when he told her he was buying it — and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.