Interview: Elliot Easton of The Cars
The Cars guitarist discusses the band's new album, Move Like This, plus touring, gear and buying lefty guitars.
Has anyone mentioned recording a follow-up to Move Like This?
Well, not in specific terms. Just along the lines of, this one was very enjoyable to make, so why wouldn't we make another? That kind of thing.
Reaching back a bit, was it difficult for you to find lefty guitars in the ’70s?
When we were starting out, I didn’t really have much money. I could afford one or two guitars, and I usually would go up to 48th Street in New York City and get some standard model they'd stock. Later on, I was able to get things custom-built for me, but early on it was a little difficult. When you went to New York, they had such a big inventory that they just usually had a couple of lefty Strats or lefty Les Pauls for you to try. I always managed to find something.
Given your association with Gretsch and some of your guitar solos on the old Cars records, one senses an affinity for rockabilly. True?
I'd say so, yeah. I love rockabilly, as well as Bakersfield country and chicken picking, plus James Burton and all those great Telecaster players.
Maybe a little Paul Burlison?
Yeah, all that kind of stuff – Cliff Gallop, Eddie Cochran. Brian Setzer’s fantastic. It comes through a little bit, obviously, on “My Best Friend’s Girl,” but I love that kind of music. I love real rock ’n’ roll. That’s the real stuff.
One Guitar World reader said his guitar teacher once asked him to find a wrong guitar note on a Cars record, and he couldn’t do it. So kudos to you!
Thank you so much! That’s one of the nicest compliments you can get. I appreciate that.
What are your thoughts on Gaskell guitars?
They’re an Australian company that makes left-handed guitars at a budget price. I’d say they’re very, very nice guitars for the money.
How involved were you in the design of the Gretsch Elliot Easton Jet?
I was very involved. To the eye, it just looked like a normal Gretsch Duo Jet, but I did a lot of things to it to change the geometry of it. I lengthened the scale half an inch, and I took the bridge off a wooden base and put it on studs like a Les Paul.
I used a Bigsby B7 so the strings would go under the bar on the way to the bridge so there'd be more tension on the strings. I changed what people call the “mud switch,” you know, the tone switch on a Gretsch, using a different selection of capacitors. We found some more usable sounds.
I just tried to do all the mods people would do to a Gretsch to make it sturdy and solid, so you can tour with them. They’re great guitars. I really enjoyed my affiliation with those people and still maintain friendships over there.
Finally, what are your thoughts on TV Jones pickups?
Most of my Gretsches have TV Jones pickups in them. I love Tom. It's almost a matter of, when I get a guitar, I get TV Jones pickups and put them in. They sound great.
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