Arielle is personally planting “tonewood trees” for every Brian May Guitars signature model sold

(Image credit: Caitlin Brady)

There are many reasons to pick up a new Arielle signature model, the first electric guitar built by Brian May Guitars for another player – in this case, Texas-based singer-songwriter and musician Arielle.

But beyond the unique offset, blue-and-orange finished body, Tri-Sonic single coil pickups and Red Special-like switching system, here’s another enticing element of the guitar: the artist herself is planting tonewood trees to offset the environmental impact of building these instruments.

“It occurred to me after doing some research on these tonewoods that some of the trees, like ebony, take 60-80 years to mature,” she told MusicRadar. “That’s a long time. I don’t know how many guitars we’ll sell but let’s just assume a lot. So that’s a lot of trees being cut down and there are plenty of guitars in the world. 

“I’m trying to validate my signature, so I bought a bunch of tonewood seeds – I’ve got East Indian rosewood, koa, mahogany, ebony and ash – and have started planting them.”

As for the actual tree cultivation, “It’s very difficult to do, because some of them become a bit of a science project,” Arielle says.

“You put one in the fridge for two months to replicate the winter and then do more when you take it out. I’ve been growing them hydroponically inside, it’s the only way I can get it to work. I’ve planted eight so far and by the time the guitar comes out I will have 24, for the first 24 models sold.”

Arielle went on to state that her future plans include having “different plots of lands all over the world that can cater to different woods. What grows in parts of the US is different to what you can grow in the UK, where it’s easier for colder trees like spruce, alder and birch, and then grow more of the exotic stuff across the pond. 

“I want to educate people about where their guitars come from. If you asked a bunch of guitar players what a mahogany tree looked like, they probably wouldn’t know. There’s a level of disconnect that’s affecting the planet.

“Even though guitars and musical instruments only make up about one percent of trees cut down, it’s a very specific one percent. We want the best of the best, it has to be the best grain and perfect this. That has a big impact on the trees."

Arielle concluded, “I’m being a full-blown hippie and trying to start something in the electric guitar industry that will help us become more conscious about what we’re doing. Acoustics have come a long way, but electrics are a bit behind. I want to be at the forefront of that and help make up for the trees cut down for my Arielle guitars.”

To check out the Arielle for yourself, head to Brian May Guitars.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.