We’re excited to announce we’re teaming up with Bevan Frost of Big Hollow guitars as his exclusive dealer. Bevan’s got a few guitars in the works already for us, and we recently took a moment to chat him up about his approach to building, and what we can look forward to in the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled for those guitars coming down the pipe, and enjoy our conversation in the meantime!
The first guitar that’s headed our way will be a 00 in Honduran Mahogany & Lutz Spruce, with a rib bevel and bird’s beak neck joint.
Here’s a link to all our Big Hollow guitars, past and present: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/builders/big-hollow.html
LW: Let’s get started with some backstory. What first drew you to guitarbuilding?
BF: I played the trumpet in grade school and enjoyed it. I got to high school and I was excited about jazz band, but they said I had to play in the marching band if I wanted to play in the jazz band. That’s when I switched to the electric guitar. I took a more organic approach to playing it, as I’d always been frustrated by my inability to produce my own music on the trumpet. Obviously the cultural status of the instrument had a big appeal. In high school my aesthetic sense developed under a unique art teacher. A potter, he drilled into everyone an appreciation for craft, and a dedication to practice. I started to see the acoustic guitar as the more appealing form of the instrument, and then I wanted to make one. The local library had a book on guitarmaking, so I checked it out. I built a guitar from that book, and although it was an intermittent affliction, the idea of lutherie was in place by the time I graduated in 1998.
I attended a computer drafting program and got a job doing drafting at a civil engineering firm. It didn’t last, and neither did my health. Soon I was miserable from abdominal pain as the colitis I’d had since I was five flared up. Guitarmaking became the one thing that I lived for, something I could do on my own schedule as well as balm for the soul. I ended up living with my Dad for eight years while I battled that illness and laid the foundation for a career in lutherie. I love the guitar because it is an opportunity to present a harmonically designed whole, a work of art. At the same time it is a thousand little structural engineering problems, as well as a tool to use for expression. It must satisfy all these demands, and in doing so I get to be Designer, Engineer, Woodworker, and Musician. In what other field do you get to play in that many roles? That plus the promise of never-ending horizons of learning had me hooked by the time I was 25.
LW: These days, builders have to distinguish themselves from an already busy field. In what ways do you feel your guitars stand apart?
BF: My guitars are unique because I draw inspiration from vintage instruments, but reinterpret the forms. Many people are building direct copies of famous vintage instruments, or modern looking re-interpretations. I have put together a unique look, feel, and voice that instantly feels old. It’s like finding a parallel groove to your favorite vintage guitars, it feels familiar, yet has its own flavor.
LW: Is there a particular player that you’d love to build a guitar for? Or have you already had the honor?
BF: Cory Seznec. I met Cory when he needed a banjo repair before a gig. We were fast friends, as he instantly picked up what I was laying down. He is a talented fingerstylist in the American Country Blues tradition, but he also lived and studied guitar in Ethiopia. He now lives in France, and plays with his band all over Europe. His rhythm is multi-layered and his compositions give me the tingles. I visited him last year in Paris while delivering a guitar to a client. We are yearning to connect over a guitar but haven’t yet. http://www.guitarvideos.com/Products/Instructors/cory-seznec
LW: I’d like to talk about your your approach to voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice?
BF: My voice came from playing a restored 1890s Henry Mason parlor guitar. I was visiting with the great Bob Westbrook, who had brought it back from the brink. I saw it in process, as well as when it was done. I fell for the 12-fret slotted headstock, lightly built guitar; I immediately made a drawing of it so I could build one. Bob instructed me in hide glue and in how thin you can go on parts like the top, x braces, and bridge plate. I focused like a laser beam and just built single O and double O guitars. Lately I have been measuring the stiffness of the tops and thinning them to a uniform stiffness. I also measure the stiffness of the braced tops and carve the braces until they meet a benchmark. I would say the Big Hollow voice is open, rich, and balanced. My guitars give good tone from the bottom to the top of their range, with little change in volume or character. Responsive from pianissimo to fortissimo, a Big Hollow Guitar is a powerful amplifier, and opens possibilities and colors of expression that are a joy to experience. The fact that they sound like great vintage guitars is because they are made according to the same principles.
LW: Other than building instruments, what do you enjoy doing?
BF: I am kind of fanatical about skiing, which is convenient because I live in a place that has snow from October until June. I downhill ski, uphill ski, and cross country ski. I play guitar with another father in my neighborhood who plays the pedal steel. If we were 25 years old, we would be really good, but now we can only get together intermittently. It is still the best though. The largest activity in my life lately has to be parenting. I have raised a six year old boy and a two year old boy. I have generally been parenting three days a week for the last six years. It has been a time of growth for me and my family, and it is awesome. Lutherie and parenting go real well together because I can adjust my schedule as needed, and during naps I can make progress.
LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?
BF: If I hadn’t been ill I would have become a climbing bum, working construction jobs just long enough to buy food and gas to get to the next objective. I could also see myself as a musician.
LW: Any interesting facts about your shop arrangement that you’d like to share?
BF: My shop is in a two car garage with a room above. I have the power tools walled off in one garage bay, and the upstairs is divided into a small finishing room, a entryway/practice space, and a workroom. I have a huge 5×5′ north window so I get that diffuse light the renaissance masters liked to paint by. I built the garage in 2012, framing up the walls a mere eight months after my 2011 liver transplant.
LW: What music are you listening to right now?
BF: I like the Turnpike Troubadours
LW: What can we expect from Big Hollow Guitars in the upcoming years? In what ways do you continue to experiment and push the envelope?
BF: I really want to do a 12 string; I’d also like to bring out a modified V neck shape. I visited the Paris musical instrument museum and saw some crazy Baroque guitars. It would be fun to dip into that aesthetic.
There you have it. We’ve had a blast with the first few Big Hollows to come through our shop, and we’re excited for what the future holds as Bevan’s exclusive dealer moving forward. Keep your eyes peeled for the first guitars to come down the line!
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Dream Guitars has the finest collection of luthier built instruments I’ve ever seen in one location. Paul Heumiller works closely with the greatest luthiers on the planet to bring an amazing resource to the guitar community. His involvement in my recent album — he supplied and set up the guitars — was a bit like a dream to me!