Kevin Arrowsmith has a long history of playing instruments – starting with the violin at age five! Eventually, he moved on to the cello, guitar, and mandolin. The diversity in his instruments carries through to the musical styles he was exposed to. Bands like Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy got him into guitar, but a “pickin party” in college turned him on to bluegrass and love for the mandolin.
Now on tour with Luke Bryan, this multi-instrumentalist plays fiddle, viola, mandolin and guitar on stage all in one night. You can check him out on tour or in Bryan’s weekly webisodes. We sat down with Arrowsmith to learn more about the inspiration of his custom Weber mandolin and what life is like on the road!
Weber: When did you start playing the mandolin?
Kevin Arrowsmith: I started playing mandolin when I was 19 years old. It was on Thanksgiving night my freshman year of college that that changed. I was invited to a “pickin’ party”. I had no idea what that meant or what to expect. My friend told me that it was a bluegrass jam, and all I could think about was the square dancers at Opryland and what I had seen on Hee Haw as a kid. That was not what I experienced. What I experienced was a house full of world-class musician playing the coolest music I had ever heard. It was that night too that I first played and fell in love with the mandolin. I had seen mandolins in passing before but had never really given it any thought. What a cool instrument.
Weber: You have a custom Weber, what was the thought process behind it?
KA: I got the Custom Vintage F because I love the elegant look of the oval hole with herringbone inlay. To me, the prettiest era of mandolins is those from the early 1900’s, F2 and F4 mandolins. Don’t get me wrong, I love the power of an F5, but there is just something about the look and sound of an oval hole that can’t be denied.
Weber: Can you describe your custom inlay and why you chose it?
KA: My custom inlay is and arrowhead with a diamond in the middle. My last name is Arrowsmith. This is an English name given to someone who makes arrowheads. I chose for my arrowhead a medieval style much like what someone in my family long ago might have made. As for the diamond, my family spent several generations mining diamonds in South Africa. The inlay is an homage to my particular Arrowsmith family.
Weber: How did you decide what color to pick?
KA: The color I chose for my mandolin is basically a lighter version of the burgundy burst that comes standard on that model. I wanted a bit more of the reds showing in the finish but I didn’t see anything quite like it on the website, so I looked online and found a picture of a Weber from years ago with the finish I liked. That’s the finish I have and I think it really gives a classic look to the instrument.
Weber: What is your favorite characteristic of your Weber?
KA: I love the way my Weber plays, feels, looks and sounds, but I would have to say that my favorite characteristic is the woodiness of the tone. That is something common with oval hole mandolins, but this has an extraordinary amount especially for a brand new one.
Weber: What do you enjoy the most when touring with Luke Bryan?
KA: Touring with Luke Bryan is great. We have a lot of fun on and off stage. There is a very laid back vibe to the whole tour. Everyone really gets along great and are very close. My favorite thing is that Luke’s only real requirement during the show is that you have fun. I can do that.
Weber: You're pretty involved in the Luke Bryan TV series, what is your favorite part about it?
KA: Luke has a weekly YouTube webisode called Luke Bryan TV and I have been involved in it from time to time. My favorite thing to do is to go around the campgrounds at festivals and interview people. Our drummer, Kent and I usually do this together and it is a lot of fun, very entertaining and usually pretty funny.
Weber: What is one thing you make sure to do before every show?
KA: The question is “What is one thing you make sure to do before every show”. This may sound strange, but it’s the whole day for me. If I don’t meditate, exercise, practice and talk to my family during the day then there’s nothing else I can do to help have a good night. I have to be balanced spiritually, emotionally and physically in order to perform with confidence at the level I want to.
Weber: What does 2016 have in store for you?
KA: 2015 has been such an amazing year on tour. I hope 2016 is just as amazing or better. As for me personally, I hope to write and record some amazing music and maybe even get another Weber mandolin - perhaps a Fern?