zZounds is pleased to share an exclusive interview with Academy Award®-winning actor, musician and environmentalist Jeff Bridges, whose passion for preserving and honoring the world’s great rainforests dovetails with Breedlove’s commitment to sustainability and to making great-sounding guitars without using any clear-cut tonewoods.
Bridges and Breedlove have collaborated on three signature instruments, including a myrtlewood Oregon model and two Organic Collection entries, each featuring his name on the headstock and his motto “All in this Together” inlaid along the fretboard.
Here, Jeff Bridges talks about his lifelong interest in music and credits his older brother Beau with introducing him to the joy of guitar.
zZounds: Tell us about your collaboration with Breedlove. What is it about Breedlove that made you decide to partner with them to create your signature model guitar?
Jeff Bridges: It’s been wonderful, this journey of creating some great guitars that actually bear my name. What fun! Breedlove owner Tom Bedell and I share many of the same passions and ideals. We believe in music, for example, that it has the power to heal and to bring people together, especially in times like this when our global health situation is forcing us to literally stand apart from one another.
We believe in the environment, in the trees and in the forests. They have the power to heal as well, if we let them. We are destroying our planet every day and we have to change our practices now. The fact that Breedlove is committed to making beautiful instruments that are sustainable, with no clear-cut woods, is very important to me. That’s the main reason I chose to work with them.
zZounds: What design features were important to you when working with Breedlove on your signature model guitar?
Jeff Bridges: Sustainability, number one. I wanted a guitar I didn’t have to feel guilty about. Beyond that, I wanted what everybody wants—a great sounding, great playing instrument that intonates well, stays in tune and allows me to express myself in the moment every time I pick it up. I think we’ve hit that mark with the Oregon Concerto and with the two Organic Collection models. Man, they play so nice, I don’t ever want to put mine down. These are lifetime guitars.
zZounds: What are your earliest guitar memories? Can you tell us who or what inspired you to start playing guitar?
Jeff Bridges: That’s easy! Stealing my brother Beau’s Danelectro and listening to the rock and roll music coming out of his room—Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly … I was hooked. Beau was my inspiration, all the way.
zZounds: Inspiration can come and go over the years. What is it about the guitar that compels you to keep picking it up and playing?
Jeff Bridges: The guitar is like an old friend that’s wonderful to hang out with. I’ve been hanging out with my guitar all these years in hotel rooms or in my trailer while making movies. It’s comforting. It’s joyful. A lot of the other actors I’ve worked with play guitar, too, so it’s fun to jam together during our downtime. There’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait,’ so we play.
zZounds: Is there a Jeff Bridges “sound?” If so, what techniques and/or styles of guitar playing are at the foundation of this sound?
Jeff Bridges: I guess my sound is sort of eclectic. I was always into Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones and The Band. If you’d like a current example of what I’m about, check out my latest single, “My Welcome Mat.”
zZounds: When you pick up a guitar, what is most often the first riff/song you play?
Jeff Bridges: It’s a special, funky lick that my dear friend Stephen Bruton taught me on Crazy Heart. He showed it to me when we were making the film. It’s from the track “Somebody Else.” We usually play it in E, but this one is played in G.
zZounds: Who is your favorite person in the world to jam with?
Jeff Bridges: I like jamming with my dear friend Chris Pelonis. He’s a great player and he’s the musical director of my band, Jeff Bridges & the Abiders.
zZounds: How did you get connected with the Amazon Conservation Team? Have you visited the Amazon rainforest and seen it firsthand?
Jeff Bridges: I’ve been to Colombia, but I haven’t been to the Amazon yet — someday! I actually met Mark Plotkin, from Amazon Conservation Team, through an introduction from Kenny Loggins. Kenny had donated to help purchase a piece of land to aid the Cofan Indians, whose region had been sprayed by U.S. anti-drug planes. He told Mark that I was very interested in the environment, too, and in what we can do to preserve it and to assist indigenous peoples.
In an effort to help, I started doing some voiceovers and PSAs for A.C.T and I ended up joining the board. They’re doing good, important work.
zZounds: With the effects of climate change being more prevalent than ever on the west coast of the United States right now, how important was it for you to partner with a west coast-based guitar company like Breedlove in terms of sustainability?
Jeff Bridges: What’s happening with the weather out there this summer just proves that climate change is real and that we have to take action now, today, this minute. As consumers we can do that. We can take action with our wallets by making informed, smart choices about what we buy and what we use and what kind of companies we get behind. I’m not just talking about guitars, but everything. Especially when it comes to wood products, let’s think, let’s investigate and let’s be sure it’s sustainable and sensibly harvested in such a way that it preserves and replenishes the planet rather than simply degrading it more.
I think Breedlove is on the right track. As a manufacturer, it’s thinking very ethically. It’s constantly looking at its own practices and seeing how it can improve. Let’s all do that. That’s what being “All in this Together” means.
zZounds: Do you have any thoughts regarding the impact conservation and sustainability will have within the future of guitar building?
Jeff Bridges: It is the future of guitar building. It has to be. Do we really have any other choice?