5 Country Guitarists You Need To Check Out

Seymour Duncan Country Pickups

We have a lot of country guitarists in our Seymour Duncan artist family and we thought it would be fun to catch up with a few of them to see what makes them tick and what drives their sound. So here are Devin Malone, Justin Michael Weaver, Mark Mackay, Daniel Donato and Chris Loocke. 

Devin Malone (Hunter Hayes/Carrie Underwood)

Devin Malone Seymour Duncan

Why did you start playing music?
I started playing music for the same reason that I still do and that is simply that I love sounds and their ability to evoke emotion. From my first memories of music, I recall thinking “What is that incredible sound? I HAVE to figure out how to create that!”

Are you a collector?
I’m definitely not a collector in the typical sense. I have certainly accrued a large collection of musical instruments but I only ever choose them based on whether the sound, look, and feel means something personal to me- not because they have any sort of collector value. In fact, I usually try to find the least collectable version of anything I want so I can afford it!

What guitar is on your wish list?
That changes regularly. Frankly, I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to gather a stable with a good, working version of just about every classic sound I want to create but there’s always a few fringe elements I discover I’m missing. Right now, I’ve been writing a lot more heavy music for personal enjoyment since I never get to do that professionally here in Nashville so I’m totally jonesing for a good metal axe. I can’t figure out what I want though- I need some guidance!

What pickups do you use?
I love a wide variety of pickup but almost always classic sounds. Over the years of investigation, I’ve found a lot of great sounding stuff out there but for me personally, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Seymour Duncan Antiquity man. I think I have them in about six guitars and I’ve never plugged them in and not loved them right off the bat. I have ’59s and Seth Lovers and some other things in a few other guitars for options but the antiquities are almost always my consistent favorites.

What’s your proudest moment as a musician?
My proudest moment in music is every moment a recording I’ve gotten to be a part of is released out into the world. I love creating and being a part of some new art that will live on after I’m gone and my favorite feeling is the moment those projects get released. Whether they’re major albums or a tiny project for a friend, the pride is the same for me.

Justin Michael Weaver (Dixie Chicks)

Justin Michael Weaver Seymour Duncan

Why did you start playing music?
I started young. My family traveled and sang as a livelihood from the time I was six years old. I would sit in the back of the van with a little nylon string guitar they bought me. That’s how I entertained myself during all of the driving. I could immerse myself for hours playing songs and making sounds.

Are you a collector?
I collect instruments that I need to get the job done. I do have a few vintage instruments but mostly I need different textures and those don’t need to be vintage per se. I look for instruments that I feel at home on. You could play a gig or session on just about anything, but I am a tweaker and a modifier. Getting the electronics or the neck just so is what I like to mess with. You can get a lot more out of one, great, instrument that’s been dialed in, than a bunch of guitars that aren’t quite there.

What guitar is on your wish list?
I’m pretty happy with the instruments that I have. That being said, I could always find another guitar to put on the wish list!

What pickups do you use?
The BG-1400s are great. I’ve got some teles loaded with those. 60 cycle hum and powerful stage lights are my nemesis with my Telecasters. Those pickups do a great job of keeping that out of the mix. Less for me to worry about. They have a great tone, somewhere between a Tele and a P-90. I also have the ’53 Tapped Tele set.

What’s your proudest moment as a musician?
There was a great moment a long while back with Marty Stuart. I play mandolin as well, and my mandolin had some issues and had to go into the shop for repair. I needed something to play on the gig that I was on and he heard about it and loaned me his number one prized mandolin. The one that Johnny Cash scratched his name and a cross into with a pocket knife. It’s a famous instrument in my circles. Well, we finished the run I was on playing the Grand Old Opry. Walking out onto that stage, playing that instrument, made me feel as if I stepped into some euphoric, timeless world that only I had the keys to that day. I will never forget his generosity, and I always wonder what he was thinking loaning me that, I was just a kid! I learned a valuable lesson in living in the community of musicians.

Mark Mackay

Mark Mackay Seymour Duncan

Why did you start playing music?
I started playing music when I was around 8 years old. I took classical piano lessons first and picked up a guitar around 10. I started my first cover band when I was 12 and played all the local coffee shops! I was really into blues first, that turned into rock and roll and country followed shortly behind that.

Are you a collector?
I don’t necessarily consider myself a collector, however I have never sold any of the guitars I’ve owned so I wouldn’t be surprised if I become one soon! I play Schecter Guitars exclusively now, but have some great Fender American teles at home, and one of the original Eric Clapton strats, one of the first year Jimmy Page model Les Pauls too.

What guitar is on your wish list?
I was in my buddy Norms shop the other day (Normans Rare Guitars) and played a ’52 tele that I just was literally sideways about. I am a total telecaster addict and they all have slightly different feel and sounds about them so there’s probably been a few more that will end up on my wish list!

What pickups do you use?
I use Seymour Duncan pickups on every single guitar i own. Recently I’ve found some matches I am so stoked about. The custom shop Dynobuckers that I put on my Schecter PT are just insane. Those style pickups are my favorite sound by a landslide and the SD Custom Shop model is the best. I have a set of Broadcaster Tele pickups on my main Tele, the lead pickup sound is the best Tele sound I’ve ever heard. And I loved my Corsair semi-hollowbody enough already but when I put the Phat Cats on there it took it to a whole new level. I used that guitar on my record a ton.

What’s your proudest moment as a musician?
I have always been a big fan of Richie Sambora, I think the timeliness of his licks and his tone is just so good. He’s someone I would have loved to just meet at a book signing or a restaurant or something (ha) but I played the Canyon Club a few months ago and when I got off the stage he was standing there getting ready to join the headliner. For me to meet a hero like that while actually living out my dream as a musician was petty cool…just getting to meet him as Mark the guitarist who just played vs Mark the fan. It was a good moment he’s a great dude. Also when I got to open for Albert Lee. That guy is such a massive part of why we all play telecasters the way we do. Seeing him live reminded me how much more I have to learn!

Daniel Donato

Daniel Donato Seymour Duncan

Why did you start playing music?
Curiosity and a strong pull that hit me at the age of 12. It’s the same curiosity and pull that I still feel everyday.

Are you a collector?
Absolutely, but only as much as my funds will allow me. I’m a huge fan of the glory days of beautifully manufactured instruments being the standard amongst the business. Old Fender guitars and amps and Martin guitars are more favorable for my taste than most other collectable instruments and amps.

What guitar is on your wish list?
A Blackguard. Any year. I’d also love to get my hands on some late 50’s Telecasters as well with the lovely blonde finish and white pickguard.

What pickups do you use?
Currently, I’m using a Billy Gibbons SD pickup (the Pearly Gates – more on the development of this pickup here) in the neck position of my Tele, and then a custom wound pickup in my bridge.

What’s your proudest moment as a musician?
My proudest moment to date was when William H. Macy said that I can shred like Jimmy Page and melt faces like Hendrix. I don’t agree with him, but it makes me proud.

Chris Loocke (Chase Rice)

Chris Loocke Seymour Duncan

Why did you start playing music?
I started playing music initially because I grew up watching my Dad play in bands. He’s played bass with many big artists ranging from Bo Didley to Johnny Nash. He always had guitars and basses laying around the house. He started me on his 1962 Fender P Bass – then I discovered Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I spent days and days learning songs like “Texas Flood” and “Little Wing.” Got my first electric guitar at a yard sale, a $12 1960s Hagstrom III. I’ve been hooked ever since!

Are you a collector?
I am definitely a collector. I only hope one day to have a quarter of the gear that Joe Bonamassa’s collection has! I have some great vintage amps that I use for recording. My favorites are my 1964 Fender Bassman, Early 70s Marshall JMP, Princeton Reverb, and Vibro Champ. I just got a really cool 1970s Fender Stratocaster in Maui Blue that sounds and feels incredible – especially with the Duncans in it!

What guitar is on your wish list?
I would love a vintage Gibson ES-335, and maybe another vintage strat from the 50s or 60s.

What pickups do you use?
I use a variety of Seymour Duncan pickups with my guitars. My favorites lately are the Pearly Gates, Antiquity Humbuckers, and the Texas Hot Strat set. They all allow the true sound of my guitars to shine through my amps. Really excellent stuff!

What’s your proudest moment as a musician?
I’ve been really lucky to do this for a living.   So far – playing my first stadium show, and Red Rocks have been my most chilling moments as a musician.  Red Rocks is a place that I’ve grown up seeing my idols perform. It’s just a special place with such a unique vibe.  Being able to stand on stage and play with amazing musicians is also something that is a continually rewarding experience!

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