Interview + Video: Sean Rowe

You can’t help but notice two things when Troy, New York’s Sean Rowe takes the stage: He has a booming voice that could commands your attention and he’s toting a well-loved Takamine, covered in colorful duct tape.

“I listened to a lot of blues music and soul,” Rowe says of his early music influences. “John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House and R.L. Burnside.” When he eventually took up the guitar himself, the singer-songwriter found himself both picking and using the guitar for a little percussion. “It actually came out of not knowing how to fingerpick,” he says. “I was too damn lazy to learn from someone and it turned into that.”

Which brings us to the Takamine…

Rowe first discovered the Takamine EN10C – a mahogany dreadnought with a cedar top – at a local music store. “The strings go through the back [of the bridge], there are no [bridge pins],” he says. “On certain songs I hit the guitar like a bass drum. With the [pins], it was killing my hand.”

The now-discontinued guitar has become Rowe’s absolute favorite music tool. He owns three copies of the model, which he’s dubbed Sidney One, Sidney Two and Sidney Three. (The original “Sidney One” Takamine stays at home and in the studio, too damaged to take out on the road.)

And the tape? That’s just off-the-shelf duct tape used to cover cracks that have developed thanks to Rowe’s aggressive strumming. (FJ readers may remember another battle-scarred cedar Takamine – that belonging to Glen Hansard – from the cover of FJ #17).

When asked if he’s approached a luthier about removing the tape and fixing the cracks, Rowe admits, “I’m afraid to mess with it.”

As for his preferred duct tape? “I don’t discriminate,” he says with a laugh.