Man vs. Nature: How Fender and Jose Cuervo Made Music Out of Mexican-Grown Agave
Technology has undeniably become the biggest catalyst for innovation in our lifetime. From computers to robots and satellites to software, the necessity for manual labor is, in many cases, becoming rare if not obsolete in its entirety. However, and despite the evolution of our technology, Fender is one company that has chosen to harness this change.
Started in 1946 by Leo Fender, Fender has become the biggest guitar manufacturing company in the world - creating and building guitars for some of the most influential and iconic artists of all time (Gary Clark Jr, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, The Beach Boys, Muddy Waters, Jim Adkins, Jeff Beck, Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton, Flea, Roger Waters, Courtney Love, Dick Dale and many many more). Now 71 years since its inception, Fender has found themselves at a favorable crossroad. Rather than succumbing to the change in the manufacturing world, they have used it as momentum to create innovative ways that keep the love for music loud and alive.
Last week, after a year in the making, Fender debuted their Cuervo by Fender Agave Stratocaster - the first ever guitar made of agave. Built by two legendary craftsmen, pro surfer and surfboard shaper Gary Linden and Fender master builder Paul Waller, the Agave Stratocaster is quite literally a work of art and a perfect fusion of both Waller and Linden's unparalleled craftsmanship. Due to his impeccable knowledge of the agave plant, made evident as he built the first-ever agave surfboard, Fender tapped Gary for his guidance and expertise. Together, Paul and Gary worked through each phase of the process, from ideation to construction, and made the first guitar of its kind. It was, for lack of a better word, a match made in music heaven,
Waller spoke to this collaboration and said,"It shows we can make guitars out of nearly anything, and they still embody the distinctive sound of a Strat€41 or a TeleCe:, The Agave Stratocaster has a specific sound compared to an alder and maple guitar, a unique tone that is going to start a conversation, and that's the purpose —it is exactly what the Fender Custom Shop has been doing for the past 30 years."
To celebrate the launch, Cuervo and Fender came together to hold an intimate gathering in New York that would highlight and celebrate the love for music and the art of the craft. California-based band, Young the Giant, performed a set of their most notable songs while also becoming the first band to ever play the Cuervo by Fender Agave Stratocaster.
Before the show, we sat down with both master builder Paul Waller for insight on the construction, look, and feel as well as Young the Giant's guitarist, Jacob Tilley, to discuss what it felt like to make guitar history playing the first Agave Strat.
TT: You started building guitars In your school workshop. Out of all the ones you've created for various artists what would you say has been the craziest?
Paul Waller: There have been a couple, but my personal favorite is one called the White Chicken. I didn't sell it and just had it sitting in my shop and one day Josh Klinghoffer, the new guitarist for the RHOCP, came in to order some gear and as he was custom ordering a bunch of guitars he saw the White Chicken and asked me to make one for him.
TT: What would you say you are most excited about for the future of Music?
PW: A lot of times we have school groups come in for tours, both high school and first year of college students, and I often ask what music they listen to naming off some popular bands of the moment and they all respond saying that they prefer bands like the Rolling Stones an the Beatles. It gives me goosebumps because it means they will try to pick up a guitar and try to emulate those songs, which means I have a lob for a couple more years which I am so happy about since I love my job and want to keep doing it.
TT: How does the Agave Stratocaster differ from traditional Strats you've played In the past
Jacob Tilley: A traditional Stratocaster is very much known for being a workhorse guitar. It is very punchy and it has a beautiful high end and low end - it's like a bell on the sound spectrum. I had a Strat when I was a kid and it was my first guitar. It is a great medium for a guitar because it is very honest to how you sound and very even-keeled. The Agave Strat is a lot lighter than a traditional one of its kind due to the fact that a Strat is usually a solid piece of maple. The Agave Strat reminds me a lot of the Silvertone guitar. It is very lively and spanky, but you need to be careful because it is such a delicate material and if you dig into it too much it can go out of tune.
TT: If you could pick any song to play on repeat, what would it be and why?
JT: I think maybe David Bowie's let's dance just because I Aist a good crowd pleaser. You could probably put that song on repeat and no one would ever get tired of it.