Interview with Paul Reed Smith, Founder & CEO of PRS Guitars

Today on citybiz, we present a fun and wide-ranging interview with guitar maker Paul Reed Smith, who shares the latest on the company he founded in Annapolis in 1985. We were also treated with stories about exploring the estuaries of Maryland, and Paul shared the rarely told story about how he connected with Carlos Santana during the early days.

Paul’s latest endeavor is the launch of a new band called Eightlock that will have its CD release party on March 10 during a performance at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis.

Next, Eightlock will go national with shows already booked for 2022 including the LA Forum in California.

As Paul shared with Edwin, the band of high-level musician friends have “locked” together to record and perform a new kind of sound honoring the music of the area. Eightlock has infused Baltimore funk, DC Go-Go, and New Orleans swing, creating a new sound that is difficult to categorize.

Based in Stevensville, Maryland, PRS Guitars is a leading manufacturer of high-quality instruments and has provided some of the world’s most renowned musicians with instruments since 1985. The PRS team of highly skilled craftspeople design and build a wide variety of musical instruments and gear for worldwide distribution, including electric, acoustic, and bass guitars as well as boutique-style guitar amplifiers.

The PRS SE line of products complements the Maryland-made PRS line by offering highly approachable and more affordable electric, acoustic, and bass guitars. Carlos Santana, Mark Tremonti, John Mayer, Neal Schon, Jimmy Herring, Zach Myers, Mark Holcomb, Tim Pierce, Tyler Larson, Orianthi, David Grissom, Mark Lettieri, and Martin Simpson are among the artists currently playing PRS instruments and/or amplifiers.

(Photo credit: PRS Guitars)

(Photo credit: Erick Gibson)

Interview questions:

New Band – Eightlock |I’ve been a fan of PRS Guitars and followed your business’s success over the years, so thanks for joining us today. I want to hear about the business, but first I’d like to learn more about your new band, Eightlock.

The Band | Tell us more – who’s in the band?…they have some pretty good credentials…What’s the story behind the name? and talk about the style of music.

Concerts | Where can people hear Eightlock? I know you’ll be appearing at Rams Head in Annapolis on March 10, talk about that and who’s representing you and anywhere else that you’re booked.

Thanks, let’s talk more about the business

The Start | You graduated from Bowie High School in 1974 and then attended St. Mary’s College. When did you become interested in guitar making?

Mentorship | When did decide to contact Ted McCarty, former president of Gibson and creator of the Explorer, ES-335, and Flying V guitars. How did McCarty become your mentor and advisor?

The Beginning: 1985-1995 | In 1982, you saw Adrian Belew on King Crimson’s Beat tour in 1982. What impact did it have on your vision for the guitar?

Ted Nugent/ Carlos Santana | In 1975, you attended a Ted Nugent concert and were to get backstage. Please share the rest of the story? You repeated the act again with Carlos Santana in 1980.

PRS Today | Can you provide a snapshot of PRS Guitars today? How many guitars are manufactured in Stevensville? Models produced in Surabaya, Indonesia and Dalian, China? # of employees? 440+! How did you fare during the coronavirus?

Let’s talk about recent advancements:

– Pickup Building and Design (TCI, Humbuckers, Narrowfields, and Single Coils)

– Artist collaborations (John Mayer, Mark Lettieri, Mark Tremonti, David Grissom, Mark Holcomb, etc.)

– SE Series maturation

– Acoustic and Amplifier growth

You’re known for a continual focus on quality – tools to do a job – staying focused on the instrument as how to not lose your way during a period of unprecedented growth. Talk about that.

Paul Reed Smith is becoming known as the mentor and teacher now – as a guitar builder for the employees at PRS and as a guitar player at your own online school. How is that going?

Connect with Paul on LinkedIn

About PRS Guitars:

Paul Reed Smith Guitars is one of the worlds premier guitar and amplifier manufacturer located in Stevensville, MD. Since our humble beginning in 1985, PRS Guitars always sought to create the highest quality instruments possible to enable musicans to beautiful, reliable and highly musical instrument. The craftsmen and women at PRS are a unique bunch. We have a passion for building instruments and also for the music that these instruments help create. Most here are dedicated players, refining our craft as builders and musicians. There is a special kind of pride and individual ownership surrounding our instruments. Guitar and amplifier building are very personal things here, which are directly reflected in our quality.