Eric Clapton’s New 12-String Dreadnought Guitar

Keen-eyed fans who watched Eric Clapton’s new release, “The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions”, spotted EC playing a gorgeous new 12-string dreadnought guitar. It turns out that Eric had it commissioned especially for the project.

To learn more about this great sounding instrument, Where is Eric! went straight to the source. Editor-in-chief Tony Edser sat down with Dan Dearnley, who has been Eric’s guitar technician since 2009 and a part of his road crew since 1998 to get all the details.

Dan Dearnley: Around July of last year (2020) I think Eric was planning this kind of acoustic show and he asked for his 12 string guitars but he didn’t have a 12 string dreadnought which is the big body size. , but I did. I had one that I made in college when I was 17. So I went to his house with his guitars and also left mine with him for a week. Then the next time I saw him he said, “Can you make me one then, how long will that take?” I said ‘yes’ and went and bought some tools, a band saw and a drill press and set up a workshop here at the warehouse, with a real Swedish carpentry bench.

Within a few weeks we received a 12 string from Martin, a standard HD-12, and Eric loved it, so that was my benchmark, to match this guitar. I bought the lumber from a friend of mine called Vince (Hockey), in Southampton, who for quite some time now has been building guitars and doing Martin repairs, and he dug up 25 year old rosewood that he had been keep, and a bit of Sitka spruce. The spruce had some spots around the edges due to its age which I thought would come out with some sanding but it doesn’t so the guitar looks a bit old already!

I started making a 6 string as a prototype because I wanted to make sure I had all the specialized tools I needed, for the binding and rosette for example. So I worked with them side by side, training on the 6 strings and then creating the 12 strings. I did the lacquering around Christmas (2020), then I hung it up to dry it.

Before starting the Cowdray House rehearsals, I was able to take it to Eric’s and give it to him but it was only there that I saw the 2 guitars together at the same time. It was a pivotal moment to see how they stacked up against each other.

We had rehearsals in the Walled Garden, which is part of Cowdray Park, a bright room next to the old ruins. So I was able to really compare the two guitars, but they didn’t quite match – mine wasn’t as good sonically as the Martin, it didn’t have the same low end. I realized that the problem was that when I put the struts on the stomach of the guitar, I strengthened them a bit and made them a bit too heavy (thinking about the tension of the strings). So the answer was to roughly remove wood, remove all the strings, reach inside and get high to the touch. It’s a pretty drastic and risky thing to do but I figured if I don’t, Eric won’t use it.

TE: Did Eric mention specific songs he wanted 12 strings for?

DD: Eric sent us a demo of all the songs we did, just him playing at home, and the first four songs had to be on 12 strings; “Man of the World” was one, he was just fingering, it sounded amazing, even haunting.

TE: So how long did the whole process take you from day 1 to the in-person delivery?

DD: About 4 months, apart from the preparation of the workshop and the wood, so about 6 months in all. Definitely a containment project! I isolated myself in an American RV at the warehouse, it’s kind of like a tour bus, very comfortable and I was able to put on some hard stuff to get things done.

TE: But wasn’t it a fully acoustic performance?

DD: Eric also played a Gibson 335 at low volume via a Fender Champ located behind his chair. We tried another Gibson 275 arch-top, which didn’t quite work. It’s somewhere between a Les Paul and a semi-acoustic 335, almost like a jazz guitar really. We also had the Strat there but didn’t use it and an old Gibson Byrdland from the 50s, which sounded amazing with the Champ. I had made some choices by saying Not Plugged in Again, that’s what Eric called it.

“The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions” was released on November 12 and is available worldwide in a variety of digital and physical formats.

In the United States, it is available at:
DVD + CD, Blu-ray + CD, 4K UHD + Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl and a Deluxe edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray and CD wrapped in a 40 page 12 “x 12” hardcover photo book , digital video and digital audio. Additionally, a CD-only version is available exclusively from Target.
buy It Now

In all other world territories, it is available on:
DVD, Blu-ray, CD, DVD + CD, Blu-ray + CD, 4K UHD + Blu-ray, 180 grams 2LP, 2LP limited edition pressed on 180 gram yellow vinyl and a Deluxe edition containing the DVD, Blu -ray & CD packaged in 40 page 12 “x 12” photo book, digital video and digital audio.
buy It Now

The Lady in the Balcony: Track List of Lockdown Sessions
01. No one knows you when you are depressed
02. Gold ring
03. Woman of black magic
04. The man of the world
05. Kerry
06. After midnight
07. Bell Bottom Blues
08. The key to the highway
09. River of Tears
10. Rock me baby
11. Believe in life
12. Go down slowly
13. Layla
14. Tears in Heaven
15. Long distance call
16. Bad boy
17. I made my Mojo work

Eric Clapton’s new custom 12-string dreadnought built for him by Dan Dearnley has been used on the following tracks:
01. No one knows you when you are depressed
02. Gold ring
03. Woman of black magic
04. The man of the world

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