When I first started making guitars, it was always a dream that artists would play them.
I used to go to a lot of gigs and one of my favourite bands was Four Year Strong, an American pop punk band. I loved their music and in 2010 I messaged their tour manager to see if the band would be interested in playing a PJD guitar. They were up for it and, after a bit of chatting about what they’d like, it was decided that I’d make them the guitar they’d been after for a while – a Gibson ES355 style guitar.
Four Year Strong were on a UK tour, and it was at the Roundhouse in Camden I got to deliver the two guitars we’d made. They were about to do a sound check so used our guitars and they loved them so much they played the whole gig with them. It was amazing!
For a while after that I was focused purely on building guitars then Michael Blackwell, a brilliant session player who tours with Louis Tomlinson, got in touch – we built him a custom Carey. He loved it and played some really cool stuff
I’d say one of the biggest bands we’ve worked with to date is The Vamps. My girlfriend went to school with one of the techs who tours with The Vamps, and he let them know about PJD as they were looking for someone to repair their existing guitars – their tour manager then contacted us, and we said we’d like to make them new guitars. They’re a nice bunch of guys; we built them two pink Careys – to match their album cover – and they looked great!
We’ve just finished a guitar for a band called A. I remember watching them on MTV back in the early 2000s and really loved them. They’ve made a bit of a comeback and played at Reading and Leeds this year and the Slam Dunk festival. We built a black left-handed St John for Mark, adding a cool pick-up cover and other stuff, just a few of tweaks to make it his own.
We’re keen to work with artists and help them in any way we can. Every artist we deal with is really nice and a great musician.
I met George from Yonika at a festival a couple of years ago and thought he was a great player, so I sent him a guitar to try out – he loved it and played it all the time and sent me through some amazing shots of the band. A few months ago, Yonika got in touch saying they’ve got an arena tour with Nottingham Thieves, and they wanted a backup guitar, so we built them a Carey Limited in black. They’ve been playing both on the tour.
Mark Sheehan from The Script has one of our guitars too and is “using it to write new material”.
Orla Gartland is another artist we’re building for. I’ve followed her for a long time and one day bit the bullet and messaged her tour manager asking if Orla would be interested in one of our guitars. Just a couple of days later they got back to me saying yes and commissioned us to build Orla a green, aged St John which we’re just putting the finishing touches to now.
It’s not just bands and solo artists who are getting their hands on PJD guitars, West End performers are also loving playing them. Amy Shaw is in the musical Six, which is on at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Her dad’s family are from York and when he found out PJD were creating British-built guitars up here he wanted Amy to play one. We built Amy a white Carey Standard. She came up to collect it and try it out – it was lovely to meet her and hear her play.
The Lottery winners are an up-and-coming band from Wakefield. One of the PJD team is friends with the band and we’ve given them a St John to play. They love it!
It’s great to support musicians and artists and hear them make their individual sounds on our guitars. We pretty much designed a new model – a St John bass – for Dylan Cartlidge, another artist who is doing really well and is being championed by the likes of Annie Mac.
Matthias Kramer is a session guitarist based in Germany. He’s an incredible musician and has three of our guitars so far. It’s fun to see PJD guitars popping up on European television!
Right now, we’re building a St John Limited for Los Angeles-based artist, Nalle Colt, who plays in Vintage Trouble. Looking to the future we’d like to support even more international artists alongside our homegrown musicians.
As a company it’s really lovely to work with artists as we get the opportunity to support them: all PJD staff have the opportunity to say which artists they love and would like to support.