Interview, Luthier Focus

Interview with David Mathis of Gallagher Guitars

J.W. Gallagher’s achievements as one of the first boutique guitarmakers in the mid-20th century are carried into this new “Golden Era” by David Mathis and his team.

Occasionally you see a guitar making workshop passed on between generations within a family, but all told, it’s uncommon. Guitar building, especially when it’s not done in a factory model, is a labor of love, passion and often an all-consuming obsession—not exactly an easy trade to expect your children to carry on. But it is even more unexpected for an outsider to sensitively step in and take on the role of the visionary leader, honoring the original legacy while building on it in their own way.

Recently we had the opportunity to chat with one such rare soul, David Mathis of Gallagher Guitars. Since he and his wife Reina took over from Don and Stephen Gallagher in 2019, he’s put together an incredible team, combining some of the old Gallagher crew and pulling in talented luthiers from places like the Galloup School, to further the reach and prominence of one of Tennessee’s finest guitar workshops. This month Lindsay and Zane stopped by the Murfreesboro workshop and venue to chat with David about carrying on the creative vision of J.W. and Don Gallagher, the Tennessee Guitars, their commitment to the local and wider musical communities, and new and unexpected partnerships with companies like 1 Hotel. 

L: Now you’re more overseer and visionary? 

D: Yeah, you know there are so many decisions and things that come up even as you're working through guitars. An especially important part, and one of my favorite parts, is working with people who are customizing guitars. I spend a lot of time helping identify what they want tonally, and working with them to get the aesthetics right, whether it’s something flashy or more in line with our more organic look. Sometimes we have to expand the conversation to involve one of the luthiers to do some further refining of that process. But it's so rewarding to work with people and help design a guitar and then deliver that to them. I’m busy with all that, and I’m having a ball. I’m never bored. 

Do you prefer to read rather than watch? Find an edited written version of our chat in the latest edition of the Connoisseur! Download "TNAG Connoisseur" from your app store and tap into V1E6.

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