We first met Joel Michaud of Michaud Made back in 2015 at the Memphis Acoustic Guitar Show and ever since then have been delighted to see his popularity grow and grow every year. This year has been a non-stop whirlwind of orders and interest in Michaud Made guitars, so we managed to quickly stop by his workshop to catch up with the man himself, to find out exactly what he has been up to and what plans are in the pipeline for 2018!
Ben Montague: Hi Joel! What a year! Tell us what you have been up to?
Joel Michaud: Hey Ben, it's been a great year indeed. I have had the pleasure of building fantastic instruments for my clients. Expanding my body size options has been on my mind over the last few years and I debuted my take on a parlor guitar, an O-R last year. After having received vast positive feedback on this model I have had a good number of clients switch their orders from larger bodies (OM-R, OO-R) to the O-R. This is a thrill for me as I appreciate the immediacy and projection from the smaller body. It is no small guitar tonally and will surprise just about everyone who picks it up.
Michaud Made O-R
I have also turned my attention to creating a larger body shape yet, an ode to the jumbo which I am calling J-R (Jumbo revisited). The main issue I have had with jumbos is the lack of a powerful treble and an overpowering muddy bass. Voicing the J-R I strived to have a better balance in this regard. The goal is simply to sound larger and more powerful across the spectrum, without a sacrifice in clarity.
Michaud Made J-R
BM: I hear you will soon be moving your shop? I am extremely excited for you as I think change is good for the soul. Tell us where and why you are moving?
JM: The decision to make a shop move has been a mixture of a personal and professional choice. From the professional side of things, some may see it as a curiously interesting move. After all, I fully renovated my shop only a few years ago and now currently work out of what many would consider a dream space. Every tool carefully in its place, more bench space and lighting than I need and no one to get in the way. With that in mind, I have been building by my self, in a self-taught fashion my entire career. I owe great thanks to my initial struggles, and education by fire as I believe that is have made my guitars unique both tonally and aesthetically. I have come to a point in my building where I believe both sharing and studying from others could be an invaluable resource. Not so much to change anything deficient with my instruments, but instead to see things in a new light.
A good friend of mine Mike Kennedy (of Indian Hill Guitars) along with Jeremy Clark (52 Instrument Co) created a unique instrument makers coop space years ago in Montreal, Quebec. I have always been intrigued by the idea of working so close to other instrument makers and being able to share ideas and discuss theory. The stars collided personally for me this year where I'm able to take some time away from my Calgary shop and transfer my operation over to Montreal. I will continue to work away at my build queue hear and further develop my instruments potential.
From a personal perspective, the time is coming in a few years where my partner Liz and I may want to settle down and set deeper roots. My heart is in Calgary and I may very likely end up here, so the draw to live somewhere else different for a short term is very appealing. With both of us being somewhat mobile by profession, now was the chance to act. Montreal certainly fits the bill as it is a vibrant, unique, and beautiful city, which I look forward to exploring and finding inspiration from.
BM: This year has been a lot of fun to work alongside you and our client for his left-handed OM-R that's just about to arrive. 1) How do you find it building lefties and 2) Did you have any obstacles to climb with this build?
JM: Building lefties is a bit of a mind struggle. You have to really stop at every stage and remind yourself. THIS IS A LEFTY! HA! I wrote lefty on every part and jig that I used during the process to keep reminding myself of this. When you build guitars day in day out you get used to your methods and procedures, doing this backwards always requires a reset. Adding to this, the instrument for TNAG was a fan fret, making it even more fun. That being said I enjoyed the challenge and have actually just completed another lefty for a different client that turned out wonderful. Too bad I can't play the thing ;)
Michaud Made OM-R African Blackwood & Lucky Strike Redwood - Lefty
African Blackwood Back & Sides
Lucky Strike Redwood with Arm Bevel
BM: Fretboard Journal said about your guitars; "In a word SUBLIME, every aspect of a Joel Michaud guitar, every sculpted surface, every mitred joint, every liquid note, is sublime..." How does it feel to have such an accolade?
JM: It feels great to know that others appreciate what I am doing. It is a lifelong passion for me and I truly pour my heart into every guitar. I am looking forward to making every guitar, just slightly more refined than the last.
Michaud Made featured at 2015 Memphis Acoustic Guitar Festival.
BM: We delivered a second Michaud guitar to a client of ours this year. It must feel wonderful when a client says “I like this one so much I will have another please.”
JM: It's a stellar feeling indeed! Financial constraints aside, it means a lot when someone loves your guitars so much that they want another one rather than branching out to different brands or makers.
Michaud Made OM-R in Panama Rosewood & Moon Spruce
BM: I am personally incredibly excited about the first Maple OM-R we are bringing into The North American Guitar. Tell us more about this guitar and when it is due to arrive?
JM: Maple has been getting a lot of spotlight as of late and I am thrilled to further promote its presence in the steel string world. The time is fast approaching when exotic species will become more and more scarce. In order to restore our ecosystem the use of more sustainable and domestic timbres will become commonplace. The OM-R headed TNAG'S way will have a Sitka spruce top, Maple back and sides, and an ebony substitute (Rocklite) for binding and fretboard. It is my attempt to create a world-class instrument with responsible materials.
TNAG's incoming OM-R in Maple & Sitke
In addition to this, aesthetics have always been extremely important to me. I appreciate the use of clean architectural lines and contrast these with organic textures. I tend to appreciate simplicity and restraint above most else. Traditional inlay has never had a large appeal to my eye. For the past few years I have been experimenting with the incorporation of metal work into my guitars. I use it in a 'set' fashion similar to the jewellery industry. The results have been great and it is nice to see others borrowing the idea within the guitar field.
Jewel Rosette and Backstrip.
More recently I have been prototyping the introduction of stone into my instruments. The Maple OM-R is the first in this series and exhibits turquoise inlays throughout. This opens up a whole new door of visual possibility I plan to explore in the coming years.
Michaud OM-R with black satin neck finish.
BM: Thanks, Joel, your work is just beautiful and as always it is a real honour representing you and you brand. Cannot wait for the Maple OM-R and watch this space for further TNAG builds to be announced for 2018.
JM: Thank you Ben, and the entire TNAG team it's my pleasure to be apart of the crew.