Fender’s American Original Series

We speak with Fender Senior VP Justin Norvell about the nostalgic range of guitars

by Michael Raver

Fender has unveiled a new line of guitars with a super-slick take on classic guitar design: the American Original Series. Inspired by their most iconic models from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the collection of 11 new electric basses and guitars are all made in America. This nostalgic collection boasts all of the muscularity and elegance that has kept Fender at the fingertips of rockstars for so long, but with plenty of current-day updates. The American Original Series has been spearheaded by Fender Senior VP, Justin Norvell (a longtime strummer himself) who we spoke with about the amalgamation of vintage style and modern technology.

Fender’s American Original Series is an homage to the brand’s original models. Why the nostalgic look back?

Fender’s history is inexorably linked to musical history, and we have a form factor that has remained relatively unchanged for well over 70 years. It’s important that we stay close to our roots, and keep handing down the secret recipe. Whether making classic rock or a new genre that has yet to be named, players of all types have an affinity for the old-school vintage formula.

“Lithium” by Nirvana is just a vital as “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly

What was it about the music of that era that inspired these new guitars?

It was a zeitgeist moment. These instruments came into existence right as music was changing—rockabilly, rock, Motown, etc. These instruments were crucial in creating the soundtracks of multiple generations’ lives. “Lithium” by Nirvana is just a vital as “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly, and they were crafted on the same style of instrument. Creative inspiration is always the goal. We make our art (guitars and basses) so people can make their art.

How is the decision made for a collaboration with a specific artist?

Artist collaborations are born as a result of organic interaction. We are talking to artists daily about what they need and what they are looking for. We are supporters of that quest. Invariably, we find that in this process, we hit upon something unique that has a reason to exist to a wider audience. Sometimes, it’s about the technical specs, sometimes it’s about an iconic or identifiable instrument… It’s a very natural process, and an honor to be a part of. Players of all levels are interested in what the best players are playing and using, especially artists with a signature sound. Fender instruments cover all sonic ground, from country to punk to blues to funk, which is why we have such a diverse roster—from Flea to Nile Rodgers to Brad Paisley to Ed O’Brien of Radiohead.

As a producer of musical instruments, Fender essentially works in service of artists. Is that service always evolving and changing?

We call our instruments “sonic paintbrushes” and are driven to serve the needs of players of all genres. We definitely are always looking forward as music evolves—we don’t want to drive looking in the rearview mirror. For example, we’re interacting with new artists, like Steve Lacy, who are using the instrument in new ways.

Images courtesy of Fender