Fender Q&A: Switchfoot’s Drew Shirley

Shirley with Fender master builder Paul Waller in the Fender Custom Shop.

San Diego rockers Switchfoot have a big few weeks ahead of them, culminating with the release of their surf documentary Fading West this summer.

As such, Fender.com caught up with guitarist Drew Shirley to get an update on the ambitious effort and his recent visit to the Fender Custom Shop.

Check out what he had to say in the latest Fender Q&A:

Fender.com: So what was your visit like to the Fender Custom Shop?

Drew Shirley: I brought my guitar up there to be reliced, and basically, I got to see the magic happen.  I love Fender and have always played them, and this was one of those things where I got to see behind the curtain, like the Wizard of Oz.  It was definitely a backstage pass, and I got to meet all the rock stars there, like [master builder] Paul Waller.  I met Abby (Ybarra), who is a pickup winder who has been there since the early days.  The history there was mind-blowing.  And I even took part in relicing my guitar.  I posted a picture to Instagram, noting that my guitar got older and I got wiser.

What surprised you about the Custom Shop?

Some of the same presses that were used in the very beginning in making the ‘52 Tele – because mine’s a ‘52 Tele – are still there.  The machines that stamp the pickguards are all there.  I didn’t realize that Fender makes all of those parts on site.  I was blown away.  The Custom Shop was amazing, too.  They can pretty much do anything.  If you can imagine it, they can do it.

switchfoot-vice-verses-coverDo you remember your first Fender?

I went to college in Riverside, Calif., and a friend of mine was working at the factory.  I was just starting to play guitar, and I had a crappy guitar, but I was really loving it.  He said he could get a great discount, and I was like, “Yeah, of course!”  He said he could put anything I wanted on it, and we went for it.  I told him I wanted a Stevie Ray Vaughan neck – I was totally into him – a classic ‘50s foto-flame body, and all the classic ‘50s hardware.  Long story short, he delivered the guitar.  I paid like $1,200 for it. I played that Strat for my whole first band’s career, like eight years.

Now that I have a guitar tech, though, I found out that it wasn’t really a Custom Shop guitar at all.  Behind the neck plate, there was no Custom Shop signature stamp and there were Custom Shop stickers that chipped off with his thumbnail.  But you know what, I loved that thing.

After releasing Vice Verses in 2011, what can you tell us about Fading West?

It’s been a huge project for us.  We just saw a rough cut of the movie, and we’re finishing the music for the album portion.  It’s going to be a thing where you can open up the case, and there will be a 12-song CD and a DVD together.  Fading West is essentially rock and roll, touring the world, taking a look behind the scenes of what our band does.  We look at it like Rattle and Hum meets Endless Summer meets Dumb and Dumber [laughs].  I just love the vibe of it all.  We’re the luckiest guys in the world to be able to do this job, so hopefully it’s a fun watch and gives our fans an original look at the band.

Will there be a separate movie score aside from the actual songs on the soundtrack?

The 12 songs will be a studio album, but the soundtrack will be a separate thing.  There are going to be these rad instrumental pieces that will all be done by us, but there will also be an album with rock songs.  So for our tour, we’ll show the movie and then play our songs. We also recorded with a children’s choir in South Africa, and we recorded with all these crazy instruments in New Zealand so you’ll hear an intro to a song and be able to match that up with a destination in the movie.  You’ve even got Australia, Indonesia, and of course, California.

You guys are known for your passion for surfing. How real is the footage of you in the water?

We’ve also got a lot of great surfers. Three of our guys, I call them nearly-pro, because they’re probably the best surfers in rock and roll.  No joke, I don’t go out in these waves, but we brought out guest surfers, like Rob Machado, Tom Curren, and they are surfing with our guys.

For more information, visit Switchfoot’s official website or Shirley’s Twitter page.


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