President of Waterstone Musical Instruments
Sometimes one's passion can take on a life of its own. Bob Singer has taken his passion for vintage guitars and turned it into a thriving new business. As the founder of Waterstone Musical Instruments, Bob has created a variety of guitars and basses reminiscent of classic vintage styles.
How long have you been collecting guitars? How did your interest in classic and vintage guitars develop?
I have been collecting since around 1978. My early musical influences were broad in terms of musical genres and included bass players like Chris Squire, Jaco Pastorius, Geddy Lee, Dave Allen (Gang of Four), Bruce Foxton (The Jam), Graham Maby and, of course, Tom Petersson. I always have been a big fan of Rickenbackers and that is where my bass collection began.
On the guitar side, I became interested in Rickenbackers because of The Beatles, The Who and The Jam. Then I went on to arch-tops, specifically Hofner’s and Gibson’s. I am essentially a fan of the craft and enjoy seeing the artistry and history that goes with it.
Do you play much music yourself?
I still play a little and enjoy the craft of songwriting. Fortunately, I have some friends here in Nashville that incorporate me into some of their songwriting sessions.
You started Waterstone Musical Instruments in 2002. How many people do you work with?
Our company is around 15-20 people at this point. We are growing at a comfortable pace and it is really exciting to see things happen with it. The people involved are passionate about connecting with players.
Are there any advantages to being located in Nashville, Tennessee?
Nashville is a great city with ample players and luthiers. I have found it to be a real plus as session and performing artists are easily accessible and often willing to offer perspective.
Do you create all of the Waterstone designs yourself? When you start working on a new design do you have a specific goal in mind or just a general direction?
Up until Tom Petersson and I started working together, I did all of the designs.
The early semi-hollow basses and guitars (RS/T and ME-1 models) are tributes to Musicvox and vintage Hoyer guitars like the 62 model. They have a very obvious late 60's flair.
Working with Tom has changed the process. We spend a fair amount of time thinking about what we like then we put the design together. I very much enjoy the drafting part of it and think that Tom offers so much perspective to the process.
Do certain designs lend themselves to specific finishes? What is your favorite finish?
I am a big fan of figured tops and generally like translucent finishes with or without bursts. Some models will beg for an opaque finish but it all is very subjective. Oftentimes I will push for sparkles or unusual tops just to see if it prompts any new ideas. It is a never-ending march through the color box.
My favorite finish is probably the translucent oxblood with a flame maple top which is currently on the Mildred hollow body guitar. It is very deep and bold and really has my attention at this point.
Are Waterstone instruments American made or imported? Are custom features available?
Waterstone guitars and basses are imported. Our production company is top-notch and we are very happy to work with them. Customization is available and encouraged.
How did your collaboration with Tom Petersson come about? Had you ever attempted creating a 12-string bass before?
I was introduced to Tom through a mutual friend. We had a few discussions about guitars and kind of fell into the idea of trying to put together a 12-string bass. He is exceptional in his knowledge and creative edge. It really is a tremendous opportunity to work with him. I had not considered making one until I met Tom.
Your 12-string basses are available in single and two pickup versions. Tell us about that. What types of pickups are you using?
Tom is very specific about pickup positioning. After the prototypes were evaluated we decided to offer two models. The one pickup TP-1 will be a limited run for those who go for the purist approach: no blending, make the amp do the work, etc... Tom expressed a desire for this and I think it really is a great idea. We think that some players will like this approach. The pickups are EMG-style passive solid bar poles to span the necessary width.
What tone controls will be incorporated with the passive electronics?
As you know, 12-string basses can sometimes trend toward a higher frequency response. We have integrated a more classic pickup positioning, semi-hollow body construction and treble and bass frequency controls to achieve what we think is a pure, straight-forward, solid tone.
You make acoustic basses as well as the semi-hollow body electric models. Is the market for acoustic basses growing? Are there any special difficulties involved in making an acoustic bass?
The acoustic basses are designed for songwriters and acoustic sets. That is a big part of Nashville. The market is growing and we think that the Rainwood bass is a durable and well-balanced instrument. I am always concerned about the forces across the neck and bridge but am very happy with this one.
Do you sell your instruments through dealers or ‘factory direct’?
We sell to dealers and directly to customers. We are accessible on the web and try and use the internet as a resource for anyone interested in us. When I buy guitars I try and get my hands all over them before laying down the cash. For this reason I think it is important to establish yourself with dealers so customers can have a good opportunity to play our pieces. Additionally, our web policy encourages customers to give us a try by a 15-day evaluation policy.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Bob!
Editor’s note: This interview was originally published on February 1, 2005.