"I’ve played Fender since I was a little kid," Isbell tells Billboard of the launch. "I have a whole bunch of guitars and I’m very lucky to have all those guitars, so I could go for a particular tool any time I need to. I tried to think about that in this situation, if I had to have one guitar that would suit all of my needs, which one would do it? I think the Telecaster would do it."
"I didn’t want to just make a guitar for people like me, because I’ve had a lot of success and I try to think about myself 10 or 15 years ago," he adds. "What did I need then? If I could only travel with one guitar – if I were in a band and didn’t have a whole lot of space and couldn’t afford a bunch of guitars, what would suit my needs the best? Telecaster definitely does that. They stay in tune and if you drop one, it usually doesn’t damage it. You can still pick it up and finish the show. It rides well if you’re touring over long distances, it’s not going to be in bad shape when you get it out of the van. It sounds great and plays great. It just makes sense for somebody who wants just one guitar."
As a self-proclaimed guitar "nerd," Isbell couldn't help but gush over the versatility of the Telecaster. "The Telecaster was the first, mass produced, successful, solid body guitar," he explains. "Miraculously, I think it has held up as really the most effective for all the different types of music. I could play modern R&B with a Telecaster and nothing would be lost. I could play pop records or I could make country music. I could make rock n’ roll. Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Keith Richards all played Telecasters and their music was so very different."
While much of his music is laced with guitar melodies, his favorite song to jam along to is one off his 2020 album, Reunions. "There’s a song called ‘It Gets Easier’ that I really like playing," he reveals. "It’s kind of a heartland rock type of song. It’s strummy and very reliant on an electric rhythm guitar but also the solo works really well over the chords."
"It’s uptempo!" he laughs. "I write a lot of slow, sad songs, so I like it when I come up with one that’s not slow and sad."
Playing his Telecaster has also allowed Isbell to stay "sane" amid the past year's tumultuous nature. "Spending a lot of time sitting on the floor with a guitar has helped," he shares.
Shop the Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster here.