When you’re buying a coffee table for your home or building a shed in the backyard, do you ever stop to think about where that wood came from? What about when you buy a guitar? Well, at Breedlove Guitars in Bend, Oregon, they are doing more than just creating environmentally friendly instruments; they are facilitating a new way of thinking.
According to Breedlove, “owner Tom Bedell has traveled to each forest in Suriname, the Republic of Congo, and the Swiss Alps to verify individual harvest, chain of custody, and sound ecological practices.” Though what this company does is outside the norm, all it takes are the actions of one to create a chain reaction and potentially spark a huge wave of change. No one understands this concept more than Jeff Bridges.
We all know the prolific actor for his roles in The Big Lebowski, True Grit, and, most recently, Bad Times at the El Royale, but there is so much more to him than his screen appearances. Bridges is also a musician, who performs with his band, Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, as well as an activist. Being a major proponent for environmental causes, he has teamed up with Breedlove and produced a signature line of eco-efficient guitars.
These guitars are crafted without the use of clear-cut trees. Clear-cutting trees is when every marketable tree is cut down in a particular area. Though this may be a cheaper method, it comes with a different kind of cost. Our environment suffers. To quote Bridges, “Trees, man, they are the lungs of our planet. We dearly need forests to temper climate, replenish our fresh water, and provide shelter for our wildlife. It seems wrong that we have sacrificed our ancient forests to make instruments for music.”
Understanding just how much damage that places on our eco-system, he is proud to unveil these impressive instruments. Along with not compromising the health of our forests, they also do not compromise sound quality.
The new Jeff Bridges’ Signature Model is available solely through Lost Chord Guitars in Solvang, California, and will be released widely this week. With his inspirational motto “All in this together” across every guitar fret and his signature carved on each headstock, Bridges has poured his heart and soul into the project.
Now, more than ever, with fires on the rise due to an increase in global warming, we all could do our part to help the planet. In honor of these guitars and their role in the battle for a more sustainable world, Consequence of Sound spoke with Bridges. We discussed climate change, his partnership with Breedlove, and what shaped his environmental views.
Editor’s Note: You can also find other sustainably-sourced Breedlove guitars here.
On Getting Involved with Breedlove Eco-Friendly Guitars
I got turned on to the Breedlove guitars by Chris Pelonis who is a music director of my band, The Abiders. He has a guitar shop in Solvang. He started to play the Breedlove guitar, and it was so gorgeous. Felt wonderful to play. Sounded so good and looked beautiful. He said, “There’s something you’d really like about it, Jeff — it is made from sustainable wood. I want you to meet Tom Bedell the owner of Breedlove.”
So, I met with Tom, and we hit it off right away. He makes sure that all of his guitars from the organic line are built with sustainable woods. There is no reason to cut down our old-growth forests for music. Music doesn’t need those kinds of trees. We have three guitars in our “All in This Together” line. The flagship guitar is the Oregon Concerto. It’s built with myrtle wood from the Oregon coast, and it’s all sustainable. It has wonderful sound properties, so we started talking, and he said, “Should we get in cahoots on this thing?” I’ve been wanting to make a signature guitar for a while, because I wanted to put that logo “All in This Together” on a guitar. I think that’s where it’s all at — we’re all in this together, not only our families and our loved ones, but even guys who think philosophically completely different from us. We’re also in it together with the trees. The trees supply all our oxygen. We’ve got to take care of them, and they’ll take care of us. That’s the whole reason for the guitar and how it came about.
We wanted to make the guitars affordable. While the Oregon Concerto guitar goes for about 2,500 bucks, we got another guitar made from wood from the Amazon, and spruce from Switzerland, sustainable woods — and that guitar is going for about 1,000 bucks. Then we have a $700 model that is made from African mahogany from the Congo, and a spruce top from Switzerland, again all sustainable. It’s an exciting project, and it’s not only about getting the word out to instrument makers. Tom’s idea is that this should catch on with flooring companies and furniture companies — all of this wood we can make it from trees that can be sustained.
On Combatting Climate Change Through Instruments
We not only have to stop making carbon; we have to draw the carbon back into the earth. That’s what our trees, oceans, and grasslands do. We have to keep those in shape and learn about them. I live up here in Montana, and I’ve been talking with Paul Hawken, who is a wonderful environmentalist. We’ve got to educate ourselves. How many years have we been killing the soil, thinking it was a good thing to plow up the soil? We found out that pulling up and tilling the soil destroys life forms, those microbes that are in soil. And then the soil doesn’t absorb the carbon as much. It’s things like that. It’s all about educating ourselves.
On the Appeal of Breedlove Guitars to Musicians
My buddy Chris Pelonis, he’s an acoustician. He builds studios for Sony and all kinds of outfits, and he really knows sound, and he worked on the guitar. We also have Baggs pickups on them. It’s wonderful for live performing as well. I’m not the guitar player that Chris is or have the ears that Chris does, but to me, it’s just how it feels in my hand and how it sounds. How it makes me feel playing it. That’s one of the things I was hoping people would get out of it. The connection to themselves, the guitar they’re playing, and also to the trees. We’re all in this together; we’re all connected. You look at this pandemic, and there’s a good example of how connected we are. Or all these forest fires out in California. I’m here in Montana, and I couldn’t see the mountains from all the fire and the smoke. And that smoke has already reached New York. We’re just on a little, tiny speck all connected.
On the Meaning of the “All in This Together” Motto
Our band, The Abiders, just put out a song called “My Welcome Mat”, written by a very good friend of mine going back to the 4th grade, John Goodwin. It’s a wonderful song about being open to everybody. Today, we have all this diversity going on, but we’re all in this together, so we have to celebrate this diversity and communicate with each other. That’s what it means to me.
On How the “All in This Together” Project Benefits the Amazon
That was something that I brought to the party. A good friend of mine, Mark Plotkin, is the head of the organization called The Amazon Conservation Team — ACT. And he’s all about preserving the Amazon, as well as the indigenous people, making sure they are as healthy as they can be. He is on board to make sure all of this wood really is sustainable. All the woods made and used in the guitar — there’s a tracking process to see where it actually comes from. That’s something Mark is very involved in. So, it’s great to have some support going to that organization.
On Narrating 2018 Documentary Living in the Future’s Past
Something comes to mind that wasn’t mentioned in the film. Buckminster Fuller is a wonderful inventor, philosopher, and engineer. His most famous invention is the geodesic dome. He made a wonderful observation. He was looking out at the big oil tankers. He knew the engineers designing these massive ships really had a challenge with the rudder — how big the rudder had to be to turn the ships. They found it took too much energy to move the big rudder and turn the ships. So, they came up with a brilliant plan: a little, tiny rudder installed on a big rudder, and that little rudder is called a “trim tab.” Bucky made the observation that it is a wonderful metaphor for how the individual can make a difference in their culture and society. We’re little trim tabs and we’re connected to more powerful people, organizations, and so forth. And we can affect those, and those affect our culture and society. So, I’m hoping that the film will leave people with the idea that it’s down to me. What am I willing to do to create the kind of world that I envision for myself, my kids, my grandkids, and all the kids down the line? How do we want to leave this planet? What am I willing to do to create that dream and make it come true?
I find that it is true for a lot of people, myself included, that they don’t want to do what they’re not good at. So, when you’re not really up to speed, and may feel inadequate, if you just take it in baby steps, you will find the universe will support you. When you see a friend that says I’ve been thinking about that, too, you’ll start a conversation.
On First Getting Involved in Environmental Issues
I think it goes back to my parents. Both my mother and father were very environmentally conscious. My dad, Lloyd, had that TV show in the ’60s called Sea Hunt. He played this guy Mike Nelson. My Dad got very involved in the health of the ocean, and he got all us kids involved. I can remember him bringing a book back when I was a kid, a photographic essay called The Family of Man. It was a book showing pictures of how people live all over the world and how different they are. But they also have so much in common — loving their kids, laughing and smiling. My Dad would say “this is what it’s all about – the family of man.” I probably got the term “all in this together” from my Dad. We got to take care of each other. Bucky wrote a book that was probably his most famous: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. We don’t really have one of those, although his book has his ideas for it. We could use something like that!
On His Father’s Influence
One of the great compliments I think for an actor is when the audience thinks you really are that character. A lot of people watched Sea Hunt and thought, “Well, there’s a skin diver who took some acting lessons.” They thought my father really was a skin diver. He had never had an aqualung on or skin-dived until the show. That series really plugged him into paying attention to the environment. He would be shocked today I’m sure to hear about the conditions of our oceans and our planet. The coral and the Barrier Reef being threatened. Trash in our oceans. He and my mom were both very much supportive of these ecological ideas.
On How to Fight Climate Change
As I have been mentioning, education. Be curious and find out what it’s about. There are wonderful books and that documentary Susan Kucera and I made [2018’s Living in the Future’s Past]. That was very informative to me, and I learned so much about the climate just by getting involved in that film. Get involved. It doesn’t have to be what you might think it has to be. Just be open to it. Google environmental books. See what comes up, and take a peek at some of those. Paul Hawken has written some wonderful books on it. And then when you feel compelled to do something and if that feeling of inadequacy comes up, like I really don’t know what I’m doing, do the thing anyway. Jump in! We need you.