Road-Tested Gear

Mandolin Master Kym Warner Shares His Favorite Live Gear

October 16, 2017 Culture : Music By Photo by Henry Phillips
From Issue Four of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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ustin is a hotbed of musical talent. Its denizens have a voracious appetite for live music, and the city’s numerous establishments have storied reputations in the music world. The Continental Club. Antone’s. ACL Live at the Moody Theater. It’s these institutions that have earned the city the title of “Live Music Capital of the World.”

Of course, live-performance venues, the counterpoint to controlled studio environments, present a unique set of challenges. Performers need instruments that are functional, durable and sonically true. For most, finding the perfect setup is a never-ending pursuit. But seasoned musicians have honed their live rigs to a stable balance of road-tested gear. Every piece of gear has a purpose, and after years of concerts, every piece of gear has a story. We asked four local legends to share the stories behind theirs. This week: Kym Warner.

Like many professional musicians, Australian-born Kym Warner made his way to Austin on a circuitous route. After winning the Australian National Bluegrass Mandolin Championship for four consecutive years (1994 to 1997), Warner attended school in Texas and later formed the bluegrass band The Greencards in Austin. The band relocated to Nashville and subsequently received Grammy nominations in 2008, 2010 and 2014. Now on an extended hiatus from the band, Warner is back in Austin, performing both solo shows and touring with Robert Earl Keen’s band.

Custom Collings Mandolin with Schertler Pickup

“This is just like a regular A-Model — there’s nothing really trickery about this. They made it for me in 2004, and I customized it a little bit just because I wanted Englemann [spruce] on the top. I think it’s a warmer tone. I particularly love the top end of it. It’s warm, but it’s got sparkle.”

Dunlop Primetone Triangle Sculpted Pick

“I like the big triangle shape. For some reason that freed my right hand up when I started using them. These things are just inexpensive picks, and you can pretty much find them anywhere. But they’re really great because, tonally, they’re really quite warm, and they’ve got this grip on them that’s great for playing live.”

Johnson’s Baby Powder

“It beats humidity. Any time I’m really sticky, I just squirt it on my hand and rub it up and down the strings, and it really does work. I’ve been doing it for years and I really don’t think it has any affect negatively on the instrument or the wood or anything. Every case I’ve got has one of those little baby powders in it somewhere, so there’s always a trail of white powder in dressing rooms. It’s funny.”