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May 21, 2015

How Sawyer Fredericks of NBC's 'The Voice' ended up with a Maine-made guitar

Photo / Courtesy of NBC Universal Sawyer Fredericks plays his Ray Lamontagne signature guitar from Lewiston-based Bourgeois Guitars during a recent performance on NBC's "The Voice."

When 16-year-old Sawyer Fredericks won the eighth season of NBC talent competition “The Voice” Tuesday night, most viewers probably didn’t know he was playing a guitar that was handcrafted by a small company in Maine.

But it wasn’t much of a stretch for Bourgeois Guitars, a Lewiston company with 15 employees, to convince Fredericks to use one of its handcrafted guitars, company CEO John Karp told Mainebiz. He said that’s because that particular guitar bears a musician’s name that is important to Sawyer and familiar to many Maine music fans: Ray LaMontagne.

The guitar Sawyer plays during some of his TV performances is part of the company’s Ray LaMontagne Signature Series, Karp said. The series is limited to 33 guitars, with each one signed by LaMontagne, a former Lewiston resident, and guitar maker and company founder Dana Bourgeois. The series was conceived by LaMontagne and Bourgeois in 2010.

Karp said when Bourgeois learned that Fredericks was a huge LaMontagne fan, the company reached out to Fredericks’ mother through Facebook with the help of a friend.

“The fact that Ray is a player and endorser of our guitars immediately got through to Sawyer,” Karp said. “He is a huge fan of Ray LaMontagne.”

While Sawyer didn’t mention the company’s name during episodes of The Voice, he did mention that he was using a Ray LaMontagne signature guitar, Karp said.

“We were elated,” he said, noting that it’s rare for a small company to have access to a large TV show audience. “The fact that [NBC’s show] has been open to smaller makers has been wonderful.”

Fredericks’ endorsement of the company’s guitar has allowed the company to post targeted advertising on Facebook and Google, with ads saying, “We’re excited to watch the rise of Sawyer Fredericks! Check out his Bourgeois Guitar here.”

“We’ve had thousands of visitors to our website directly off of activities from Sawyer,” Karp said, noting that the company’s decision to hire a social media manager a year ago has helped Bourgeois Guitar improve its online presence. “It certainly helps a lot.”

This is far from the first time a star has used or endorsed Bourgeois Guitars, Karp said. The company’s guitars have also been played by Ricky Skaggs, Steve Earle and guitarists for country stars Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw, among many other big players.

“[The guitars are] handmade and hand-voiced, Karp said. “When I say hand-voiced, we are optimizing every single piece of wood in the guitar [for sound and appearance]. Dana is one of the authorities on guitar wood and voicing guitars.”

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