Tulsa Time: Drew Winn Talks Debut Album, Kinship With Tom Bukovac, His Vintage Guitar Shop, & More

En route to a trade show in Orlando a few years ago, Drew Winn, the owner of Guitar House of Tulsa, stopped for the night at notable session and touring guitarist Tom Bukovac’s Nashville home.

After breaking out some guitars and upon the encouragement from Bukovac to Winn to play some original songs, the two knew what they had to do; make a record.

And two months later, they did.

The self-titled album includes eleven diverse and intricately crafted original songs, along with one cover and a co-write with longtime friend Nathan Clewell. Recorded at drummer Dorian Crozier’s studio in Nashville and mixed by six-time Grammy Award-winning record producer and engineer, Vance Powell (Phish, Chris Stapleton, Jack White), the album brims with expertise and high-level production, spearheaded by Bukovac. 

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Born in Stillwater, OklahomaWinn has spent a lifetime buying and selling guitars, beginning as a 15-year-old at Stillwater’s iconic Daddy O’s Music. Winn has traveled the world in pursuit of rare and vintage instruments, opening his own online business two decades ago, and now running a beloved brick and mortar guitar lover’s paradise.

We got to talk with Winn about the new album, his relationship with Bukovac, Guitar House of Tulsa, and much more.

How has the year treated you so far? Any notable highlights?

’23 has gotten off to a fast start! The travels have been frequent, and the guitar business has kept me busy. The second round of vinyl test pressings for my record arrived and are sounding great! Getting vinyl is one of the biggest challenges for any recording artist right now. 

So your debut self-titled album dropped towards the end of last year. Was this album a long time coming, and what was the process like for bringing it to fruition?  

January 24, 2021. I’m en route to Orlando for a trade show. My dear friend, Tom Bukovac, is putting me up for the evening just outside of Nashville. We’ve known each other for years, though never as collaborators in music. Buk lives in the world of music creation. I live in a world of facilitating music creation by providing the necessary tools (i.e. selling guitars). But when either one of our days end, there is the common thread of doing what we enjoy, which is creating for ourselves.

Somewhere into the evening Tom says: “Hey man, show me that tune you were working on the other night.” Enter the pre-war Martin flattops. Grins begin over an A-minor chord. I sing my way through verse 1, and then to the chorus. Back to the verse for some lead time, but Buk requests the chorus to play a solo, which, to me, sounds like angels accompanying MY SONG! I let it ride as if to say “yeah, that’s about right.” Lord. After a couple run-throughs it’s in the pocket. It has taken on two lives, instead of just one.

A clink of a bottle, and it’s done. Time to play chess, which admittedly Buk is not only a superior player, I’d put money on the kid, but is possibly more enthusiastic about this game of squares than he is about music. It is ridiculous. And encouraging. The board is set. My ass is about to get handed to me… again. I’m walking into the other room and he says; “Hey Drew. You got some more of them songs?” “Yeah man,” I reply. “We should make a record.” And that, my friends, is how this recording was ignited.

Buk and his boys were helping me run my booth at the Nashville guitar show in March, and he called a couple weeks before to see if I could be there a few days early. I could. The next call was a confirmation of a triple session at Dorian Crozier’s studio on March 22. The record was becoming less of a “we should” and more of a “we are.” The session can only be described as capturing lightning in a bottle. The musicians were all in and all on. 

Drew Winn

Are there any overarching themes or motifs behind it?

Some of these songs are 20 years old. Some are as fresh as last year. There’s a lot of life, loss, and love in there. Track 1 (“Birthday Cake”) is a reflective number. It was written in April ’22 over a piece of leftover birthday cake that my mom had made for me. Hence the title. Although I never mention anything about this in the actual song…

Can you tell us more about your relationship with Tom Bukovac and how you became friends?

Tom has been a brother for a number of years. I think Vince Gill brought him into my guitar shop several years ago, and that is how we got acquainted. This whole record was Tom’s idea. He booked the session, chose the band, played, and produced. I just had to show up with the songs. 

Is there a song on the album that was the most difficult to write/record for one reason or another?

Track 4, “You’re Gonna Find Out.” I wrote that song while living in Costa Rica a million years ago. Well, I think it was 2000 that I was there.  I’ve played that tune the same way in the same strumming rhythm since I wrote it. The computer crashed for a bit during the session and Buk pulls me aside and tells me about this idea he has for the song. “Same lyrics, same melody, same chords. But check this out.” He then plays an 80’s pop song with down-up-down repetitive strumming pattern. “Whatcha think of that? The FEEL?” I was reluctant to transform. But damn it, he’s been right a lot of the time. My first acoustic track was challenged at best. I got frustrated. I told Tom or Jedd Hughes that they’d have to do my guitar part. But my frustration and the attitude pushed me to track it once again. It was MY part. And I was going to get it. And I did.

What has been your favorite/the most rewarding part of making this album?

The best part was the actual tracking. We did this in two sessions. One in March ’22, one in June ’22. We tracked the whole thing live with a few punches here and there. It was the most intimate musical experience that I have ever been a part of. This crew really knows how to “listen” to the song.  

“You’re Gonna Find Out”

Tell me more about your business, Guitar House of Tulsa. How did you get involved in wheeling and dealing gear?

I’ve been in the guitar business for 28 years. I’ve owned and operated under Guitar House of Tulsa since 2015. Prior, it was Drew’s Vintage Guitars. I also have Daddy O’s Music in Stillwater, OK. 

What are some of the most rare/unique guitars you’ve owned or have had in the shop?

Yes. Ha! It’s countless, and I’d be hard-pressed to nail down the most memorable.  

Did you use any extra special guitars from your shop on the album? If so, what and on which song/s?

I used Buk’s ’38 Martin 000-18 on “Don’t Wait.” I fell in love, and I now own it. It’s in a trifecta of sorts between myself, Buk, and Jedd Hughes. It must never leave. 

What’s the Tulsa music scene like these days?

Tulsa is thriving! It has always maintained an insane amount of talent, though much of that gets lost in album credits, to the layperson.  There are a lot of forces at play right now. There has been an influx of funding, mostly privately, over the past 7-8 years that have attracted visible improvements to downtown, specifically the arts district. This brings in outsiders. These folks find the clubs where local talent are consistently playing and are thus more “discoverable.” The well-kept secret is getting around. I’ve taken national touring acts to the bars where local musicians have residency gigs and seen jaws drop. 

What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for 2023? 

Oh, goals. Those things.. wait, is it 2023? Ha! I think I’ve subliminally told myself that I would really start to gig when the actual vinyl version of the record comes out. It’s SUPER close now. It seems like a lifetime away back in August when the record was mastered.

Drew Winn – Photo by Adam Murphy Photography

Featured photo by Adam Murphy Photography

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