Dave Carroll’s Songwriting Revenge

Friday July 10, 2009
By: Taylor Guitars News

We’ve been fans of award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter Dave Carroll and his band, the Sons of Maxwell, for a few years now (we reviewed their CD Sunday Morning back in the fall 2006 issue of Wood&Steel, which you can find here.) Little did we know — nor did Carroll for that matter — that he would use a bad airline experience as creative fodder for a song and video that literally overnight would generate more publicity than he ever could have expected as an artist.

The airline incident, for those of you who haven’t seen the video, is one that would send a pang of nausea to the stomach of any Taylor owner. In the spring of 2008, Carroll and his bandmates were flying from their hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia to Nebraska for a gig and had checked their instruments, including Carroll’s beloved Taylor 710ce. Their flight had stopped for its connection at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and just after landing, Carroll was alerted by a fellow passenger that the airline’s baggage handlers were tossing guitar cases around with a flagrant disregard for their contents. Carroll’s heart sank. His immediate complaints to the flight attendants were met with indifference, and upon his arrival in Nebraska, his worst fears were confirmed: His Taylor had been severely damaged.

“It was smashed along the base, where you plug it in,” Carroll said by phone. “The pin was actually pushed into the guitar and the whole face was lifted off.”

Carroll pursued the matter with the airline, United, for months in an attempt to receive some restitution for the damage to his $3,500 guitar, but to no avail. Meanwhile, he says he spent $1,200 on repairs, but he lamented that the guitar had lost some of its tonal character. “Cosmetically it looks good, but it doesn’t play exactly the same,” he explained. “Some of the sparkle is gone. Fingerpicking it still sounds pretty good, but strumming it’s not resonating the same.”

Frustrated that the airline had denied his claim and offered nothing in return — not even travel vouchers — Carroll vowed to use his songwriting chops to address the corporate stonewall. He informed the airline he would write three songs to protest their handling of the situation, including music videos that he would post on the Web, with the goal of generating a million views. Who would have guessed that his first video, for the catchy, country-flavored tune “United Breaks Guitars,” would go viral literally overnight and become a YouTube sensation that within a couple of days would pass the million-view mark and prompt coverage from major media outlets around the world. Carroll says he had no idea the video would catch on the way it did, but noted that he’s been playing the tune at gigs and getting great responses from audiences.

Besides being a well-crafted song and a hilarious skewering of the airline, Carroll’s video also struck a chord with online viewers on the strength of its David versus Goliath theme, showing the ability of an individual customer to harness the networking power of the Web to demand corporate accountability.

In the wake of the video’s popularity, United has since reached out to Carroll to attempt to make good, but regardless of the outcome, Carroll says he’s committed to posting three videos. The second tune had already been written and the video shot when United contacted him (Carroll says it’ll be posted in mid to late August). But depending on how things play out, maybe the third video will result in a happy ending for both parties.

When we caught wind of Carroll’s situation, we offered to have our repair techs at the Taylor factory examine the guitar to see if there’s any way we could restore its musical mojo. Meanwhile, Carroll still has his T5, which he plays in the video. Needless to say, he has no intention of flying with it.