Not only is Australian native Ashley Tuck-Lee attending Belmont University to get a music degree, the 25-year-old also builds and repairs guitars for some of rock music’s most famous guitar gods.
With experience working on guitars used by artists like Slash, Ian Moss of Cold Chisel, members of Spinal Tap and child prodigy Jeremy Yong, Tuck-Lee has proven her dedication to the craft of guitar building.
“I love my work. I love creation,” said Tuck-Lee. “Particularly for physical things like guitars and bringing art to life.”
Tuck-Lee’s journey of creating things began just a few years ago in Sydney, Australia.
After building a motorhome in 2013, Tuck-Lee found herself bored, musically unsatisfied and in financial trouble.
“I wanted an electric guitar with a really thin neck but couldn’t afford one. So my first creation was made from a $120 Jem kit,” she said.
Learning through trial and error, Tuck-Lee built four more guitars and stumbled upon Sydney Guitar Setups, the most prominent setup-only shop in Australia.
Shop owner Anthony Cameron declined Tuck-Lee’s initial offer to work in the shop, but she proceeded to show him her self-made motorhome and her collection of guitars. Tuck-Lee then found herself with an unpaid position helping the store’s team out and learning from the masters.
After less than two months at Belmont through the foreign exchange program, Tuck-Lee has already made a huge impression on her peers.
“She messed with my guitar for 15 minutes and made it easier to play,” said suitemate Alayna Boothe Drennon. “Ash is a really rad person.”
Tuck-Lee certainly has the experience to qualify her as a great guitar tech. She changed a machine head on Slash’s guitar when he toured Australia, built a gold Stratocaster for Australian electronic band Empire of the Sun and had a chance to watch a Van Halen show with Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tech.
“My guitar building all started with poverty, and then it was the need to make a living that led me to being a guitar tech,” said Tuck-Lee.
“I got many free tickets to concerts, I made connections around the world and got to travel to Japan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore,” she said.
When comparing Australia’s music scene to the one of the U.S., Tuck-Lee says nothing in Australia compares to Nashville.
“Nashville has a diverse range of recording studios, management, labels and, interestingly, writers rounds — all things you can’t get back home. And you know here if you need someone, like an agent or a sound tech, you’re likely to bump into one on the street.”
Tuck-Lee has embraced the American artist’s dream, believing that it’s much more plausible to become an artist in the U.S. than in Australia.
“Growing up in Sydney, we were always told it was never going to be viable to make a living as an artist, especially an instrumentalist. That’s not the mindset here,” she said. “Musicians are respected here, and I appreciate that.”
With five years of experience under her belt, Tuck-Lee is still able to take commissions and do what she loves here in Nashville through her business Fret-Less Guitar Services.
“The tools I have in Nashville are limited compared to my full workshop at home, but I have what I need to do basic repairs and setups.”
This article written by Joey Corso. Photo courtesy of Ashley Tuck-Lee