For heavy metal fans out there, Jackson is one of the top guitar brands to look out for. But for the rest of the public, the Fender-owned brand might not be a household name.
Fender wants to change that. The company is embarking on its first campaign for the company, which has been around since the 1980s, and launching a new line of guitars made in the U.S.
Cheddar News caught up with Fender CEO Andy Mooney and talked about why it's the right decision to bring Jackson to the masses, why electric guitar is here to stay, and tips for new players. 
Jackson is a brand that's mostly known by metal guitarists. Right now we're seeing a comeback of alternative, punk, and emo music, which I'm super excited for. So why do you think this style of music is becoming popular again?
Even before COVID when it comes to live music, heavy metal music was the fastest growing segment of live music. With the re-emergence of live music, we're seeing pickup in demand from those consumers for guitars. That music is also the home of the largest percentage of virtuoso guitarists.
This is the first time that Jackson has had a marketing campaign. So why highlight Jackson at this time?
There are two really kind of strong consumer-driven trends in the marketplace right now. You know, one is a retro trend for brands and for products. In some ways the introduction of Jackson is deja vu all over again.
The other is we were seeing very strong demand for for premium price Custom Shop Jackson products. Artists that originally started with Jackson are coming to us and asking to do signature models. So we saw a lot of demand potential out there.
So we've heard for years that the electric guitar is dead, but why is it not dead in your opinion?
Not only as was the headline factually mistaken, but even prior to COVID the guitar segment was actually growing at a healthy high single-digit, low double-digit rate. During COVID, that absolutely mushroomed. We're starting to see a little bit of normalization of demand, particularly at the low end, but at a significantly higher plateau than when we entered COVID. So the category is alive and kicking around in very good shape.
What makes playing electric guitar so special to you?
I think playing any musical instrument is intellectually stimulating, psychologically soothing. The kind of documented list of benefits from playing any musical instrument is widespread.
Guitar is a very accessible instrument to get in, and it's connected intrinsically to contemporary culture. You can play historical, classical pieces on Spanish guitar, or you can jam along with your favorite artist with what's on the radio — but that's a little out of date, so on your phone through your streaming service! So it's just very approachable and very accessible in terms of price.
How did you start playing guitar?
My father was a pianist as a hobby, and he encouraged me to play a musical instrument. Like any young child, I didn't want to play the one that he played. I wanted to kind of adopt my own. I chose guitar, and he bought me my first nylon string classic instrument. So I learned classical Spanish guitar. And then when I got in my teens, I wanted to kind of migrate to electric and play in a band. And I've been doing the latter for as long as I can. 
There was a move of people really picking up acoustic guitars for a while. Do you think that hurt or helped the electric guitar industry?
I think it's all good. From my perspective, the steel string acoustic guitar is actually the most difficult instrument to begin your journey because it's the instrument with the highest pain threshold.
Leo Fender, the founder of the company, as early as the early 1960s, late 50s started to develop a line of what's called short scale electric guitars that made it with slimmer necks that made it easier for younger players to play, easier to bend the string. He was actually thinking about making the guitar more accessible.
A lot of those models were kind of adopted particularly by the wave of female players because the light weight and the necks are kind of really fit into their hand profile. The way the guitar is played these days is more of a textural instrument and compositional instrument, and perhaps less than about being a virtuoso player than it was back in the day like Jimi Hendrix or Ritchie Blackmore. 
You decided to bring Jackson production from overseas back to the U.S. Why make American-made Jacksons?
We're still actually growing our overseas business, but we also simultaneously saw this tremendous pickup in demand for very premium-priced, custom-made guitars, which are only affordable by a small percentage of the community. We saw a kind of market opportunity for very high quality, U.S.-made production that were in a price zone somewhere between our offshore production models and our custom shelf models. Based on the results from the launch of the product, there's going to be really strong demand for these under these prices that we've never really operated on for years.
During the pandemic we saw a huge increase in the number of people who learned how to play guitar. So how is Fender keeping those players playing?
What we're doing it is to continue invest in our online learning product Fender Play. You can learn any any number of genres, whether it's country music, blues, or heavy metal. We have been focused on since about 2016 reducing the abandonment rate of first time players. It’s as high as a 90 percent abandonment rate in the first year historically.
Any tips for anyone who wants to pick up a guitar?
You should begin with picking up the right guitar. If you're a very young first-time player, pick up a nylon string acoustic guitar to really familiarize yourself with the instrument and then graduate to short scale electric guitar, and then ultimately a steel string acoustic guitar. You kind of connect with the instrument over time, Try to get good education, either online or in person.
Any guitarist we should be keeping tabs on right now?
It comes down to what your kind of personal preferences and music. I am on the very heavy side of heavy. Slipknot, it's one of my favorite bands. You've got Mick Thomson on one side of the stage playing a signature Jackson and Jim Root on the other side playing his signature Fender or signature Charvel guitar. There is a wealth of real talent out there, including this new kind of wave of women who can shred. Vixen is playing our Jackson USA soloists. These women are kind of leading the way in terms of the virtuoso in genres of all types and forms but particularly in heavy metal.
I can’t believe Slipknot is one of your favorite bands!
They’re playing again and everything including a show this month, so I'm looking forward to seeing them live again.
This interview was edited for clarity and length