Ceremony

There was Scott of The Road and Scott of The Woods before there was Scott of The Birdsongs. This week, Scott of The Woods made a rare return appearance (sans wildman beard, starry gaze and dashiki) and lit the first ceremonial fire in years. A very special fire pit was recently rebuilt out here at the nest by a good friend, and it was time to figure what to do with much of the cutoffs from the cypress plank I got after the Wimberley flood of 2015. I made instruments out of this tree, one of many, many hundreds of years old, that were washed away off the banks of the Blanco river.

Those lives and many others were affected, and I figured since I couldn’t fix that I’d take one lucky plank and give it a new life singing - perhaps it could represent the whole, and all others of all kinds, in the beauty that does emerge from tragedy like little seedlings given time. Feeling very reverent toward these cutoffs, I kept them. Made woodcraft from them. Looked at the box and wished peace to all whose lives were taken or changed forever, and to those around them – their circles. But there comes time it’s time to let go, and so it goes. I knew it would be fire – I knew it would be ceremony.

It was also time to fire up this remade pit and sit by it once again. It’s fun being Scott of The Birdsongs, but I definitely feel the pull back to the path of Scott of The Woods. If you’ve ever connected to the earth in a deep way as part of your journey, to sit around a campfire even as a circle of one brings alive something very deep. It’s never out of you, it’s never who you used to be, it’s never gone… it just sleeps. And he’s alive and well, this guy, in there, as if time had not passed at all. He is impervious to the aging of the body; he knows nothing of accomplishment or fame; he rises with the sun and settles with the darkness. He walks these woods under moonlit skies and listens.

I gave many thanks and blessings over this fire – including for all of you. Once there was a good bed of coals, I cooked food over it. The last of the energy of these pieces became heat – transferred into my food – which now nourishes and becomes part of me. As I put my energy into the building of the instruments of today and however many tomorrows, so will flow in some way now ripples from this tree, from those banks, from that river. Onward, inward, outward into new moments of magic and music shared - transferred - between souls in far away lands.

Seeing the black spread of combustion slowly consume the box into flames was like watching time consume the energy of a man. May it be burning my scraps, the best of me having been worked into other things.

Listening to: Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, old dub reggae, Shawn Needham Alien Groove Therapy, the sounds of the woods and the fire.

Anniversary #15... Here We Go!

Here we go, you hard core songbirds and somnambulant insomniacs! It’s just after midnight CST July 4th, 2019 and on behalf of all the hands past and present who’ve helped it all to happen so far, welcome to the 15th Anniversary of Birdsong Guitars. Before that though, happy 4th to you and your circle – be safe but make some moments!

So let’s clarify the 15 number with some quick history. Birdsong started as a model name in my early years of building in the 1990s, became the name I built under starting in 2000, and then the short scale bass design I’d been refining came together… the Cortobass… and a legit company was built around it. That website was launched – you guessed it – July 4th, 2004. A factoid for you, it was started by my then girlfriend Jamie and I and we got married while doing the paperwork for it in January of that year. By July we had remodeled the old motorcycle chop shop bays we rented to start in, borrowed some tools, and were all in. I mean 24/7 for years.

So here we are, 15 years later! We’ve been in three shops, had under a dozen people come through helping it happen, and last guesstimate is somewhere coming up on a thousand instruments out. Every anniversary there’s a sale, there are special builds offered, and I’m available while it’s happening midnight to midnight – call 512-395-5126 (verbally leave your number for a call back if you get the message, I’m low tech), email scott@birdsongguitars.com, or find me (Scott Beckwith) or Birdsong Guitars (or SD Curlee) on Facebook. Heck, find – friend – share all 3. CALLS ARE BEST, though - especially if you’re going to go for something at the last minute! I’d love to talk with you, business or not, and know we thank you all VERY much whether you’ve been with us since the pre-company days or just showing up five minutes ago.

***** UPDATE: Wee hours, July 5th - THIS YEAR’S ANNIVERSARY WAS GREAT, thank you all so much! Taking Friday and the weekend off to regroup. I’ll leave this part posted… *****

Birdsong is doing fine, I’m in here kicking ass, we have new hands helping with some sanding and shaping, and though at a deliberately less frenetic all-in pace now, we’ll still be kicking it hard the rest of this year and on into 2020. THIS year, I’m taking a little time off in August but not all of it – there are a handful of you waiting very patiently on some builds that ran very late due to my knee issue late last year and early this year. And I can’t in good conscience take a lot of time off until your builds are done. It’s that simple. But I don’t want to go back to the hospital either, so it’s a balance and August is the mid point. This year we’re finishing up the 1st of December for Holiday/winter break. In 2020 the main focus will be “Spring batch” and “Fall batch.”

SO HAPPY 4TH AND BLESSINGS TO YOU, HUG THE BETTER HALF, and NOOGIES TO ALL THE KIDS. Thanks for being with us, thanks for helping us celebrate 15 official years (which is huge – any time valid in the music business can be measured in dog years) and – speaking of dog years – here’s a picture of Maggie the Heeler! She thanks you too!

FROM ALL OF US, thank you so much & happy 4th of July!

Birdsong's 15th Anniversary - Almost Here!

Well, well! It’s not just any Friday – next week is Birdsong’s 15th Anniversary! THURSDAY JULY 4th at 12:01 AM (that’s a minute after midnight Wednesday night the 3rd into Thursday the 4th) I’ll be posting the one day only specials, through 11:59 PM on the 4th. Now, this year has been a little different than those before so this Anniversary day is going to be a little different. No big video this year, though I assure you I will be eating pizza with hot sauces and sipping fine frosty beverages on the 4th! And Camera Chris sends his best to all the Birdsong fam. Honestly I’ve been playing catch up and that’s my focus over anything. So no big sale this year, because I’m booked out beyond my comfort zone. I know it’s not nearly what some have as wait time in my line of work but I want things back to 6 to 9 months before I’m going to pile on a bunch of promises. Let me get caught up and then we’ll go crazy again. And, since your orders are my priority, I haven’t taken the time to work on the new model ideas either – just too busy, too blessed, and a little too behind. I did leave room for a few though, more on that in a minute…

Quickly for those who haven’t been following (and it’s sure not the focus of my life, but I do work for you and like to keep you informed), I had a knee revolt against me last fall, got really bad over the winter to where it put me way behind when I could really ease my way back into the rhythm the shop needs around March. I immediately began quoting long on new builds, so there are only a handful of you who really got impacted, especially if it involved one-off custom work from me, and all of those builds are moving along nicely now, as am I - you’ve all been SO good to me - thanks again for your patience with the process. The rest of you, things are going to be a lot closer to the guesstimate I gave you.

And really quickly going forward, to better manage pace & flow of the workshop, 2020 will have a spring batch of orders and a fall batch of orders, with the kind of real-deal, bust-ass, all-in Birdsong workshop mania we’ve all come to love! But that can’t be sustained all year. So I’m taking fewer orders, picking and choosing, and planning on presenting more inventory builds at my own pace. All I can say is, as always, if you want what we do – let’s get you in line and I’ll make sure it’s worth the wait, and I’ll make the process fun. But it’s not fast food. It’s grandma’s home cooking. And grandma’s taking it a little easier on herself these days.

So… all that as it is, what IS happening on THE ACTUAL 4th OF JULY ANNIVERSARY DAY? Tune in and see – and as usual, this is a midnight to midnight deal day, but this year I’m going to have to hold to that. You’ve got all day. Get permission and/or shine up the plastic over the weekend… I’ll be putting up some things I KNOW I can work in at my new pace. Check back RIGHT HERE midnight the 3rd into the 4th – these specials and offerings will be first come, first served.

****

The 15th Anniversary basses will be versions of my own personal Birdsong – something we call an Especial Supremo. A Cortobass/Fusion mix with a German carve, a hand carved scroll horn, and wood lover’s special touches throughout. It sounds like a Fusion, my personal favorite of everything we do – here are some Fusion demos…

My previous personal Birdsong Fusion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtGPqcSYN1I

A big moment from the past - http://www.tagtele.com/videos/voir/26851

And an equally big moment to us - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kzw1eIG_DDw

Beautiful, woody, warm & organic. AND totally carved like a work of art! A couple of build spots have been reserved, I left room for a few more. We can do different wood combos and hardware plating. Claim them now through 11:59 PM July 4th.

****

And lastly… pruning the tree, trimming the garden, these are necessary. I usually do it in December or January and few notice… it’s how we keep the menu – and Birdsong – focused, sized appropriately to what we can serve, and make room for the new. Models that drop aren’t gone forever necessarily, and there are many reasons why they get trimmed. Anyone with existing orders, of course I’m building yours! But mine is a world of six months out, a year out, so if I’m going to stop building something for a bit I have to stop offering it at some point. No worries. As always, any questions, just get in touch.

****

CONTACTING – if you call 512-395-5126 and if you have to leave a message, verbally leave your number for me to call you back. You can PM me through Facebook, but I don’t work that successfully all the time. scott@birdsongguitars.com is the email. On behalf of all the hands, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Have a great weekend, and see you Thursday…

Listening to: Tunes on the new old workshop stereo, yay! Johnny Cash Unchained; Steve Earle Ain’t Ever Satisfied; Aerosmith Rocks; Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers; Skip James Devil Got My Woman; and Slow Heavy Dub vol. 1.

Back in the saddle again!

Quick Friday Update...

Even though it was a crazy week last week, I was all recharged for this one (oh here we go again with the electrical puns)… and bolted into action. It was a little bit of everything week, cutting and gluing and routing and carving and drilling and sanding and finishing, assembly and wiring and stringing and testing and setting up and shipping off. It’s still amazing how much gets done in a week when I look at the spent lists all crossed off. Don’t let the sometimes glacial appearing flow on the builds page fool you. Part of it is there are a LOT of steps between the wood in my hands and the bass in yours. You see pictures of the plateaus but there’s a lot of climbing and listing and doing between them at this level. There are parts of similar model builds that are the same every time but the details are always different too… and honestly some days are for routing a nice easy softer wood and maybe top o’the week I’ll tackle the dense walnut with the ebony… it all factors into the flow. But flow we do, and it all gets done. And it’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

That said, it’s 15 balls-out years for Birdsong and 22 all-in years for me on this path and some changes are coming. More adjustments in pace and output than anything, but the July 4th Anniversary is going to be a bit quieter this year than the nuttiness of years past. Fun, but definitely tamer this year. I’ll talk about that next week – along with the latest hippy soap happening and music news from the shop! Don’t miss it! Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend…

Listening to: In assembly, live early Ramones and some music of the Andes. In the green shop? Sounds of nature outside and tools and work inside. I’ll get out soon and try to find another shop stereo, though. In the words of Leonardo DiBartolomeo (“Lenny the mechanic” in Scott history), “Work without music? Fughedaboudit.”

Grateful and Feeling Very Grounded... You?

According to the old axiom about lightning never striking the same place twice, the Wingfeather Workshop – where the little Birdsongs come from – is now the safest place to be in an electrical storm!

Yeah, yeah – I know it’s bupkis, but I’m going with it for now because our little green shop of wonders is not a skyscraper or cell tower and we don’t have big antennas on the roof. It’s just another of the bazillion little tin roof buildings out in the rural trees of the south. To me the odds are with us, and the fact it didn’t blow the little place sky high is pretty amazing too. Huge scorched racing stripes down the insulation, exit wound outside just under the gutter, splinters impaled in foam insulation, grenaded switches, light fixtures blown off the wall, and… get this… an old land line jack cover popped off with enough force to knock things off my desk… in the assembly shop next to it… speak to the hit it took. From maybe 50 yards away it sounded like a bomb in a cymbal factory.

“Feeling very safe up here at the moment…”

Thankfully, nothing was damaged other than some wiring and outlets etc., and miscellaneous lightbulbs all over the compound. A motion sensor. The shop stereo… that sucks. Overall though, simple fixes. We were, however, knocked back into the dark ages. Power outages during storms out here are routine, but let me tell you, this was one with style! Once I was able to get out and see what happened, I was ready for a week or two without power and making priority lists in my head as candles and other emergency supplies were gathered in one spot. And this… this is where I’m going with this week’s words. Do you even know your neighbors? Do you know where your flashlight is right now? Is it working? Can you cook if the power’s out?

Dig this – my place WAS HIT BY LIGHTNING. Regardless of who you are, what you think, how well you’re doing, what the odds are… that could have been you. That could have been your house. It could have been your neighbor’s house. It could have been your whole apartment building. It could have been your whole area. What would you do? This is what I want you to think about. BAM. No power, potentially for days. Big rain. Are you cold? Are you hot? Are you hungry? You will be. And if you consider yourself the head of a family, there is no excuse not to have some basic preparations aside and plans in place. Water is free, ramen is cheap, fire is easy. Inexpensive camping heaters and cookers and all kinds of stuff is literally at yard sales every weekend. There should be some in everyone’s closet with a few gallons of drinking water and some water to clean with and flush the toilet a few times. Why? Not because you’re worried – so you don’t HAVE to be worried. You know it’s there.

This storm came up in literally 10 minutes and got really hairy and BAM. Not just lights out for a while, but a hit. And not the power line transformer where someone magically shows up to fix it, even way out here (bless those people). You’re fried, buddy. However lucky you are to have a great electrical guy in your circle, it could be more days and dollars than you know until you know the extent. We take a lot for granted in our life of switches and buttons. We live in a precarious world, that’s why you have band-aids. I want you to consider gathering some supplies, skills, and tools, as a bigger box of band-aids for a bigger list of potentials. That’s all it is. Not some TV reality show, not some bunker in Arkansas and camo pants. It’s having a week of dry beans & rice aside and a little camp stove to cook it on. Knowing what to do is a choice – be that person. Being prepared is rarely the wrong answer. I love you folks and I want you all OK and out there playing music!

When the lights go out or things do down, if you’re not dead, it’s merely a test of your systems. Daily life is just a series of systems and there are simple ways of alternatively doing most of them. Out here for us a week or two without power would be a camping trip. A hot one, one full of other ways of getting done what are usually simple daily need tasks, but it’s going to be OK. It’s certainly not going to be life or death just because the power goes out. And it shouldn’t be for you, wherever you are, and it shouldn’t be for your family. In that moment I didn’t know if the rain would stop, how much we got or would get, the condition of the roads or low water crossings going out and away, extent of wiring damage (the 200 amp main was fried), nothing. It went dark, and I had other means. Thankfully the rain did stop, the wiring damage was mostly contained, everything was slowly and methodically tested and powered back up, our neighbors are great, and our handyman friend is an electrical genius. Mid week we were 95% fixed up. I took it as a chance to rearrange, put it back together a bit differently and clean up a bit. By mid-week next week I’ll be routing and carving and shaping again. Just another wild scene in a real trip of a life.

I organized all the wood and let me tell you - we have some interesting pieces, but we’ll get to that. For right now, time to get dusty and continue to work on the shop. And then there are the notes to go over on what plan Bs worked and what weren’t ready, so maybe a trip to the hardware store so I can have those all aside and totally let go of worrying about little – or even moderately sized – what ifs. Life happens; have the band aid.

If you need any advice on being a little more prepared than you might be, feel free to call – no purchase necessary – and I’m completely serious. Call me. It could have been anybody and it could have been much worse. I stand in awe of my little temple having been touched by greater forces. I’d have like to have seen it happen, but as what’s basically a cup of water with hair, that could have gone awry fairly quickly. The energy in there still raises the hair on my arms, and though not positive about it (har, har) I think the instruments in process that got to experience it are going to be extra special. I can just feel it. Thanks everyone!

Listening to: Well, not much unfortunately! But that’s an easy fix. I’m grateful.

Hello Day Crawlies & Goodnight Night Tripper

“Hey, buddy!” They hear it all the time in here. The tiny jumping spiders on the workbenches, the mud daubers flying in & out looking for a quiet corner to build their little adobe storage units, birds nesting in nearby junipers, squirrels peeking in, deer slowly moving through the tree line, harvestmen (“Daddy longlegs”) climbing in the heat of the day to nest in the eaves in bunches like some kind of architectural merkin. Any of the smaller crawlies in harm’s way I move and hope I’m doing the right thing for them… my act of mercy vs. their own fate or destiny. If I’m brought in front of it, I usually feel it’s because the energies of the moment consider me a method for action, the tool for the job, so I use my best judgment and do my best. I mention this and move them aside. I’ve felt it done to me and I’m just passing the favor along as one would share a gift.

Yeah yeah – you might think I’m a different tool altogether. You might be saying “Did this guy ride the short bus?” But I’ll take that – I think any short bus is full of untapped, unrecognized potential - while the kids on the big bus are trying to front more than they actually have. I see life as an extension of the little bit of it I get to use for a while, and that’s how I behave toward it. I walk around webs and give ant mounds warning shots. It’s just the way it is.

Now if something is trying to take a bite out of me, literally or metaphorically… I still have empathy for how difficult their position in life must be to where this is their best option, but with apologies – they’re gone. That’s extreme juice for extreme moments, though. It’s there but I don’t need to lead with that. At all other times I so prefer the harmony that makes for sweeter life and smoother doings.

It’s been quite rainy here, which is a blessing considering how dry it can be – but everything has its price, and there are tons of bugs around this spring. I like my space, so I let them be; I don’t need to conquer anyone but me. It’s muggy and looking to be a hot one too, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it with a smile; I’m at peace out here in the woods, doing my thing just as they’re out here doing theirs. For their own reasons they do their things, and for reasons I’ve dressed up to believe are mine I do this. Or I’ve BEEN dressed to believe are mine. I only know that I don’t know.

I do know I’ve known kill-smush-rage-punch-hate first guys, but – to whatever degree – haven’t known them to be very successful at gardening or anything in life of a process similar. And much of life is a process similar. Their strengths are in other positions, for other tasks. Situations may require a little fang here and there, but I’ve learned you can plant seeds or throw rocks; it’s very difficult to do both and be all that effective at either.

But… what do I know. I’m just a little fuzzy man in a workshop, making basses, talking to the critters. Thanks for sharing this moment. Wish another of any kind well today, and have a great weekend! And as always, fill it full of music wherever possible. I’ll be listening to Dr. John – he has passed. Though any life can be difficult in chapters, the gardens he leaves in his footsteps will continue to bloom forever and seed others. One album of his that has been in steady rotation in the workshop for years is The Sun The Moon & Herbs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l9OqFw6Ops) - I hope it brings something to you. And if it does, please consider offering a gesture of good or safe passage to another, maybe in Dr. John’s honor or as a kind ripple in carrying on the best of those who’ve helped your garden and gone.

Listening to: Skip James Devil Got My Woman (some of the deepest of the delta blues); Joe Henderson So Near So Far (Musings for Miles) (just beautiful jazz with one of my favorites, John Scofield, on guitar); Dr. John The Sun The Moon & Herbs and Dr. John & The Nite Trippers - Landmark Music Festival 2015 from YouTube.

Musings For The Last Day of May

More great progress this week. Pushing the ones in sanding, finishing, and assembly is this batch being routed. Once the wood is prepped, planed, and joined and the body shape is cut out & the edges smoothed, THIS is where it begins. That blank becomes a body – getting locating & through holes, neck pocket, cavities for pickups and controls, and beautiful roundovers to soften the curves. Most of a client’s wait is getting to this stage; this is where the wood transforms from “Wood that’s going to be an instrument” into “An instrument that just isn’t done yet.” A little more contour carving from here and it’s off into sanding & finishing!

Had some wonderful talks with some of you this week. Folks have been getting their basses and I’ve been getting great calls and emails from happy people… a relief since these are clients that have been waiting a long-ass time. When my little slow-down slowed me down there were builds at the end of their wait-in-line time it was about time to start on, and it took a lot longer to do that and work them across the benches. I want everyone happy, of course, but especially you long-haulers who stuck with me.

Because it’s not about me – whether it was 20 years ago or yesterday, I’m just the one who gets to orchestrate the creation of a tool for you. That tool is FOR YOU – to channel your muse, to be your voice, to bring your part to music moments and into those – and the lives – of others. When you pick up an instrument it should be pure inspiration and an extension of you in that moment; it should transcend what it took to get it, transcend you looking at it as a dollar sign. That’s for objects. This is more than that and if I’ve done my job in listening to and reading you, in honing my craft and honoring what has been given to me to work with, in presenting the best of my workshop and the highest of me personally, the time and money shouldn’t be a part of that moment. It should be so overly worthy of them that it’s a non thinking point anymore. And it may seem an intimidating summit to aim for given how much of both it takes to get what I do, but that’s my part of this and it didn’t just happen. It grew to this. I grew to this. And really, the process is a series of well-rehearsed nexts we bring our best to and apply. FOR YOU. Thanks so much! I work for the coolest clients in the world…

***********************************

And hey, on a personal note, I had the privilege of picking a friend up from rehab this week. Listen, there’s no weakness or failure in asking for help when you know you need it and it’s something big. That’s strength and betting on your own survival. If you’re struggling, reach out. Commit to figuring out how you can learn to be OK with yourself… EVERYTHING, ALL the troubles, get a bit easier when you’re looking out from a more balanced perspective. It’s like feeding the tree from the roots – feed there and all the branches, all the leaves, everything gets healthier. You’ve got a friend – call on them. Don’t ever doubt you’re valid and worth saving and cared about, but understand that if YOU don’t feel that way about YOU, it’s time to get a second opinion and some help on that OK? OK. Have a great weekend. Life is good. Watch the sunrise. Feel the rain. Make some music.

Listening to:

Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline; Crosby, Stills & Nash (self titled); a very cool playlist from a rail rider (RanOutOnARail on YouTube); and some Skip James delta blues. And today, Soundgarden Down On The Upside and some live Uriah Heep from their second Austin show this week.