JUST THINKIN'

NEW models & announcements
BIG sale on inventory and special orders
MORE basses in inventory – in process AND READY
SPECIAL Anniversary basses – READY
AND videos

COMING Saturday July 1st at 12:01 AM RIGHT HERE on the news page! It's Birdsong's 13th Anniversary!

I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since Birdsong “officially” launched on July 4th 2004. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely feel like we’ve built somewhere over 800 instruments, moved the shop 3 times, and grown into something. It just seems like all of that was packed into three or four years. 13? Amazing. You know what they say about time flying. And get this – it’s been 17 since the first Birdsong brand guitar was made by yours truly in the back corner of a friend’s workshop. It’s been 20 since I cut my first body out – sawdust and sore arms being the threshold where we graduate into something more than an assembler, and when this journey of design and craft began to walk ME. That was 1997.

I started tinkering with my guitars in about 1987 – that’s 30 years. I started playing in 1982. Music has been my life, through many chapters of both they entwined like the fibers of a rope; never did I doubt it would lead me somewhere and take care of me if I offered it all I was and all my faith, and tried my best to use all I was at any given time. Just about everyone in my life now came to me – or me to them – through this path of music. The Birdsong experience has been, though manifesting as wood and wire, curves and balance, tools of tonal vibration, more than anything a journey of people. It has been a great honor to work for you all, even those just interested who watch – you’re family too. And it has been a high blessing to have worked with those who helped out along the way. The absolute most sacred relationship, however, has been to be able to honor my teachers and continue good work in their stead, sometimes with their tools. In the case of the little building I write these words in now, even in their very workshop torn down and rebuilt here, where the instruments we craft get their final assembly.

There are a lot lesser men to add up to than whatever I can contain and work forward of the greatness of my mentors. I don’t know how it happened but I am a tireless soldier crafting tools of creation in their honor as ripples outward from them through me. Wood becomes instruments. Their woodcraft is now in my luthierie. Paths intertwine. Lives intersect. It all changes as we go and we change as it goes. It happens through us, and we through it. I just know I grew through the growing of this garden. Somehow I was given the gifts, shown the path, surrounded by angels, and with borrowed tools and some new ideas, magic happened… and still does every day. I feel the miles but I feel THAT so much more. I had no idea where that kid with the B.C Rich guitar would end up and I’m very grateful we wound up here. It was a long, strange trip that could fill a book and maybe even inspire more people than the basses. But here we are, and I look forward to carving these things out until I pitch off the workshop stool. To be the guy that takes part in the making of musical instruments for you is more than I ever imagined I could do, or offer, or be. Thank you for this journey.

THIS is what makes a Birdsong, and this is what Birdsong makes. 

Tune in SATURDAY July 1st, RIGHT HERE

Listening to: Temples Sun Structures; Bruce Springsteen autobiography audiobook read by the author; lots of live Grateful Dead.
 

Anniverse Approacheth!

ANY QUESTIONS? Life, luthiery, Birdsong history, anything else you’d like answered in videos? Send them to me: scott@birdsongguitars.com or PM them to me on Facebook. Just be sure you let me know they’re for video discussion or I’ll just answer them right away like I usually do, and though it makes me happy to know you had a question and I was able to help you with it, that WOULD defeat the purpose of asking for questions to be answered in a video for the upcoming 13th Anniversary weekend July 1st!

Yes, we are closing in on the 13th Anniversary weekend, starting Saturday March 1st this year (since the 4th is on a Tuesday). It’s almost time to announce some fun stuff… and the anniversary announcements video this year should be a real hoot!

One thing that happens on July 4th (again, the 1st this year) is announcing the new model into the Birdsong line. For 2017 it’s the completion of a circle, something I’ve wanted to work up since the beginning, something I’ve tried to work up for others, something I finally said “Well F this, I’ll just do it - it's time!” and it worked AMAZINGLY well. I knew it would work, it’s so obvious, it’s such a natural thing… but it’s magical. You’ll see it shortly; I’ve been jamming on it for the past two weeks already. Now, for a new model to have some breathing room, it’s time to prune the garden. 

There is only so much menu a small workshop can service. There will always be Cortobasses and Fusions, etc., the mainstays. But other side menu items that needed to happen and did, or sprung up on their own and had their day, these come and go. It keeps it fresh and keeps it fun. Very few are ever gone for good; if you called tomorrow and said “I need a Skyrider with Odyssey horns and Corto3 pickups built like a fretless Mesquito” I’d probably dust off the old templates, open up the build notes and do it up. But the reality is there may be a handful who even know what that would be, and it’s certainly not going to be the new model I’ll be showing in 2 weeks. 

Point being if all of that was still on the menu it would be ponderous. I like having (to use the food analogy again) 6 or 7 main offerings and a few side surprises. If one you love and lust after pops off the radar, just make note of it and I’ll build it for you when the time is right for you to place an order. There was nothing wrong with it (it wouldn’t have been offered in the first place if that were the case), we don’t hate it, it’s just not getting enough play to stay actively on the menu with new models happening. 

Speaking of which, I have a metric crap ton of work to do so I need to stop wearing my right index finger (my typing finger, which I swear is a good 25 to 30% more muscular looking than my left, which only hits the shift key, after typing endless amounts of updates over the past thirteen years) down to a nub and put it to work putting together these anniversary basses!

Well there's a clue! Walnut bodies, maple necks, black hardware, and a variety of models - even Shortbasses! Let's see what the 13th Anniversary basses look like NEXT week, shall we? What?... the new model? Mmmm... no. No clues. Maybe next week! Stay tuned.

Ta ta for now!


Listening to: Boyd Rivers You Can't Make Me Doubt; Jack Owens; Bruce Springsteen autobiography audiobook, read by Bruce himself.
 

Coming up on the Birdsong Anniversary

Well well, we are here in an amazing time that happens every year. I am very very grateful for the luck I’ve had with this whole guitar and bass building thing; some may say it’s all luck, but no – I’ve never worked harder or risked more than I have the past 13 years. Some would say there’s no such thing as luck – well, no to that too - one could easily work this hard, make all the right moves, never stumble and get hit by a bus anyways. Or get taken out by a flood. Or have their hands stop working. So I’m very lucky but very grateful – July 4th marks 13 “Official” years of Birdsong as a real little company with its own workshop, website, and cosmic marching orders to fill the world with its own comfy little basses that sound big and honor the wood… and somehow life would fall into place behind that. 

This is the time of year we introduce a new model, offer some special “Anniversary” builds, and do a big sale. Never wanting to be the “Ha ha, you should’ve waited ‘til today for the sale price, thphphphp!!!” guy, as we approach the OFFICIAL weekend celebration, if you know what you want already the sale is officially on so you don’t have to wait. Oh you’ll have to wait for the announcements and new stuff, but if your heart is set on an all blonde Sadhana with gold hardware or a standard Cortobass or what have you, or something's gone up on the inventory page that's "The one", just call now. 13% OFF and FREE SHIPPING in the continental US through July 4th.

The scheduling is weird this year with the 4th being on a Tuesday, so the actual big announcements are happening at midnight coming into Saturday the 1st on the news page, with the big stuff happening Sat & Sun the 1st & 2nd. I’ll run the sale through Tuesday the 4th and who knows – there might be a last minute surprise on the actual 4th too. 

MEANWHILE, there is a lot to tell you and it’s time to spill a few beans! Not tipping the whole pot, mind you, just a few beans as we go. The Anniversary builds this year are a particular “visual” applied to a selection of models. A couple of years ago I made a bass with a look that I found particularly striking and filed it away in my head for future use. Now is that future – seven basses are in process including some Shortbasses (“Shortbi?”) – you might see your favorite model. Here are six of them just before sanding. So the first clue, the bodies are walnut! Another bean for you... right now there are a buh-huuunch of beautiful all-maple necks hanging in finishing...

I’m hoping to have all seven READY TO GO for that weekend, headstock backs signed by Scott and Jamie. And hey – the info is out now, they’re fair game as of NOW at sale pricing – call for model details & pricing – you don’t have to wait for the Anniversary weekend to claim one! You DO have to wait for it to see them all together, to hear about the new model and see that, hear about the rest of the news and see any surprises that may come up, see the videos, and be a part of any lunacy over on the Facebook page where I’ll be going back and forth with you all ALL weekend! WhatWHAAAAAT??? You’re not friends or following Birdsong Guitars on Facebook? Got to take care of that, we post fun stuff! It’s worth it just for the “Throwback Thursday” posts alone. 

So we’re in high gear here in the little workshop in the woods, and every day is exciting, and every day we’re grateful… but never so exciting or more grateful as the weeks heading up to an Anniversary weekend! Thank you for the opportunity to work with the wood and to serve through music, my friends. Stay tuned, FUN STUFF COMING UP!

Listening to: Aerosmith Rocks; Mississippi Fred McDowell I Do Not Play No Rock And Roll; Marc Maron WTF podcast with Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; Dave Brubeck Trio – Berlin 11-4-72; Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot. 
 

We Watch Where It Goes!

Each of us is a re-distribution station for whatever comes our way – inspiration, funds, energies positive and otherwise, our stuff. We work toward its coming and watch it come and think we keep some but we don’t. Even while in our lives these change or are exchanged into different things. They come, they go – sometimes in amounts or sizes different how they arrived. Ideally we get to decide what much of it re-forms into and where most of this flows to from our station on its journey. 

Success (whatever that means to anyone) often times means another zero is added to what arrives, though it’s often there on what goes out too! I remember our first parts orders in 2004 seemed big – who orders two hundred dollars worth of pots and screws and pickup surrounds? Ha! In 2017 I don’t even make a call yet if that’s all. That’s barely even a list. I decide what those parts become on their way through our hands and outward to you, and I also decide which company gets that amount of funds from us – a resource that came here to our hands from yours. 

Much like in person to person dealings I mostly decide by performance, loyalty, and how I am treated – with a bit of consideration for stability. If every dollar is a vote, and it is, I vote for those. It’s rarely price; I’ll pay whatever it costs for consistent good work, same as I’ll pay whatever is required for a part I know is going to be top grade, packed well and shipped to the right address. Flip side of that coin? I don’t care what kind of deal I’m offered, I don’t cast seed entrusted to me by life and the river and you deliberately onto some big parking lot just because it’s convenient. Our daily dollar votes deserve more respect than to just dish them out to people who drop our balls or don’t return the calls. I wish everybody well but those companies won’t get my votes and there are people who will never again get the good ol’ Scott crinkly handshake; they’ve told me in other words “I don’t need it.” "OK."

The resources you flow our way by choice for your custom bass or guitar help very cool people feed their families through their service – even at the companies we deal with I‘ve known people by name for years, sometimes decades - and a portion also goes where good things need to happen and no exchange is necessary. This is “Freddie Provologne”, the mystery man who burns the logos in the headstocks. There have only been two to put the feather on the headstock of a Birdsong, and the first ten years it was me.

The Birdsong timeline math gets confusing; Birdsong was one guy in the corner of someone else’s workshop from 2000 to 2004 when we then officially launched with the website, so this year is the “Official” 13th Anniversary; we’ll get into that next week. Point is, this guy’s a good man, a family man, and we’ve been working off of a handshake for seven years now. That’s not his real name, or his nickname (everybody gets a nickname); he’s got all the work he wants and he basically just kind of fits me in. He’s rock solid and I enjoy paying him because I know the man and know what it contributes to and if I get to choose – and I do - I vote for this guy. It feels good to have choice and choose; to know where it goes.
 
And I think that’s the core of it all – it comes and it goes in this world. From the penny to the life to all of our stuff. We don’t really “have” any of it, just hold it for a time. Doing what needs doing with some thought and some heart as to what goes in to what goes out, and where it goes, what gardens we help seed as we walk on our own way… feeling good about that goes a long way to being at peace with everything. Thank YOU for voting for us with your time, and if we have had the pleasure of putting an instrument into your hands, for the exchange; know we respect every bit and are conscientious with where it flows from here!   

We’re entering into a special month for us and our little guitar company-that-could; if you’re not hooked in with us on Facebook, please do – and stay tuned here because next Friday I’m going to start talking about the 13th Anniversary blowout! I’m not saying I’ll spill the beans, but I’ll definitely tilt the pot a little. 

Have a great weekend!

Listening to: R.L. Burnside Too Bad Jim; Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet; Louisiana Red Sings The Blues; plus a variety of reggae and my favorite online station SomaFM.com – check out Suburbs Of Goa
 

Service, Sacrifice, and Your Song

(I don't generally monetize Memorial Day, so there's no big sale this weekend except if you're a veteran past or present or a first responder of any kind - then it's 10% off anything you want all weekend - and thank you for your service! ~Scott)

I’m going to make note of this to lead off for a quick paragraph and then we’ll move along to the magic smiley birds singing in the woods place that life is most of the time, or at least more often than not. Austin lost one of its premier singer-songwriters this week, a man I never really got into but many did and he worked the kind of magic healing a good songwriter can do for them for about 30 years in this scene. He saw the end coming and faced it like a man in control of how he wanted to live, which includes the dignity in which he wished to depart. Jimmy LaFave, you were a brave man. Look him up, people. And if you wonder why I run myself so hard, why I live and breathe what I do and try to write and post in the hopes it encourages YOU to do the same… a youthful eye may catch a fleeting glimpse of the glimmer off the scythe, or sense the hooded shadow over in the corner; but the longer you ride the closer he gets. The colder his breath on your heels becomes. The ranks of your kind thin out and you become ever more aware that son of a bitch is just making his way through the crowd to you. So sing your song to the world, brothers and sisters! This is not a dress rehearsal and you will carry these days for the rest of your life – make them worth keeping. 

The magic rolls on out here in the little green workshop in the woods – I’m starting to write this on Wednesday actually, the 24th – which is the 2 year anniversary of “The morning after” here in our little town of Wimberley, Texas. The 2015 Memorial Day flood changed many lives. I view what I do (aside from the business aspect or as a maker & seller of tools that happen to be musical) from a perspective of service to your spirit. If I craft this tool and it inspires you, and you create with it, and share that, and that makes others feel better and inspired too… you can see the ripples that are now possible, the potential in all of that. This is my position on the field; the orders I felt handed years ago. THIS is what I do, help those ripples by helping the music happen - it just happened to form in wood and wire as with others it was their words and music, or through the building of a house or in the flow of the paperwork… ideally we all help something good to happen somehow by what we do.

(To convey this moment, as I’m typing at about 9AM a helicopter flew overhead and I felt chills – other than power and closed roads we weren’t directly personally affected by the flood but two years later in my mind every helicopter up there is still a search & rescue and it’s that morning again…)

Well, there is one plank from one of the many huge cypress trees that were lost from the banks of the Blanco River two years ago – taken with so much else - that is now well on its way to being tools of  music and harmony, groove and communion, inspiration and healing! The tree may be no more but its seeds, now very different, will spread once more – outward into waiting hands who will then seed with notes and song further than any of us – the tree, the man who saved and milled it, our hands here – could have ever imagined. There will be woodcraft made from the scraps. Little bags of shavings will be part of ceremonies. Nothing will be wasted… now view life as that tree, our time here, the impact we have on others, our potential. Our potential to help the potentials. We have a time and we have a tree of “what we have to work with” brought to our “now” by what has happened along our path; what has been, what has come and gone in our lives. Here now this morning that is who we are and this is what we have. The big issue is not what was or what is not, but what will we make of what is now? From this day forward? How will we turn this around by offering our best in service? 

On behalf of all in our circle we thank you for being here, wish you a safe and harmonious Memorial day weekend, and ask that you please keep those who served and sacrificed not just in your hearts, but in your lives as well. Tell their stories. Do impressions of their funny quirks. Say their sayings. Play their favorites and repeat their jokes. Savor a bite of food or a cold beverage enough for them too. Have a moment. Leave a peelout mark at a stop sign in their honor - and as a single finger flag of defiance at whatever is chasing you down behind you. Let that bastard have to catch you first. Make some good ripples in a hero's name. You’re still here… put on some music and go make something happen. 

Listening to: Soundgarden Superunknown; Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy; Doug Raney Back In New York City; some Augustus Pablo, John Scofield, and then Tom Verlaine Warm and Cool which I think I'm going to go deep with and have on all weekend.
 

The Music That Keeps It Going

Something's new in inventory today! Happy Friday... we need to talk music and life.

Most of the time there’s music playing while the wood is worked into instruments. For probably ten years I’ve been noting in or under the Friday news page updates what we’ve been listening to and it’s all over the place. Some music is great to have on for whatever the hands are doing because it’s a perfect soundtrack to life, like Miles Davis Kind Of Blue. It transcends context – if you’re breathing, it’s good. Or classical guitar music like Segovia or John Williams Spanish Guitar Music – this is perfect workshop working-the-wood-to music. Other stuff is better for certain moments. For a long time my standby when I just need one more little blast of git-er-done flowing has been Zen Guerilla Trance States In Tongues. But I’m not going to carve a scroll to that; that’s way more long Grateful Dead jam or Delta Blues. Jack Owens. Mississippi Fred McDowell. 

Last week I hit a peak of a segue I don’t think has equal in the world outside of what used to happen on free-form overnight college radio or some of the sets I spun on my late slot on pirate station KIND back in 2000. The previous day I finished up the to-do list to Pavarotti – always good for adding an epic, taking the victory kind of vibe in the air. But that day? THAT day?? Motorhead Ace Of Spades > Aretha Franklin singing Gospel > Frank Zappa. There ya go. 

If that isn’t a triangle of opposites I don’t know what is. But context is everything; I was working a bigger batch than I usually do together and on the home stretch routing & rounding over, and I’d gone beyond what Pavarotti could inspire. So in went Motorhead. Then Aretha sang spirituals to gather the sawdust to after working on basses being made from Wimberley flood of 2015 cypress. It’s sacred wood to me and I’m going to offer some back to the river once I have made everything beautiful I can from the plank I got. After that it was a stack of basses to drill out on ol’ Uncle Johnny’s drill press... neck mounting holes & washer countersink, string through body holes, and ferrule countersinks around back. What can I say, Frank Zappa is fantastic music to drill holes in things to.

It would be impossible to write about the music listened to in the shop without mentioning and mourning the passing of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell this week. It is difficult to know what the reality is for someone deciding this was his best option, though that doesn’t stop today’s keypad pundits from pontificating on it just like they do everything else, in remedial third grade grammar and with all the tact of a turd in a punchbowl. I don’t need an answer, it’s none of my business. I’m just sad he’s gone. I’m sad for his family, friends, bandmates, and millions of fans. He was a middle aged man and, no matter how well things are or how you arrive there, that can come with some realizations and challenges that are difficult to describe and can weigh heavy.

Whatever he knew that others did not, whatever he carried as his own, however he arrived to where the music and love and promise of the sunrise would no longer carry him through, I thank the soul we knew from whatever distance as Chris Cornell for having spent himself on the amazing legacy of voice and song and philanthropy that must now sing in his stead as ripples outward. Please – whoever you are - if you’re down, talk to someone. And not to a bunch of  borderline sociopaths in a public message board; get someone sensible on the phone! Connect. Heck, call ME. And if you’re an artist and thus perpetually hovering halfway there to begin with, go find a way to pour it into your medium and release it to the world. Your therapeutic release is probably somebody’s medicine… and that helps it feel really really good to be alive, and that might just carry you so much farther than you ever thought was possible, to somewhere you can be and be OK. 

Much love & music to you all,

Listening to: Soundgarden Superunknown; Adam and The Ants Kings Of The Wild Frontier; Tom Verlaine Warm and Cool; Tom Waits Bone Machine; Johnny Cash American Recordings.

What Comes Through...

(Slippin' one in here on a Thursday for you...)

Terroir is a French word, or at least it sounds French because I’m just making this up as I go and my mouth simply won’t curve around the last syllable adequately. “Terr-wah. Teaggghhrrr-eeeuuaaauuhhh…” I just can’t do it. But it’s a beautiful word meaning that of the surrounding terrain and its climate which somehow ends up identifiably within wine of a certain region. The trained palate can name and even identify these subtle nuances; the rest of us just taste that wine A is different from wine B and accept that this might be part of why among other things like the blending, purity and process. Well… most of the rest of us. Some with no taste, gulping it on ice with a splash of fruit juice with their hot dogs and yellow table mustard will be spouting “Meh, it’s all the same, that’s all just a myth.” No, they’ve simply left no room for it to be in their world. To be tasted in that stew it’s got to be black or white or it doesn’t even exist; you’re not going to smell the centerpiece at the baked bean dinner. In truth though, terroir exists, sommoliers exist, and subtle nuances can bring so much.

Though I never lick a piece of wood to identify it and think, “Mmmm earthy, licorice, coffee grounds, a hint of old attic newspaper…” I DO listen to the first notes of an instrument as it first sings in here and say “Yeah man, that wood with these pickups always does that dance they do, needs a hair more bridge pickup to balance, there’s the snap in the upper mids that fingerboard wood brings, I can feel that E in my belly – this whole thing’s alive again.” I live in a world of subtle nuances; work in a bunch of those in little layers and suddenly there’s tangible difference – an evident betterness, if you will. Now there’s a name for a psychedelic band… The Evident Betterness. But seriously, you stack the subtleties and tiny improvements and single digit performance enhancements and they all add up. If one of those stackings carries a bit from the surroundings and area where the magic of manifestation is happening, there’s your terroir. And an instrument swings when it has character, so one could truly say “I got your terroir right here pal, swingin.” That would be rather crass, however, so we shall refrain.

We’re way out in rural Texas. Not quite as way out as it was twenty five years ago with folks breeding like locusts and everybody wanting a piece of no man’s land, but still more wild west than not. And for a half-Italian suburban kid from Boston who first arrived out here not knowing one end of a tool from the other and with no real plan but to live off of music, this area has been very good to me. Sometimes that meant there was a thriving songwriter scene, other times it meant it fed my soul with the natural rustic beauty of land I could plant myself in like a seed to regerminate. Still other times it meant the place didn’t kill me. I have been down here more of my life than I have not, and its ways have worked themselves into me in layers as it all happened. It’s in everything I do; certainly in everything that comes out of the workshop.

On a Birdsong, the top of the headstock is the top of the Alamo. The logo is a feather symbolizing freedom and connection to the land; there’s one inked on my right arm. We are one. The carved arrowhead truss rod cover speaks to the depth of spirit one finds in formerly unformally settled spots – the previous caretakers of this little patch of planet. Some instruments – the D’AQUILAs and some Texas Lap Steels – have a pearl star on them. This is the Lone Star and the pearl is a tip of the hat to the pearl snap shirts the old timers around here used to wear. Texas woods are some of my favorite to build with – some are so local we go right to the rural mill or to some guy’s chainsaw milled stack that’s been drying in his yard for ten years. Some of these builds even start with a chainsaw of my own! 

Mesquite, spalted pecan, cypress, escarpment cherry; these have been used as main woods for entire bodies and like all woods in the build impart their particular resonance and tonal gifts… but even more than that, their story. This place’s history. The generations of beings who have used this particular tree as home, food, shelter, and shade have all left their mark – and as in us some you see and some you don’t. But you can tell by character what was coddled in controlled safety and what had to do some growing in the wild. It’s in there; it’s in their way. It’s part of what they became and it’s in the song they sing.    

Sing it to the world,

Listening to: Luciano Pavarotti The Best, disc 1; Augustus Pablo East Of The River Nile; Brazilica Lounge, one of these great box sets of themed groovy music I used to be able to pick up at Hastings before they went bye-bye; and a compilation of Brewer Phillips stuff, he was the rhythm guitarist in the Houserockers backing up Hound Dog Taylor. You’re talking Chicago-style blues but well done way on the raw side. Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace; Frank Zappa Road Tapes, live in Finland 1973, disc 1. Quite a variety, I know! I'm a very lucky man.