You want to know what goes on behind the scenes? Well, there’s a list every day no matter what else is going on. A list of nexts. And there’s no such thing as not feeling up to it once you’re this far down the path – it’s what you do, it’s who you are. I have to be dead to not make it into the workshop, and thankfully so far that isn’t too often; I love it in there! I get to build musical instruments again today? Oh HELL yes where do I sign on for that! Music playing, woodchips flying, sawdust all over me. That’s just who I am, it’s not a script I wrote, I showed up with all my tools one day and started working and life built this out of me while I was workin’ through it.
In other local workshops whatever I’ve had to delegate since we HAVE crept up on a level of popularity at this point (12 years of great word of mouth and reviews will do that) that is steady devotion to maintain, I know while I’m in the main shop routing and carving and talking with clients, or in the next room finishing and assembling and wiring and stringing, I know other pieces are being cut or sanded by happy craftsman hands; sometimes I can even look out on the deck and there’s Jamie my wife sanding a bass or piece of woodcraft. It’s a great feeling, every day is different, a different combo plate of nexts. But when I sleep I’m tired but not weary ‘cause steps are happening and instruments are progressing.
I go deep when my hands work the wood – I lose track of time and self and it’s just me and creation gettin’ it on. What it takes to keep things rolling and the human life things that need doing make the list too, but when your garden is in perpetual springtime THAT is where the light is and the difficulties aren’t all that hard to deal with. People aren’t that hard to deal with in this headspace either; they’re seeking satisfaction and happiness and you’re trying to help them with that. That’s all. The numbers? Yes, you have to do the homework and keep up and keep one eye on who needs what check from you next. But that’s life man, that’s life whether you’re happy or miserable. To let it MAKE you miserable, to let it steal your dream, I’ve seen it.
Sometimes in here what crops up in my most grateful moments are thoughts about others I tried to hitch into the Birdsong flight path. Here’s the blueprint, mate – it’s not hard and it worked for me. Don’t complicate it and put THAT seed in THIS dirt and LOVE LOVE LOVE it into being every day and something will grow. I think of the ones who let the uncertainties and challenges throw them off the horse before it grew wings. God forbid they just held course and stayed on it. God forbid they learned how to let things go and let things grow, just stay true and devote and aim for their true north and take it one day at a time. I wish they could feel this, feel what it’s like to have inertia and be established, to be trusted and serve those people and have it sustain the craftsman and his life. That takes time to grow, but it’s cultivated like a garden and you can’t wish it was fast food. Dreams don’t work that way. I wish you were here with me now. But you’re not and I can only wish you well and hope something magical finds you again.
But there is a truly great, grateful, stable circle around Birdsong and all else going on these days – the continuing SD Curlee story (more on that soon this month), the trickle of “TexDeco” D’AQUILA builds, the lap steel pile waiting for my attention, the Shortbasses and guitars. Sometimes it’s challenging but Bowie said you should always be a little deeper in the water than where you feel perfectly safe. That’s where the magic is. That’s where I LIVE. That’s been my life and my livelihood for the past 21 years at this point, since I was in a van on the interstate “in-between” as they say in 1995. First day of the rest of my life. First chapter of the book you’re reading as I type these words. It all added up to this – this moment, your instrument coming together in my temple of a workshop. I feel the wood in my hands as it becomes a part of your musical journey. I get to put these pieces together and give them voice; then that voice becomes the way you speak your music into being.
Now all of this can be a bit intense, some would say manic, but to me it’s normal and it’s a happy manic. It has its moments but it never turns into a bad trip. Even the raniest day brings light and depth and shadow I’m glad to see. Much of it is in the shape of guitars and basses to be. As Captain of the ship I keep an eye on my health, this is how I maintain my energy level. For me that includes a vegetarian diet, daily doses of vitamin C, a bit of reverent daily practice for the mind – body – soul in the morning blue zone, and the vibrational and aroma-therapy of backroads blasts in a ratty old Roadrunner named Sarge. Your mileage may vary, but we all have our talismans and rituals. They frame a path nicely if you find the ones that work for the picture you’d like to see.
And it all comes down to the soundtrack – My favorites? For quiet chisel carving it’s got to be Spanish guitar music, usually the album of that name by John Williams or some Segovia. Routing? That’s noisy and more physical, so ‘70s Aerosmith is great. Jerry Cantrell’s Boggy Depot album has long been in the stack. Allman Brothers music is great too. For all other workshop bare-wood stuff it’s hard to beat some good Dead, Delta blues like Lightning Hopkins or Fred McDowell, dub reggae or John Scofield. Assembly & wiring? Definitely jazz, incense burning, maybe listening to a music documentary or interviews. It’s all ceremony, you know.
Speaking of music, getting ready to post May’s album of the month to listen to or download. More about that next week! Still on track to release an album a month all this year, maybe even beyond. For more details on the albums and where to find what’s already up, go to www.sbeckwith.com. I’m out – have a great weekend and thanks SO MUCH for being a part of my life, even if we have never spoken.
Listening to: Bob Seger - The Distance; Eric Dahlman - Glacier; live “Jerry and the envelope filter-era” Grateful Dead.