Your Gnome is Busy as a Keebler Elf

Well it’s official – it’s been on my mind since February but now I am convinced – Birdsong is booked for the year. I’ll still be taking orders, but they’re for 2019. This is looking like the last weekend to get in line for a bass I might be able to get out by Christmas. Call, we’ll dream up a dreambass together, and I’ll put an 18 on the front of your serial number on anything but a fancy Artist. But it will be in pencil, not ink, on the order sheet. I’ll make it worth it, but that’s the state of wait right now. Also, I’m not taking further orders for the Shortbass right now; I’ll slip them into inventory as I can. So grateful to be so busy! Thank you all! I wish I could clone myself and build twice as many – but I tried years ago and that didn’t work. What’s been great is the recent percentage of clients I work for that say “You’re the craftsman, I want what you do, I want the full experience and it takes what it takes. I’m in.” NOT every builder or company gets that on a regular basis… I get that from most of you. I guess that comes with trust and time in. I’m honored; believe me I know 10 months is a wait, but believe me also I’m in here working my butt off and so grateful for the work and to get to do this. Birdsong has been my living since the day we launched as a legitimate little company in 2004. As soon as it looked like water I handed off my students, handshook away my share of a music shop, hung up my stage boots, and dove into the deep end with no water wings. We’re still not fast food – clearly – so that weeds out some. At least until I sneak something up onto the inventory page, which will be happening throughout the year, then they go… unless the calls that start, “What do you have that’s in process you haven’t put up yet?” also continue to grow. Then they just appear on the builds page as orders. I’ll do my best to keep the inventory page interesting this year while I’m at it!

Truth is, a Birdsong can’t be made any faster than the time it takes to work it through the hands and across the benches. There’s no lever on the big machine to set to seven and a half instead of six and hope it holds together. That would be me. I’m the big machine, LOL. The only way to make more happen is to put in more hours, and the only way to cut the lead time (the line waiting out the door) would be to put out something less people want. I don’t see those happening as there are only so many hours to use and, well, there’s been a line since 2004. Thankfully not the same people still waiting, ha! We do keep things humming in here at a very productive pace – but a balanced, healthy productive pace. It’s how our best work goes out to make you the happiest.

Our worlds are different. You order one bass and wait. In here, though it’s just as important and individual to me, and that goes for you as well, there are many waiting their turn – their next steps – and that is what I do, those next steps. I don’t build basses so much as perform nexts. Edge these, rout this, shave that neck to fit and put side dots in over here… put in the parts order, check the stock of cases, and put the next oil coat on the ones hanging by the finishing bench. Don’t forget to drink some water, and make notes to build tomorrow’s list. That list is actually part of a bigger one, like link to chain, that has no end so long as I am here, and the hours are many, lost in the task, in the moment.

They again become whole instruments to me when the neck is shaved and fit and mounted into the body. That serial number, this person, this bass. But I just work with wood and parts – the process happens and the basses come together. The result is a bass but I have only seen small tasks along the way. One of the most common questions is “How long would it take to make one if you did it from start to finish?” I only guesstimate for them, because that’s how you do it as a hobby with no backlog or time concept or plan for the next handful. And it hasn’t been that way for decades, and the man and craftsman I was then was certainly  not what those years have built ME into. So this guy? Right here? He has no idea because that’s not how he works… but it seems like such a simple question. And it is when you think of one instrument.

I don’t think in one of anything, except my wife. If I like something I surround myself with it en multiplata until it becomes the very walls of my temple to it. So I got into this to help manifest tools of music, not to build one. I’m arming the world! Tiny numbers compared to a factory, sure; but that is not the world I live or the position I’ve been given to play. I’m spending myself given all I can accomplish in THIS context. I’d take a crack at running Gibson but that’s mostly an irrational lack of fear; I wouldn’t know what to do in the board meeting expect tell the truth as I see it, simplify concepts into doable plans with lists of nexts, and send dead weight over the sides. Which seems to be the antithesis of how big companies run. So I’m probably where I belong. Right here, right now, in a small green workshop deep in the woods, with Van Morrison’s Moondance album playing and birdies nesting up high above the lights, the tools of grandfathers in my hands and the dreams of some great people about their basses in my heart, still living and breathing music and its magic, knowing this is what I am serving and arming and assisting, grateful for the opportunity to be of service doing something I love, very comfortable with the next task at hand and whatever is to come of all this.

I can’t thank you enough, so given the chance I’ll just build you a bass – that will say it all and carry all of our gratitudes to you for life. There’s a wait to be seated and it takes time to be served, but the home cookin’ is worth it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Listening to: Van Morrison Moondance; Semisonic Feeling Strangely Fine; Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet; Paul Desmond Feeling Blue (1996).