the first day of the rest of my life

Coming up is a very important day for me – April 1st. Way more than pranks and goofiness (that’s every day in my world), it’s the day one man’s whole life changed from what had been and had been spent and salvaged and used of that to build life to that point – to another, very different climb for a changed man with an old van and a new plan. April 1st is the day I handed over the key to The Music Shop on W. Emerson St. in Melrose, MA – truly what became the first day of the rest of my life.

It had been a confusing time for me of finding my way through my early and mid 20s, figuring out what I added up to that I could become and grow into, and learning to trust and follow that deep inside instinct saying “yeah, do that – go there” that others around me, hoping for the immediate results of one-step games, really didn’t understand. I knew if I did THIS, something would happen and I’d then ride THAT. While this was all going on, the little music shop became magic – the changes in some of the folks who got lessons there, the kids who I shared what I could of my late 20s coming-out-of-the-fog advice with… some of them who figured out I spent a lot of time there after hours would even prank call me and bring me food, bless them. It meant the world to me.

Through starting a scene in Melrose – let me rephrase that – through providing a place where the components of the scene could come together, find each other, and grow together, forming bands and learning and being exposed to new music, there came a garden there that fed. The community, those who were a part of it in some way, those involved in THEIR ripples, all since a part of what it has been in more recent years, and lastly… me. It fed me, it seeded my dreams, customers gave me little trinkets and a few tools I still have and use, and I will never forget the acceptance the young people gave me.

I did not get that in my first go-around in that city when I was their age; but I brought music, the most sacred thing to me, I carried that back there during the crossroads of my life and planted it like a flag. THIS is what’s happening, and it’s happening HERE and it’s happening NOW and it MEANS something. I brought that, put up a pirate flag as an open sign and sold all kinds of music stuff from albums to amps, CDs to guitars, strings to memorabilia. Most used and all priced to go and labeled with a sense of humor. And while I tried to serve everyone that came through the old wood door with the blues brother poster in the window as best I could whatever they needed, they helped me find my path.

It was where I built my first guitar – and the first short scale bass design I came up with. And it was there just by doing this guitar building thing on the side as kind of a nifty thing to do and to express things in a new artistic way through form and craft, I stumbled onto – and into – the very trade I would a few years later gamble everything on. That this was my path onward. That this was my dharma and destiny. That this was the next chapter all of THAT had added up to and ITS tools could build. It all really started rolling there.

The music shop in Melrose was also the first thing that really worked in my adult life, and a big lesson in learning how to jump off of something like that to pursue your life to its next level. It got you what it got you – now to use those things as tools you leave it for the next base camp. And I did just that – waiting for me was a ’73 Ford box van named Blue Moon I had been having mechanically gone through at Lenny the mechanic’s like the guy with the boat in his backyard getting fixed up to someday sail off for adventure. Well my someday came that April 1st. One of many – and the key to the others – that came since. I had just executed a chess move.

I’m no chess player, but it is won by strategy and several moves. It’s not a lottery. It’s not a light switch. It’s a series of decisions in layers that step up. At 50 I see life this way; in my 20s before that shop, I did not. Blue Moon, in all its freshly purple shag carpeted glory, would be my home for a bit, but that’s another chapter of another story. After what felt like hundreds of goodbyes and good lucks, some of which cut very deep, I drove away down the highway. When destiny calls, you go. April 1st, 2000. Big, big day.

The people who own it now have no idea who I am and that’s fine. I don’t do things to get engraved memorial plaques. But I do leave a message on their machine for every single April 1st, usually a celebratory second Laphroiag in, wishing blessings on the little shop and its owners and all who it helps out. It sure helped me out. Sometimes when you feel lost and empty, aim for something big – you have nothing to lose and it might be an entire tool kit and education package for a new life.

Listening To: Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Safe As Milk; Semisonic – Feeling Strangely Fine.

Art In The Workshop

(Same number, but I have a new phone. Yes it’s another flip phone, probably the last in the known universe. What can I say - It’s how I roll. If you left a voice message in the last day or two and didn’t get a call back, you were lost in the process of technical transition. My apologies, please call again! ALSO – is there anyone who ordered a signed copy of my book A Craftsman’s Path directly from me and has not received it? My brain is telling me I missed somebody, but I don’t think I did. 512-395-5126, calls only, I don’t text. Thanks! ~Scott)

There is art in the workshop.

There is art in the workshop. Not solely in the craft from past sketches of a model, or the instrument’s potential to inspire and help create - there inside it as if some sort of seed. Sure, there’s art in the craft of what happens here on many layers and in the many layers of the dreaming and the doing. These are songs in their own way, just manifesting into the world a little differently. But within that manifesting, other than in the craft of the creation, other art happens.

And though crafting pieces of wood into instruments-to-be, out deep in the quiet woods on the first day of spring with the sun shining and windows open and Stephen Stills playing is a moment, it’s not the art of living – the art of moments - I’m referring to either. Though that definitely resonates within as well…

I live in a day to day life of colors and grains, textures and patterns already there in the tree; I get to help those as deliberate act join and become something else, brought together to vibrate in harmony. But there are, all around me, inadvertently forming like order from chaos (albeit somewhat controlled, joyous chaos), lines and curves of process that merely – much like the grain inside the tree – need to be noticed. If they are never seen it does not diminish them in any way; they just “are”… it’s not up to whether we see it or not for them to “be” anything. They are and this happens; we either awaken to it and participate or don’t.

Parts are stacked in sunlight, the curves of their contours intersecting with not only the straight joined cuts a part of them, but with the rough cedar post of the shop, the flat surface they rest on temporarily, the other parts’ curves, the space between and the window frame and the opaque beyond. What comes in with the view outward. This is the art of which we talk today – the patterns and shapes that happen in the doing as tools and chips and shadows become and change. It is constantly around me in this space – in all spaces really but in this one more so than all the others – at times to the point of distraction, where I have to continue my eyes on to the waiting task to keep going – when I ask myself if perhaps these moments are the true results, however fleeting, and all of this just a dance for them to happen, a ceremony for their conjuring - that what you or I get out of it are merely ancillary.

I don’t know your life but I hope it’s there and I hope you see it and I hope it fills you with a wonder you weren’t aware you were lacking – that’s what it does for me in here as we do this dance. And every now and then, part of the ritual is to… capture the instant. Sometimes in picture, sometimes in words, sometimes in music, sometimes in wood and wire. To slice the happening to show its artful essence. All songs, as are we. As part of greater symphony. I am most grateful for this moment where you and me - by this chance and circumstance again come together to sing our songs in harmony.

Thank you for your time and attention… have a wonder-full weekend.

Listening to: John Scofield Trio EnRoute; Stephen Stills Stephen Stills.

Big Dreams in Little Workshops

Catching up, having some very productive days in the workshop. It’s glorious to still love doing it after 20 years. Like most dreams, it came in a different package than when I was looking at Doug Irwin’s masterpieces and old ‘40s Bigsby guitars thinking “I could find my way right through the middle of that.” Along the way short scale basses found me and I found my path, and a few good ideas and – most importantly – the action on them, that all turned into the ball I happened to catch. And even though I was not a jock by any stretch of the imagination, there did come a point in life I realized that if you caught the ball you high tail it toward the goal before you get smashed. I saw the Cortobass on the notebook page and buddy, I was OFF.

I dreamed about carving a piece of ebony all day into a fancy pickup surround, of seeing curves out of my pen come to life someday. Maybe I’d even see one being played, sell a few. I was always in the mentality that it’s better to live in a tent and be able to do what you want, than have to do a bunch of stuff you really don’t like doing just to have things you can’t enjoy because you’re too spent & spun out to savor it all. The finer things are great – but the good work and meaningful TIME come first. Ultimately we all find our balance and I’ve found mine.

Which is why you don’t see “Birdsong 4.0 – the BIG company.” I’m just not that guy. Birdsong could go there, everything I do could be produced in far greater numbers and still be great basses. At lower price points and with much less wait too. It’s the design – the stuff you see and the stuff you can’t. They work. And heck, if you’re the person out there watching with the means and the foothold in the industry, and you want a good proven ball to take and run with in the BIG game, give me a call. I’ll talk to you. But I won’t be going that way. I don’t run like that.

It’s sunny and the doors are all open out here in the workshop, I’m out in the woods with some great tunes playing, I’m covered in sawdust and the shop is trashed, there’s a stack of basses-to-be I can’t even stand up vertically anymore, I’m a little slower and a bit sore, and there’s a list of nexts I wrote out for the next work day – fun tasks, great steps in a magical process somehow manifesting tools of creation through my hands as a grain on an infinite shore by endless oceans on a spinning blue suspended marble among billions in galaxies unknowable, there’s a little spider on the bench I’m going to relocate somewhere safer and they always climb on my finger because they trust me somehow, and I’m going to carve a bit on an upper fret access curve in some walnut as my “Johnny layer” extra task a mentor graced me with the concept of, with a chisel from an uncle and a favorite hammer, surrounded by birdsong and melodies and memories and dreams of what’s next. That’s where I’ll be, that’s where I belong, and that’s where I’ll stay.

I hope you have some bliss in your day. I know everybody’s movie is different, but see about working a little in every day – it’s about quality, not quantity.

Listening to: Various podcasts, Andres Segovia, and Red Dragon Cartel.

One For The Men in Our Circle

Hey guys, stop offing yourselves OK? I was reminded this week learning of the suicide of Keith Flint just how many grown men have chosen this as an answer in recent years. Look in the worlds of comedy, music, food culture… and those are just the famous ones. Guys, come on. I know we’re handed blueprints we’ll never live up to. I know there are chapters of change situationally and physically that are hard for us. I know we stumble. I know the difficulties of manhood… and yeah, “The Suffering of Men”, that’s not exactly going to rocket up the bestseller list right now. I get it. Whoever you are, you mean something to someone - go find them and say something.

*** (By the way, one of my clients pointed out it’s Women’s Day, and that’s just a timing we have to respectfully deal with - this happened last weekend and I do these updates on Fridays, so let’s not read any more into it. This needs to be said, and it’s an issue for all. Absolutely no slight intended.) ***

Listen, a man at his best is like an acoustic guitar – balanced between the tension of the strings and his internal bracing from implosion. This makes the best sounding guitars and the most providing and productive men. But the juice is strong and the balance precarious. We can’t all be all of that and of those who can it only happens in bursts and chapters. And I know it’s a personal decision, and one there’s a good argument that any free reasonably independent individual should have the right to make – to stay or to go. But please, open up to other men and find some better solution to wherever you feel the foundation cracking away. Go sit in a sweat lodge; take a solo road trip; go park your ass in a tent somewhere beautiful with no distractions for a few days and empty out to replenish.

We need you, whether you’re a troubled food & travel writer or the crazy looking singer of a techno band. Or just somebody who helps other people laugh. Or the guy in the office or behind the counter. The one who needs some help. We’re all a little dark and a bit damaged inside, every single one of us. There are ways through whatever the issues are, just as there was coming out of the teen years, just as there was in that late 20s recalculation so many go through. I get it, believe me. But cut it out. And yeah, 49 is a wall. But you know, I just made 50 and you can too.

I was already thinking of writing this week on how whatever you see here, whatever this looks like to you, this all formed as I kept on going. This is on the other side of a lot of seeking and searching, and sweating, and the scars. It’s no huge thing I’m some superman at the helm of as Captain Omnipotent, but it’s all big and engaging enough for you to be sitting there taking time out of your life to read it. So given that, WHATEVER AND WHEREVER my reach with this podium I’ve been given is, Ol’ Scottie Shortbass here is telling you - be good to yourself. Be cool. That damaged kid in you? Don’t hand him the keys. Those troubles? Don’t hand them your hope. Those toxic people? Don’t hand them your validity.

If you’re not happy, change – there are many options. I know we’re supposed to be the rocks of stability. Yeah it’s scary, and we’re not supposed to be scared right? Yeah it’s messy – hey, we’re supposed to be the fix-it guys right? But you’re more than you think when you’re not thinking right, and that’s life, and if you’re alive you keep going and keep growing and, ideally, evolve on up or over into the next version of who you are in this life. That’s your choice! That’s what you do when it isn’t working anymore… and you can’t do any of that if you’re dead.

It’s not an easy climb, this life. We all fall down and F up. We have our times on top of the world, and our moments underneath it. And it’s very confusing, being an age of chatter, where one ignorant opinion types out onto a screen as the equal to another reporting actual experience; the wheat out there is buried in chaff, and I hold no answers for anyone but myself… but at any point in your life, whoever you are, whatever your next hill looks like, there are answers, there is help, there are those who have navigated this part of the maze before. Find them. Talk openly to them. And most of all… listen to THOSE voices. We need you, brother. We need you.

OK, back to guitars and basses and springtime next week!

Listening to: John Coltrane A Love Supreme, Crescent, Both Directions at Once. A fantastic podcast interview with Matthew Sweet (http://www.digmeoutpodcast.com/episode/224-matthew-sweet-interview). Good insight into the world of an artist who “makes it”. And a fantastic new Joe Rogan 2 hour interview with David Lee Roth. Too many bail because they can’t follow him – but he’s a wise man, and it’s like the jester bringing you a ton of what those who’ve sought and climbed and done and seen KNOW… and presenting it to you in analogy wrapped in parable and sprinkled with anecdote. Stellar.

Pictures & Pieces

A great, productive week at the workshop – here are some captured moments. I post more pics on Facebook during the week so find & follow Birdsong Guitars… that last one is a particularly cool shot I’ll be working into one of our posts next week.

Speaking of cool shots, while looking at old pictures I found a batch of cool artsy car pictures. So for something different, here ya go! I just love curves & craftsmanship, details and how lines flow together.

Speaking of craft, the response to the book A Craftsman’s Path has been fantastic – for those who have ordered the signed copies with the bonus CDs from me, I’m working on tidying up where more song info is but it’s not ready yet. So here’s a bit more about the songs on the companion CD for now, all related to my path of craft:

Working With The Wood

My story, the story of my workshop, and one of the true craftsmen who I patterned my life after. “Are they ever really gone if their work is carried on?”

Lipton’s Cup of Uncle John

A tall tale of mis-stored remnants and the single greatest song I could write in tribute to this craftsman friend and mentor, a true original.

Good With a Wrench

To serve is to become a tool yourself… this is about a man and tools and, slowly and steadily over time, moving the world. Craft takes many forms through sometimes reluctant heroes.

Be The Blessings

Do something with your powers. “From the inside out, from the up side down / Be the blessings you believe in, and the rest will come around.”

Pebbles

”They don’t have to get you, they don’t have to like your favor - all the ones who write you off have all done you a favor.” A battle song for your validity. Smaller pebbles than us have rippled the water, my friends.

(All songs written, performed & produced by Scott Beckwith / Parking Lot Music BMI)

A Craftsman’s Path is available from AMAZON.COM for $10

Here’s the link: Buy A Craftsman’s Path from Amazon

*** OR ***

Order a signed copy with a 5-song companion CD for $20

Check to: Scott Beckwith PO Box 1745 Wimberley, TX 78676 (or Paypal $20 to: vandweller1@yahoo.com - then send your mailing address to scott@birdsongguitars.com).

A little note for those waiting on instruments from Birdsong, the leg is feeling much better than a month ago when I gingerly and hopefully stepped back into the workshop. Pace has picked back up and so has time back on my feet doing what I love in here. But the batches are smaller and the days aren’t as long. I appreciate your patience while I catch back up and get to your bass; it’ll be worth it – I guarantee that. I feel like I’m almost one good man again… not quite the two good men I ran like for the past 20 years, but I’ll take it. Thanks for being on the adventure!

Listening to: Miles Davis Kind of Blue (my absolute favorite album ever).

What Four?

2/22 – that’s a good number. I’m a numbers guy – I watch the numbers. As they fall into place, it all follows… your mileage may vary of course. 2019 is a year of fours. I’m doing as many things in groupings of 4s as possible, and it feels good. To give you some perspective, 2017 was a year of 11s; last year a year of 8s that kind of got limited to 5s. 4s is what I can maintain comfortably without grinding myself down to a nub.

Four is a number embedded into the order of things… four main directions, four seasons, from these can be woven four chapters of a life – its seasons, if you will. Four needs of survival, food, shelter, clothing, water. The four elements – earth, air, water and fire. So fours are good.

The Pythagoreans loved it, the four winds think it’s pretty cool, and who can argue with the four phases of the moon? Most of my life has been behind V8 powered vehicles, which are two banks of four, and I’ve always had a fascination with all aluminum twin cam four cylinder engines, as seen in ‘70s sports cars like the Lotus Elan, Fiat Spyder, Alfa Romeo Veloce, or more recently the Mazda Miata. Those four.

But I probably won’t get involved with any of them; the sports car jones has faded, and there’s much higher things on the list to experience. Here are some pics of some of this week’s progress on some FOUR strings!

Have a great weekend!

Listening to: John Coltrane Both Directions At Once. Wow!

Coltrane19.jpg

...And Deliver

Here is some glue-up action that happened this week and last. The thought that these are musical instruments headed through this amazing process of becoming and out into waiting hands to fill the world with music, that is still miraculous to me every time I walk into the shop. The day it’s not I’ll walk back out. I’ll light some incense, sanctify the work to do, wrap up my obligations and know I have spent – and have been spent – to the extent I was able and hopefully that will carry good outward and be good enough. But not yet. I feel genuine joy at getting to do what’s on my list each day, and I feel happy about THAT.

And here are four getting ready to fly. Some need a few more steps than others but I’m all over you like a bad suit…

Roger Daltrey gets it. I listened to a lot of podcasts this week, one of which was an interview with the wise, aging English rock god singer of The Who – and he said (in great sharp-tongued accent) about the artist’s perspective on fans who pay to experience what he does… the ethic of being “all in” as I call it in my book

“An artist owes it to an audience to BE there for ‘em. AND DELIVER. And if you ever stop doing that you’re taking the piss… fahkoff out the business.”

“Taking the piss” is British street slang for “Putting one over on” or making fun of or otherwise not taking something seriously with respect. And I wrote it in his accent. Read it again. It’s worth it.

“An artist owes it to an audience to BE there for ‘em. AND DELIVER. And if you ever stop doing that you’re taking the piss… fahkoff out the business.”

Go all in or get out. Get on with it or get off. That coming from a wealthy aging rock star whose ripples were permanent and immutable by the 1970s and doesn’t have to feel that way. I couldn’t say it better. If you’re taking a stage, or working a tool, or crafting something – or sweeping a floor, for that matter – at whatever level - never feel lesser than on one end because of what you aren’t, and never feel like giving lesser than on the other just because you could. Your contribution is noble and needed. So give it what you have, give it your all, give the world what you have to offer through it. Put some balls in. Or “oves” – whichever applies… but get your guts into it or find something else to do. Don’t phone it in. I found that very inspiring. We all get tired, we all get worn down. But do what you have to and keep that flame alive and get after it

Nobody expects this guy anymore, he’s well north of 70 years old now. But they expect all he’s got to give – and what’s most important, he expects it from himself.

Roger that, rock on good sir. And all of you as well!

Listening to: Podcasts, not music this week. I’m into words - been writing a lot.