Last Saturday we hung out with Billy Gibbons. Yes, from ZZ Top. They were playing in Saginaw on the other side of the parking garage from where Wynona Judd was also playing that night. Wynona’s guitar player, Charlie, came to the shop before the show. Awesome player and even awesom-er guy. When I dropped him back off at their venue I saw ZZ’s buses. I took a guitar and stood outside the bus. I posted a picture on Instagram. I stood outside for a half hour and left. A friend of mine, Shaun, saw the picture on Instagram and an hour later we were backstage, guitars in hand. An hour after that Billy was clearing a spot for us to sit in the bus. He played our guitars, “the richest and warmest sounding resonators I’ve ever heard,” he showed me his Gibson Ultimate model, I played it. It’s awesome. Then we shot the shit for three hours. We talked about Skyline Chili, his Cuban record, youtube videos, kombucha, Coca Cola, Naomi Judd. It was real talk, and one of my favorite stories of my life. He wanted to take pictures of US. We felt like friends within two minutes, and that’s the reputation Billy has made for himself over his career. He’s a good man, he always has time, real talk. It was awesome. When we left he gave us a bag of groceries, and when we were walking away he ran after us and gave us another for the road. I’m still buzzing. I’ll post more pictures in the coming days.
Your strengths got you where you are but they are not what’s keeping you from where you want to be. Working alongside them is rewarding work and it comes naturally. That work shows you where you want to go. Give priority for a time to working on your weaknesses. That’s the real bang-for-your-buck labor. It’s courageous work- there are feelings of ineptitude and failure there. It’s where there’s the most to learn. Maybe waking up early and working long comes naturally, but you’re bad at making efficient decisions, don’t know the questions to ask, or afraid of risk involved with trying to get past the grind. Maybe creativity comes naturally so you hole up in your shop with endless drawings and genuinely great new ideas, but nothing gets finished or is tested by the people that support you in your work. What’s hardest? Do that first.
One of the benefits of building resonators from the “make a living” sense is that the pool of competition is much smaller. The group of builders in the world doing metal bodied resonators is small indeed, I can count them on one hand. The disadvantage that goes along with it of course is that the pool of prospective buyers is much smaller. Most guitar players know what a resonator is but haven’t even seen one in person. The warning I received, from credible and non credible sources, in the beginning said that I may soon outgrow the demand. With the wait list hanging around at 100 guitars that does not seem to be the case. We have talked about that and I believe that part of the reason is that we are building a bigger pool. I get frequent emails that “this will be my first resonator guitar”. That’s exciting-the whole idea of Mule was to expand the tonal range of the resonator so that players beyond its traditional use saw its inspirational value. When the players are as varied as Charley Hicks, Joey Landreth, Jeffrey Foucault, Tom Van Der Kuil (Adele), and Dan Auerbach , you can see why people are giving resonators a second glance. If you are a maker you can find your market and be subject to it, or you can do things that grow the market itself. Find things that might do that-fail at some and succeed at others and you’ll find valuable work.