Five. Years. Five years of Mule actually started 13 years ago when I started trying to put pieces of wood together to make guitars that weren’t being made. That took me to a guitar making school run by ex hippies in Phoenix, to sleeping next to my bandsaw in a garage during a Minnesota winter, to 10 years of factory jobs rolling strips of tape, assembling electrical motors, running rubber presses and extrusion machines, two glorious years in Virginia at Huss and Dalton Guitars, then busking and industrial supply in Chicago and getting fired during a recession for counting wrong 26 out of 111,000 times, then back to my home state of Michigan wondering, “now what?” It took two years of wondering and then I saw Kelly Joe Phelps play his National. 10 years earlier he was this metalhead’s first experience with acoustic guitars and it changed my career. This time I left his show wondering if I could make a resonator that looked like the material and sounded richer than most resonators. I know the answer to that now- I can. It took me a year to make four. I ran out of money and had to take another temp job swinging engine blocks. I stood in a puddle of coolant hooking and swinging engine blocks onto a conveyor for two weeks and then had 12 orders. I quit. Then 30, then 40, then 80. It took a closet shop, a basement shop, and this current shop. I made Kelly Joe a guitar. Full circle. Then Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Jeffrey Foucault, Charlie Parr, one was on stage with Adele. It’s true, I was there. Billy Gibbons bought us groceries.Then 360 guitars and 107 on the list. Phil, Smithers and I have sent them all over the world. I play each of them and it feels new every time. THE SOUND. I just shake my head. These aren’t just guitars, they are a new sound and I can see the light bulb go over when a player hears them for the first time.
It was hard. It is hard. It’s awesome. My customers buy their guitars and then send us coffee, whiskey, albums, food, and souvenirs. We have a whole shelf full of gifts that people send us after they pay a bunch of money for their guitars. We get wedding pictures with our guitars in them, pictures of them next to newborns. They’ve been played at funerals and given as surprises. Its bigger than guitars. It’s a mechanism for people to connect with each other in a way that’s lacking these days. Thank you to all of you who are part of this story. “It’s just a piece of wood you’ll win in the end.” -Matt
Sometimes when it comes to “stuff” it’s about the stuff. Materials, dimensions. This thing we do here at Mule, and want you to be a part of, is more about people and playing.
This is me, Matt:
I own Mule. I make these along with Phil and Smithers. My life has brought me through temp jobs and factory work and two glorious years at Huss and Dalton to be building bear magical beasts of a guitar.
I want nothing more than to talk to you about guitars. Really. I swept floors for this, worked at rubber presses for just that opportunity. – Matt