Spring has officially sprung in the Appalachian mountains, and I have thrown from my shoulders what feels like a heavy blanket of weariness, thickening as the cold winter months wore on. Harper and I have been thoroughly enjoying our runs again. Everything looks new and fresh. I always take a little time to marvel in appreciation at the saturation of colors now donning the landscape around me; how green the grass is, how beautiful and alive the mountains are again. Having been so busy with all of the marveling, I want to apologize for the lack of posts. Over the past few weeks I finished four instruments, made a trip to Nashville, and then rewarded myself (and Nick and Harper) by taking a quick but relaxing trip to the beach. New spring energy is just my favorite!

The coolest thing about my job I think is the fact that with each instrument I make, I also have the opportunity to meet an awesome person to go with it. These past four instruments have included with them some amazing folks. I like to think that with each build, I lose and instrument but gain a friend. This batch was no exception. EmiSunshine and her awesome parents came to pick up her ukulele. When someone comes to get an instrument from me or my dad I think the instrument is the smallest part. I like the experience of getting to know someone and showing them around in my life a little bit. I think that is why I hate shipping guitars so much, not necessarily due to the potential for damage to the instrument, but more due to missing out on that connection with my clients. Instead of just coming to get her uke and leaving, Emi, her parents, my dad and I ended up taking a drive up to the park, visiting the wild ponies, and taking rides around the block in my dad's old Thunderbird. It was a nice visit, and so fun to get to know them a bit better. More about that in a minute.

Next, a customer, Tim, drove with his wife Mary and dog Theo up to Rugby from Raleigh to pick up his walnut 000. My favorite part of making instruments is when I get to see someone's reaction when they open the case. (Check out the video of Emi's on her facebook page) With the exception of Emi, it is usually quiet, but being able to feel the excitement and happiness radiating from the person just makes me happier than I am able to describe. Tim's reaction was no exception and I had no doubt this guitar would be heading to a good home. We had a lovely afternoon sitting on the porch enjoying some wine and cheese while Harper and Theo lounged under the cherry tree.

I also enjoy that people want to give me things from their lives aside from money for the instrument I made them. Tim brought me a new knife, a beautiful Case with blades of damascus steel-a knife my dad is pretty jealous of, which is kind of awesome. (He hasn't had much to say about my favorite pink polka dotted Case knife, though I have caught him using it a few times.) Tim also brought me a turkey call he made, which is so neat. I had told him that turkeys live up on my mountain in Asheville and he thought I might want to try to make friends with them. He was right, as I had been scratching a knife across a plate to try to talk to the turkey roosting in a tree about eye level from our deck. Nick stood watching, probably questioning his decision to marry me. Now that I have my turkey call, I can retire the plate. The other day a big Tom was strutting around the yard nearby so I ran inside and grabbed my turkey call and ran back out to call to him. He puffed up at my answering screech a couple of times but didn't seem overly interested in me. I also am not sure if I should find it endearing or concerning that none of my neighbors thought it odd that I was skulking around stalking turkeys...

Several weeks ago, Nick and I drove to Nashville so we could watch EmiSunshine play the ukulele I made her at the Grand Ole Opry. Of course, while that was my official excuse for going, I made sure to stop at my favorite restaurant, Silo, and as usual it did not disappoint. Go if you are in the area, they make some great farm to table deliciousness. What also didn't disappoint was the Opry visit. I felt fancy since I knew the first person we encountered backstage. It was George Gruhn walking down the hall.  I got to have a nice visit waiting for Emi to go on, George, Nick, and I sat in an empty dressing room and talked about business and guitars for a while. We then visited with Emi and her family before they went on stage.

One thing I'd like to address is what I see when I am around Emi and her band, which is also her family, most by blood. I have noticed that some folks have suggested via her facebook page that she is a 'cash cow' for her family, and I have also been asked several times if her situation is along the lines of a pageant child. Now, I know that I am no one of consequence, but from what I know of this family I want to say with absolute certainty that EmiSunshine absolutely loves what she is doing, and is incredibly talented at it, and that is why she does it. Not only that, but my favorite thing I saw at the Opry was how obvious it was that her parents were there solely to support her and what she loves to do.

I remember noticing it when they first came to my dad's house in the winter and we were all just hanging out. There is such palpable love there that it makes me a little sad knowing that not everyone gets to experience such strong love and support from their parents. Talking to Emi's dad Randall backstage, I told him that I was so glad this is a family affair. He has such a strong connection with his daughter and I am incredibly happy for them because I didn't get that opportunity with my dad when I was little. I think a lot of that shows through at her shows, but I know I am lucky to be able to have such a close view. Even if you don't see it as much from the nosebleed section, you don't have to. It's there.

On our way out of town, Nick and I stopped by Carter Vintage Guitars to see what Christie had hanging on her walls. She showed us some amazing rare Martins and Gibsons before I walked over to peruse the ukuleles hanging in the middle of the main show room. I was so excited to see a 1940s Martin tenor ukulele, that I didn't even notice that one I had built was hanging right next to it. I feel honored that my work was included in her incredible inventory. I am even more proud that it sold a week after it arrived, and went to someone who can't wait to play it and love it as I hope for all of my instruments.

Tomorrow I head back to Rugby for some hard work before my dad's festival on June 20. I am working on #28 guitar and ukulele, a match pair that just happen to have the same serial number. I put the ukulele body together while I was home in Asheville, so hopefully that will give me enough of a head start to be able to finish these up in a few weeks. I hope to see you all there! Along with visiting with yours truly, there will be some absolutely amazing artists playing, EmiSunshine included! If you want more information, visit www.waynehenderson.org.  

Photo Credit: Alisha Hamilton
Dressing room #1
View from backstage
George Gruhn