To define space and any point in time – that is our story that we are writing after all. It is the unfolding of space and time as a means of revealing definition. Feel free to skip ahead to the ‘Details’ section, or continue on.
Yes, that is circle writing in a way. The snake eating its own tail – sort of. Now see here – an instrument always exists in the hold of the great potential. We, as revealers, extract from the potential the necessary items for defining space. Once a space has been defined, it is much easier to recognize it as ‘being something’. This ‘something’, for the sake of the letter writer campaign, is an instrument. From dirt, seed, sun, rain, and time, does the tree grow – with a bit more time does it die. But a tree never truly dies. It only goes back from where it came – or it goes forward and gets, for a time at least, adapted into the revealers universe.
So, what is all this hullabaloo? Well, I define space, and the space that I most often define is in the realm of wood, metal, and glue. Instruments! I build instruments, yo. Special ones at that. I’m also a writer both of pencil and of key. Wield thy sword as an axe and it shall be an axe. More on that matter in some obscure location that I’ll forget about and someone else will re-discover.
Here is the simple – I’ll be giving away two instruments this year, 2019. One will be to a letter writer, and one will be a local giveaway to my someone from my home area (Billings, MT).
1. 2019 Letter Writer Giveaway
To get entered into the letter writer drawing that will be held on Thanksgiving Eve (need not be present to win) – the entrant must write to me a one-page, handwritten letter. For as long as I build instruments will I give away one on this day each year, and each letter writer will remain in the drawing. Each year, the entrant can write another letter for additional entries – but only one a year. When I receive your letter, I will write you a letter in return, so that you know it has arrived.
Here is my address – do make sure that your letters don’t cheat the bottom half of the page. If ideas about content are difficult to come by, remember that I’m a story teller – I love stories and I enjoy thoughtfulness.
c/o Urbaniak Instruments
2120 Shadow Canyon RD
Huntley, MT 59037
2. 2019 Local Instrument Giveaway
- There will be Billings-area shows that are “Entry to the Instrument Giveaway” shows.
- Each ticket purchased to the show will give you one entry to the drawing.
- The winner will be drawn on the Thanksgiving Eve show (location TBA) in Billings. You need to be present to win.
- First opportunity to enter: Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., Feb. 22, 6-8 (tickets at the door or get them ahead of time: YVBC Tickets )
The Letter-Writing Campaign (from 2012-ish-2018)…this one’s over, but it explains the history of the letter-writing draw
What was supposed to be a one year and possible few months of letters received, letters sent, connections developed, instruments built, and instruments delivered, turned into five years of heavily burdened journeying in the physical world and in the spiritual world. After five great circles around the Sun, the letter-writing campaign was over. In January of 2018, the last two letter-writer guitars were placed in the mail and found their way. Like a cup that is being submerged in water, not filling but pushing the water out and away from itself, I had carved a form of purpose. The very essence of it was right there with me, and I knew its time was at hand. Just like the cup that continues to submerge in water, when the rim reaches the top-line of the water there is a moment like a breath just before the water rushes in and fills the cup. The letter-writing campaign cup had been filled. It was done, and I prepared myself for the dark cycle knowing that it would come. It always comes.
The early story.
I was touring the western regions of the U.S. at the emergence of the smart phone era. My audience was changing. I, too, was changing in response to the diminishing attentions. I began to innovate; I began to develop and grow my songwriting strength and incorporate it into a more creative realm. This innovation first showed up in my guitar playing: two capos (The Hard Things) then three; playing it over the top like a half-piano (I Don’t Want to Come Down); laying it down and using like a half-drum / half-chord rhythm machine (One-Way Ticket); and then transitioning into microphone effects…all the while writing more and more intense songs. Louder, bigger, more aggressive, deeper and more thoughtful, truthful; but still the attentions were leaving.
I could not innovate fast enough to keep pace with the disappearing, but present, audiences; they were there, but they were not there. It was somewhere in a crossing over of realities that the decision was made to begin the letter-writing campaign, but nothing is ever quite that simple. The immediate response from those close to me was of shock and crippling words of the defeatist pouring in. I was just a boy trying to eat a whale.
Some back story.
Depression loved to find rest on my shoulders, in my head, and in my heart. Motion became my only best defense. If I was moving it would be difficult for anything to find rest of that sort. I had always known that instrument making (luthier work) had partitioned an enormous part of my headspace. As I grew in the processes of building : learning, experimenting : learning, observing : learning, the details of instrument making became clearer, but not yet completed. I had two things that seemed like they might go together alright. Depression and the desire to evade it; instrument making and the drive to integrate the ‘soul’ of the wood with the function and integrity needed of a musical tool. Of course, I was always the songwriter first. Writer. I was a writer. A storyteller, and also a story maker.
Intro to the giveaway.
For each tour I would build a new guitar, play it on tour, and then give it away at the end of the tour. I once left a guitar in an unlocked car, many times handed them off to an unsuspecting show attendee, did drawings, left them on door stoops, and in a variety of ways did I gift them. I would leave a letter attached to them, or send a letter of intent with them when they went. With each guitar I built and gave away, I got both better at building and worse at building. I got better because my process was becoming refined. I got worse because I was pushing the boundaries far beyond what I knew to be possible – I was experimenting. My observations only lead me to remain in the ‘beyond space of experimentation’ for a long time, and it wasn’t until years of effort had unfolded into years of experience that my process got better in every direction it went.
I thought, before I achieved building at a higher level, that I was building at a level adequate enough to begin doing something with it. I was not ready to build instruments for anyone – the fear of such a thing had not yet been balanced with the certainty that I could build with a proper integration of Soul and Integrity – so I decided that the best way to override the depression, connect with my audience, and walk rightly into a future I wanted to see was somehow coupled with doing ‘great things’. We’ll come to ‘great things’ sometime in the future and how important it can be to have the right cause and reason for such a thing.
My great thing – my great idea – the making of a story that was greater than what had been done – was to begin the Letter-Writing Campaign, and that is what I did.
The approach and the deal.
One, full-page, handwritten letter every month for a year; the letters had to be on time; they had to be full on one side; they needed to not be the size of a post-it. I wanted, and sometimes needed, to witness effort, consistency, determination, and connectedness. Do this letter-writing thing and not only will I write back, but I’ll build the letter-writer a guitar at the end of it.
Do bear in mind that I was a fairly broke, young, married man with four children. This probably better helps to explain the fear and the shock from people. When I set out on the Letter-Writing Campaign I could not know what was to come, and after it came I did not know if I could bear the journey needed to bring it to resolution.
My whole life began to unravel at this very moment. Slowly at first and then logarithmically, the unraveling began to torture my realities. All of me was set to fire and in the darkest of these years I did not know the outcome – at least, not until I decided on one.
I didn’t know how I would finish what I had started with the letter writers, but I knew that I would. I continued to find ways and places to build, and in a lot of ways I was rebuilding parts of myself. The letter writers that didn’t yet have their guitars continued to write. Some that did have their guitars continued to write. The stories of inspiration were pouring in. Stories of the letter-writer lives going through similar tortures found their way to my mailbox.
My addresses changed, and the letters still came. On the third year of the letter writing campaign, I took all of my dollars- which was a ridiculous amount of not much – and I drove to New York to drop one of the guitars off. It was hell, and the hell of my life made it so that I pretty much tossed up a high-five and then had to drive straight back to Montana. Longest straight-through drive I’ve ever done and that I’ll ever do by a megaton.
I was giving in a way to compensate for what was being taken. I was trying to offset the imbalance that I was feeling. It was a pretty toxic time. Still letters came to my mail box. I came to a singular point in time where I knew a decision to do the work to get my mind and my spirit back had to be made, and I made it. No matter what, I would walk the best line I could. I started to shift the letter writing campaign away from a sense of burden and over to a shared blessing. The letter-writers saved me in a lot of ways and the wholeness of the project was giving me hope that impossible things could be done by anyone.
Two years and a shuffle play later in December of 2017, I finished the last two letter-writer guitars. Each time I thought of delivering them I got strangely sick. We mailed them. In January of 2018, it was done. Five years of letter-writing, crazy-living, wild-eyed madness, and it was done.
I knew from my experiences that it would lead to a dark time in my psyche. These things always do. No matter of preparation can remove the cycle, but this time I had trust that the cycle would come and as it did, it would leave.
I’m still connected with gifting instruments and it will remain part of my life to do so. What I have learned and what I continue to learn from the experience is profound. That a man with so little can have so much is divine and wholly of truth. Having given the last two letter-writer guitars to the letter writers, I had given the equivalent of one years worth of work away (with some overtime). I believe that we can do more and that the riches of the world cannot compare to the richness of the world.