Memphis Memories

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It was an honor to represent the Billtown Blues Association (www.billtownblues.org) in Memphis, TN, at the 2013 International Blues Challenge! Thank you to my supporters for providing me with another great opportunity like this. This was my third time competing and I realized how different each Beale Street experience has been. My first time in Memphis (2008) I competed with Black n’ Blues (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/blacknb), the second time (2009) with the Ann Kerstetter Band (http://www.annkerstetter.com) after having reconstructive surgery on a freshly reattached thumb. This last time (2013) I competed as a solo artist and Luthier! The one constant, when reflecting on my Memphis trips, is how great a time I’ve had and how much I’ve learned. The amount of talent in both the band and solo/duo divisions never ceases to amaze and humble me.

For many reasons this recent visit has been my favorite thus far! The IBCs inspired my first solo tour, which encompassed 7,000 miles of travel, performing in 15 different cities across the USA! I played just shy of 30 shows all in fantastic new venues while promoting my fresh solo album, “Karma” (http://bit.ly/KarmaCD). See tweets from my solo tour by searching for the hashtag #SWKarmaTour on Twitter (https://twitter.com/guitarleys). I was always nervous about playing solo shows, so to conquer my fears I took them head on in a big way! Not only did I promote and share my music on this tour, but I shared my profession in the art of lutherie! I was proud to perform my original songs on the guitars that I obsessively built myself. I also got to share this great experience with my love and best friend.

Memphis has really grown since the last time I visited! While the usual Beale Street barbecue and blues joints are amazing, it was nice to see many new and successful shops and restaurants on Main Street. I remember taking long runs in the afternoons on my last visit when it was all under renovation! Now Memphis’ downtown, just outside of the Beale St. section, has more of a local’s feel — it’s less touristy, very safe, and full of great places to shop and eat! The beautiful buildings, cobblestone walkways and the Trolley system are comforting and give the town a quaint feel. I really felt it was a city and area that I could move to! I could open a Luthier’s repair and wood shop, build and fix all the stringed instruments and amplifiers by day, then, after sunset, head down to Rum Boogie Cafe or King’s Palace and show them off! Sounds like the good life to me!

All in all my recent trip to the Memphis IBCs was stellar! It was my favorite visit yet! I plan to compete again in the Billtown Blues Auditions next year and will hopefully return to Beale in 2015. By then I should have at least another album or two and some cool new custom built guitars to show off. I think I’ll just keep competing in the IBCs as long as I am able and hopefully I’ll win it someday! It’s always worth a trip for all the great music, and it’s always an enriching learning experience. I feel I have many years left of paying my dues in the world of the blues, but will hopefully one day deserve recognition as a guitar player, singer, songwriter and a Luthier.

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Guitarley’s celebrates 2 Years of business!!!

Does everyone know what First Friday of April is!? Friday April 5th marks the 2 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Guitarley’s!!! I can’t believe how time has passed and I want to celebrate with an open house! I’m still working out all the details for what all I’ll be doing, but please plan to stop by and let’s hope for a beautiful spring day!

I’m hoping to at least have the whole place all spruced up, put together a slide show of my southwest tour and/or shop photos, have custom guitars on display, and more! This is also a great opportunity to grab my new cd “Karma”, if you haven’t done so already!

Hope to see you for First Friday celebration, in downtown Williamsport! Thanks!

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Sean Farley Music

Please come see the website I’ll be focussing on mostly over the next few months! Check out soon-to-release album “Karma” and my upcoming tour! I’ll be playing in GA on my way to Memphis TN for the International Blues Challenge (January 30-February 2) and then to the beautiful South West to tour for a month! Thanks for the support and please check out my new website!

A victory for Guitarley’s

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I’m happy to announce that I recently won a regional Blues competition hosted by the Billtown Blues Association! This makes me a quarter finalist in the International Blues Competition (http://www.blues.org/ibc/#ref=ibc_index) to take place in January of 2013 on Beale Street, Memphis TN! I have done this competition twice before with two different bands and had a blast every time. Last time I played with a freshly re-attached left thumb, playing slide on my lap while in a fancy cast. I hope to make up for it this time around. The saying goes “third time’s a charm!” I’m hoping it applies this time. Not only do I hope to gain from this as a musician, but now as a luthier also. It will be an amazing networking platform for me to play my original music through guitars that I have built myself. I can’t wait to tell everyone about them! I have to remember to take a few business cards with me! I attached a link that will take you to the article about the event I participated in, the musician involved, and a little about myself too. Enjoy!

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/576235/BLUES-TIME.html?nav=5011

Small Business Ownership: “It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride…”

          I officially opened up my small business on April 1st, 2011. The business name: “Guitarley’s Custom Guitar & Repair.” The paperwork and red tape was easily navigated and completed thanks to my local Small Business Development Center (http://www.lhup.edu/sbdc/), a wonderful resource. I was in and out of this office in about an hour with all necessary paper work, tax items and helpful reading material. I was officially a sole proprietor! It almost seemed too easy!
          My business model? I make and fix stringed instruments. My customer base? Relatively specific: people who have stringed instruments. I do a little retail here and there, order parts as needed, have select tools, and do the best work I can. I started out with as little overhead as possible, as advised by one of my instructors at Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery (http://www.roberto-venn.com/), where I was trained and certified in my craft. He suggested some basic power tools, hand tools and a little shop in a good location. “Just start out simple and let it grow naturally,” he said. Well, I lucked out by getting a great deal on a business district storefront and apartment all in one– it was custom made for me. It’s beautiful and convenient! I roll out of bed and walk into my shop! I can take breaks, or never take breaks! I have a 5 foot commute to work, the place is a tax write-off, I’m there to “guard the fort” and I’m always comfortable.
          I took advantage of my connections and relationships to get things started. People were excited for me and my new venture and were willing to help out and lend or return favors. It felt great to have all that support from friends, family and acquaintances. I had lots of local press to draw attention and the help of social media as well (https://www.facebook.com/guitarleys & https://twitter.com/#!/guitarleys). Almost all of the advertising I have done to date has been FREE, and it has worked! Thanks to Facebook and Twitter I have freely promoted myself and made customers and professional contacts locally, regionally and, even cooler, world wide! In business school, I always loved the concept of “buzz marketing” and that’s what I have mostly relied on. It’s very tangible and accountable– I do good work, customers tell others about their positive experience with my service and my customer base grows!
          Now, about that roller coaster ride…
          I have already had my first experiences with cyclical business trends. As a bartender I know that January and February are usually slower months, but as a guitar repair shop owner, I noticed a different trend. I remember tons of cool work coming into my shop in the beginning, I was slammed! It was so exciting. I felt so useful and needed. Long term success was in plain sight. Well, maybe that was a little premature. After finishing up a ton of work I would sit down and feel proud. Then it would hit me… I just finished all my work! That meant something different when I worked for someone else. In this case it meant there wasn’t any more work to do and get paid for! It was a pat on the back that turned into a sharp blow to the gut. I realized the responsibility and sensed the difference of being employed vs. self-employed.
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          Very little work came in for a few weeks after that. Just as I was really stressing over keeping up with bills and losing hope (also premature), a big job would come in! So I was back on top! Then a few more came in, and again, they were big jobs! So I paid the bills and then repeated that cycle for several months. When people asked me “What it was like?” or “How is the business going?” all I could say was “It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride.” The nervous anticipation as you climb, waiting for the next drop, the thrill and enjoyment of getting over the hump, the sudden twists and turns, up and down, up and down, fast and slow! It’s exciting and then a little stressful, a humbling experience that continues to keep me on my toes. I’ve been learning to put the money away for those “rainy days” in business. I also use those slow times to come up with other ways to make money: product extensions, new ventures, booking gigs, picking up a bar tending shift here and there, etc. I learned to not waste time and use free moments to invest and create busier days in the future. As a result, I have been experiencing longer busy times and slower down times.
          So, the graphs and charts show positive growth, and that’s fundamentally positive and successful. That’s the exact plan! Patience and positive thinking get me through. Inventiveness, during slow times, helps things to grow down the line. As a small business owner, and a person in general, you should never be bored. Boredom is just another word for lazy and unmotivated. Down time is when you get a chance to plan for the future, explore new ideas and take stock of your past-to-current practices and outcomes. You should always be learning and researching your business and/or trade to improve your product and offerings. Some of the best advice I received pertaining to that is, “You have to be the expert your customer expects you to be.”

Why should you and your guitars visit a certified luthier?

Since becoming a luthier, I have had the opportunity to make a lot of guitar players happier with their instruments. It’s been a real pleasure, I’m thankful to those who have given me business, and I look forward to improving many more guitars to come. Almost every guitar that has come into my shop, brand new or 100 years old, has needed and received some improvements. People don’t realize that a factory set up is usually not nearly as good as an obsessive and passionate luthier can achieve, and is often just plain bad!
                When I went to Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie to become educated in the art of guitar making and repair, I took every guitar I owned with me. These were the guitars I’d used countless times whilst playing in various bands—I thought they played very well. My teachers were less impressed with their setups and playability. I was shocked! Now that I look back, I don’t know what grounds I had to assume that my guitars were set up nicely. I guess my logic was that because I was able to play well, the guitars must be fine? That’s an assumption that I believe most guitar players, who are not luthiers, make today. After my guitars were all fixed up and set up to perfection, I was astounded at how much better they felt and played! They felt so buttery, smooth, and fast. The intonation true, all frets leveled and in harmony, allowing for action so low it was like the guitar could play itself! All the pickup heights were set right so that I had balanced volumes in every position. I then realized what I had been missing since the first day I picked up a guitar.
                Now I have the pleasure of being my own guitar tech. I constantly tweak my guitars, individually, trying to get them to their perfect state of playability and sound. I am more comfortable with my custom made and maintained instruments than ever, and people notice. They can see my ease and hear my familiarity and comfort. The only thing standing in the way between me being a great guitarist is myself, not the guitar. Is your guitar holding you back? I bet it is.
                When a guitar suffers from high action, bad tone, and other ailments, it is not fun to play and it’s too hard on your fingers. I believe that this is a cause for less time spent practicing and playing! Plain and simple, the more time you spend playing a guitar the better you will get over time. I hate to take the romance out it, but I feel it’s mostly muscle memory and repetition that enables speed and precision playing. Your inner voice, ear, and creativity give your music individuality and soul. Therefore I believe that a good setup, one that makes a guitar as easy to play as possible, will result in longer practice sessions and play time, thus making you a better guitar player in a shorter period of time. With a high action acoustic guitar your fingers might get tired and hurt after a half hour of playing—causing the whole session to be uninspiring. With a guitar that is set up right you can play for hours and have a blast!
                Now it’s time to go see your local luthier, right? YES! At my shop, and I would guess most others, I do free consultations and accurate estimates that I stand by. What could it hurt? Make a trip down to a cool little shop dedicated to guitars and music, get a free diagnosis and a plan for remedy, and then support local/small business and craftsmen. Plus, your guitars will be in in the best shape ever! Everybody wins! Even if you’re sure you are an expert, it’s always good to get a second opinion or, simply, to show it off! You might pick up some very handy information too. I thought I knew what the guitar was supposed to feel like and I WAS WRONG! Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of a well-kept guitar. Visit your local luthier… I hope it’s me!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Hey everyone! I hope Santa brought you that guitar you’ve been hoping for this year! 2011 was a challenging but great year for me. Graduating for Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, moving back from the south west, and opening up “Guitarley’s” has kept me a little busy and very happy! Thanks to everyone who helped me get this started and for bringing me work to help it grow and go! I hope I did the best work for you and that all the guitars I’ve worked on are playing better than ever! I’ll be doing a lot more updates to this site (finally!) and blogging about my thoughts on guitar making, guitar repair, guitar playing, philosophies and ethics, and random brain spinnings of mine. Please remember to follow me on twitter @Guitarleys and check me out on Facebook and Youtube as well. Links to these pages/sites can be found on the home screen of this page. Also, remember to keep track of where I’m performing live by clicking on my “calendar” link on my page as well. If you able to come see me at any of the venues or want me to come to your town let me know! I’m always looking for new places to play and this year I hope to expand my region and fan base. Thanks from my shop to yours, and have a safe and Happy New Years!