For some of the regulars at the retail store, my guitar building partner, Scott, has become a bit of a mythological creature. He comes up often when talking about the awesome stuff we build, but mysteriously, not all of you have met him. Scott is the man behind our brand, the guy that allows Brad and I to stay focused on production, and the dude with a bottomless can of turd polish. For those of you who have never met him, I can assure you he is real, and I asked him some questions to prove it. The man behind the curtain...the Don Randall to my Leo Fender (ok, that's pushing it)….my friend, Scott Mueller:
What did you do before you became a big time music tycoon?
Ha! I’ve done a lot of things, from being a baker in college, to running sales and marketing for a large home building company. Finally created a job I loved when I started my own small design shop in Spokane, WA about six years ago. It’s still the day job for now.
What is your role in Cole Music Co.?
I make sure our website is running well and handle the design, sales, marketing, social media sorts of things. I also do all the business admin stuff and help out production with spontaneous wood runs to Portland, building the Silver Hand Pickup boxes, consulting on product design, engraving our custom parts, and creating stuff to make the shop run better from time to time.
I thought you guys were called ColeCraft, what’s up with that?
When I first met up with Eben, he was calling the new stuff he was building “ColeCraft” and he had a really cool 70’s speed boat design aesthetic that I’m sure we’re going to bring back in some ways down the line. But the Cole Music Company name had been around for nearly 50 years by then, and I talked him into keeping it for the new stuff. There’s a lot of history behind what we’re bringing to the table and I really felt that name linked us with that tradition more.
That's a pretty awesome logo Cole Music Co. has, how did that come about?
That was a fun process. We had a really talented designer at my design firm HKW with a penchant for these unique combined letter shapes. We worked together, doing a lot of research to figure out where we needed to take the brand. It kind of hearkens back to old car emblems in a way, and reminds me of the sound hole of a guitar. Guitars and cars both hold a certain place in American history. We wanted to tap into that a bit.
What interests you about the music industry?
Well it’s damn sexy for one. When you’re standing ankle deep in saw dust, sucking a splinter out of your finger, you just look around and think… this is rock n’ roll. I kid, but it really is neat. I’ve seen our guitars on small stages here in Spokane, and at huge venues like Austin City Limits Music Festival. It’s always a trip.
How did you and Eben meet?
I had wandered into his vintage shop on Garland here in Spokane a couple years back. I was already a bit of a woodworker/hobby shop guy and when I saw what he was building, I got really curious and started asking him a ton of questions. That lead to beers, and beers lead to some collective day dreaming, and daydreaming lead to investing, and well… here we are.
Are you a musician?
I typically say no, cause I’ve heard real musicians and what I do just doesn’t seem to deserve the same moniker. But yeah, I’ve been playing guitar for 20 years or so, so I guess that counts.
You bought Hollowtop #1, and for full price…were you not aware of the employee discount?
I wanted Eben to know I really dug what he was doing. That was an easy way to show it. I also have longed for the day I can say, not only am I an owner, but I’m also a client.
What, as a designer in particular, is appealing about guitar design and production?
There’s just so much to work with. Guitars have an incredibly rich design history and there’s a language to guitar designs. A lot of guys know a guitar by just glimpsing the headstock shape from the back of a dingy club. And with all those traditions, folks are continually trying to honor and evolve them. I like the nuance and detail of it, and the sheer complexity. We design our own bridges, pickups, bodies, necks, pick guards, etc., so many pieces all needing their individual touches that must eventually fit together seamlessly into something that is tonally perfect. It’s challenging and immensely rewarding when you hear one on stage, or get feedback from someone who says they never pick up their other guitars anymore.
How do you foresee growing this company?
Slowly but surely. We’re trying to be prudent so that we don’t have to sacrifice quality at any stage. We only take pre-orders on things currently in production so that we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves or have to worry about letting anyone down on order times. We’ve built everything we’re working on out of our own cash, so that we don’t have to answer to anyone. It makes a big difference and will help us continue to grow in an organic way.
What excites you about the future of Cole Music Co.?
I’m really excited about something secret we’re working on with the Silver Hand Pickups. Brad, who heads up the pickup stuff for us has engineered some amazing stuff. We’re really going to get to share that in a big way later this year.
Tacos or sushi?
Yep. I’d eat that.
Working with Scott has not only been an amazing opportunity, it has been a hell of a lot of fun. His passion for things he believes in is palpable, and I am honored that Cole Music Co. is one of those passions. And I have no doubts that he would eat a Sushi Taco.
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