Today is my last day at One Lucky Guitar. Exactly 2,711 days since November 6, 2006. I still remember walking into OLG for the first time almost eight years ago—exposed brick on every exterior wall and not a single fluorescent light burning in the shop. Dim, romantic, a faint memory of incense and The Elected’s Sun, Sun, Sun just as loud as it could be. I listened for a few seconds to make doubly sure I truly had no clue who it was, then admitted to Matt Kelley—the Matt Kelley no less—that I had no idea who he and Paige were listening to. Little did I know that would also be the first of 478,391 conversations we’d have about music.
I started a band while working in this office. That band reworked Pet Sounds and played it for 2,500 people because of this office. Because of this office I experienced South By Southwest four years in a row. On that fourth year I performed there. Because of this office my band played with The Fort Wayne Philharmonic. In 2007 I helped start a DIY art space and quickly discovered an unknown passion for curation and collaboration. A few years later the gallery turned into a side-project in print as I clumsily learned how to self-publish an art zine—all because of this office. I love Fleetwood Mac because of this office. And because of this office I can say that I’ve sat across a table from Matt Kelley no more than 50 feet from a Lindsey Buckingham solo acoustic set. Matt and I made a website to urge Wilco to come to Fort Wayne, then six years later I played piano with Jeff Tweedy in somebody’s living room—because of this office. Because of this office and our long-time client, Matilda Jane Clothing, I traveled to Kenya, fell in love with roughly 47 orphans and it changed me forever.
My first interview with Matt was at Bill’s Palace (now the terribly nostalgic corner of Jefferson and Harrison). I sat starry-eyed, mesmerized and day dreaming that this meeting would maybe just maybe result in me designing for him. Oh Lord, if only. Every finger and toe crossed. In a blink of an eye, I’ve experienced years of unbelievable collaboration, once-in-a-lifetime adventures, difficult lessons, incredible break-throughs and the most passionate projects I would never in my life have dreamed of being a part of. Watching the city I grew up in evolve into something unrecognizable from my childhood. A vibrant, living and breathing beast of a community. OLG’s role in the change that has happened to Downtown Fort Wayne is something we are so proud of. The fact that I’ve been here to watch it unfold is something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I was a designer who loved music, but OLG made me a designer, an illustrator, an art director, a composer of music for television and a lover of new music each month with the fiercest of fevers.
And now, even as I type, I am watching the clock tick the last minutes away. I can’t believe it’s coming to a close. One thing is for sure, I have a family here who will be in my life for a very long time. I am leaving OLG to work for the record labels, Secretly Canadian, Jagjaguwar and Dead Oceans. Among the duties as one of their two graphic artists, I’ll be designing album covers. On paper, designing album covers is truly the utmost of dream jobs for me, but the reality of leaving One Lucky Guitar has been an unbelievably difficult decision. I’ll miss every second of it. From the inappropriate gifs from Tommy, to the “this band sounds like…” comments from Paige, to the sharpening of my skills that Jake has inadvertently pressed on me for as long as he’s sat across from me. I’ll miss it all.
Matt has kept a quote in the main thoroughfare of our space for all these years: “He not busy being born is busy dying.” With all the new experiences in store this next year, there will surely be some growing pains. But I have no doubt that some part of me is being born in all this. Just like a part of me was born 2,711 days ago.
Thank you Matt. For everything.
A few thoughts from MK:
“Let us stoke the fires of the world.”
After all these years it’s finally become clear to me that the main thing I’ve always been attracted to is a pretty relentless pursuit of…and then I can’t even think of it.
It was clear when I started typing that sentence, and it’s gone now.
A relentless pursuit of what?
What indeed. It’s never been concise: True love. High adventure. Creative greatness. Defied expectations. Pure joy. The belief that the things we are today are not the things we must be forevermore. The notion that our time here is a gift, not a sentence. The idea that heroes are touchable. That generosity wins. That we should be able to sleep at night. (Unless we choose not to, which will often happen.) That we are not bound by geography nor by ability, but only by ambition and belief. That the person who said Dylan in the mid-60s was not burning the candle at both ends, but instead taking a blowtorch to the middle, said perhaps the best distillation of anything ever. The feeling that this could all turn out to be a screenplay for the most magical movie in the history of the world’s cinema.
And so I’m attracted to people who bring all of that, and so much more, to life.
I first met Nate Utesch and to quote Bruce, “sparks flew on E Street.” Nate had done all of the work I had admired but hadn’t ID’d, and soon enough, he was doing it with Paige and me at One Lucky Guitar. New clients, new challenges, new opportunities. The streets were on fire and we hit those bike lanes with reckless abandon.
Down the Line? Lucky Seven? Lucky Ten? Fortissimo? The B-Side?
Sometimes you just need someone to grab your hand and say, “Let’s at least give it a try…” You need partners, not colleagues. Brothers and sisters, not coworkers. A band, not an agency. “Let’s at least give it a try…because I bet we can do it.”
And we did. Over and over and over again.
I get to work with people who inspire me every day. OMG, OLG! I mean, I was recently given the opportunity do an interview for the ‘Love, Fort Wayne’ series and my big thing was maybe a little too simple, but true: I get to do work I believe in, for people who I like and respect, with people I trust and adore.
Going three-for-three on that count is just…I mean, it’s indescribable. (And I get to ride my bike to work to do it.)
It’s the kind of thing you might think could get taken away from you, and the only way for it not to is to wake up every day and tackle it like it’s the one day that’s going to decide whether you get to do it again tomorrow—much less for the rest of your life—or not.
That’s not easy. We could probably all make a little more money, and face a few less challenging days (and there are definitely challenging, challenging days), if we felt differently. No doubt about it, really. But then…who wants easy?
I think we have a nearly crippling fear of wasting a moment, an hour, a day, a week, a year that could otherwise be spent thinking up a new idea, challenging ourselves or pushing the limits of the community—physical or online, real or virtual—that we call home.
I love that feeling, and I love people that love that feeling.
Nate lives his life like that. With his work, with his band, with his personal projects, and most importantly, with his relationships. That’s inspiring. (And it also makes you feel like maybe you’re not alone, and maybe there’s not something wrong with you after all.)
He is my brother.
As Nate moves on to a new adventure, I believe the way he inspires us—here at OLG, but everywhere, really—will continue to burn bright.
There are probably a couple hundred songs I could think about quoting right now. Nate and I have seven and a half years of believing today’s favorite song is probably the best song ever, even though it may be different tomorrow. So I think I’ll just go with the most recent.
I usually have one artist who defines each weekend, and this last weekend it was Joe Henry. In particular his song “Piano Furnace” was just kicking me right in the gut, like a mule, and the kick felt good and so I kept playing the song over and again, sitting in front of my house with the car running and the windows up, down, up, down, over and over and louder and louder.
I think the way that particular song comes to a close makes me remember how I was the recipient of a gift—a true gift—when I got to work with Nate Utesch every day for a lucky seven years:
“Let your iron lungs, my dark hidden heart,
crack open with diamonds when the real rumble starts,
stand naked in smoke, sending up sparks…
let us stoke the fires of the world.
Let us stoke the fires of the world.”
– Joe Henry w/ L. Detweiler