Interview with Dan McCarthy, owner of Dallas Guitar Repair

I’m from Fort Myers, Florida — raised by a single mom and have four siblings. Childhood was a lot of running around Florida, entertaining ourselves, but there was always some kind of connection to music. I always knew I wanted to be in bands. I got a guitar when I was twelve years old and I knew it was what I wanted to play for the rest of my life. I took a couple of guitar classes in high school and college but I wasn’t sure at what level I wanted to pursue it. After graduating, I got a job, and worked at a few chain stores for a while, but realized that I was happier working for myself, even though I would be taking a $20-40k decrease per year. Working for myself made me happier because there was much less stress and I decided my own hours.

The last band I was in was a brotherhood of a bunch of friends. We toured all over for around 6 years. Everything was going really well, but we couldn’t agree on the next step. So they were my friends but also my enemies. We couldn’t decide if we should sign on a major record label or we should just tour, etc. There was so much bickering and indecision, it kind of felt like have 5 girlfriends at the same time, so I eventually had to leave the band and forge a new path.

I decided, instead of performing, I would help performers out on the road. I would make more money and get to see more of the world. I ended up going on a European tour for 2 months with some of my idols like Jim Beck (country music producer from Dallas, TX) and Brian May (lead guitarist of Queen). Once I was able to talk to these stars and get their perspective on things, I realized you have to be careful what you wish for, because some of these musicians have to tour until they drop dead because they can’t do anything else. They can’t change gears like teach lessons or open a recording studio. I realized that I was spending 2 months of my life, doing what they’re doing, and all I’m doing is looking out a window of a tour bus and not really getting to explore these new environments. Like I would get to go to Sweden, but only for 5 hours, and most of that was working. When I got back to Dallas I knew I had to rethink what I wanted to do with my life, because I didn’t wanna spend the rest of my life looking out a window watching everyone else do their thing while I’m just sitting here, making money of course, but it’s not a full life at all. Some of those big stars, I was really surprised to learn, that it must be really lonely because they’re kind of stuck in this life – a sort of artistic cubicle.

So I was doing sales and repairs in Dallas stores, but realized I wanted to work for myself because at the end of the day I could look up and say, “Okay I’ve repaired 5 or 10 guitars today”, whereas if I was doing sales I would not have that same feeling of accomplishment. I also really enjoy getting feedback from customers, especially the positive kind, because it’s a good feeling. I equate it to the experience of a chef, where customer feedback is everything.

Recently I’ve thought about changing paths again, because I’ve done it in the past, and I’ve taken an interest in paragliding, which obviously is not related to music at all but is something that I really like. I could do some teaching in that field and be able to get out and see the outdoors instead of looking at concrete buildings all day in Dallas.

The problem with teaching is that no matter how hard you try, if your student isn’t putting in the time outside of lessons, they are not going to learn, and it becomes very frustrating.

My sister tells my nephews to take me as an example. She says, “Look at your Uncle Dan; he’s happy and does what he wants because he works for himself.” A few weeks ago I went to San Diego for a week just to go paragliding. I don’t have to worry about losing business because the customers are really loyal. They know what I do and they know I’m better at it than most people around. All in all, I’m really happy being a guitar repairman and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

 

Interview conducted by Seth Ordiway.

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