Introducing Mitchell Morris and aPurla… Part One
Hello and welcome to our very first blog post! We wanted use this as an opportunity to give you an inside look at aPurla and to introduce you to the exceptionally creative Mitchell Morris, the founder and creator of aPurla! He and I grabbed a couple of pillows and blankets, and headed into the forest, where we chatted about guitars, his latest works and the meaning of life.
Mitchell is a pretty interesting guy as it turns out; therefore we had to split this baby into a two part-er. Here is how part one went…
What are the basic facts?
My name is Mitchell John Morris, I’m 25 and I was born and raised in Brisbane Australia. I enjoy cooking, gardening, singing & making music, creating, spying on little birdies, and the ancient art of bonsai.
Describe your job and how long you have been at it?
I work as an instrument repairer at the Australian Academy of Music. I’m a repairer by nature and I repair all things. My motto has always been ‘make do and mend’; in this way I have learnt to repair many, many things. At work I repair everything from piano accordions to brass and woodwind.
Specializing in stringed instruments, some might know me as a Luthier, which means repairer of luted instruments, but I like to think my job is not so specific. Obviously it is not always possible or viable to repair, so I also get a kick out of handcrafting top quality instruments that won’t end up on my repair bench in the near future, but will instead maintain lasting excellence. Officially I’ve been repairing instruments for about seven years, but all of my prior training has strongly influenced my trade: like my three year electrical apprenticeship, or my time studying to be a tattoo artist.
What is your musical background and what kind of music do you listen to?
It would seem that fate predestined me to be born into this industry. My Grandfather on my dad’s side always had…I’m going to call it an obsession with music, his life revolved around it and I can resonate with that. In his early days he took off to the USA, with nothing but the clothes on his back and his clarinet. Upon his return to Australia he started teaching music, then in 1967, he and my Nanna started the Australian Academy of Music at Spring Hill as a small teaching facility, which slowly grew to a large teaching facility & retail store, they did a lot for the music industry in Australia, we are all very grateful for their legacy. My parents both worked at his store and subsequently music was thrust upon me from a young age. It was somewhat inevitable that I would be involved in music in some way, so it’s great to be repairing, and working at the store (now in Brendale) with them and to be continuing the legacy that my grandparents and all their team left behind.
I’ve played a plethora of instruments in my time from piano to double bass to trombone. In grade eight high school I was inspired by Weird Al Yankovic to start playing accordion and I got pretty into that, around that time I also picked up the harmonica, which was later to become a true love affair of mine, one of the instruments I really stuck with, alongside guitar and vocals.
I like most types of music. I’m inspired by inspired music, music that was written because it had to be written. I like music for the moment: campfire music, street music, real music, you know, soul music. For me, music and life are intimately intertwined.
What inspired you to become a Luthier? How did you even know that it was a job!?
Well, I didn’t! I had finished three years of my electrical apprenticeship when I left to pursue tattooing and work part time in my parent’s music shop, during that time I got the idea to build myself a guitar. I had no knowledge…or funds, a dangerous, yet strangely powerful combination. Empty pockets and a reckless mind caused me to go into the backyard and cut down a dead old tree for this project, which as it turns out was nowhere near big enough….or dry enough. I ended up with a guitar looking…thing, and a whole bunch of very valuable lessons. Here, I like to remember the wise words of Jake the dog when he said “Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something”.
My parents, seeing my enthusiasm to learn, yet total lack of guidance, offered to help me find training in repairing guitars. The timing worked out great for me, as they were looking to branch out into a repairs service. It was very difficult to find any sort of training in musical instrument repair in Australia at that time, so we found that I had to make my way over to America, where I was blessed to have trained in the workshops of amazingly skilled craftspeople, including Master Luthier Bill Extrum. Their guidance and expertise in this craft changed my entire future. Upon my return from this trip I found my guitar had been smashed to splinters by luggage handlers on the way home, this ended up being my next valuable lesson in guitar building and repairing.
What is the meaning of life?
To continuously grow, create and learn, never stop learning! To live and to love and enjoy it.
Why did you start aPurla guitars and repairs?
Like most things I do, I didn’t force it, it just sort of happened. I had an interest, and I followed it. I really started making guitars just for the fun of it, and before I knew it I had quite the collection! I now know I was put on this earth to make guitars and my work is an extension of who I am. It’s not easy bringing a new brand into the market, especially in the guitar world. At the moment it’s an industry that is really driven by brand, and many people buy blindly because of this. As a result, I often see people ending up with knock off, poor quality instruments due to false branding. I felt an urge to make handcrafted high quality instruments for the Australian market that improved on current designs and didn’t have any of the common faults (most of which can be avoided just by taking more time, care and paying more attention to detail) that I was seeing in many of these instruments. Being a repairer I get to see all sorts of designs, I really see the good, the bad and the ugly. I get to see what works and what doesn’t, and I get to see it from the point of view of a repairer and a player. I wanted to create a brand that keeps guitar making an art form, while allowing it to be sustainable into the future, and really felt that there needed to be another option for players out there, other than the mass production of the bigger names. I really couldn’t have done this all by myself, and luckily I get a lot of help and inspiration from some amazingly talented people.
Thanks for that Mitchell, we had a blast! In part two we got the hammocks out and contemplated the big things while we talked about his new series of recycled guitars… Click here for the next installment.