Interview with Deb Cardy of Ocean Time
Deb Cardy is running an Airbnb rental from her home just outside the Yachats city limits.
TYG: So how did you get into this business?
Deb: I got into vacation management about 45 years ago. I’m 60 now, so that gives you a pretty good idea of how long I’ve been involved with it.
TYG: Wow, since you were a kid!
Deb: Since I was a kid. I started out in Colorado, and I started out in a ski area called Breckenridge. It took me a little bit of time to build it up, but when I left my business, there were 150 properties, all in the Colorado Rockies. So that’s where I got this start! Then I got ill and moved to Oregon, and I was led to Yachats—I don’t know how else to put it. I knew I was moving, but I didn’t know where to. I was staying at a motel up the road, and there’s a deep cove there, and two gray whales came in with their babies. They flipped up on their sides, and they were nursing their babies. And I didn’t think anybody got to see that very often, and I thought that was just a clear sign that Yachats was really for me.
Deb: So that’s how I ended up here. Now I’ve been here for 12 years, 13 years May 4th—that’s when I arrived in 2004. I’ve been lucky and blessed to live in the house this time. This May, I decided that I wanted to open my life a little bit more, and it really didn’t have so much to do with wanting to be back in the service industry, it had to do more with I wanted to have impact with more people. I wanted to have people impact me. I wanted to share this experience that we have here in Yachats, because it truly is one of the most magnificent places on the planet.
TYG: I have to say, certainly the places I’ve seen... Big Sur is amazing, but aside from that I haven’t really seen anything except maybe the Grand Canyon. But the views around here are just like, “Wow!”
Deb: Have you been to Colorado yet?
TYG: No, I have not been to Colorado. I haven’t been to that many places, actually. I have been across the United States, but we took the southern route.
Deb: Right! Well, I have to tell you, it was very different to be landlocked most of my life. My first exposure to the ocean really was here in Yachats. So going to the beach, having it green year around...
TYG: That was probably also huge!
Deb: [laughs] Oh boy! When I was here it was in March, and it was below zero in Colorado, and I had the sliding glass doors of the motel room open all night long, because to me it was a heat wave! [laughs] So it was a beautiful experience, a beautiful welcome into Yachats. I moved here six weeks after that trip, and I gave my business to my staff so that it wasn’t a closed business. I came out here and I didn’t know anybody, didn’t have a family, and I thought, “Boy, I need to find a way to get by out here!” I’ve been really blessed. Having you as a neighbor, having the neighbors here in the area, it’s more than anybody could ask for. The support of the town... it’s a beautiful feeling to know that the community is in support of most everybody here! So I love it. And in March, March is when I made the actual decision to open up the Airbnb. You probably watched as the transformation began outside.
TYG: Yes—the house got slowly renovated.
Deb: Exactly. I’ve taken out the carpeting, I’ve done all kinds of improvements to the house—I’ve made it easier for people to just come in and out of the house. So it started with that, and looking for a really comfortable bed, bedding, a warm color in the room, thinking about the room. The room is laid out sort of in feng shui. Do you know what that is?
TYG: Not really.
Deb: Well, it’s the placement of items that energize a particular area. So in my guest bedroom I have four white corners, and that’s to signify healing and tranquility and peace. The other color of the room is warmth and coziness.
TYG: Yes, it’s almost peachy?
Deb: Yes, it is—it’s a wonderful color. And then I wanted the guests to feel really special, so I got the fluffiest, biggest towels I could find, and the nicest, most thread-count [linens] that I could find, because I wanted to the guests to be spoiled. When people go on vacation, they save up for it. Some people only get to take one vacation a year, and if they choose Yachats, and they choose my place to stay, I want them to feel like they’ve been to heaven and back.
TYG: That’s always a good thing to do, particularly for a bed and breakfast place. If it’s like a big hotel or something, I don’t think it’s that important because you’ve got a lot of other stuff coming in. But if it’s just a little Airbnb place like this, the importance of one guest is everything.
Deb: Yes! The guests who were here last night were from Western Australia, on a seven-week trip to the United States, and this was their first visit. They started out in San Francisco and were going up to Vancouver, BC, then over to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. They’ve been staying at all Airbnb places. One of the things they said was, because I asked them if there was anything I could do to improve their stay, what they liked about staying here was they had a personal contact, they had somebody to tell them the cool places they’re not going to find on the map, the wisdom of going to the beach, even though they live at the beach in Western Australia...
TYG: Very different beach!
Deb: [laughs] Very different beach! But they really enjoyed themselves, and just left this morning. Hopefully they’ll come back again. But what people tell me is that they sleep here better than they ever have. I don’t think that’s because of the house—I think that’s because of the location. We have the ocean, we have the mountains right here: you couldn’t ask for more.
TYG: That’s right, you couldn’t. It feels very safe, very secure; you have things on all sides, but not in a cramping way. There’s space around you, but you feel protected.
Deb: And that kind of goes with the community—it’s a great place. Having comfort, making sure that I can meet all the needs that I can possibly meet for my guests... If that means making a meal for them, making it a little easier if they’ve had a day out hiking and on the beach—they may not feel like going out. I’m going to cook meals for myself anyway. So I’ll offer them to have dinner with me, and about 50 per cent take me up on the offer. So that’s kind of fun, keeps my cooking skills up to par! [laughs] And they get to choose kind of what they’d like to eat, too. Pamper, love, connect, be there—I tell the guests, “I can be your handmaiden, or I can disappear and you can just have the run of the house.” Most of them want to have the personal interconnection, they want to have that connection with somebody.
TYG: We didn’t have that at [when we stayed at an Airbnb in Bend recently.]
Deb: Well, let me see... This summer, we had a young girl come in off of the Pacific Crest Trail. It starts in Mexico and ends up in Vancouver. She got down to Florence, and she needed a break: she needed a bed and a bath. She’d been on the road for three months. So we met her at the farmer’s market, and we asked her if she’d like to chill out for a couple of days and relax. We had her here for three days: we did her laundry, she slept in a bed, she took a bath, she was able to reconnect with people. That was a real satisfying experience, to be able to give somebody just that much, and then just send them on their way. In fact, I took her back up north so she could begin her next trek. The day before yesterday when the guests came in, I knew they’d already been on the road for a couple of weeks, and I was pretty sure they probably had some laundry. I didn’t want to interfere with their day, so I just had them leave their laundry with me—I just did their laundry! It’s not that hard to do, it doesn’t take any time, didn’t charge them for it.
TYG: If you’ve got a washing machine, it’s not the hardest thing to do.
Deb: Not at all! And the guests are free to be able to use the laundry. I open up my cupboards to them, and they can eat whatever they want to, because one or two people are not going to empty my cupboards in a couple of days if they’re going to be here. My longest staying people have been for one week. They generally want to stay a little bit longer, but I think that’s because they’re really into the moment. But I really get to know them—they become more like family. And the people who stay for one or two nights, they’re special too, because they all leave a little piece of themselves.
TYG: Everyone has their own story.
Deb: Everybody has their own story, their own energy, and it’s great. I love the connection with stories from all over the world. We had a country-western entertainer here, which you’ll probably be able to see at the Grammy Awards this next year. He and his wife were here for a week, and it was lovely! We had some people who had just retired from Kabul, in Afghanistan—they’d been there for twenty years.
TYG: They were ex-military or something?
Deb: They were ex-private contractors. The wife actually ran the distribution of US liquor through Afghanistan. That was one of her jobs. I’ve also had an Apache helicopter pilot, that was a woman. Being exposed to all these different people from every walk of life is just a blessing to me. I don’t know if the guests understand how big that is, but truly, I am blessed by every guest that walks in the door. I have never had a bad experience—I’m sure there are horror stories out there, but [knocks on the table] I have never had that problem. [laughs] We do let guests bring their pets—I think we’ve had three dogs here that were guest pets. They were okay, I didn’t mind having them here. The fenced yard is an asset to people who want to bring their pets.
I try to encourage every one of the restaurants locally, all the shops; I have a menu of all the restaurants in the room, so that they can see what the menus are for each location and pick what they want to go and do. I’m trying to meet all of the needs, and think ahead. Being in the industry for so long, I took a little break, so I’m coming back into it with all the different changes. Internet, Netflix, all these things are new since I was last in the industry. There’s a computer the guests are able to use, Windows 10, so that’s up to date. The guests appreciate having it right there, because they can check in at home and send e-mails or anything else that they’d like to do. They are internet-connected throughout the house, so they don’t have to come in here and use it. I’m really having a good time. I’m trying to become one of those Gold Star hosts.
TYG: By the reviews, you’ve already managed it!
Deb: [laughing] Imagine that, Allen, out of this little house!
TYG: No! Honestly, now that I see it—I didn’t realize how much you’d done to the place. It’s beautiful in here!
Deb: Thank you—I call it cozy. Everywhere you look I try to make a little statement visually, so your eyes can find something to land on. [...] So yeah, this is a safe place to come to. We’ve had honeymooners here, couples who have just gotten engaged. When that happens, I find out whether they’d love to have the room covered in flowers.
TYG: Awww. That’s really sweet of you.
Deb: [laughs] This summer, I spent a lot of time cutting and harvesting all the flowers around the house so that they could have fresh flowers all the time. I didn’t realize that people from other parts of the country don’t know what it is that we grow here. They haven’t got a clue what some of the greenery and plants and shrubs are!
TYG: Escalonia, I imagine, is a particularly confusing one!
Deb: Some people have never seen a fuchsia! Or a hydrangea! Or a holly tree! So you stop, and you think how common they are for us—but for others, these are first-time experiences. I kind of forget that from time to time, but when I lived in Colorado, I’d never seen blue flowers before. Columbines, maybe. But you could go to Walmart and see all kinds of flowers.
TYG: But those aren’t real, often.
Deb: Correct! But it turned out that they really are real. I’ve been through the displacement of 12,500 feet to 63 feet above sea level. But I love this place, and I would love for other people to come in and enjoy it too. A little over a year ago, I did a recording on the [answering] machine, that says, “I’m living on Ocean Time. So leave a message.” So when it came time to name the bed and breakfast, “Ocean Time” seemed to be the most appropriate. Because we are all on ocean time. We used to call it “resort time” up in the mountains, you know... and it’s kind of slowed down, when people come here, they slow down a bit. And we really want them to enjoy themselves, and take in the ocean time that they get. So that’s how it got named.
I’m going to be adding things this next year; I’m hoping to be able to put in some raised gardens, with guest seating inside of the raised gardens with a propane fireplace, so they can have a fire all summer long without having to worry about starting a forest fire. Looking at doing some of those major changes this next year, so that when our guests come next summer, they can have a little bit of a different look outside. Those are just a couple of the new changes that are going to take place next year. And new furniture! We’re going to get new furniture!
TYG-Editorial Assistant: Can we talk about Maya?
Deb: [laughs] Maya is a female, two year old Arctic wolf/Husky mix. She gets along with everybody. She’s a real social dog. So when people come they shouldn’t be afraid of her—she’s my companion dog. When people can bring their dog, I figure they pretty much know that I have animals here. I have three cats, and I have a bird. I try to keep cats separate from the rest of the house.
TYG: So who is the bird?
Deb: The bird is Toby. I call him Toby Wan Kenobi.
TYG: [laughs] Nice.
Deb: Toby is about 14 now, and he was a gift. [...] I do keep the cats separate from the living quarters, because not everybody likes cats. [...] But I’m looking forward to next year—next year should be a lot of fun.
TYG-EA: Are you taking time off, or are you going to do it year-round?
Deb: I am going to go year-round, because I think that in the summer months I might just have a guest or two every month.
TYG: So how does it affect your life?
Deb: Well, when a guest is here, you’re on stage. When they’re in the house, your temperament—whether you’re emotional, upset, whatever’s going on, you have to put that on the shelf. Doing this, you have to live in the moment all the time. I never know when I’m going to get a guest, because I don’t block out any days or anything like that. I could get a guest coming in tonight. So I have to be ready at a moment’s notice to have somebody calling us for lodging. There’s no such thing as letting things go for a couple of days.
TYG: Thank you so much! This was a wonderful interview, and I thank you so much!
Deb: Absolutely—thank you!
Interview with Jim D’Ville, Ukulele Educator
Jim D’Ville is a world-known itinerant musician who spends a lot of time in Yachats—and he has instruction openings for adult students.
TYG: How did you get first involved with music?
Jim: In the early 1990’s, my wife and I were moving from Yachats to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a cultural experiment in living in a different place. And right before we left, someone gifted me a five-string banjo. I had no previous musical background. That was at the age of 35, I believe. So I had a book and some picks, and I started to learn to play bluegrass music, because that’s what the instrument was designed for. And then I spent ten years studying all facets of five-string banjo playing. At the end of that ten years, I found that I had simply memorized a lot of pieces of paper, and it did not turn me into a musician. Period.
TYG: I play piano myself, so I know that you sort of have to feel it. If you don’t feel the instrument, it’s sort of like just a bunch of notes with no feeling behind them.
Jim: That’s a very good observation. As a matter of fact, it dovetails right into your next question, which was, “How did the ukulele come into your life?”
Jim: In the year 2000, after studying the banjo for over ten years, my wife’s grandmother, inexplicably, gave me a 1920’s Columbia, Hawaiʻian ukulele, that she’d had in her closet for 50 years. She was a piano player herself, and she said to me: “Jim, if anybody in this family is going to play this ukulele, it’s going to be you.” “But, I said, Grandma! I’m a banjo player! I don’t want a ukulele!” But, I took it. That was about the time we were moving back to Yachats—I believe, for the sixth time, in 2000, and I had a little ukulele with me, and I sat over by the ice cream store where my wife was working in one of those gift shops, and I would practice on her lunch hour while I was relieving her, and I had a book there and was practicing out of the book. Then I finally realized, Allen, I finally realized that if I was going to become a musician it would not be through memorizing songs from a book, it would be internalizing the chords that make up the songs.
Also at this time, I was a docent at the Little Log Church, and so, as you well know, the winters are long here. During my docency, if that’s indeed a word, at the Little Log Church, I would practice there, in the silence of the winter. And when the summer would come, I would sit outside the Little Log Church and practice my chord progressions. After about three or four years of that, I realized that I could start to hear what was going on with the ukulele and with the music. And that’s about the time I said, “Maybe I should go to Portland, Oregon, and expand my horizons into teaching the instrument.”
TYG: So what was for you in Portland?
Jim: People. People that wanted to learn to play the instrument. So I got a job at Artichoke Music, teaching the ukulele. I eventually became the manager at Artichoke Music, and everything started to dovetail together. I got in a band with three other guys, and started teaching.
TYG-Graphic Design: What was the band name?
Jim: Caravan Gogh. If you Google that, we have a couple of records out.
TYG-GD: [laughs] Right. Are you still playing with them?
Jim: Occasionally, as a trio, when I go to Portland. Cello, ukulele, and mandolin, now. When we started it was cello, ukulele, mandolin, and bass. So that’s how I began the journey on the instrument.
TYG-GD: So, let me get this straight: you just practiced and practiced and practiced, and then you went straight to teaching?
TYG-GD: That’s a different way of getting into teaching than I’m normally familiar with.
Jim: Well, also during my time of studying the banjo, I spent a lot of time learning music theory, self-taught music theory and the circle of fifths. So that, combined with my knowledge now of chord progressions, and how they fit on the fingerboard of the instrument, the ukulele—that combination wasn’t really being taught, that I saw, in the materials that were available. So I felt like I had a unique perspective on teaching, especially adult beginners that wanted to start, and not have the difficulty of starting on guitar.
TYG-GD: So, what kind of music comes out of your style of teaching?
Jim: Every imaginable type of music! You can play classical. You can play jazz. You can play ragtime. 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, pop, rock, reggae! Blues! You name it, all the notes can be found on this instrument. That’s what makes it so exciting and so accessible, because you’re not trapped into a genre, like [when] somebody hands you a five-string banjo, the genre is probably bluegrass or old time music.
TYG: Or a violin, and then it’s probably going to be classical.
TYG-GD: But those notes are there anyway...
Jim: Correct, but it’s the make-up of the instrument that really dictates what you can do with it.
TYG: So what lends it to being so variable and so across the board?
Jim: Across the board? Well, it wasn’t like that in its first incarnation. This is actually not a Hawaiʻian instrument: this is a Portuguese instrument, based off a couple of [other] instruments, the rajão and the machete. It was from the island of Madeira, a Portuguese island. Portuguese laborers that were going to Hawaiʻi in the 1870’s to work in the sugar cane fields brought those dance instruments—primarily [Jim starts strumming] ...
Jim: Yes, dance music, where they would strum and play those type of things. So that was its first incarnation. And then when the Hawaiʻians saw the Portuguese play this they said, “Oh, lookit, the fingers are like jumping fleas, uku lele.” Since the only wood on the island was koa, that’s why they started making ukuleles out of koa. And the string is different now. The four strings are tuned in a way where the top string [plucks] is higher than the next string [plucks]. Normally, strings go in an ascending pitch [demonstrates], but this is called “reentrant tuning,” because you’re going high, then low. So people, when they hear that tuning, they say [sings] “My dog has fleas.” [laughter] So that’s how you remember how the ukulele is tuned. And it’s tuned to an open C6 chord—a C-major chord, and a sixth. That’s what makes it such a happy instrument. So after it became an ukulele, and they started building them in Hawaiʻi in the 1880’s, 1890’s, the turn of the century, it caught on. And in the teens, haole, hapa haole music became popular—Hawaiʻian music written by white people. Like jazz age, Tin Pan Alley kind of stuff—[starts playing] they were using these Tin Pan Alley chord changes, but putting Hawaiʻian vocals in [demonstrates with funny, spur-of-the-moment lyrics]. At the turn of the century, also though, before that music came along, there were Hawaiʻans who were actually writing melody-based songs that were really quite beautiful; stuff like the Spanish fandango. So that’s where the music started, and then when in got into the 20’s, Charleston and Five Foot Two and all those. So it went through the ragtime, and the jazz age—that was its most popular. In fact, this is a Martin, a pre-1935 Martin [shows us his instrument], style “O”, which means it’s the least fancy—entry-level uke. Now about $700 for this, but back then it would be like five bucks. But a 5K style, with koa, is about $12,000 to $15,000, if it’s in pristine condition. [TYG exclamations] Martin is known for guitars, but actually in the 20’s, the ukulele saved the Martin guitar company from bankruptcy, because so many of them were sold because so many wanted to sing. It’s easy to carry around. That’s what it went through in the 20’s, then died out in the 30’s and 40’s, came back in the 50’s when Arthur Godfrey was selling the plastic ones on TV. This is just your basic history that you can find anywhere on the net, but about in the 90’s, it started coming back and now it’s probably the most popular stringed instrument in the world with clubs everywhere. So that was fortunate for me, because since I started teaching in 2005, 2006, it was starting to spike in popularity. Fortunately, I knew how to play it, and I had a unique perspective on the chords.
TYG: You hit in the rise—always a good thing to do.
Jim: Yep! I bought low, and now it’s high!
TYG-GD: When you talk about clubs, what do you intend by that?
Jim: Almost every little town, medium-sized town, and big city now has a ukulele club all over the world. It’s pretty amazing. In fact, the last time I lived here, about 2009, 2010, I started one in Newport, the Newport Ukulele Tune Strummers (NUTS), and they still meet on the second Wednesday of every month at the Red Lotus music store. Also one of the best camps in the world is outside of Lincoln City, called “Tunes in the Dunes.” It’s a three day camp every September out at Westwind, which is one of the most beautiful retreats on the Oregon Coast. So there are camps and retreats year-round.
TYG-GD: With various classes and stuff? And performances?
Jim: Performances, and workshops.
TYG: So how did you come to Yachats originally?
Jim: In a vehicle! [TYG muffled groan] My wife and I were escaping from San Francisco in spring of 1987. We bought a 1970 Ford Econoline van; we started driving north with all our stuff in it; we got to Yachats and thought, “Oh, that’s a nice little town” but we kept going, and we got to Newport and we said, “Oh my god! Wax museum! Ripley’s Believe It or Not! They have that in San Francisco! Turn around! Let’s go back to that other little town!” [laughter] Which we did. And that started a 30-year love affair with Yachats. We’ve moved away seven times, and moved back eight. And we spent a good part of that time—probably 20 years—here. And we’ll be spending this winter here also.
TYG: So I’m assuming you sing with your performances?
Jim: Although I do play and sing, my primary mission in life is to get adult players to sing and play the instrument without looking at a book. Because that’s one of the downfalls of playing music. At clubs, adult beginners that come to this instrument, they’ll want to immediately learn to play and sing. And that’s pretty easy, because the chords are easy—you learn two chords, and you can play a billion songs. But the problem is that when you’re looking in a book, it ends up coming out very...
Jim: Regimented. [plonks woodenly on his instrument] Up down, up down, up down.
TYG: No feeling.
Jim: No feeling, because have you ever tried to read a book and watch a movie at the same time? You know how they say the book was better than the movie? Have you ever tried to read the book and watch the movie at the same time?
TYG: Not at the same time.
Jim: See? It doesn’t work because you’re doing opposite things! And that’s like trying to play music while you’re reading a book. It doesn’t work. If you’re thinking about the song, and letting it come through that way, the emotion of the song can come out this little hole here, in the instrument. That’s where it’s supposed to come out. The emotion is supposed to come out of this little hole.
TYG: That’s interesting. The piano is a bit different. When you’re first learning you need to go through a book, because if it’s not coming out of your head, you basically need to read it on paper at first. But then once it comes out, I have the paper open long after I technically need it, but I keep it open to just look up in case I need a reminder about something, but most of the time I’m looking down at the keys.
Jim: Well, there’s a little technique that I use that’s called looping, where you put the sound in your head over and over again, and then move on. [...] So see, this is my approach to getting people up and running quickly: listening to what’s happening and then playing, as opposed to getting their nose stuck in a book.
TYG: This is just me, but one of the things I like to do to make things more lively is adding just a little bit of swing. Even if it’s totally classical.
Jim: You better watch it, buddy. You’re pushing the beat, huh? [laughter] Friends don’t let friends clap on the one and the three—because the beat is usually on the two and the four. Right? [demonstrates the difference and ends with a flourish] I want to add one other thing: Over the next six months, while I’m living here, I want to maybe do some experimenting with getting together a small group of like-minded adults who might want to organize into some small ensemble; people interested in learning to play the ukulele, interested in playing in a small ensemble, arranging some tunes. Because that’s when it sounds really nice, is when you can get a few people together to play. It doesn’t take much to get up to speed—a few chords, and you can play the instrument. If anybody is interested, they can contact me.
TYG-GD: Did you also say you can give lessons?
Jim: I also give lessons too.
TYG: It’s really and different from the piano. With the piano, if you don’t know how to do a whole range of stuff, often you can’t play a song. By range, I don’t mean just a few base chords and how to press a key. Piano is more of a slow burner, I think.
TYG-GD: Although I remember when Mrs. Treon was teaching you that she would let you kind of riff on only the black keys, or only the white keys [while she played]. And that was a nice way, as a beginner, to actually participate in a song. I thought that was a pretty cool technique there.
Jim: Yes, she’s great. When I was first getting started, I was playing some of that “Five Foot Two,” “Ain’t She Sweet,” and those kind of tunes. And we actually did a little recital up in the PAC [Performing Arts Center, Newport OR], during the teachers’ thing—she backed me up on piano and I played ukulele, and it was a lot of fun. But it was sort of like the first validation that somebody would let the ukulele into the Performing Arts Center and play some tunes. She’s a good teacher.
TYG-GD: Do you know Dick Takei? Did you guys ever play together or hang out?
Jim: No—I was only here about a year when we were living near them, on the south side of the river. I’ve known him, but he’s pretty much locked in to that Hawaiʻian genre, and he plays with another guy. And I travel a lot, too. I’m gone a lot. The last four years, my wife and I have been travelling in the United States and Canada in an Airstream trailer, because I was always gone.
TYG-GD: Why did you need to travel?
Jim: Because I teach workshops all over the world.
TYG-GD: Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Jim: Sure! In 2009, 2010, I started teaching at ukulele workshops and festivals, which were just starting to really come into their own. Now, it’s crazy how many there are, all over the world. I’ve been to Melbourne, Australia three times, teaching at the Melbourne Ukulele Festival. I just got invited to the Ukulele Festival of Scotland next year, to teach there. I’ve been to Canada a number of times, and all over the United States. Because of my traveling schedule, and missing my wife and cat, we decided to buy an Airstream trailer about four years ago, and we’ve been dragging that all around the country—from here to Southern California, to Nova Scotia, to the Florida Keys, and back—logging probably, I don’t know, 100,000 miles.
TYG-GD: What happens to your cat when you go to Melbourne?
Jim: We put her with our in-laws. But yes, it’s that popular, and I have a whole series of DVD lessons called “Play Ukulele by Ear.”
TYG: Yes, I saw that on your website.
Jim: I’m really the only one doing that in the field, so when they have people [at workshops] there will be an expert at 20’s and 30’s style strumming, and whatever. But my specialty is chord progressions, music theory, and learning to play by ear without a book. So I get a lot of work all over the place, and I’ve been making a living at it for six years.
TYG: Nice! What did you do before, in terms of jobs?
Jim: Well, in the 90’s, when I was learning to play the banjo, I was a weed-puller here in Yachats and I also worked at some of the bed and breakfasts, like Sea Quest, and I did a lot of driftwood sculpture—benches and sidewalks, driftwood stuff. In fact, I built an arbor at Sea Quest in the 90’s, and a picture of it was featured in Sunset Magazine! Pretty exciting! That and a dollar got me a cup of coffee... [laughs] But when we came back in 2000—you know, you have to do whatever you can to live here. My wife worked at La Serre as a server, and I was a bartender there, and I also did landscaping and things like that for about five years while I was practicing. That was the good thing: I made enough money to practice and get to the point where I could do it full-time. [...]
TYG: Going back to the instrument: the ukulele is such a happy instrument. My style is more sort of deep, dark, sort of sad. Very minor.
Jim: [starts playing minor notes]
TYG: See, you can’t really get sad.
Jim: Oh yeah, you can. [starts strumming and singing: “My baby left me... up the Yachats River Road...”] [laughter] B. B. King made his living doing that! But yeah, you can do anything with this, you really can. That’s why I love it. I’m learning some minstrel, banjo stuff from the 1850’s—original slave melodies that were brought over from Africa, just rhythmic stuff. [plays a sample]
TYG-GD: Where did you get that music from? How was it written down, and transmitted?
Jim: That tune, “The Circus Jig,” is from the first five-string banjo instruction book from 1853, “The Briggs’ Banjo Instructor.” Briggs, the guy that put it together, lived in the South. A lot of those melodies were right from the Africans. That’s what I like about the ukulele, is that you can put anything you want onto it. You can make it happy, sad, any mood that you’re in.
TYG: One thing that I’ve observed is that you can’t go very low on it.
Jim: No. [plucks] That’s as low as you can go: middle C. [...] That’s why you find other people to play with, like a cello or bass player. I have to go to the key of F to go below the root [demonstrates]—but it’s still middle C. I’m limited!
TYG: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?
Jim: [...] I think the main point is that if people are interested in just learning about the instrument, I’ll be around for six months. And I would like to get something going, if anybody has even a passing interest in the instrument. [...] In my job, it’s not simply to just get up in front of a roomful of people and [play]. It’s to also empower them. The way to do that is to knock down their defenses with humor. Once you can do that, then the information gets in. But if they’re sitting there in fear, and fear is dominating: “I’m not good enough to do this.” “I can’t play the ukulele.” “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I can list hundreds of things that people could say to themselves on why they can’t do things. But you know, “Can’t” lives on “Won’t” Street. So empowering people to get rid of their fear, and just even listen... When you have fear, fear blocks your ears, then you can’t hear.
TYG-GD: Do you have a part-time job lined up, or are you just going to work on workshops, or what?
Jim: Being self-employed is a full-time job. I set my own schedule, but I have a website to maintain. I do a lot of interviews with people when I go to festivals. I get to hang around with the best ukulele players in the world, so I take advantage of that by doing exactly what you’re doing, which is interviewing them—so I have over 150 interviews on my website with famous ukulele players and luthiers. I know how to use a camera, and I was a newsman for a while, so I have those interviewing skills. I’m very proud of what you’re doing too—I was over there at the library, and I went through the [TYG] archives. I’m very impressed!
TYG: Thank you so much!
Jim: Oh, my pleasure. I really enjoyed it.
Jim D'Ville was very gracious and shared a clip with us of his ukulele playing: Spanish Fandango.
Tickets are now on sale for the 16th annual
Yachats Celtic Music Festival
Nov. 11 – 13
Yachats Celtic Music Festival
Nov. 11 – 13
Online tickets are available at
More than a dozen musical acts, a variety of workshops and presentations, Ceili and Morris dancing, jam sessions, beer and whiskey tastings, plus a Celtic themed Mystery Game. Going to be a whale of a time!
Nov. 11-13 Yachats, Oregon
Facebook: Yachats Celtic Music Festival
Tickets will be available locally at Yachats Mercantile 541-547-3060
Some of the performers at the 2016 festival are Chessboxer, The Fire, Biddy on the Bench, and Toad in the Hole. The entire roster and schedule are on the festival’s website at www.YachatsCelticMusicFestival.org, and on Facebook at Yachats Celtic Music
YCMF 2016 Ticket Options
$95.00 All Events Pass
Admittance to ALL Events during the festival. PLUS, the first 72 purchased include option to choose reserved seats for Friday and Saturday night shows. Must be same seats each evening. Does not reserve seats for Saturday daytime events.
Friday: $35.00 Friday Night Concerts
7:00 PM Yachats Commons Chessboxer, The Fire, Biddy on the Bench
Saturday: $35.00 All Day Events 9 AM – 6 PM
Events held at Little Log Church, Commons, or 501 Bldg. Concerts and workshops
$15.00 Saturday Single Day Event
Entry to any individual daytime concert or workshop.
$35.00 Saturday Night Concerts
7:00 PM Chessboxer, Connla’s Well, Doodad Shanty Boys, Terry Trenholm
All Sunday Events FREE
All Festival Jams FREE
No single act night concerts ticket option