My father gave me a guitar for Christmas when I was in the third grade. Little black Fender Squier and a Squier amp. Pretty sick little set up for a 9-year-old, actually. I tried to play a few things, some blues my uncle taught me, as I recall. Even took some lessons from an older kid a few years later.
But all in all, by the time I graduated high school I couldn’t do a whole lot with a guitar. I could play the beginning of “Back in Black,” maybe a little “Crazy Train,” but that’s about it… I sold the Fender to my brother’s friend for so cheap that he gave me a crappy acoustic as a consolation prize.
Then I went away to college. Villanova University, right in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I’m from north of Boston (Peabody, MA), and had never really been away from home for long. So here I am, young, far from home, got a girlfriend back home, woe is me, I’m pretty depressed. OK, I’m REALLY depressed. But hey, my roommate has this nice acoustic guitar that’s much nicer than my own. Hmm…
I basically played nonstop in college. The bug bit me and I just played and played and played and played. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix were the masters. Played a strat in my dormroom, or later, my attic for hours at a time. Every day. Plus I was studying and writing a lot of poetry in the last few years. I remember the specific place on campus when it struck me that the music already in the world is all well and good, but sometimes YOU have to create your own.
Played in a couple college bands, and it wasn’t until the last semester of my senior year (spring 1999) that I started to sing. I had sort of always had this voice inside my head, but never let it out to anyone, including myself. Never. Listening to all kinds of contemporary R&B as a kid (for a period of years growing up, my favorite groups were AC/DC and New Edition) really planted the seed of vocal melodies in my head. My singing voice slowly started seeping out in the car, alone, and then I finally got the gall to sing in front of people. From graduation until about six months later, my confidence and my vocals just grew and grew until, eventually, I loved to sing for a crowd. Now, four years later, there is no place I’d rather be than on a stage with a guitar and a microphone.
I’ve been playing out as much as I can over the last few years. At first, that meant a couple of gigs a month, including open mics, sitting in with other bands, etc. Over time, that worked itself up to 15-18 gigs a month around Boston to pay the bills. Had to substitute teach during the day for about two years to get by, but it was well worth it. I even got a song out of that experience.
Nowadays, I make a living off of making music. I am truly a lucky boy. But it has certainly been a lot of hard work to get to this point. In the beginning, I had the mentality that I would play anywhere at any time, for anyone, and that has made all the difference. I’ve opened for metal bands, played hippie juice-joints, coffeehouses, blues clubs, festivals, theatres, living rooms, played in the street, noisy bars (lots of noisy bars, actually), and have just tried to throw myself out there wherever I can.
Now I have a new van and tour all over the northeast US (and beyond). I also have a booking agent, a great manager, and an ever-increasing team of amazing people who help me out. Word seems to be spreading fast now (thanks to people like yourself, reading this!) and I’m ready to go, go, go. But in this, there are no shortcuts, no way, no how.
In all honesty, YOU are the reason I’m not just a bitter substitute teacher right now. I thank you for allowing me to keep doing this. People have responded, and continue to respond to the music I create. That gives me life. If my health holds up and people enjoy what I continue to do, I’ll be at this for a long time to come.
And now, the van awaits. Is this a great country or what?
See you down the road.
“75 & Sunny”