The sounds of the Blues Masters, Jazz Cats, Punk Rockers, French Impressionists, Romanticists, Classicists, Rock n’ Roll Gods, Shoegazers, Electro Poppers, and Indie Bands have all made their way into my music collection and all have had an immense impact on my music. I fell in love with music before I knew anything about everything and the story of my life is best told in relation to the discovery of the musicians, albums, and composers that have influenced me along the way. Music is my aeroplane and, in many ways, it has saved my life.
I moved to the west coast looking for bigger mountains to climb. After a life studying music and the guitar, my wife and I sold most of our belongings, gave away our chickens, and left a beautiful home overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains in order to pack up our car with a whole bunch of camping gear and our two cats so we could explore the country on our way out to Los Angeles.
We honky-tonked in Nashville, visited The King in Graceland, hiked Cibola National Forest in Albuquerque, camped in Chaco Canyon, skinny dipped in the San Juan River while camping in Utah, ran through lightning storms on the plateaus of The Grand Canyon, partied in Las Vegas, and hiked to the top of Mt. Baldy before we descended into the City of Angels in early May of 2019.
In addition to songwriting, recording, teaching guitar lessons, and playing freelance jazz gigs, I have been funneling my background into the creation of ItsGuitar.com, a free online instructional website that is focused on helping career-minded guitarists bridge the gap between amateur and professional music careers. I have a Master of Music in Jazz Studies, a Music Performance degree from Winthrop University, and have been a member of the Army National Guard Band since 2009. I have been playing guitar since I was about 12 and have been involved in random bands my whole life.
I’m currently living in Koreatown, producing a collection of songs called The Tunnel.
See, I grew up in South Florida listening to Rock N Roll in the back of my dad’s flower shop. He was always playing CDs and cassettes by bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, AC/DC, The Byrds, The Animals, Santana, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, U2, Aerosmith, Neil Young, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Idol, Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Booker T and the MGs. He actually spent all of the 90s driving around South Florida with an old Ibanez electric guitar that he had bought my brother for Christmas one year in the trunk of his metallic blue Supra. My brother never got into playing guitar so it just lived back there slowly warping and dying in the Florida heat and humidity for years. As a 5 year old, I secretly went wide eyed at that thing every time he opened the trunk and, aside from the sound track to the wonder years, old Elvis movies, and Ricky Ricardo singing at the Copacabana, it’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I'm a musician now. I remember it calling to me. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Years later, he finally gave it to me, but it was so far gone that I smashed it to pieces during my punk rock phase.
Although, it was actually a cassette of the Counting Crows’ album, “August and Everything After” given to me by my brother when I was 6 years old that stuck with me. I played it on a Talkboy until the tape wore out. I hope to make an album like that someday. Not long after, I discovered the album “Dookie,” by Greenday that had just come out and fell in love with bands coming out of the California skater, surf punk scene. I was hooked on bands like Rancid, The Offspring, AFI, and Blink-182. The album “And Out Come The Wolves,” by Rancid is still a go to favorite, and I mean, everyone from my generation got hooked on Blink-182. Those bands helped me trace back the punk scene to bands like The Clash, The Ramones, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls, and Iggy Pop. If you ever get a chance, read the book Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil.
Anyways, In 6th grade, a couple of friends and I decided to start our own punk band. One of my friends already played guitar, so I begged my parents for a bass and I started taking bass lessons from an old Rocker named Jay. He would come over with his acoustic guitar and teach me tunes like “The Letter” by the Boxtops. I remember the overwhelming pride I felt when I heard him tell my mother that he couldn’t teach me anymore and that I needed to be taking more professional lessons. I actually ended up getting kicked out of the punk band and bought a cheap Rogue acoustic guitar. I never wanted to be a bassist.
Somehow, the universe gave me the album, “Riding With The King” by B.B. King and Eric Clapton. The two of them were definitely my gateway drugs and through them, I had an endless amount of musicians to explore. Because of B.B. and Clapton, I was able to find guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, and Robert Johnson as well as more modern guitarists like John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa, and Keb Mo as the years passed.
I started taking lessons from a guitarist that had just graduated from Berklee College of Music, Jean Sandoval. He was the teacher that all guitar teachers should strive to be. He also brought Miles Davis into my life. “Kind of Blue” will come with me to the grave. You can hear a group of guys stepping into a new frontier. What the hell do you do with that as a ninth grader?
Being the introvert that I am, I isolated myself for years and shut myself off from everyone while I learned to play the Blues and Jazz.
I played that cheap acoustic until it started to fall apart and saved up to buy the Telecaster that I still play. I stole my mother’s car to pick it up from the music store. They actually delivered the wrong color, but I couldn’t wait any longer for it and, given the fact that I stole a car to get it, I felt obligated to keep it. I was grounded for a few weeks. but who cared. I had my guitar. I spent every hour I had behind closed doors with a wah pedal and my stereo blasting.
After my parents moved us to Greenville, SC to try to repair their relationship, I remember going to see Buddy Guy live in High School. He sat right next to me during his solo in “Damn Right I Got The Blues.” I already knew that I wanted to be a musician, but if ever there was going to be someone looking me right in the eyes and telling me what I was going to do with my life, it was him.
This was the same time that Napster was mainstream and I definitely utilized it to it’s full potential. I was studying guitar the Fine Arts Center in Greenville from a former L.A session guitarist named Steve Watson. All of us would sit around him in a circle wide-eyed. Every time he mentioned a musician or band I hadn’t heard of, I would go home and download everything I could find from the artist. I continued to shift my focus to Jazz at this time.
In college, it was my guitar professor at Winthrop University, Dr. L.H. Dickert, that exposed me to everything from early ragtime and big band music to modern Jazz guitarists. I was able to add George Benson, Charlie Byrd, Jobim, Jim Hall, Mike Stern, and Barney Kessel to my arsenal of influence as well as other artists like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, and Billy Holiday. I also studied Joe Pass extensively and listened to a lot of Pat Metheny. He has such a unique sound that is a conglomeration of an immense amount of influences from across the world. After my freshman year, I even auditioned to transfer to the University of Miami, where he studied. I wasn’t accepted. Back to the practice room.
To be honest, there isn’t a lot of room for Rock n Roll in higher education and I started to distance myself from the idea of being pigeon-holed as a “Jazz guitarist. I was listening to a lot of Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, As Tall As Lions, Fall Out Boy, Kings of Leon, Stars, Train, and Tokyo Police Club, as well as all of my blues and rock idols. The album, “Glass Passenger,” by Jack’s Mannequin is another album that changed my life.
Then, on the first day of my senior year of college, a beautiful woman actually danced her way into my life. She was walking by as a friend and I were playing guitar outside. My pickup line, “Hey, do you play bass?” She spent the whole day dancing and twirling around the massive oak trees on campus. We’ve been together for over ten years. Around that same time, my mother and step-father divorced. I still don’t know what to make of it. He had been in my life since I was 5 years old and then wanted nothing to do with any of us. He left and started a new family. He was the one that bought me the ticket to go see Buddy Guy by myself. He took me to go see the Allmann Brothers live. He introduced me to Disco. Then he was just gone. I think a lot of people around the world can relate.
I graduated not long after the economy collapsed so I joined the South Carolina Army National Guard Band, to which I am still a member, and started working towards a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the University of South Carolina. Still distanced from the mainstream Jazz scene, I spent the next two years diving head first into Bach (one of the first Jazz musicians), Chopin nocturnes, Beethoven string quartets, Debussy preludes, the extensive live jams of Keith Jarrett, and the Tales From The Acoustic Planet Vol. 2 album by Bela Fleck while also trying to figure out how to make music like the indie rock bands I love. Once again, I was spending every free hour locked away studying and my relationship started to crumble.
As soon as I finished my degree, my wife and I packed our stuff and moved to Asheville, NC to forge our own path. Less than a year later, my dad died in Athens, Greece. He passed out drunk in the street and gypsies stole his shoes. He walked around Athens for half a day barefoot and got a piece of glass stuck in his foot. It got infected over the course of a month until he finally died of blood poisoning the day before he was supposed to fly home. He struggled with alcoholism and addiction his entire life, traits that also controlled my life for the longest time and caused me to ruin a lot of relationships along the way. It fractured my family since they divorced when I was 2. I broke down and drove myself into the ground while hiding it from everyone. I was lost.
Musically, I drifted around while trying to figure out how to take the influence of all of my musical heroes and scream out in my own voice. How do I tell my story and inspire others so that they can find the strength and love they need to overcome their own demons and hurdles? I created itsguitar.com and Total Music Marketing to help others bridge the gap between being an amateur and a professional musician. I played in a JBs-like instrumental funk band, a folk rock band, and a rock band. None of them worked out. I also got really into photography, backpacking, carpentry, farming, and fly fishing thinking that I would potentially run away to live in the backwoods of Montana.
So here I am 4 years later, living in Los Angeles, producing the album I’ve been writing for over 10 years. You can get an honest glimpse into progress on My Soundcloud Page.