As my tastes evolved, so did my own attempts at playing music myself. Playing is in my blood — My dad never did, but my aunt and uncles on my mom’s side are all incredibly gifted. Watching them play annual family concerts at reunions, I grew up inspired, each of them skilled in their own right at blues guitar, harmonica, singing, songwriting, piano, drums, and composition. My late uncle Gene was one of the greatest fingerpicking blues guitarists I’ve ever seen, and could solo with the harmonica on top of it like he were Bob Dylan himself.
With this variety of influence, I began experimenting. Like lots of kids, I took piano lessons young but didn’t stick to it. With Squidward Tentacles and Kenny G as inspirations, I even tried my hand at clarinet in the middle school band, but that too was short lived. I mainly enjoyed being able to make a foghorn sort of noise with the thing.
My first real love was the guitar. I picked it up around age 10, took a few lessons from a great guy at a local music shop, then taught myself once I knew a few chords and basic music theory. The first song I ever learned to play was “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” from Van Halen’s eponymous debut album (1978), and begged my teacher to show me “Master of Puppets” from the Metallica album of the same name (1986), but he thought it would be too difficult. I went home and learned it anyway.
Through the years after I dabbled in piano, drums when and where I could, and a bit of singing. Currently I’m learning Ableton and producing mostly house music in my spare time. Even if nothing I do ever makes it out, the creative release of writing and performing is what drives me to keep at it. I’m almost constantly listening to, critiquing, and playing music, and I’d spend even more time on it if I weren’t working full-time. It gives me a purpose like other things just don’t.
Okay, but what’s so great about music, anyway?
Music has the power to heal, to drive us insane, to transport us back into our memories or to places unimagined before. It inspires the full range of emotion, the variety of it a perfect complement to the various scenarios, moods, and places we are bound to find ourselves in throughout life.
And that’s just for listening. The ability of people, animals, and even natural phenomena to create pleasing, musical sounds is almost universally celebrated. It’s hard to deny how amazing it is to witness beautiful music flow from somebody, and you can see when musicians really lose themselves in it and let the expression happen as if they’re in some trance state. Watch this footage of a young Carlos Santana, maybe 16 years old, at Woodstock and tell me that doesn’t resemble a spiritual experience (he was also on acid at the time, but do with that what you will).
As such, music seems otherworldly, come from a higher plane to grace us here on Earth with its majesty. This is what inspires such fascination with musical origin stories — we can’t believe where it’s come from and we want to know more about it, as if its natural occurrence were unbelievable. That’s the feeling I have, and the same one I hope to inspire.
I hope you’ll tune in each Friday at 12:00 PM Pacific, plus special editions where I’ll explore new music that I’ve been feeling, older tracks that deserve some love, album reviews, concert and festival previews/recaps, playlists, mixes, original tracks and more but most importantly — telling the stories of all this music that deserve to be told.
(Image Credit: Miguel Á. Pedriñán)