The Summer of 2000…
I think it was the summer of 2000 when I sang my 1st harmony with a friend. It was magical – there were 3 of us, 2 of us were singing and we all were strumming acoustic guitars and sporting huge grins – we were naturally and unnaturally high. Hanging out with my 2 buddies that summer, everyday writing songs and driving around laughing was the best, but not even close to our peak.
We named our acoustic trio, “A Small Band,” and soon discovered we were the perfect weekly open mic act. One of those weeks I decided to step out from harmonizing and sing lead on a tune, and to this day I wonder how different my life would have been if I hadn’t taken that risk.
After “A Small Band” hit the last note, the open mic crowd went wild, as usual… Maybe because we were good, maybe because we were young, maybe because we were 3, but one face from the crowd emerged and shook my hand. This man in a black trench coat and a black fedora handed me his card and said, “Call me.”
Three weeks later the the man in the black coat had booked me at a downtown venue, and I took the stage solo. The crowd was filled with punk 20 somethings and the event was a prop 21 rally (To this day don’t know what prop 21 is, and I don’t think I did then). Nervous as the 16 year-old kid I was, I played the first note of my first solo gig, for these hardened punks 7 years older than me. I played one cover and one original – this was not the open mic.
After the show a friendly face emerged from the crowd and said he was impressed that I had the balls to sing a Dave Matthews cover for punks, and that my original song was played funky as hell on just a bass. (Looking back, that WAS ballsy to sing an original tune on just a bass, and to sing a Dave Matthews Band song at a grungy event… they were all the rage at my high school). This guy said his brother was a musician and told me to call him, so I did, and met my lifelong collaborator and recording engineer. And so began my solo career.
Fast forward 1.5 decades later, 1 international tour, about 20 national tours, 2 separate inductions into my hometown’s Hall of Fame, 2 collaborations with 2 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame legends and it’s still those acoustic guitars, having fun, driving around, getting high, and the the feeling of singing harmony with my two buddies in “A Small Band” that summer of 2000 that I crave.
I don’t mean to sell the creative process short. Needless to say, it’s essential. For the listener it’s everything. But to some extent almost anyone can make music.
But when it comes to BEING a musician, it’s that muscle memory. It’s knowing the rest stops along the 5 freeway by memory because you’ve toured that stretch of the country so many times. It’s the familiar smell of stale beer, cleaning products and piss that hits you when you enter a bar in the afternoon before the air conditioners have been turned on. It’s the feeling of that hangover as you drive blurry eyed and dry mouthed to the next city on your list of tour dates. It’s hanging out in the laundry matte across the street from the show while you wash your close and wait for the headliner to finish their set so you can get paid and split for the hotel. It’s the familiar weight of your guitar case in your hand. It’s the comradery you feel with your tour mates and the melancholy of knowing that despite promises to the contrary, you’re never going to keep in touch. And it’s a million other little subtle experiences that define what it means to be a musician. At least that’s the way it’s been for me. It’s not the guitar chords, or the number of albums sold, but rather it’s knowing those things first hand that makes me a musician, a veteran. And it’s knowing that you are one of a small percentage of the population to not only have seen, but to have lived behind the curtain that makes this whole crazy thing worth while.
But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it matter.
I look forward to many more sometimes hard, sometimes ugly, always worth while experiences along this musical journey. Here’s to hopping that you are part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear a major milestone of that journey, click hear to listen to songs produced by GRAMMY Winning Producer Oz Fritz, on the self-titled album by my band, ‘Izabella’. On it there’s s handful of my songs the band never got to, and those are produced by my buddy I met from the prop 21 rally, that summer of 2000.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter. Please leave a comment below and let me know you care (awwww) 🙂
***BTW my 2 buddies from “A Small Band” are doing great– one makes pedal boards for Lady Gaga’s bassist and he plays guitar all over LA. The other guy is married with kids and sings in a band with his wife. We actually just had a reunion show and we’re still close friends.