I grew up in a family for whom music was always THE event. it was the occasion, shared language and ultimate reason to come together. It remains today the single most important way we're connected and thing we share. Needless to say music, and my very musical family, made a profound impression on me early on. I vividly recall being not much more than 4 or 5 years-old, standing beside my grandfather's upright piano listening to my Aka (beloved aunt Karen) sing, begging her to “play the sad songs". I was obsessed with the sad songs...
I spent most of my early years sitting back and listening to them all play. Too afraid to sing, I would hum along, envying my cousins and step-siblings for their fearlessness. I was shy and nervous, but I loved their music and wanted nothing more than to be a part of it.
In my dad’s family every gathering revolved around the family band. My uncles, my aunt, sometimes their friends, with instruments (guitars mostly), and always at the center, my dad, unassumingly directing the music. That is his natural superpower. Without really meaning to, my dad set the tone, the pace, the mood, and the music always followed. "Martha My Dear", "Classical Gas", "Blackbird", "Norwegian Wood" and "Judy Blue Eyes are the soundtrack- played by him- of my childhood. Throw in the sounds of The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, The Beatles, Talking Heads, and Bessie Smith and Albert King and you’d get the idea.
In my mom’s family music was also central in our ways of relating and spending time together. Although not a musician exactly, my mom was always singing and was always playing music loudly in the house, dancing and being sincerely moved by whomever she was listening to. To this day my dad still explains my musicality and ear to my mom’s perfect pitch that he remembers from years before.
I finally found my spark when I was 13 and decided I wanted to play guitar. By that time I’d already banked years of horn and flute playing in school bands, but I was ready for something more. Marching into my dad's shop I declared as much and within hours we were back home with my new 6-string Sigma and starting my first (of many!) finger position lessons. I remember my finger tips screaming, permanently colored green from the copper strings. but mostly I remember the thrill of a chord progression. That when it changed, your heart changed with it. that each step moved emotion and desire and could make you feel like the world was magical, and that you knew it's secret. I played for hours, one or two or three chords over and over again, envisioning myself on a stage sharing my new-found secret with others.
At 19 I attended mills college to study English, but quickly found myself spending most of my time with other artists and musicians in the dorm practice room, sharing songs. I began to sing for friends after much coaxing, and started writing my first batch of original tunes.
My brief stint at college quickly led to a small record deal, a cross-country move, and all of my first musical experiences as an independent artist. A lot came next - first shows, first tour, first photo shoot, first interview....I have many to thank for that time. They know who they are.
Years ago during a run I told a friend that my secret- if I were to be really honest- was that music was the only thing I could actually imagine doing. That it was the only part of my life that was actually true. I was too young then to employ the kind of action that committing oneself to one's art requires. I've spent years dabbling. Starting then stopping. Trying, then losing my steam in self-doubt. And in all of that time I've learned that the secret of truly being an artist has to do with understanding and appreciating the opportunity itself. That creating, writing, singing, whatever, is only as good as it is generous and genuine. Once I got that, the music has never stopped coming.