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Guitar is life. Don’t know if that’s good or bad. Works for me. When I first starting playing, along about 1982, I really got into the acoustic sound and the bluegrass, mountain folk thing (reminded me of the family).
I never get tired of hearing that stuff. It was always the real deal for me because those guys thought of themselves as instrumentalists first and, oh, by the way, if necessary, sing. Of course, singing mattered. Those songs always told a story — often about real life. Some of that stuff could be eerie or just downright maudlin. Something about all of that was OK with me. I was hooked.
But it was the instrumentals that really got me. And I figured out there were a bunch of different ways to do this. This was often by necessity. A lot of those guys, stuck out in the country as I was, didn’t often have a lot of musical collaborators. You had to figure all this out for yourself. You created your own style and called it good. And, damn it was good!
Sometimes I would listen to Lester and Earl, or the Stanley Brothers or the old 1920’s recordings of my biggest heroes — Sam and Kirk McGee (playing with Uncle Dave Macon and the Fruit Jar Drinkers) — and I wondered if I could ever pull that off. Then I listened to Chet and Merle Travis. That’ll make you shake your head and talk to yourself — or maybe give up.
After about 20 years of listening and playing (trying too hard to be them), I got a revelation. No, I can’t pull that off, and I shouldn’t. That was their thing. It’s time for me to find mine.
So who am I?
About 10 years ago I starting figuring it out. Throw away the pick, do what’s natural with the fingers — minus a thumb pick and finger picks. That stuff never did feel comfortable.
And contrary to what I thought, yes I can sing and do. My musical friends finally insisted on this and drug me out of the living room onto the stage, along about 2006. Yes, I can do the singer-songwriter thing, and I have enjoyed that. And I got over years of stage fright and finally got comfortable on a stage — in front of any size crowd. The feedback was flattering.
It was wierd. There were a lot of people who never even knew I played or wrote songs. Playing alone at home will do that to you. “Damn,” they would say. “When did you start doing that.”
But for me, it was about figuring out my own instrumental self. I was still basically the same guy playing my guitar all alone in my living room in the wee hours after everyone had gone to sleep.
A perfect day for me ends with me hunched over the guitar for about two hours, coming up with a new melody or polishing up my old ones. I highly recommend this for stress relief. Try playing any guitar piece while thinking, or worrying, about something else. It doesn’t work.
And I finally recorded a lot of tracks, starting in about 2009 — singer-songwriter stuff and the instrumentals. I cared a lot about what musicians thought and listeners. Everybody kind of said the same thing: “That’s different.”
I always took it as a compliment, although musician friends always cautioned me that it was all OK as long as I remained musically sound (the right chords for the keys). Yeah, that matters, and I strive for that.
But other than that, I let it fly.