Growing up, I would listen to a lot of soul music, a lot of rock music, actually… just a lot of music. I grew up surrounded by diversity and was exposed to different kinds of music. I was exposed to rock(both old and new) to alternative to ska by my white friends. I was exposed to rap and R&B by my black friends. I was exposed to country and bluegrass by my stepfather. I was exposed to the Beatles and Classical music by my mother. And then I was exposed to soul music by some older black “mentors” in one neighborhood in particular during my youth and I still remember the exact day. The first soul song I ever heard was “A Change Is Gonna Come” and I’m not sure why but at the exact moment the words “it’s been too hard living” were sung, I burst into tears. By the time the words “brother help me please” were sung, I knew that music existed for this purpose… to let me feel emotions through a combination of words and music. From there, I was on a kick. I went from Sam Cooke moving south to Ray Charles and James Brown which led me to Otis Redding, who quickly became one of my other favorites. Otis then led to a Detroit soul kick which included Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and even my falling in love with the songwriting of Smokey Robinson. This then led to my introduction to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, which started my love for singing.
In terms of playing musical instruments, growing up with a single immigrant mother meant that music lessons were not a formality. She would scrap together some money from time to time so that I could have a lesson once a month, but I would detest it. Instead, I would listen to all the casette tapes my mother had (everything from Beethoven to the BeeGees and the Beatles) and would emulate the songs. To this day, I remember that the first classical song I ever played on the piano was Moonlight Sonata, and I played it by ear having heard the Cassette tape only about 10 times. The first “pop” song I ever played, was in a similar fashion. One cassette tape was titled Bad and a bad ass looking guy with curly hair named Michael Jackson was on it. The second track on Side B grabbed my attention right away, and I knew that I had to play and sing this song. It was the very first pop song I ever sang and played. Thankfully, it was an inspirational song rather than one about money and bustin caps in asses, but alas popular rap was still years away.
In 6th grade, I remember picking up my first guitar which was left behind by my estranged birth father, and I decided to teach myself guitar. How, given that this was before the internet era? I decided to track down some guys from my church who played. They started to teach me and slowly, I started to pick up guitar on my own as well. I believe the first song I taught myself to both sing and play on guitar was Hotel California. In high school, I began my John Mayer kick which led to the honing of my guitar skills. To this day, you put sheet music in front of me, it would probably take a good year to learn and play, but give me the chords, and I’m good to go in a myriad of styles on both piano or guitar.
When it comes to music, I have always been given opportunities to “pursue” it but I have never wanted to lose the fun and passion in it. But through my short 28 years of living, many things related to loss have led me to truly cherish music in solitude. This includes the loss of a parent, the loss of innocence, the loss of my health, the near loss of my life, and the loss of my hopes and dreams. To me, this is why soul music has held such a special place in my heart. Soul music is about loss. As a non-black, I may not relate the same way that many of those who grew up through the 50s and 60s do, but today, soul music can be felt, regardless of your skin color or culture, because the emotions the soul greats exuded are the very same ones we all feel… and yes, many are about loss. But it’s also a reminder that with loss, we also gain.
As I move forward with my music, I feel that it is such a special privilege to share the feelings and thoughts I have had through my times of loss and hope that my soul… my spirit… will connect with those who will listen. It is my hope that I will be able to share about my life experiences and what I’ve gained from them, as well as about my faith and the faith I have in many things, including a God. That being said, you don’t need to have lived the same experiences or believe the same things I do, to be able to connect to me or my music. I will meet you where you are at. I hope you’ll do the same.