Ye Ol' Bookstore

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When I was in high school, I used to ditch class to hangout at an old bookstore in downtown Visalia called Ye Ol' Bookstore.  It's owner and proprietor was an English man by the name of J.P. Beavers.  I learned a lot from J.P..  We had many a discussion involving religion, ethics, history, literature, chess, music—you name it.  

He taught me a chess move called En Passant and hipped me to a lot of wonderful literature growing up.  He was a very intelligent guy, and I dare say that I learned more from him than I did from my high school.  I bought many book from his shoppe (he also gave me quite a few as well).  But, the greatest gift he ever gave me was his company, his conversation, and his brain.  J.P. is no longer with us on this world, but he lives on in my memories.  This visit to The Last Bookstore with my friend Sarah, reminded me of him—specifically, this art piece upstairs.  Thank you J.P., for everything.

Hotel Cafe Acoustic Album Release - May 12th 2018

 Album Cover by Sonya Kanelstrand

Album Cover by Sonya Kanelstrand

I have an acoustic duo album that I am going to be releasing on May 12th 2018 on the Hotel Cafe second stage at 8pm, and I would love to have you there.  Advanced tickets are available for purchase at The Hotel Cafe website:

https://www.hotelcafe.com/tickets/?s=events_view&id=7581

The cover for the new album was photographed by Sonya Kanelstrand.  I am so thrilled to have her image as the face of this extended play release.  If you are interested in finding more of her material online, you can do so here:  http://www.kanelstrand.com

The music on the album is something I have devoted quite a bit of time to for the past several years, whether on the writing of the songs, the capturing of the material, the arrangements, or trying my best to mix some of this material in a manner that I feel is flattering, all by myself.  With that last bit being said, I'm very lucky to have Ryan Lipman stepping in to mix this material for release.

Along with the stellar talent of Sonya and Ryan, my friend Keenan Castello will be joining me on lead guitar that night to perform these songs, live, and my friend Lakin will be opening the show at 7pm.  Tom Bremer played lead guitar on several of these tunes, but will be out on tour during the release.

Your love, support and encouragement means the world to me and I would be stoked to be surrounded by family, friends, acquaintances, and fans.

Dyzzy on Vynyl In-store - April 21st 2018

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Today, in observance of record store day, I’m going to be playing music, exactly like this picture, but in completely different clothing. In observance of my birthday, I’ve been practicing naked (not true, but point in fact, I’m completely naked under what I’m wearing). You can find me at Dyzzy on Vynyl playing some music today with Bearcoon at 2pm, Dustin Robinson at 3pm, and me at 4pm. Love you! 📷: Fabiola Sanchez #recordstoreday

Mike

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I've been making friends with a homeless man named Mike over the past several days.  We met at the laundromat.  

He gave this pick to me as a gift this morning.

We bonded today over the fact that we both used to work at The Queen Mary in Long Beach for a while.

He is a very sweet man.  He likes to smoke pot and drink.  He keeps trying to offer me some weed.  I decline.

He offered me this guitar pick this morning, and some good conversation and I was happy to have both of those.  In actuality, this is one of my favorite types of guitar picks.  I used these for years.  The exact gauge: .73mm  Today, I am playing some music at the Holiday Inn later tonight.  I will use this pick.  Thank you so much Mike.

I hope today finds you all smiling and well.

- the other Mike

Time Machine

I'm turning 39 years old tomorrow. I've got a pretty wild imagination, but not even my imagination could come up with the life I am living currently (or maybe it did—I'll get back to you on that one). I'm filled with gratitude for what I have: you (yes, you reading this). 

At any rate, I wrote this song about my life. It may not seem like it, but I can explain it to you.

My mom turned me on to science fiction. She used to show me old movies like "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells. From there, I got into the more modern varieties such at "Back to the Future" (I was a child of the 80's—and I'm an avid Michael J Fox fan). I also read a lot, and was fascinated by the work of authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote such classics as "Slaughterhouse-Five" in which Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist, gets unstuck in time. All of these elements are in my song, because, they are a part of my life—I am so very grateful for all of these influences.

The song is also about my family. The opening verses talk about playing legos with my brothers Clark and Matt. Clark is 9 years older than Matt and I, so he used to watch us kids when my mom and dad were away from the house. He would play legos with us kids. He would challenge us to make spaceships using our own imagination instead of using the instruction manual that comes with a prepackaged set. He also worked at a toy store at the time, and had access to radio controlled cars, and toy guns that shot rubber pellets and flying discs. Long story short: he was the raddest older brother two little guys could have. Thanks Clark.

Most of all, this song deals with us. It deals with people. It deals with life. We are creatures of senescence, which means that our cells are slowly losing their ability to divide and grow. It's a fancy $5 word used to say this: we are aging.

With that being said: take risks. Live life to its fullest potential. Don't be afraid to do what your heart desires. Show as much love as you can for people. Be kind. Be firm when you need to. Listen when people are trying to tell you something. Stop listening to people when you can feel with certainty that they don't know what the fuck they are talking about. Be yourself. There will never be another you on this planet. Love that person with everything that you have. Love yourself. Just be.

At any rate, this is the song. if you want to read the lyrics, they are posted beneath the actual song when you follow the soundcloud link. This will be released on Spotify and Apple Music and Google Play and all that other consumer friendly stuff soon. This is mix 2 of the song. 

This came from my imagination. I didn't follow an instruction manual to write this song (my brother Clark taught me that).

Michelle

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It's my 39th birthday on Saturday April 21st 2018—and for whatever reason, I thought of my sister this morning—the sister I never knew.  She died at birth.  

She would have been my older sister: two years older than me.  Her name is Michelle.

An abstraction in my mind would have her pushing me over in this picture: vying for attention on Christmas morning.  We probably would have had some sort of rough phase getting along with one another in our teens—but I can guarantee you, we would be best friends, right about now.  

Life would be different than it is right this very moment, in every regard.  I imagine she would have had a profound effect in shaping my life in the positive.  This is for you Michelle.  You are not forgotten.

In-Store performance at Dyzzy on Vynyl in Long Beach - April 21st 2018

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For any friends, acquaintances, and fans in the area: I will be playing an In-Store performance at Dyzzy on Vynyl in Long Beach, on April 21st 2018. That day is Record Store Day, and it's also my birthday. 

In observance of record store day, and to feed your own heart and soul, please go out and buy records from your local retail store, such as Dyzzy on Vinyl, or Fingerprints, or Amoeba Records, and any of the thousands of other brick and mortar locations that sell music on vinyl. That would mean a great deal to me, and I think it would mean a great deal to them as well.

I am going to be 39 years old on Saturday and I am so happy, thankful, and blessed to be alive and to be playing music with Bearcoon and Dustin Robinson - Music on Saturday. It's a gift in and of itself. Thanks y'all.

To learn more about the event, you can find info on Facebook, here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/158327264847229/

Dyzzy on Vynyl is located at 3004 E. 7th Street in Long Beach, CA.  Beacon will be performing at 2pm, Dustin Robinson at 3pm, and myself at 4pm.  Feel free to reach out below in the comments if you have any questions!  The show is free and open to the public.

Perception

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I'll tell you what, at 38 years old, I don't know shit.

I would like to think of myself as being a smart guy, but in actuality, the one constant I do know, is that with every passing year, I realize I know less and less than I did the year before. Do you ever feel that way too? I mean, to me, its more than a feeling—it's a near certainty that almost seems to make sense in some sort of strange-out-of-focus-kind-of way.

And with all this near-sighted and far-sighted talk that I just sort of conjured up, life, in all of its wackiness, is very dependent on how one perceives it.

Take that humorous example above. We have all heard the notion that the glass is half full or half empty, but leave it to comedy to show us what the truth is.

I started off seeing things glass half empty this morning, and then decided, nope, it's always full.  I will work hard to maintain this outlook, mentally.  I hope you do too—and that you smile.  Life is too short not to.

Fool For You (Live at Studio-333) on Spotify and Apple Music

Thank you to everyone who has been so kind and encouraging and who have requested for this live Youtube video to be on streaming music sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.  I just uploaded the song today, so it should be available for streaming and purchase within the next few days on all major digital distribution outlets:

This video was WAY more work than I had originally anticipated.  I mixed this myself.  I know, it sounds simple.  It's not—not if you're a perfectionist.  I am a perfectionist.  Which doesn't mean I got it perfect; it means I begrudgingly stopped working on it and that I read two books on the subject and that I spent 2 months working on it obsessively and that I did about 46 mixes of it.  I will never be happy with what I did here, I fear (in the mixing department).

I AM thrilled about all the people who helped me to make this and I am thrilled that a song like this came out of me.  It is one of the most popular tunes I have ever written.

4th Street Productions in Long Beach filmed the video.  I can not thank you enough Damian.  You are truly an artist.  It was filmed live as we tracked the song live.

I am thrilled that I performed this with three other musicians who I feel are some of the best players on the planet:  Frank Reina. Brad Cummings, and Tom Bremer.  You guys are my musical brothers.  Also, thank you to Ryan Lipman for mastering this mix of mine.

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I am thrilled that Alfredo Cristinziano provided the cover art for this song.  Here it is.  You can find him on Instagram here:  @alfredoziano

A lot of his work is very sexy.  Be prepared for sexy.

Most of all, let me come around full circle and thank anyone and everyone for finding something to like in this and to those, who will, and are listening to it.

In so many way, you all remind me of a time where I would make something and then hope that my parents would proudly display it on the refrigerator.  I am so thankful for the magnet between your ears if you are proudly displaying it on your refrigerator right now.  God bless.

With Love,

Mike

 

 

Ernest Cline

Man, just when I thought balancing my time was easy—I realize, it's not.  A piece of advice for myself: don't listen to other people who claim to be experts on things.  They're not.  It reminds me of an Ernest Cline video that I really like called "Dance Monkey Dance."  A matter of fact, here it is:

I posted this video many many years ago on all of my social media because the message felt real and true to me.  To this day, I still watch this video and it resonates with me.

We must all learn to listen to our own hearts.

This year, Ernest Cline has a new movie out called "Ready Player One."  It is being directed by one of my childhood heroes: Steven Spielberg.  Ernest is good art and good art speaks for itself.

I am a small grain of sand supporting the weight of his accomplishments as an artist, and I'm proud to be that.

- Mike

Peony

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Recently, I had the pleasure of settling in with the ever controversial and provocative figure behind such classics as, "I'll Sit Where I Want, Just Not in Your Lap" "Oh Were You Sleeping?  I'm Hungry," and her best selling memoir, "The Only Thing That Would Really Make That Warm Laundry Better, is Me on Top of It."  While she spent nearly a week evading every effort for me to get comprehensive coverage on her and the intimate details of her life, let alone sweet sweet snuggles, I found that one cup of food every morning, and one cup of food every evening, helped immensely with her opening up to me, a bit.  Cleaning her cat box didn't hurt either.

 

 

Mike:  So, from what I understand, you're an avid fan of my work as a musician, correct?

Peony: [silence and a slight stare to her left]

Mike: [clearing my throat] ...well, I guess I'll be moving on with the first question.

Peony:  Meow.

Mike: Would you say that you prefer me to your loving friend's Kurt and Jill.

Peony: I'm not at liberty to say.  Who's Kurt and Jill?

Mike:  Holy crap, you're speaking english!

Peony:  I asked you a question.

Mike: This isn't real.  This isn't real.  This isn't real.

Peony:  Meow.

Mike:  You know, Kurt and Jill:  Guy with the beard and the charming voice and songs; girl with one of the finer senses-of-humor since the invention of everyone else.  Really sweet people.

Peony:  [she exits the room]

Mike:  I wasn't quite finished with...

Peony:  [slight turn from the doorway] Meow.

[the next several minutes consisted of what can only be described as sounds that strongly resemble romping around the house at maximum velocity.  It is pertinent to note that for the past two weeks, this has been standard practice.  This is followed by long intervals of silence.  I assume she was sleeping.]

Peony: [from the doorway] Meow.

Mike:  You're back.

Peony:  Meow.

Mike:  While I have you here, we should probably move on to more pertinent questions regarding your stance on...

Peony: [leaves the room again]

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[At this point in the interview, I'm beginning to realize that this might be more difficult than I had originally anticipated—wait, she's staring at me from the doorway]

Love you Peony.  Thanks for letting me watch this character, Kurt and Jill.  She's a lot of fun.

 

 

 

Running Away From Home (Youtube)

Hey y'all!

I just posted this week's Youtube video.  I recorded it live with an AT4033 mic when I was still living in Long Beach, CA.  I love that mic.  It was the best $300 I've ever spent—or was it $400... I can't remember.

This is a song that I wrote for my mom and dad, called "Running Away From Home."  I've talked about it before.  Keep reading my blog, and you'll see what I mean.  If you dig it, you can find the full band version for all streaming services as well as all digital distribution sites.

The lyrics are in the description of the video on Youtube.

If you dig this solo acoustic version, give that subscribe button a click, and ring the bell so you know when I post new videos on Youtube:

A Quick Note Regarding School Shootings

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My heart and my thoughts go out to every family, friend, and acquaintance who have lost a loved one to violence.

I notice a lot of people react on social media to current events that play out on an all-too-often basis regarding gun violence as it pertains to the United States as a country, whether it be at a high school, a grocery store, a gas company, or a post office.  The setting is not of major importance beyond the humanistic view of the act and its consequences.

Here is where I stand: it has nothing to do with weapons.

It is a human issue.

We are a troubled species.  We are troubled because there is a fine balance between reason, and emotion.  

A songwriter whose work I admire, likens this chemical struggle inside our brains, to a seesaw.  On one end of this seesaw is our logic, and on the other is our emotion.  In order for sound judgment to be made by an individual, one must be able to keep this balance at an equilibrium.  

At vast majority, this very simple idea is another thing all together to place into practice as a human being.  We live our lives, and hopefully, we all arrive at this notion at as young an age as possible.  I will be 39 this year, and I still feel this struggle, often.  However, I know that I have grown well beyond my appreciation of this notion, compared to, let's say, the age of 20.  It has been hard work and rumination on my part.

Rather than continue to discuss this issue as it pertains to guns, I would like to instead, pose a thought experiment: what if the United States were to ban guns entirely?

Before continuing, I would like to state that I have never shot a gun in my life, however, I do see the need to have this right maintained within the United States Constitution.  There was sound judgement behind this decision in the 1700's.  It is a safeguard to maintain the republic in which we all live, by the average individual, outside of military; essentially it allows for people to stand up for themselves should our government fail in its duties to uphold and protect citizens in the fashion it was originally intended.  Please note that I use the word republic, as it is the most accurate term to use for this oligarchy we currently reside in if you are a United States citizen—I am afraid democracy is not quite what we have here in America.  I am eager for democracy, but we must work towards that, together.

Throwing this previous paragraph aside, guns are banned in the United States.  Perhaps, the American population rejoices at this notion.  We have years of peace from the dangers of firearms being brought into public spaces to reenact revenge, or to project fear and hate on innocent bystanders.  Yet, one day a begrudged student at a junior high packs a homemade pipe bomb into a backpack.  He leaves all of his books and folders at home.  He leaves his iPad on his desk.  He replaces his tools for logic with an explosive device, and leaves for school.

He places his backpack in a public location for maximum damage: the school office.

Does this sound far fetched?  It's not.

It happened at my junior high, and luckily, the backpack was found before it could be detonated.

We live in a world where passenger planes have been used as weapons.  

What we should be asking is what the motivation is behind harming another person—and that is a deep and dark question.  It has many facets and would take much study to arrive at a seemingly good answer as it pertains to each unique event.  But, perhaps that is of a far more sound judgement, if we truly want to advance as a species who loves each other.

Reach out for help when you need it.  Be there for a total stranger.  Try loving unconditionally.  Do things for others expecting nothing in return.  Communicate.  Just love and be as humanistic as possible.  Be the best damn version of yourself as you can be.  Be kind, always.

If you want to see change, start with yourself.  I am trying my best to, everyday.

- Mike

Moon

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Oh, why hello there.  Good to have you here.

So, in tandem with my last post, I'm balancing my time a lot more efficiently.

I began using a spreadsheet yesterday to help keep track of how long I work on things.  It's allowing me to do a whole bunch of different tasks all in one day—and, Presto:

Here is a mix I was working on this morning in my three hour window.  It's for a song I wrote called Moon.

The first lines of the song came from a story that my friend told me.

He was visiting an animal sanctuary populated by former circus animals who were rescued once their tenure with the circus had ended.  One animal in particular captured my interest and my sympathy.  It was an elephant.

My friend Josh told me that the elephant would take three steps forward, and then three steps back, repeatedly, for an indefinite amount of time, which was very peculiar—so much so, that he asked the person who was giving them a tour of grounds, why the elephant was behaving that way.

The tour guide said that the elephant was chained to a pole for most of its young and adult life.  The chain would allow for enough slack to take three steps forward, and then three steps back.

Three steps forward.  Three steps back.

Three steps forward.  Three steps back.

That was life for that elephant—an intelligent and beautiful creature.

While there are many elements to this song, this is one of them—and we all deserve to be free.

It is amazing how powerful a habit is.

However, outside of the context of this song, I had a lot of fun putting this together.  My friend Tom Bremer played lead guitar.  I sang and played rhythm guitar.  I also mixed the song.  I engineered this one myself too.  For audio nerds (like me), it was recorded through a Universal Audio preAMP that I've never tried before called a Twin Finity 710.  I used an AKG C414 on the lead guitar and used my AT4033 on the rhythm guitar.  Vocals were through the AT4033 as well.

It probably sounds like amateur work, but I do the best I can—and I'm learning.

I hope this finds you all smiling and well and that perhaps you my find something to like in this tune.  It has deep sentimental value to me and my life.

- Mike

Balancing My Time

I was talking to one of my guitar students the other day about making the time to practice guitar.  She was telling me that she was juggling a lot of activities in her life and it was difficult to find the time, which I completely understand.  So, I began a discussion suggesting time management and so forth—when it suddenly occurred to me: I suck at time management myself.

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There are so many responsibilities that I juggle within a day, it behooves me to prioritize my time and activities quite often.  Normally, I fill up a blank 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper with bullet points of things to do.  I scratch them off as I progress through my day, and I feel a sense of accomplishment scratching off my accomplishments by nightfall.  Nonetheless, I suck at time management.  Do you know what I mean?  Sure, I get lots of stuff done.  I also stress myself out quite bit.  Sometimes I forget to eat because I get so busy working on a project, that I lose track of time.

But, probably my worst offense in this department, is getting too wrapped up in one thing for long periods of time.

I decided to make a spreadsheet the other day to keep track of how long I work on things.  Practice guitar for an hour.  Write for an hour.  Etc..  So far, I'm sucking at that also.  I managed to make the actual spreadsheet—haven't been using it every day though.

Perfect example of me getting too wrapped up with something:  I spent a solid 8 to 10 hours recording yesterday.  Why?  Because I was having fun.  If anything, it was quite a productive day, given that I'm a musician and a songwriter and all.  However, there were a whole bunch of other things that didn't get done yesterday due to the fact that I was hanging out with my friend Anthony, recording, and having the time of my life.

I should be more organized and block my hours of operation off to 1 hour increments.  I can be like a T.S. Eliot poem where his sad protagonist, J. Alfred Prufrock, measures his life out in coffee spoons—30 minutes to practice singing, 1 hour to play guitar, 5 minutes to write this blog.  No time to check my grammar.

Acoustic Album

Aside from all the full band material that I have been working on over the past few years, I am also nearing the completion of an acoustic album.  I'd like to share one of the tracks with you.  It's a song called EMPTY CIRCLE.  I just posted a video of it today on my Youtube Channel.

It deals with the end of my last relationship.  In hindsight, it was a good thing.  However, at the time, I felt like a small child lost in the woods at night, walking in circles, trying to find his home.

EMPTY CIRCLE
words and music by Mike Vitale

I was a table
But now I'm a rug
It's raining outside
Your shoes are covered in mud

I was a Christmas Tree
But now it's past Christmas Day
I got tossed out
With the crumpled gift wrap you throw away

It was fun while it lasted
But now I'm left here feeling slanted

Walking in footsteps
Don't seem to be mine
A snowy path of prints
Through a forest of pine

Off in the distance
There's a vanity light
It shines through the window
Of my home at night

Wearing the same clothes I wore yesterday
Chill of snow numbs my pain

As this crooked line
Becomes and empty circle
I was opine
But now I'm non-verbal

I am a footnote
To your storied life
I'm all alone
You're someone else's wife

A tiny table
Place setting for one
The holiday supper
Has already begun

As a child lost in the woods at night
I search for a pathway towards the light

As this crooked line
Became and empty circle
I was opine
But now I'm non-verbal

Running Away From Home

I was recently reminded of this time I ran away from home because I wanted to be a werewolf after watching Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox..  Dead serious folks, I wanted to be a runaway werewolf so bad, and the runaway part was not even in the movie: that was my special addition to the special edition—my parents hated it.

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We—well, you see (*sigh*), I dragged my poor friend Brandon along for the ride—and long story short, that was the end of our friendship by the power invested in his mom and dad.  Yeah.  

If it makes you feel any better about it, I tried to pack accordingly.  I emptied out my binder, my Mead folders, text books, pens and pencils all over the floor of my closet (so as to not attract suspicion from the parental units) and stuffed a big blanket in my backpack.  I think I might have managed to cram an orange and a few bananas in the remaining space available, perhaps a loaf of bread and some lunch meat.  But, definitely had that blanket. Being warm is very important, you see.  It was 4A.M. or so when I woke up and prepared to flee the safety of my mother and father’s sanctuary; I’m sure I wasn’t thinking straight.  I was probably banking on a hunter/gatherer mentality for future nourishment.  

So, how did this all play out?  Brandon and I nearly made it to the outskirts of Visalia before a police officer found us.  He was so polite!  Brandon and I were tired of walking, not to mention hungry, and the officer offered us a ride home.  I am guesstimating that I was around 8 years old at that time. 

I’m not quite sure what I liked about Teen Wolf so much.  All I know is that I watched it over and over and over again.  I embraced all the finer details of the main character’s woes and let them parallel my own, tracing the movies subtleties until I had a self-portrait that was near perfect if not half-shabby for a kid still in the single-digit age bracket.  I felt like there was something deep down inside of me that made me special and different from everyone else.  Is this the heart of a child?  Hell, I’m pretty sure is this the heart of an adult.  Then again it’s probably just part of being human.  Maybe I just really dug Michael J. Fox.  Teen Wolf was hot off the heals of Back to the Future—but, in all fairness, as much as I couldn’t get enough of that 1980's goodness, you didn’t see me slipping off toilet seats and careening into bathroom sinks while trying to hang a clock, just to invent the flux capacitor.  Sounds dangerous and ridiculous.  Nope, I stuck to the far more plausible and credible realm of teenage lycanthropy.

I started beefing up on my knowledge of werewolves, seeking out the most renowned, accredited, and trusted sources of literature regarding the subject: Scholastic Children Publications.  I tried with the zeal of a true Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf believer to turn myself into a werewolf so that I could be just like him.  I recall, specifically, from this Scholastic publication, mention of ancient folklore that suggested drinking the muddy water of a werewolf footprint could change me (a dog print was the closest thing I could find, and it didn’t do dick).  Another method is the age-old tradition found in countless macabre fiction and Hollywood classics that involve werewolves: get mauled by one.  Unfortunately, there were no werewolves handy (as they don’t exist) and I knew that, so I let my imagination do the writing at that point and convinced Brandon that what we needed was over the hills, far off in the distant Sequoia National Forest.  There, we would find werewolves, or at worst case, wolves.  I’d absolutely love to revisit that conversation with Brandon, now, as an adult spectator:

Brandon:  “So let me get this straight.  There are werewolves over those mountains there?”

Me:  Uh, yeah.  Where else would a werewolf be?  Do you see any werewolves here in Visalia?

Brandon:  Huh.  Yeah I guess so.  Cool!

Brandon must have found something in my absolute certainty agreeable and set out with me, early the next morning, for those distant mountains.  The same ones that make Visalia such a popular tourist pitstop in lieu of their quest for California wildlife.  

We traveled almost exclusively through several canals that run through the city, below surface streets—I knew, deep down, that people would be looking for us.  After all, it was a school day, and our seats were empty in that second grade classroom.

We made a couple of pits stops.  We crawled out of the canal, at one point, to rest in a park that would later be a haven for my high school friends and I to smoke illicit substances, talk about life, ruminate on religion, discuss music and art, contemplate the opposite sex, and brainstorm on how to acquire a keg of beer for the night: you know, Teen Wolf kinds of stuff.  Go figure.

Brandon and I resumed our journey through the undercurrent of Visalia’s aqueducts, only to eventually collect at a large tunnel covered by steel grating.  We ended up climbing out of the channel and over a fence and emerging on the busy thoroughfare of Lovers Lane.  A squad car slowly crept up next to us.  The passenger-side window rolled down slowly revealing a smiling officer in sun glasses: “Hey fellas!”  He was curious as to where we were heading.  I informed him that we were heading for the mountains.  He replied, “That’s a long ways a way, guys.  Are you sure you don’t want a ride?”  How could we turn that down?  We hopped into the squad car.  We were pumped!  Neither of us had ever seen the inside of one before.  I am happy to say that I think that was my first and last ride in a police car, as far as I can recall.  Let me ruminate on that last assertion for a little longer though; I could be wrong.

NOTE TO READER:

This blog became a song.  I wrote it as a Christmas gift to my mom and dad a few years ago.  It's be latest single.  It's called "Running Away From Home."

It's available on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud and all other digital streaming services right now, if you want to hear it:

 

 

My Journey

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I transferred to California State University Fullerton as a music major in 2002.  It was one of the most important experiences of my life.  It taught me the value of balancing feeling and logic to decide what is best for my future.  This is something that I realized, just recently.  Let me explain.

I transferred to Cal State Fullerton as a Classical Guitar Major.  While it was definitely something that I had fun doing, I had an unsettled feeling that my interest in classical guitar was only true up to a certain point.  I was interested in the techniques that it was teaching me: voice leading, harmony, fingerpicking, etc.—but I was unsure that a life devotion to it would satiate my desires in the future. 

I spent a lot of time studying classical guitar, because one of my heroes at the time, Michael Hedges, was a classical guitar major and used many of his studies to shape his own unique style of music.  For those of you unfamiliar with his work, he was a brilliant composer who used alternate tunings on his guitar almost exclusively.  He was a steel string acoustic guitar player and also played harp guitar and a number of other very unique instruments to compose music.  He developed his own methodology behind playing guitar with fingerpicking that included using fingers to mute unused strings to limit sympathetic vibrations due to the overtone series; this would allow for his music to resonate with pristine and exact nature and purpose.  He also would swap out string gauge sizes on his guitar (often using high bass strings) in order to allow him a larger and lower palate of tunings for his compositions.  For musicians interested in exploring his technique, look up a book called "Rhythm Sonority Silence."  He crushed my skull as a musician and to this day, I search for my own unique voice and my own unique contributions to art because of people like him.

My desire in 2001 was to transfer to Berklee School of Music in Boston because they offered a commercial music program.  I had put a deposit down on a dorm room with what money I could scrape up from working my day job.  While it wasn't a tremendous deposit that I put down, it was non-refundable and it was a lot of money to me.  My mind was set on getting the best musical education that a person could receive.  I was anxious.  As the deadline approached for me to enroll at Berklee, my parents asked if they could take me out to dinner at Ryan's Place, which was a restaurant that the two of them frequented a lot.  I was expecting for them to glow with their approval for my choice of visiting Berklee and to be proud of my decision to try and receive the education I desired: this couldn't have been farther from the truth.  

My mom and dad sat down with me and explained life to me in the form of debt.  They took a piece of paper and added up all the expenses I would accrue from a two year education at that school (which was low balling it).  I probably would have spent more than two years there.  What they showed me is that I would be over $100,000 in debt from attending there for two years.  They asked me: is it wise for a musician to embark into the world with that much overhead?  I was absolutely crushed by what they were trying to show me.  I was around 22 at the time and wanted so badly to fight the logic that they were trying to display to me when it came to my desires.  My mother and father offered me an alternative: use my father's veteran grant to pay for an education at a UC or CSU within the state of California.

As much as I didn't want to listen, I knew deep down, they had a point.  I began searching around for UC's and CSU's with great music programs.  The three best that I could find were UCLA, California State University Northridge, and California State University Fullerton.  The crux of education offered at these universities revolved around the pedantic methods used to teach music.  You are pigeon holed into an education that is derived from either classical music or jazz.  While I deeply loved both of these styles of music, neither one of them was where my heart truly lived.  However, I followed their advice and continued to narrow down a choice based on what I had available to me by following their advice.  I visited various colleges and universities including Berkley and San Francisco State University, but neither felt like home.  It wasn't until I visited California State University Fullerton that something resonated within me.  It felt like home.  That's the best way I can describe it.

At any rate, my choices there were as follows: classical guitar or jazz.  I decided on classical guitar and went to audition in front of a panel of instructors in order to be accepted into the music department as a transfer student, with my general education completed.  While I did a stellar job of passing my exams to forgo further music theory instruction, I found that the audition was the most critical part in fully understanding the new direction I was heading in, and it was one of the most unnerving experiences of my life.  I remember complaining about how cold the room was.  In actuality, I was so nervous that my hands were paralyzed, sweaty, and unable to perform their muscle memory dictation.  I butchered every single etude that I attempted to play for the committee.  It was a humbling outcome to an experience I had spent so much time preparing for.  They accepted me into the department of classical guitar and music, but it was as a freshman level player.  I was a junior level student.

This bruised my ego a great deal.  However, one of the people on the panel approached me afterwards.  He was the head of the jazz department at the school.  He asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the Commercial Music Department at the school.  It was brand new curriculum that he was trying to build and thought that I might be a good fit.  I jumped at this opportunity to redeem myself.  I showed up at his office for the appointment that he assigned to me, I auditioned, and was accepted into the department as a junior transfer student.  However, this was only the beginning to truly finding where my heart and head was taking me.

I spent that first semester working harder than I ever thought I was capable.  While I was a decent music reader, I found that I had to work ten times harder than the average student because my sight reading abilities were akin to using the Rosetta Stone to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (especially when it came to funk charts).  

I would spend hours every night trying to interpret music charts for the big band.  I would transcribe jazz solos for my jazz composition class.  I would spend hours working in the choir room to brush up on performances we were preparing for in the choir ensemble.  I would study the ancient origins of secular and sacred music from my text book (something I now appreciate).  Each of these performance classes were worth one unit and I was trying to carry somewhere between 18 to 21 units that semester.  As the end of the school term drew near, I was feeling miserable and I disliked all my studies in music aside from one glimmer of light: I was starting to write my own songs. 

I began a slow transition towards finding comfort and solace in creating my own music.  It began to consume my time and I found myself disinterested in pursuing the life of a guitarist in a commercial music program at a university.  The first song that I ever wrote, that I finished, was was addressed to my older brother called, "Between Me and You."  It was a great song and definitely carried flavors of Jason Mraz, who I was listening to a lot of at the time.  I was proud of it and it felt good to get out a lot of the frustration I was feeling towards my lack of good communication skills with my brother at the time.

By the time my first semester drew to a close at Cal State Fullerton, I realized what I truly wanted from life: to be a songwriter.  I stopped working so hard in a lot of my music classes and began to explore all of the qualities that make good songwriters.  I checked out books from the library and began to read incessantly, as I used to do, before becoming a music major.  I studied my shortcomings and found that where I was weakest, was in my lyric writing.  Suddenly, I had this moment of clarity: English Major.  It was the best decision I ever made in my life.  All of my teachers were outstanding to me, but there was one particular instructor I had that changed my life forever.

While I wasn't a poet, I did write songs incessantly and asked this particular instructor if she would be so kind as to let me submit my songs for her classes rather than poetry.  She was excited by this proposition and gladly accepted the challenge.  She was relentlessly hard on me and picked apart every single thing that I ever wrote.  She kept saying things to me like, "don't tell me, show me."  I didn't get it.  I had to have submitted around 8 to 10 songs before we finally arrived at one song that she deemed worthy of me understanding what she was trying to teach me.  It carried these qualities: it was a memory from my own life, a character I created.  It was told from the perspective of a woman that used to visit me at a grocery store I worked at—and I was very detail oriented with my memories.  It was a song called "The Grocery Store Clerk."  

I played the song for the class—and they went bananas.  That was all the encouragement I ever needed.

To this day I use her methods to construct lyrics:

    •    Be as specific as possible with details regarding your own life and with anything that you write about.  You would think that people relate more to general details, but it is in fact, the very opposite..  The more specific you are about every little detail, the more people will find honesty and truth in it, which is very important.  This makes good art.  I use this method in nearly every song that I write.  Even if it is a work of fiction (song, prose, or poetry), I try to inject a bit of my own life into it.  

    •    Don't tell people what is happening.  Show people what is happening.  This was a harder concept for me to grasp, initially.  What she meant by this:  there are two different ways you can show people an idea.  You can tell them what you are feeling, which doesn't do anything for the audience.  It doesn't resonate.  Or, you can use senses to show someone what you are wanting them to experience.  By engaging people's sensory perception, you help to bring what you are trying to convey, to life.

I am very thankful to her for teaching me such wonderful techniques.  I use it in everything that I write.  Sometimes, I find that people read into things too much, however, that is out my hands entirely.  I know what I intend when I commit to words, and I feel like I need to work harder when people misinterpret what I set out to be the point of a song.  It's disappointing to me and I feel that I missed the mark and need to do better next time. 

Everything that I write carries positivity to it as that is the main motivation behind good art: to create something beautiful out of the worst that life throws at me—and in equal measure, all the good vibes that come my way as well.  In this regard, every song I create is like a child that I bring into the world, in the hopes that they grow their own legs of truth, and live longer than my body ever will.