I wish I could start this off with a “I was raised in a very musical family.” Or even a “Music was the last thing on my family’s mind” kind of place. But, like most people, my family was somewhere in the middle. My dad went to school for musicology when he was younger, but he wasn’t looking to be a musician, he doesn’t want to write his own music. We’ve talked about it, it doesn’t interest him. My mom could carry a tune, but again, not looking to be up on the stage performing. I don’t have a romantic legacy to fall back on, nor do I have the charm of someone who comes from absolutely no background whatsoever. All I have are my guts and a good sense of rhythm.
I grew up in Long Island, New York and spent most of my childhood during the 90s. My parents moved us to a neighborhood they most certainly could not afford when I was three and we did our best to pretend that we belonged there for as long as we could. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but I didn’t have much of a choice. My sister was a handful, so I was left to my own devices most of the time. I found that keeping quiet kept me out of hot water. And it went on like that for a long while. The middle. Not rich, but not starving. Always almost, though. Nothing to rightfully complain about, but not much to really celebrate. It was maddening. Still is.
Music was something outside of everything. And the bands I clung to were the bands that couldn’t be clearly defined. Sublime was my first “I have to buy everything they put out” band. They were punk, but not. They were ska, but not. They were even kinda pop sometimes, but definitely not. And that’s now a mantra I live by: “I am not a genre.” When “Sublime Acoustic: Bradley Nowell and friends” came out, it became one of my favorite albums. Just a guy and his guitar, but it was beautiful. That album made me want to pick up a guitar and play music. That led into all kinds of bands: Ska bands, Singer-Songwriters, Classic rock, R&B, whatever They Might Be Giants would be called. All of it got listened to.
I went into theater for college, and it made me a better artist, but it’s not for me. I thought, “Hey I like theater and music, so why not do musical theater? It’s perfect!” But it wasn’t. And one day, over in Wisconsin, I was introduced to The Mountain Goats.
I hadn’t realized that you could write songs like that. Bradley Nowell is the reason I picked up a guitar; John Darnielle is the reason I started writing songs. So I wrote a whole bunch of stuff, shared it online a little bit, but never actually put it up anywhere, that was back in 2010. 2 years later, I had written enough to play a full honest-to-god set. I started making my way around the smaller café venues and also began connecting with people who, luckily for me, seemed to immediately get what I was going for.
Nastasia Green was the first to join me. She’s also a musical theater misfit who realized she doesn’t like musical theater. She’s one of my best friends and has been singing with me ever since. Sometimes you meet people, and you get a feeling that you’re meant to make music with them. Nastasia and I are meant to sing together. I worked with Keith Michael Pinault at a shitty server job on the upper west side of manhattan. I was looking around for a bassist one day and he told me he kind of played. I think he used the word “amateur”, but I wouldn’t. And he’s only been getting better and better with each new song or show. He always seems to know what kind of song I’m writing before I do. I met Hajnal Pivnick through a mutual friend and knew I wanted her to play with me on the first note. I’m a rag-tag kind of musician. I pride myself on being rough around the edges. Hajnal brings a sort of grace and sturdiness of core to the music and it takes every song to a whole different level. I met Max Maples through Hannah of Hannah Vs. The Many and also through Hajnal. He’s added so much backbone to my music and I can’t thank him enough for his willingness to jump in and swim.
I would say that my music is for the middle children of culture. The people who are constantly being told what’s cool and how they should think. These songs are for the people who take life on a person-by-person basis instead of lumping people into easily marketable groups, cliques, races, social classes, genders, whatever. This music is for anybody who feels pinned down by a thousand voices coming from all directions telling them they aren’t good enough for any of a million bullshit reasons. Fuck that.