So, I’m switching gears and talking about something a little more near and dear to my heart; my daughter and music. I’ve stated before that I play and produce music and its pretty important to me. To sound like a cliche, music helped make me the person I am today. I went through a traditional educational process in school band and learned how to read percussion, treble and bass clefs and over the years learned how to play a couple of different instruments fairly well. I also studied music some in college and continue to study the theory and composition of music on my own. I find myself oftentimes having conversations with “self taught” musicians who don’t read music. I find the term self taught to be quote worthy because no one is self taught. I think the term gets tossed around by those who did not follow a formal music education process like a badge of honor. But they learned from copping licks from records, and by jamming with other musicians, who generously shared their knowledge, etc. Very few people just sat in a room without any assistance or music to play along with and taught themselves how to play an instrument. Either way is a valid and widespread way to learn to play a musical instrument since both require spending idle time practicing instead of whatever other questionable behavior might otherwise fall in our paths!
I have 2 guitars hanging on the wall in my study and I play one of them almost every day. I also have a couple of drum sets (I am a drummer first and foremost) I keep at my studio, which is set up with 3 or 4 keyboards, guitars, drums and a fully functional digital recording system. My 13 year old daughter cannot help but be influenced by my love of music, it’s everywhere in our lives. She just completed her first (and probably last) year of JHS band (trumpet). For her, music is not the salvation it was for me. But I find that she and her friends still listen much the same way I did at her age. In fact, over the past few years Taylor Swift has reigned supreme in our household. Just the other day, after we went to the Taylor Swift show in Atlanta, my daughter asked me if we could do “something” about the Hannah Montana guitar she got when she was 6 or 7. This is actually a 3/4 size Washburn acoustic and not a bad little guitar. But it has a big picture of Hannah Montana on it (no not the latest Maxim photos either)! She is suddenly interested in playing her guitar and she asked me to show her some things. She even went so far as to cop a Taylor Swift EZ guitar book from one of her friends. Of course as a 12 year old kid, Hannah Montana is no longer cool, which means to really embrace the guitar, we need to do something about the front paint job. Overall, this makes me quite happy especially as I walked into the house the other evening and heard the cat like screeches of a beginning guitar player after I showed her a few simple things! As for the front cover, stickers work really well. (For those of you wondering, my guitars are a bit too big for her to use).
I have only recently come to grasp that most people are not like me and my friends when it comes to music. As someone who has spent 30+ years playing, writing and producing music, I find that me and my musical mates are a bit snobbish in our judgment. I like a lot of great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but like many musicians, I have always been a little skeptical of “pop star” type music. Taylor Swift has proven to be the exception. She writes her own songs almost exclusively ( a rarity in pop music) and she seems to be a fairly well grounded kid who understands the influence she has on people. When you examine her songs, they are simple and based on her experiences, which is the hallmark of most successful commercial art. She sings and writes songs about what it is to be a teenager/young adult facing the typical issues girls of that age deal with. She does it in a catchy and entertaining way without being overbearing and preachy. I like this because it gives me the opportunity to bond with my daughter. As I chauffeur my kid and her friends around town I am inundated with Taylor Swift and more recently, other Nashville based artists (including our friend and up and comer Donica Knight). I hear them sing along and have fun, which puts them at ease, which makes them talk more, which provides me more insight into their lives. It also allows me an opportunity to speak every now and then, since I have some credibility. I apparently “know something about music or something”. As most parents probably can relate to, the biggest sin a parent can commit is interjecting themselves into a tweener conversation. But you pick up a guitar and strum along with a Tay-Tay Swift song and suddenly you’re more than just the guy who drops them off at the movies.
This exposure to pop music and Nashville’s pop country scene (which I have been unfairly prejudiced against since I was a kid) has been an eye opener to me. Once again, I see the power of a “simple pop” song and it’s ability to touch people. Art should cause a conversation, even if it’s between a 13 year old girl and her Dad. I don’t subscribe to the concept of selling out anymore. I have found a simple 3 or 4 chord song with a heartfelt message delivered in a genuine way can be much more powerful than the words of a politician, teacher or priest. I’m not really hung up on the struggle to write or play something that is some piece of technical wizardry anymore. In my self examination, I found that I was trying to write for the 12 people who would be impressed from a musical point of view (the 1 percenters). I’m a slow learner in some aspects (stubborn, as my wife says). Thanks to Taylor Swift, Donica Knight, my daughter and 30 years of experience, I think I have finally reached a point where I feel like I can comfortably express myself in song without feeling foolish. Apparently all I need is a red guitar, 3 chords and the truth. (Dylan) I probably also need my friends Rob, Dave and Mike to get there too, but that is a different blog.
Whether my daughter stays with the guitar or music in general is of no major consequence to me. I hope she pursues whatever makes her happy. I find great escape and relaxation in music and have always been able to find salvation in a song; music has always been a light shining in the dark for me. I am thankful for the opportunity it has provided me to bond with my daughter. I think the world is an empty place without it and I hope my daughter feels the same. The fact that she is curious about making music is just a bonus. Until my next random thought………………..