Even Stephen: Finding the old spark for music


I will never forget learning how to play my very first song on the guitar.

I remember pining away hours trying to build calluses on my fingertips and run through chord changes.

I was about 13 years old when I bought a tablature book with the chords to Soul Asylum’s hit “Runaway Train.” The pages had little boxes on top of each phrase, showing me where to place my fingers on the fret board of the guitar.

It was hard at first, but after a month or two, I started improving. I can still remember the feeling I got when I made it through the song for the first time without stopping.

I knew after that experience that music would play a crucial role in my life forever.

I tried playing with a few bands in high school, but we never really practiced enough to make it. It wasn’t until I decided to go it alone that my dreams of music started to show signs of life.

I would practice relentlessly, working on slides, stops and different flashes of style that would stand out from other performers. But after years of playing weddings, bar mitzvahs and sweet 16 parties, I found out the hard way that making it in the music business is a lot harder than I thought.

The crossroads of my music career coincided with the need to pay bills and buy groceries. So I tamed my desire down enough to humbly get a day job.

I couldn’t wait for the work bell to ring so I could get to my next gig. But then another problem arose.

When I’d work, party all night and have to get to my day job in the early a.m., a weird time-crunch thing started. I call it the zombie phase, and it does no good for either work or play time.

So, again, I tamed my desire for music down another notch, playing once or twice a month when I had time to recuperate.

Funny thing is that music introduced me to the love of life.

After my wife and I got married and had a kid, my love of playing live was in serious danger of being destroyed. I would come home from work and look at my stack of guitars, foot pedals and amps like a monument of good times passed.

If I even attempted to pick them up, my wife would get a look on her face that meant serious business. Everything changed when I heard the excellent strumming of live music coming down the hallway of my house one day after work.

I looked in to see my son jamming on an acoustic guitar. Very surprised he had been practicing, I was like, “Wow!”

I was taken back to my youth and found an interest my teenage son and I could share. Now we jam and have fun.

Although it didn’t turn out the way I planned it, music is still very much a part of my life, as long as we keep the volume down.