My love affair with music started when I was young. Some of my first memories involve music and more importantly; how that music made me feel. Running through the tall grass at the end of summer with Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze" playing in my mind. Or the first time I saw the ocean (having spent the first 7 years of life land-locked in Nashville, TN) after the long drive to Tybee Island from our new house on the South Side of Savannah, Georgia - and hearing "Sailing" by Christopher Cross on the radio in my parent's car. Then as a young adult - driving to that same beach for the first time by myself and listening to "Tiger Tiger" by Duran Duran as the sun was setting behind me. All of these moments - these beautiful memories - are so because they have such a meaning soundtrack. In fact I'm not so sure I'd remember them if it wasn't for the soundtrack.
(ABOVE) - I got my first "real" guitar for my birthday when I turned 12 years old. It was a new "Japanese Made" Fender Stratocaster.
A few years later when I was 16 I'd work all summer - mowing lawns and saving every penny - to buy a vintage 1968 Stratocaster from my local music store (one that ceased to exist decades ago) that had been traded in by the original owner. It was completely original and $899 was an outrageous amount of money for an old scratched up 18 year-old guitar with rusty screws and hardware.
(ABOVE) - By my senior year in high school I had a choice of several scholarships for art school.
Being humble when such intense creative ability flowed so effortlessly took years for me to accomplish. It wasn't that I was arrogant so much as I just didn't have to think about illustration or painting; I was born an artist and it is as natural to me as swimming is to a fish. It's an innate aspect of who I am and it is as inseparable from who I am as the color of my eyes and hair.
Music was NOT an effortless affair - it took work - the desire to express myself creatively through music is in my soul as music is a vital element of ANY creative process for me. It just wasn't as effortless an endeavor as illustration and in my youth I lost patience quickly.
I dabbled with guitar for several years and then gave up on it. By the time I started college my cherished Stratocaster was packed away in its case and not touched until I sold it my junior year. I tripled my money on it and thought that was an amazing investment. Today that same, all original down to the smallest screw guitar would be worth $20,000 or more.
From the age of 21 until I was 39 years old I did not touch a guitar or any musical instrument. I continued to evolve as an illustrator and painter; I embraced advertising design, commercial art, and photography as new outlets finally discovering the creative mountain that is known as film making. It was in film school where I met an AMAZINGLY gifted, self-taught guitarist who wanted to be an actor/director named Cameron Gorman; that my desire to express myself creatively through music was rekindled. Cameron and I were cut from the same mold - the difference being that I was born to be an illustrator and he was born to shred on guitar. But it comes as effortlessly and naturally to him as drawing and painting does to me. We became close friends and despite the fact he lives a couple of hundred miles away from me on California's Central Coast we are still close friends - we both share a passion for all aspects of guitar including how they are built and what features they are built with. He continues to inspire me to deepen my musical ability.
(ABOVE) - Cameron and I in my studio in 2014 doing a shoot of his Les Paul.
(ABOVE) - A master luthier works on finishing a guitar neck - my work as a professional photographer & director of photography brought me back into the world of music.
I started playing guitar again, this time picking up a borrowed bass guitar from Cameron. Soon I found myself working with some of the most gifted, respected, and renown guitar builders in the world. For me the "ART" of anything has to do with the way you approach any given task.
There's an art to building or repairing anything... there's an art to cooking... there's an art to cleaning your house. The difference between a task being menial and being artful is nothing more than your attitude as you approach it.
I know that I will never be as gifted or at ease with making music as I am creating a painting or illustration or shooting a photograph; but that doesn't stop me from approaching making music from an artistic standpoint. It certainly doesn't lessen my love of it.
For me, music is a guilty pleasure... it's something that I do for me. I am thrilled if after hours and hours of practice I play a riff and it is true to the original. I also enjoy expanding on private tunes and melodies I hear in my mind as I think about this or that.
(ABOVE)- It wasn't long before I started "building" my own guitars - specifically configured for my preferences. This vintage Steinberger fretless bass was the first guitar I put together myself from several different parts sources. I soldered the pickups and controls - I sanded the body down to bare wood and refinished it myself
(BELOW) - and I restored the neck and chose hardware specific to my playing preferences.
It wasn't long before I was doing cinematography, photography, and design work for an increasing stable of high-profile music industry artists and instrument builders.
At the annual NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants) - a closed to the public week-long trade show where anyone and everyone in the music industry goes to test the latest and greatest in music gadgetry - I'd meet legendary music instrument designers and builders such as Dave Boonshoft (Aguilar), Stuart Spector & Ned Steinberger - musicians such as Justin Medal-Johnson (Nine Inch Nails), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), Doug Wimbish (The Rolling Stones & Living Colour), Chris Kael (Five Finger Death Punch), Billy Sherwood (Yes), and I'd walk away doing work for Bret Michaels, Rex Brown (Pantera, Down), and many more (BELOW).
I'd grow as a musician - now that I've learned patience and how to strip away self-doubt and insecurities regarding "how good" I am at music... because as I've discovered in so many other areas of my life; if you enjoy it you'll find that nothing else matters. Recently my desire to start building my own guitars has grown from the tiniest thought in the back of my mind to a full-blown obsession.
(BELOW) - I've been fortunate enough to handle and play some of the rarest & finest hand-made guitars in the world. I've used them in recording studios and in my own living room. At one point I'd amassed a respectable collection of rare hand-made guitars - both modern and vintage. Slowly I've sold them off and now I have one guitar and two basses. I'm in the process of selling that guitar and building two in its place. These two guitars represent the ideal guitars for what I've discovered I prefer - in both playabilty/comfort and tone.
I'm planning on sharing this journey - step by step - in building my own guitars - with you here on Vingle. I'll share tips and secrets I've learned from some of the greatest modern guitar builders in the world. I think it's going to be fun. I hope you'll check back and follow my progress.