Tried the world, but I love people and music more. My life has thrown its share of unique experiences-both good and bad- at me. I’ve had to come to grips with facing my own mortality…twice. After graduating from a prestigious (and in turn very expensive) university, decided to step away from the Medical School/Business School track. Turned down cushy, high-paying corporate and financial jobs, instead choosing to work with the under-served; the poor and oppressed. Turned down music labels and the empty promises of money and fame. I believe life is about living outwardly and for others. Whether it be work or music, the only way satisfaction occurs is if it is being done for more than yourself. And while many ask me what my goals are, it’s not so much about where I end up. Rather, it’s about the journey.
Growing up, I would listen to a lot of soul music, a lot of rock music, actually… just a lot of music. I grew up surrounded by diversity and was exposed to different kinds of music. I was exposed to rock (both old and new) to alternative to ska by my white friends. I was exposed to rap and R&B by my black friends. I was exposed to country and bluegrass by my stepfather. I was exposed to the Beatles and Classical music by my mother. I was exposed to soul music… and to this day, I still remember that very moment. I believe the first soul song I ever heard was “A Change Is Gonna Come” and I’m not too sure why but at the exact moment the words “it’s been too hard living” were sung, I burst into tears. By the end of the song, I knew that music existed for this very purpose… to allow me to feel emotions through a combination of words and music. From there, I began my journey. Moved South of Sam Cooke to Ray Charles and James Brown which in turn led me to Otis Redding. Otis then led me to Detroit where Al Green and Marvin Gaye also had some things to say. Smokey Robinson even had a few things to teach me about writing songs. Pretty soon I was introduced to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, and began my journey to want to use my voice to relay my emotions.
Growing up with a single immigrant mother meant that musical instrument lessons were not a formality. She would scrap together some money from time to time so that I could take a piano lesson once a month, but I would detest it. Instead, I would listen to all the cassette tapes my mother had (everything from Beethoven to the Bee Gees and the Beatles) and would emulate the songs on the keys. To this day, I remember that the first classical song I ever played on the piano was Moonlight Sonata, and I played it by ear having heard the Cassette tape only about 10 times. The first “pop” song I ever played was in a similar fashion. One cassette tape was titled Bad and on the cover was a bad-ass looking guy with curly hair named Michael Jackson. The second track on Side B grabbed my attention right away, and I knew that I had to play and sing this song. It was the very first pop song I ever sang and played. Pretty soon, I taught myself guitar as well. Every moment I wasn’t in school or out playing sports, I would play and sing music.
Through my short 28 years of living, I have been forced into deep moments of solitude and have lost many things. Lost a parent. Lost my innocence. Lost my health. Lost my life but not to the point of death. Lost my hopes and dreams. To me, this is why soul music has held such a special place in my heart. Soul music is about loss. I may not be able to relate to the loss of those who lived through the 50s and 60s, but human emotions are human emotions. Regardless of your skin color or culture, the emotions the soul greats exuded are the very same ones we all feel. And in the end we are reminded that with loss, we continue to move forward.
As I move forward with my life and my music, I don’t want to waste this special privilege to share my thoughts and feelings. I want to encourage others to live their lives with the same realization I have… that life is short and the things that really matter and bring true joy aren’t bought or bargained for. Giving is more rewarding than gaining. It is my hope that my life experiences and my faith will encourage you in your life and in the things you believe in. You don’t need to have lived the same experiences or believe the same things I do, to be able to connect to me or my music. I will meet you where you are at. I hope you’ll do the same.