1. Growing up, what were some of your musical influences? Is there a particular artist that has influenced you more than others?
My strongest musical influences have been my guitar teachers. I’ve studied with three main teachers for a cumulative amount of about 10 years, so I’ve logged some hours with these guys. Their impact is immeasurable, because it’s on a foundational level. They taught me how to think about music, and so they’ve influenced the way I listen to everything, indeed how I see the world. You could say they influence the way I’m influenced. If I had to pick a couple of artists, I’d say Paul Simon and Townes Van Zandt.
2. Have you always played music or was it something you picked up later on?
Our church sang accapella all the time, so I started singing at an early age. I took piano lessons around age 8 or 9, but I didn’t like to practice. I kick myself for that now. I started learning guitar at 15, and it was a hit from the get go. There was no doubt. Songs started coming a year or two later.
3. Moving from the corporate world in Dallas, TX to Hartsville, SC to pursue music is quite a difference. What inspired you to make this change and how has it changed you?
I actually started to pursue music at a younger age. I grew up in Austin, and had a band there in high school, then several bands in college, and continued playing and touring after college when I moved to Dallas. The best explanation I can offer for leaving a town like Austin and eventually landing in a town like Hartsville while pursuing music the whole time is this: there’s something in my DNA that is attracted to swimming upstream.
4. How has moving to a small town impacted your music? Obviously, Hartsville is not LA, New York, Nashville, or even Austin. Why did you decide to relocate to South Carolina instead of one of the major music cities?
I won’t claim that I’ve “been there, done that,” just because I grew up in Austin, but I do believe that I’ve been imbued with some of that Live-Music-Capital-Of-The-World spirit. It’s something you can take with you and share with others, and that’s what I try to do wherever I go. I’ve started a couple of concert series in Hartsville, and I host an open mic. We’ve already attracted musicians from around the world to our little town, and events like the open mic are cultivating the kind of audience you might expect in Nashville, NYC, LA, or Austin, minus the smug hipster vibe (There are tons of cool people in all those towns, of course, but sometimes the too-cool-for-school vibe can be a little much. It happens.). It’s so rewarding to witness that moment of discovery in people’s eyes when they realize the inherent value of live music. To answer your first question, I feel that the combination of living in a small town and traveling the world keeps me grounded, and this hopefully keeps my music honest. I know that Hartsville is not the center of the universe. New York isn’t, either. People are living lives of great significance all over the place, even if nobody’s watching. And as for why I moved, I always like to cite Coelho’s The Alchemist and say “I was just following my Personal Legend.”
5. As an artist where do you want be in five years?
I want to be more honest. I want to be easier on myself. I want to still be hungry.
6. How was your last European tour? When finding homes to play at, what is the process like? How have music fans in Europe responded to your music? Has it been the same or better than in the United States?
My last Euro tour was great. Everything on the booking end was done for me, so I basically just showed up and played. In that way, it was better than many of my domestic tours. But you could argue that all those tours had to happen before the first trip to Europe. Finding house concert hosts can be difficult, but in my experience you end up finding two kinds of people: those who host one concert, have a good time, and move on with their lives; and those who can’t get enough of it. So it’s worth the work in seeking out hosts, because in many cases you end up finding lifelong supporters of your music. The folks in the Netherlands responded much the same as the Americans I’ve played for. They speak English just as well, so there’s no real barrier there.
6. Do you plan to have your organization Artsville expand throughout SC and beyond, or do you envision having it be just a local organization?
Great question! If I had to pick between local and global, I’d pick global. I think the message of Artsville is something valuable to people all over the world. I printed over 1,000 black and white bumper stickers with the simple phrase, “try new things.” and I’ve handed them out to just about anybody I run into. It’s a message I think we could stand to see more of, no matter where we live.
7. If a major record label wanted to sign you, would you take the offer or do you see yourself going with an independent label, or doing things completely on your own?
It all depends on the deal. I’d want to surround myself with smart people that care about me and consult them before I made a decision like that. The most important question to ask in that situation is “Do these people believe in me?” True supporters are those that trust you, even when your art begins to evolve.
8. What advice do you have for aspiring musicians who want to have professional careers in music, as well as those who are thinking about making a career switch to playing music full time?
A few things. Measure twice, cut once. Sound good, and keep going. Be yourself. Those are the best pieces of advice for aspiring professional musicians I’ve ever heard.