How did the concept for ...A LOVE WORTH FIGHTING FOR come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
This album was essentially inspired by a breakup with a girlfriend. I believe that we all have the power to make a positive experience even out of a devastating one. We are always at choice in our lives and that we can choose to be happy regardless of our circumstances. So, for 6 months I locked myself in my studio. I wrote, sang every note and played every instrument you’ll hear on this CD. It was a very beautiful and therapeutic process for me. I found myself able to embrace the positive parts of my failed relationship while releasing the negative aspects of it. The concept for the CD was to connect every song to the statement of “A Love worth Fighting for” and in one way or another it does. My ultimate goals for this CD is to give this project as much exposure as I possibly can with live performances as well as airplay with you. I’d love to inspire someone to have the hope and courage it takes to love again after having a broken heart.
How would you describe what inspires you to do what you do?
In a word "gratefulness". I honestly feel exceptionally blessed and fortunate to be able to make a living playing music fulltime even during a recession. Between being minister of music at my church in Oakland CA, producing CD’s in my studio for other recording artists and doing my own shows, I just feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for allowing me to make my contribution to the world. I go running with my dog Ginger about 3 times a week and sometimes I run for a couple of hours up and down mountains. The majority of the time is spent with me just thanking God for my life and this gift of music I’ve been given to share with other people all over the world. There’s nothing like that feeling of giving everything you’ve got on stage and having the love of an appreciative audience throw it right back at you. “Thank you” is the only appropriate response I can think of.
What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?
I usually look for the strength of the melody and lyrics and how they resonate with me as an artist. Since I graduated from KIP (Keyboard Instruction Program) at Dick Grove School of Music, I can literally create an arrangement and re-harmonize just about anything I hear. So a lot of the time the melody is the key that will make the song recognizable. In my band, I’ve arranged some very well know tunes that people don’t recognize until I start singing the melody. I love that! You can actually see the light go off in their mind like…“ Oh yeah, I know this song”. It’s a way for me to keep things fresh with the band and “Taschenize” things, if you will. Of course, I love when people come up to me in between sets and say things like…“Hey man, I love that version of…who did that?” I just smile and say… me.
What would you define as the most life-changing event so far in your musical career?
Well that would be the gig that started it all. March 19, 2009. I was talking to my girlfriend at the time and I was expressing my desire to perform my music from my first CD FROM THE SOUL with a band. She was a manager a retail store in Berkeley CA. She replied we could do it at my store? Shocked, I replied okay and there it was. The gig went great! There were lots of people, a lot of energy, and a fan base, all the components needed to get someone hooked into a career performing music. So, I decided to continue booking the band and that year we did 96 gigs between July and December. That CD went on to garner distribution deals in Japan and the United Kingdom as well. That one retail store gig single-handedly changed my dream of performing my original music into the reality of me actually being an independent recording artist.
At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?
It was the summer I graduated from Cal Berkeley, during the Tony Toni Tone world tour in Japan. I was the musical director and sang back up vocals. I remember distinctly that in America and on all the other performances we had done previous to that tour there was another keyboardist that played with me. I played the main keyboard parts and he played the auxiliary keyboard parts. Well, something happened literally right before we got on the plane and the drummer got fired. The other keyboardist knew the whole show already on drums (You know how them church cats roll) so I had to learn all the keyboard parts on the plane to Japan for the tour. I was so stressed out at first. Well on our first night I completely screwed up. It was like the more I concentrated on singing the right back up parts, playing the correct auxilliary keyboard parts and playing the main keyboard parts it just got worst. Completely disgusted the next day before the show that night I practiced more. The next night I promised myself that no matter what happened I just let go and let it be what it was going to be. Well that night, I just closed my eyes and did it. I mean literally the more I relaxed the more musical ideas I could play and sing simultaneously. It was completely bananas! I had so much fun I couldn’t believe it. It was solely that tour that really solidified my decision to become an indie recording artist.
What’s your favorite non-music activity?
Easy… Snowboarding. I am a hardcore snowboarding fan. Love it like nothing else. I jump off cliffs, go through trees and go fast. I remember one of my favorite experiences was snowboarding in a storm. It was incredible! I had just gotten on the lift and right after I got on they called down not to let anybody else on the lift because the conditions had gotten worse at the top of the mountain. When I get to the top I mean I couldn’t see anything except the snow falling right in front of my face. I thought to myself for a minute “boy don’t come up here and kill yourself.” But I didn’t want to punk out. I knew the further I got down the mountain the conditions would get better, so I went for it. Oh my God! It was like flying through the clouds. I was going so fast and there was nobody else around so I had the whole run to myself all the way down. I just had a ball. Basically, yeah I’m addicted.
What’s your favorite charity or cause you work for, and why?
My favorite charity is the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event I’ve been doing every year since I started my live performances with my band. It’s my give back. I’ve had very close friends that are cancer survivors and dear friends that have succumbed to the disease. A mentor of mine, Walter Hawkins died of pancreatic cancer in 2010. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I believe to whom much is given much is required. I know I’ve been blessed to have a lot so plan on giving back a lot in return.