Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?
My Father had ALWAYS been and actually continues to be, a huge influence in my life despite his passing on. He was an aeronautical engineer and a pilot in WWII in The Pacific Theater and taught me A LOT about flight, aerodynamics, wing design, creativity... and most importantly: NEVER QUIT DOING OR TRYING! When he saw I was interested and good at both athletics and music, he encouraged both and supported my efforts... constantly in later years... urging me to continue my musical endeavors more than ever. He saw something in me that he thought was special... and that transferred to me believing in myself. I miss my Dad still. Just goes to show you how one person can make a difference that transcends time.
Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?
Not sure if it's absolutely the 1st song/performance that inspired me... but Ricky Nelson performing "Travelin' Man" on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" TV show was definitely BIG for me! That was in 1961 (am I dating myself??). Though I had already been playing guitar since age 7, (don't specifically recall how or why I chose guitar... just thought it was cool!), after seeing Ricky Nelson play and sing I wanted more than ever to do the same thing! Who knew??
At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?
Choosing a life-long career always seemed daunting to me in some respects during the 'high school years' as it were. Remember the guidance counselors... always talking "aptitudes", "interests", "skills"...? I WAS interested in aeronautics of course, because of my Father teaching me so much about it. And medicine was (and still is) of interest. But I discounted both as career paths because I thought the road to an engineering degree would be tedious (a LOT of math at that time... slide rulers too, no computers!). A medical degree looked like 12 years of school... Yikes! At the time, I was less patient and all that seemed like forever. So... I chose music college and as I progressed through classical music studies in addition to my popular music efforts, I found I loved the recording process: archiving forever musical efforts and compositions that I could create out of nothing (so-to-speak) but what was in my head... and that really appealed to me. Still does.
What are some of the most important goals you have for yourself in the next five to ten years?
My response here is two-fold... relating to music AND life:
Music-wise... I have set a goal of recording at least 1 album a year for the next 10 years. That means I could perhaps record 15 to 20 albums over that time if I am lucky and continue to drive hard creatively... which I believe I will! The reason for this is that I feel so strongly that good melodic music/songs really need to be added to The Great American Songbook such as it is referred to. Whether I am up to the task or am taken seriously enough by the "real music community" (not the one-hit wonder supporter types) remains to be seen. I'm not egotistical enough to think I'm in the same class as Cole Porter or Charlie Chaplin (did you know Charlie Chaplin wrote the timeless "Smile" recorded by countless artists and "This Is My Song" which Petula Clark made into a big hit?). But, I believe I can make a contribution to the world of music in various styles and genres which may stand the 'test of time'.
Life-wise... I am blessed with some talent that hopefully will allow me to leave both an artistic and financial legacy to my family and following generations. I've never been one to just "recirculate oxygen" in life. Making every day as productive as possible is good for one's spirit and for those that follow you.
Outside of your musical career, what else in your life gets you excited and fulfilled?
I love CREATING things! whether it's building a house addition with 2X4s and lumber... or creating firmware instruction-sets and equipment for automation controls related to the air conditioning and refrigeration industry (which I got into to support myself and my family over the years)... or whether it's writing short stories and novels (I'm working on a fiction novel now)... I get excited by that creative process! There are other things I love doing that are a bit more thrilling adrenaline-wise: Riding my motorcycles (one of them is a high-speed modified sport bike capable of 185 mph... WOW!... that's about as close to flying an F-16 as I will get at this point in my life!
Seeing my children (all grown with families of their own) prosper and develop into great human beings is REALLY fulfilling... it contributes to mankind and forwards the spiritual connection I have with all of them even if we are not physically near each other.
If you were asked (and we are asking now!) for your advice as to what the Smooth jazz format could do moving forward to ensure its relevance and growth, what would your suggestion(s) be?
Be careful what you ask for would be my first response... ha! All kidding aside, I really like the smooth jazz format overall. There is a tendency these days, however, for all specific music formats to "over homogenize" music genres and to get caught up in the trap of "if this is good, then more of the same is better". That holds true for a little bit. But too much of a good thing.... well, you get my point maybe. Here's an illustration:
Remember the music in the 60s ? As we listened to the radio in those days... primarily AM at the time... it was always interesting and a little exciting to hear what song would come on next because the diversity of styles, genres and artists was so wide and varied. At that time, the popular music industry was looking at every kind of music to play so it was really cool to hear an R&B song play and then be immediately followed by Peter, Paul & Mary singing a folksy-type piece. Now, there are so many sub-categories genre-wise that if you want to hear a variety of music play you have to constantly switch stations or streaming. It makes exposure to different music more difficult for the listener. In other words: the listener used to be exposed to a wide variety of music automatically by the fact that the stations played every type that the record companies were pushing out the door. Now it's incumbent on the listener to chose his/her own listening format... and it's very narrow. So..... regarding how that all relates to Smoothjazz.com, here is my input:
A. I am all for repeated success of musical artists and their respective offerings. It needs to happen. However, playing the same ones over & over & over & over gets REALLY boring... no matter how good they are. A constant diet of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert would be equally boring. There are so many good, yet unheralded artists out there it would be nice to hear fresh takes, even IF they are all still saxophone players... which takes me to the next point...
B. Smooth jazz needs to break-out & away from the idea that only trumpet, saxophone and sometimes guitar instrumental songs are what people love. Yeah, sure... they DO love them. But how many peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches can you eat for lunch day after day after day? (There's a little story there that I will share someday!). Mix-up the jazz genres a little bit to stay relevant in both instrumental, vocal and style. I'm not saying to deviate too far from "smooth"... just diversify a little bit so everything isn't homogenized.
C. Homogenized. That's my last item to discuss. When everything is the "same"... as in style, genre, content and instrumentation... the listener gets bored, put-off and eventually turns away. I may be a bit different than many listeners because of my professional status in music, but I think a lot of listeners feel the same way. Too many instrumentals of the SAME TYPE are played. No vocal pieces... or very few... are ever played. The identical style of smooth jazz is always played. Quite honestly, as much as I love the smooth jazz genre overall, after about 20 minutes of listening... I'm done. Can't handle anymore. Too much "peanut-butter-and-jelly". I suggest mixing it up more... with more vocal pieces, new artists, different styles of smooth jazz so-to-speak. In order to stay relevant, I believe it's time to shift off-center just a little bit. After all, sitting on "the fence" is NEVER comfortable for too long!