From early on, I was drawn to the look of a drum set as it sat on a stage – and I think its appearance is what first drew me to playing the drums.
When I was about 2 years old, I received a toy drum set from an FAO Schwartz catalogue and began playing it, in the way that a 2 year old can at least. Though it probably sounded right on to me at the time, I would venture to guess that my parents spent many hours wondering just what kind of crazy had inspired them to subject themselves to that kind of noise radiating out of the basement.
Though neither of my parents are musicians, they are both avid music fans and I can remember music being on regularly in the house. Particularly, and in retrospect the most influential I think, was Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan’s “Family Style” album. My cousins and I ran around the house dancing to the song “White Boots” for as long as my dad would let it repeat. I guess it was around this point that my love for blues and blues-rock was sown.
When I was in 6th grade, my birthday present was a ticket to a blues festival in which BB King, Buddy Guy, John Hiatt, and Tommy Castro shared the bill. After seeing that show, I was pushed over the edge; going from a kid that was drawn to that music to a kid who began a full immersion in it.
The following year I joined the middle school jazz band as one of two drummers and rode the bus with the high school band to their gigs so I could hear them play. As a freshman, I joined the high school jazz band and became the first freshman percussionist to make it into the selective Wind Ensemble Concert Band.
Though I was enjoying myself in school – outside of school I was struggling to find a guitar player that could play the type of music to which I was listening. My left-handed brother had taken guitar lessons for a short time, and I started messing around with his guitar, but because I am right handed, I never did too much with it.
In August of 2005, my uncle caught wind that I was interested in playing and took me to the House of Guitars in Rochester, New York, to pick out a guitar for my birthday. After coming home with my Epiphone Emperor “Joe Pass” Model guitar, I got to work learning the solos and chords that I had loved for past 3 years. Within a year, I was splitting time in jazz band as a drummer and guitarist. Though I am mostly self-taught, I did take one 4-month stint of lessons with a folk and acoustic rock veteran my hometown area of Bath, NY. Ken Erway taught me many techniques in finger picking in the short time I was with him before leaving for college in the fall of 2008. What I learned from Ken has definitely stuck with me in my playing and broadened my playing ability a great deal.
In choosing a college, I decided to come to Buffalo, NY, purely because of the robust live music scene. I spent my first year continuing to practice guitar in my dorm and jamming with anyone who wanted jam. In December of 2009, I got a call from Evan Laedke, a 16-year old organist in Buffalo after he had seen a video I had posted on YouTube and shortly thereafter, I joined his band, 4InTune as a secondary guitarist. It was with 4InTune that I first started singing and working on myself as a vocalist. Within 6 months, I was presented with the chance to join The Willie May Band (for which Evan was already the organist) as the drummer. In 2011, I became the drummer for the Buffalo blues-trio, 3 of a Kind.
There are a great deal of very generous and selfless musicians in Buffalo that have contributed to my being accepted into the scene, and I am now lucky to regularly sit in and fill-in with the likes of Robert "Freight Train" Parker and Friends, The Jony James Band, The Jeremy Keyes Band, JJ White and The All Nighters and many others.
As both a guitar player and a drummer, I am often asked which one I like to do more. The question was always one that I had a hard time answering until I heard the same thing asked of the New Orleans musician Dr. John. His response solved my problem of answering that question, and I think describes a huge part of who I am and how I look at music in general.
“Actually, I have always just looked at myself as just a musician -- that plays in a rhythm section. I feel very awkward being called 'a piano player', 'a something' -- cuz what I do is like, not necessarily, I'm not a great piano player so to speak. I can play the piano, and I love to play the piano, I love to play music, but I just as much love to play the guitar or the drums or the bass in a rhythm section..."