An Ear For Music

Growing up, I was always really close with my dad. When I was sick, he took me to my doctor appointments. When I wanted to play football, he volunteered to become one of my team’s coaches. When I started writing songs, he would listen – and even helped me record some of my first demos!

Let me back up for just a minute though. My dad had an INCREDIBLE ear for music. When we would ride in the car, he would pick out harmonies that I didn’t even know existed! When we got home, he would sit down at the piano, and 15 minutes later, he could play the song! My father was NOT a trained musician, and he wasn’t a professional musician. He was a man who owned his own business, he was a dedicated husband and father, and he loved to joke around. The fact that he had this amazing talent just blew me away.

I came to find out that music had actually run in our family and that his parents were Vaudeville singers. More on that in another blog post…

Anyway, I was always in awe when my dad would sit down at the piano and start to learn a song he had heard over an hour ago. I would pull up a chair and just watch as he discovered the songs. His voice would fill the room and the piano would just ring out with disonance and resolution.

One day, I decided to try my hand at this playing-by-ear business. I must have been about 13 years old, and I made sure to try this little experiment when both of my parents were still at work and my sisters were out of the house. It was scary, but I really wanted to see if I could do this too. I sat down on the piano bench and adjusted the bench for about 15 minutes – clearly stalling – before finally sitting my hands on the keys. No idea where to start, I made a shape I had seen my father make with his hands on the piano. WRONG.

I don’t remember the song I was trying to learn, but I know that I failed miserably at playing it! As I had this one shape I could make, I tried moving it around a little bit. Eventually, I found that if I moved it in the proper sequence, I was playing a chord progression that I didn’t hate! Next thing I knew, I was humming a melody over these chords. I ran to my backpack and grabbed a notebook and furiously began writing down words about a girl I had a crush on.

My heart was pounding. I was breathing quickly. I felt alive!

The next day at school, I walked confidently up to that girl and let her know that I had written a song about her. I didn’t even care that she told me she was flattered but didn’t like me like that – now I knew who I was. Now I knew what I was meant to do with my life. I was a songwriter.

As I developed my skills, my father would listen. He bought my first guitar. He would come to my room and ask me to play for him. He would give me feedback and help me hone my skills. I started getting more and more into this, so I picked up my sister’s tape recorder and started recording myself playing guitar. Then I would rewind the tape and record myself singing over it. I’d do another pass and TRY to harmonize. I was multi track recording my songs in my room as a teenager! Once I showed my passion for that, my dad helped me save my money to put together a basic digital home recording studio so I could make demos to book my high school band.

My dad was there to listen, he was there to teach, and he was there to help hit record when I was on the other side of the room screaming into a microphone.

My senior year of high school, my dad passed away unexpectedly. I was crushed. My hero, my cheerleader, my best friend was gone…

I felt like I had to be strong for my mom and my sisters. I felt like I had to stuff my emotions and just keep moving forward. I felt like I had died too. My passion, my love for life, my creative spark had all but blown out.

With the support of my bandmates, my friends, my high school sweetheart, my mom, my sisters, my brother, and many years of weekly dates with the therapist at my college, I was able to find my passion again.

When I did, I was able to start getting out there and performing again. I was writing better and better songs. When I would get off stage at the end of the night, I would have friends and family come up to me crying and tell me how much my songs meant to them. I had once again found my purpose.

I write songs for me. I record them for my dad. I perform them for you.

Thank you to everyone who has been by my side through my crazy career, whether you were there since I fumbled through performance in high school or just found out about my music today, I am grateful you’re here.

With love,
David