This all started with my mother. The first music I ever heard was Paul Simon's Graceland. That album came out in 1986; I was born in 1987. My mother would rock me to sleep listening to that album, every night.
I remember Paul Simon, Dolly Parton, and the Beach Boys. My mother's favorite band is the Beach Boys, so they're one of my favorite bands, too. By the time I was seven, I knew the artists by name and had memorized some of their songs. My mother's taste in music was the earliest and most impactful influence I've had. By age seven, I was obsessively listening to Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel. I didn't know that Paul Simon was the same Simon that was in Simon & Garfunkel. I thought that nobody could have that much music. It's still kind of insane to me how much music Paul Simon has. Paul Simon is the reason that I play music.
I recall being seven years old, standing on the playground outside of school, leaning against a post, like Paul Simon on the insert of Graceland. He's wearing glasses in the picture, and I had glasses, too -- big dorky frames -- and I felt kind of cool wearing them. A little girl came up and asked me what my name was. "Paul Simon," I told her.
At seven years old, there was a soundtrack that would totally change my life. My mother had the soundtrack to Pretty Woman, the movie with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. That album was actually a fucking rocking playlist: it had a bunch of stellar artists that I'd never heard of before. That album introduced me to Roy Orbison, David Bowie, Go North, Iggy Pop, and, most importantly, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I remember thinking what a cool band name that was, as I listened to their song "Show Me Your Soul." That song was like biting on an electric wire each time I heard it. I loved it. Seven years old and listening to the Chili Peppers. If Paul Simon was the reason I played music, then the Chili Peppers were the reason I played in a band. I listened to that compilation album nonstop, along with all the other artists that my mother had in her cd collection.
My friend Dustin, whom I had grown up with since age six, was the other huge musical influence that I had growing up. It was Dustin who turned me on to Ben Harper and Xavier Rudd -- the two biggest influences on my slide playing -- he also got me into the Flaming Lips, the White Stripes, Beck, the Pixies, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Nick Drake, Neutral Milk Hotel, Morphine, and a bunch of other bands. That guy really expanded my mind. Even today, when I'm writing a new song, I'll ask myself, "Would Dustin think this song was cool?" If the answer is yes, then I keep working on it.
Marc Arbeeny was the third biggest musical influence I had. He turned me on to bands like Television, the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, the Clash . . . I wrote a long blog about him here.
I get asked a lot what kind of music I listen to. I try not to say the regular "Oh, I like everything." I hate it when people say that. There's a lot of music that I don't like. Still, my taste in music, at this point in my life, is very eclectic. Just the other day, I put my ipod on shuffle, and I smiled as it jumped from Bach to the Beastie Boys, from Hank Williams to Lamb of God, from the Fugees to Frank Zappa, Aretha Franklin to the Misfits, Dave Brubeck to Garth Brooks, Leadbelly to System of a Down to the Everly Brothers . . . The only thing I don't really listen to is rap. I think that rap is so much more of a cultural statement than a musical genre, and I've just never identified with it. I don't want to force a connection with music that I just can't feel or relate to. That said, I do have Straight Out of Compton by NWA. Everyone should. And there's some some hip hop that I am into: Public Enemy, Outkast, Fugees -- although these artists bridge the gap between hip hop and rap effortlessly. POS is a personal favorite hip hop artist of mine. He's lesser known, perhaps; he's in the same musical realm as Slug and Atmosphere.
People ask me where I find new music. My answer is 88.9 KXLU Los Angeles. It's a college radio station out of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. I fell in love with KXLU when I lived in LA; it was constantly playing in my car and in my apartment. They have everything, and I'm not exaggerating. Vinyl avant-garde music, classical and opera, old school ska, salsa, ambient noise, kids songs, sub pop garage rock, hardcore, girl rock, folk punk, lo-fi jazz . . . each show is entirely unique and different. I've fallen down musical rabbit holes that I never would have gone into had it not been for KXLU. Just stream it online, day or night, and I guarantee you'll hear some shit you've never heard before.
I enjoy it when people reach out to me and want to talk about music. I felt compelled to write this to kind of explain my early musical roots and answer some general questions that I get asked pretty frequently. I wanted to share, and it feels good just to write about music. Keep hitting me up with questions and comments; I love hearing from you guys.
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