Learning to Play Guitar

For as long as I can remember, my dad has been an amazing guitar player. I never took much of an interest as a kid because I was wrapped up in my own stuff – sports, school, girls, etc.

I come from a very musical family. My mom and dad were in a folk band in college called The North Door Singers (Google them). They sing at church. My brother sang at our wedding and could always carry a tune.

I’ve never had that confidence. I sang when I was a kid in church choirs and at campfires and I even tried playing the piano for like two weeks. But performing music never really stuck on me like it did with the rest of my family. That didn’t keep me from loving music. Not even a little.

My family, God bless them, has always said, “But you have a great voice! You should sing.” NO.

OK, maybe.


For the past several weeks, Jake and I have been learning how to play guitar from my Dad. Each Wednesday, my mom cooks us dinner and we meet at their house for a few hours to learn new chords, progressions and lately, songs.

Last week we learned our first real song — an original that was written by our friends out in Wyoming (also known as the Cowboy-version of the Osmonds) for my niece. The three of us learned the song and played it for her and the rest of our family last weekend.

This week, I got to bring a song that I wanted to learn — “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars (which you may be familiar with if you pay attention here). And last night, I went home and I sang it to my wife. I didn’t sing it well, but I sang it.

I sent a text to my dad today that read:

I am terrified of singing. Having a guitar in front of me as a shield helps.

It’s the truth.

I still don’t think I can sing. People may pooh pooh that thought, but if you’ve ever heard anyone else in my family sing, you’d understand my trepidation. But ever since I started learning how to play guitar, I’m not as scared to actually do it as I once was. Having that shield/security blanket sure helps because if I think I sound bad, I can just play louder.

Regardless of that, Wednesday nights have been this wonderful combination of family and learning something new and it’s a lot of fun.

Special thanks to Alli who snapped the photo in this post.

Currently Listening: Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz

I love finding new music. I do. (I promise this isn’t turning into a music blog.) I love particularly when recommendation engines work. The other day, I was browsing the Amazon MP3 music and they suggested an album to me by Sarah Jarosz. It’s reasoning? Because I previously purchased music by: The Civil Wars, The Belle Brigade and The Head and the Heart (thanks for that one, Tyson). Since these are probably my three favorite discoveries of the year, I purchased the album sight unseen.

What a great recommendation! Since I’m in this Americana/Bluegrass/Folk mode right now, this album is right up my alley. Loving this song, Come Around, particularly, but the whole album is pretty great. Jarosz is a less-sleepy version of Norah Jones. Check her out if any of this sounds good to you:

Inspiration vs. Derivation

On the way home, I had my iPad on shuffle and came upon Sara Bareilles’ fantastic track off of Kaleidoscope Heart, Bluebird.

What struck me when listening to this song was how similar the first few bars on the piano are to the banjo notes that we all know from our childhood.

What was funny about that realization was how it reminded me of another song comparison from when I was much younger.

I remember when Oasis was one of the biggest bands on the planet and their sophomore album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, was (and continues to be) one of my favorite albums of all time. I remember the comparisons that were continually made to The Beatles and I particularly remember how Noel Gallagher caught a lot of flak because the opening of his opus, “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” sounded so much like John Lennon’s iconic, “Imagine.”

And it does. The comparison is obvious.

You know what I have to say?

Who freaking cares.

There’s a big difference between inspiration and derivation.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 states:

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

I don’t agree with this statement. While our lives are informed and inspired by our experiences that precede us, we are blessed with the ability to build and to create something anew.

We all have that ability. That’s why out and out stealing other people’s content and repurposing it as your own is so unfortunate.

There’s a lesson here somewhere.

It’s OK to be inspired by others, to even use something as simple as an opening hook to a song to help you tell your own story. “Bluebird” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” may be inspired by “The Rainbow Connection” and “Imagine”, respectively, but that doesn’t make them any less great on their own.

Find inspiration in your life and use it to create new things, things that are your own. What inspires you?

Not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad…

I’ve had this song in my head for a couple days now, mostly because of the brilliant lyric that closes the song:

I wanna have pride like my mother has,
And not like the kind in the Bible that turns you bad.
And I wanna have friends that I can trust,
that love me for the man I’ve become and not the man that I was.

The song is off of The Avett Brothers’ terrific album, I and Love and You, which is great if you like Mumford & Sons and the like…

Currently Listening – The Belle Brigade

On the rare occasions that I’m not listening to The Civil Wars these days, I’m finding myself in a very Americana kind of mood.

Currently, the band that is best filling that for me is The Belle Brigade, also known as brother-sister duo Ethan and Barbara Gruska, who describe themselves on their Facebook page as such:

Barbara and Ethan met when Ethan was born. They knew they were brother and sister but they did not know that 19 years in the future they would form a band. The future happened and now they have a band, a facebook page, a myspace page and some other stuff they’ve acquired over the years.

I’m really digging their song, “Losers,” a lot, which they recently performed on Conan. Here’s the official video.

And while you’re in a music-listening, video-watching mood, check out this fabulous video I caught at The Civil Wars at The Bottleneck in Lawrence. I love that I caught Joy Williams telling the story of how she and John Paul White met. And then, there’s their amazing performance of “Falling”.

What are you currently listening to?