How long have you been performing, and what led you to a life as a musician?
I guess I've been a performing musician for seven years. As to what led me to performing… boredom? (Laughs.) I guess just a fascination with music and the complexities of modern music as well as classical music. That, and my parents' encouragement
What other musicians, groups, musical styles, or music from different cultures influence your work?
I'm a big fan of classic pop music—The Beatles, The Turtles, The Monkees, The Beach Boys. I think the complexity of a lot of that music, especially Brian Wilson's (The Beach Boys), was dismissed too easily just because a lot of it became Top 40 hits. I'm a huge fan of the "piano gods" of the 1970s—Billy Joel and Elton John. I've always been very drawn to the spirituality (although I don't agree with their beliefs) in the music of Sting and Jimi Hendrix, who bring a sort of "superhuman" feel to their music. I've always liked intricate, European pop music, plus Afro-Cuban and Brazilian percussion. I've been studying African percussion and rhythms for a while.
Do you have a current project or album you are excited about working on?
I've just finished producing a local Houston band and as well played some guitar and drums on their record. Then of course I'm so happy to finally have gotten to record with Caedmon's Call and I think the whole band is ecstatic about the way Long Line of Leavers turned out. We just wrapped the first leg of a tour for that album. I want to be at my high school for most of the second semester of my senior year, so the band is actually going to work mostly on weekends, so I can still tour with them. And we'll do some extended trips during March, when I have a mid-term break.
What are your goals and aspirations for your music over the next five years?
I want to keep growing more than anything else. I don't want to look back in five years and say I was at my best when I was 17 or 18 years old. I want to keep learning how to play new styles of music and be able to jump into new genres. That's why I love the new Caedmon's project; there are so many styles on it. I really want to develop my skills as a songwriter as well.
Do you have a best performance moment you could share? A worst moment?
I've definitely got the worst. The first show of the last tour was at Baylor University -- huge hall, thousands and thousands of people. I was also playing with the opening artist, Bebo Norman, and we were getting ready to play a song I had just learned the night before. I wasn't comfortable with the key he chose, so I asked him if we could change it. I guess we never did decide, because when I came in, my keyboard part was a half step different from the guitar. I think 6000 people simultaneously cringed.
As far as the best moment, there are a couple. We did a show at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Just being on that stage and thinking about everyone who had played there was pretty overwhelming. Then we did a show at the University of Florida in this beautiful theater where Billy Joel had just played. When I saw his picture hanging there I kind of freaked out, but I just settled into the energy of the show and really nailed all my parts that night.
What do you see as the power of music in society?
I think we sometimes place too much emphasis on the words in a song. Words definitely affect us. But for me, the style of the music and the energy of the music can have a much greater impact on my spirit and emotions. That may just be because I'm a musician, but I think there's more to it than that.
How has your career as a musician affected your private life?
Being a professional musician is a bit of a blessing in disguise because it can be very difficult at times. But to think that people pay me for something that I would do anyway keeps me perpetually grateful and privately very centered and more fulfilled.
If you could choose a different career, what would you do?
I'd probably teach, but not music—probably history or English. Maybe I’d work in the music industry but in a non-performing capacity.
What advice could you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career like yours?
I would say talk to people with experience and ask them detailed questions about their lives. You need to find out (a) if you're willing to put in the time and effort needed to establish yourself a career and (b) if you've got the patience to accept the financial consequences of being a full-time musician. It's very similar to an athlete moving from the college game to the pros. Many pros have long, respectable careers. Not many have careers on the level of a Tiger Woods or a Michael Jordan. Do what your heart desires but don't constantly worry about if you should change lines of work. Do what you love but don't be afraid to make it marketable. It sounds like a hippie cliché, but be happy in your work.
What was your favorite subject in school and why?
I would say English and the humanities—the study of literature, art, and philosophy. The study of the human experience through literature is very interesting to me.