Monday, July 13, 2020



Your dreams will take you far 
When you realize you’re a Star
It doesn’t matter who you are
Believe you are a Star
That’s what you are

I organized silverware and plates as quickly as I could. Forks, knives, and spoons shot into their correct slots. Plates flew onto stacks of the same size and shape. Linens were thrown into their bin. Next bus bucket, next bucket, next bucket. I finished and booked it to the garage to where my car was parked. Once I unlocked it and got in, I brought up the Voice Memos app on my phone and pressed Record.

It was three weeks until I hit the studio. I had a budget to record two songs. Although I love the three tunes that were in consideration, I was still completely clueless as to what original I was going to lay down up in Boulder. I knew I was going to record a cover of “Summertime (Doin’ Time)” by Sublime with a musical and lyrical twist. Take a listen to my version of it by clicking here

With that song being at 81 BPM, (Beats Per Minute) I felt like I needed a more uptempo tune to balance the other out. Two of the originals in question were a little on the slower, groovier side and the other was at running pace. Whatever was cooking up in my head when I was busing that Sunday night felt right.

A hair over 120, “Star” clocks in at 121 BPM. It’s great tempo to dance to, which is why a lot of House and Techno music typically features songs at or around 120 BPM. My head was bopping all the way to the car as that initial idea brewed. “Star” went through the most lyrical drafts I have ever done for any song. Usually I’m able to get “the” version of the lyrics in the second or third round of writing them. STAR TOOK SEVEN DRAFTS TO WRITE AND GET RIGHT. The 6th draft was off by a few words and I laughed looking back at a small stack of half a dozen drafts that led to the one that finally did it.

Alright, let’s fucking go. 

For the next three weeks, almost all my time outside of working was spent running the musical gauntlet; bouncing from drums to bass to guitar to vocals to lyrics to…gulp, keyboards. Before recording, I knew where a “C” note was on keys. Other than that, I didn’t know how to play piano. Buuuuuut, when I was touring around the studio, the last thing I was shown was the true gem of the place: a 1959 Hammond organ with a Tallboy cabinet housing a Leslie speaker. 

Time to geek out for a sec. Apparently the quality of Hammonds started declining in the ’60’s and was in its prime during the ’50’s. Honestly as impressive as the year and condition of the organ was, playing through the speaker was actually the most important and most exciting part of it to me.  One of my  musical idols Trey Anastasio of Phish beautifully employs the Leslie rotating speaker to get these otherworldly swirling tones. Ever since I first heard it I wanted to play through one. Now I had the opportunity…I just had to learn how to play piano first.

It was a solid case of reverse engineering. From knowing where a “C” was, I figured out note by note the shapes of the chords used in “Star.” With the organ having such a rich sound, I could really just let these chords ring out. I didn't have to be concerned with too many quick changes as “Star” is a pretty simple tune. Many, many hours of practice and experimentation later, I got into something I really liked. It took a few tries to really nail it in the studio, but the gorgeous and lush tones of that ’59 Hammond and Leslie speaker really shine on “Star.” 

Next week come 7/20/20, "Star" will be released on all major streaming sites. Take a listen to a preview by Clicking Here!

  • 3 GUITARS (2 electric, 1 acoustic)
  • TOTAL=10 tracks recorded in 2.5 hours

Monday, July 6, 2020

The World of Recording - Part III

The World of Recording - Part III

The alarm went off well before the Sun came up. Man, I’ve got to be crazy. The night before I joined one million other citizens of India in the Girivalam tradition. During this full moon celebration, our study abroad program made the trip to the Arunachalesvara Temple and that night joined an ocean of others spending hours walking around Arunachala hills. It was something like I’d never experienced before and left me feeling mentally, phsycially, and spiritually charged but drained at the same time after such a long night. “Do you guys want to do a Sunrise hike tomorrow?” One of our main guides posed the question and in a euphoric high from the event, some friends and I readily agreed and made plans to. Only 3 of us total ended up making it because of such an early take off time and late night before it. When we met in the lobby of where we were staying, I was sort of surprised I wasn’t the only one there. With our tiny group, we made the trek up the mountain believed to be the body of Lord Shiva.

When the Sun came out that morning, we took some moments to stop and just look at the beauty we saw. As I soaked up this incredibly expansive and colorful landscape, somehow our tour guide Segar and I got on the topic of music. He said he liked to play too, but more as a hobby than anything. I remember that conversation so well because I really believe that was the moment when I really committed to professionally pursuing music. I’d always loved making it and from countless hours of practice, I developed a great set of ears and skills. But frankly I was never wholeheartedly committed to making music for a living and making a really good living do so until those moments on the mountain. As I talked with Segar, it just came pouring out: making music is my favorite thing to do in life, it’s what I enjoy doing most, and getting to experience a room full of people absolutely loving what you are creating for and with them is a near unrivaled high. As I rattled all this off, I made the decision that upon getting back to the States, I was going to make a living making music no matter what.

About a month later as our study abroad program was coming to a close, a group of four of us went into a recording studio to put together a track. It really stoked my fire to spend more and more time recording and making music in a professional setting. But only many years later after with the band I was in did I earnestly try to make professional-quality recordings. When our group got a new bassist, his senior project was to record an album so we used that as an opportunity to put together an EP. It’s was far from a professional production and was more recorded in more of a rehearsal type room than a legit studio, but it was a start. Though we at least had something on record, the band wanted something more legit that was made in a recording studio. After a collective move to Boston, we got in touch with a studio and booked some time.

With a specific time period paid for and set, lot of practicing and rehearsing for those 5 songs went down. Hour after hour, day after day, everybody in the group sharpened their axes. It wasn’t some simple G to C kind of stuff, there were really progressive and demanding parts that were difficult to pull off. The heat was on to use the studio time in the most efficient way that we could. And we did. A lot of takes were close to or even good to go from the 1st or 2nd attempt. But like many bands, that one broke up due to creative and personal differences. It was brutal to go through that break up for a lot of reasons: we were all living together, I was going to have to start over musically, and my decision to split came at a time where we just got to play Main Stage at a fairly big festival in New England. Needless to say, the other two were not happy about having to find a new guitarist to learn some pretty tough tunes. But I knew I needed out, so I split and saved up enough money to move to Colorado. A few months before moving from the East Coast to the West, I started writing a ton of material. About one year after they were written, many of those songs would end up making their way into a studio in Boulder, Colorado.

Check out some of those songs by clicking this link!

Monday, June 29, 2020

The World of Recording - Part II

The World of Recording - Part II

After I got to visit a professional recording studio for the first time I…didn’t really do anything about it! Getting a glimpse of mixing was great, but having the equipment to do so and the hands on part of it was still beyond me. Fortunately, I still got to be a part of actually creating an album. In the Summer of ’08, a friend and bandmate in high school had a couple of microphones and the hookups needed to be able to have our band record a whole album (called See You Soon from The Mango Garden…look for the follow up between 2022-2029). It was a ton of fun, and those sessions may have really spurred my “One Take Frank” mentality when it comes to recording.

Allegedly when Frank Sinatra would record, we would commonly nail it in one take. The amount of practicing, rehearsing, and studying of the material needed to do that is incredible. And those sessions in my friend’s basement had a similar style. I would practice for hours and hours at home, learning the changes and trying to hear and feel out what would sound best. When it came time to record, I wanted to knock the take out of the park first time around.

It didn’t always work that way. But, there were occasions where it would be my turn to record and I would be able to move right on to the next song. Though it’s maybe technically more efficient if you get a great take right off the bat, but I found out a good rule of thumb a little over a decade after See You Soon: It’s always a good idea to have at least two takes. There will generally be that much more of a comfortability with playing the song, especially knowing you can contrast and compare. Better yet, if you can double up on a solo note for note, it has a bigger sound going on and an effect heard on the likes of “Money” by Pink Floyd.

After getting to record See You Soon with The Garden, I didn’t record anything else for a long time (over a decade later, check out my band’s debut album here). All throughout college I was in a half a dozen bands or so. Though the projects got time on stage, there was no project I ever went into a record studio with, or no project where we set out to make an album. The closest thing I came to that was having our sound “recorded” when we were live on a friend’s radio show. Better make the take good! The mentality wasn’t to go in and lay down tracks to pitch, it was just to go in and have fun (and it was, taking place in a room completely surrounded with vinyl records a big window to the control room so you could see and joke with the DJ). Though CDs were made of the performance, it’d didn’t really feel like an album, maybe some sort of studio-live hybrid, but that wasn’t the point of playing that night. 

Bizarrely enough, the next time I entered a professional studio to record was when I was studying abroad in India. It was right after our program ended there and 4 of us from the 9 in our group hopped in rickshaws and made the journey to a studio (that's us up top!). It ended up being owned an operated by a tabla player we got to see perform months earlier. It was a session put together by a producer and great lyricist Jackson Whalen. Trevor Ring and I were the main ones on analog instruments so we practiced some parts ahead of time to go with the beat that Jackson made. Rubina Beg came in to provide a great lyrical melody for the chorus and I mirrored and harmonized with that line on guitar. I forgot how great it felt to hear, see, and be a part of creating music to be mixed and mastered into a tangible recording. It immediately became something I wanted to do when I got back to the States.

All these years later, check out songs off the debut album from my band Alpha Pegasi by clicking here

Monday, June 22, 2020

The World of Recording - Part I

The World of Recording - Part 1

My first time in a professional recording studio was a purely passive experience, but it was so great to just be a sponge in that space. It took place at Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield, NH. Pulling into the driveway, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect. All I knew is that this time would miraculously be credited towards my high school senior project of making an album (Click here to check out my band’s debut single). I called the studio to ask them if it would be alright to come by and shadow a recording or mixing session at the studio and they agreed. When the date arrived, I made out to a part of the state I had never been to before. When I got there and opened the doors, I stepped into a world I’d never even dreamed of.

Seemingly any and every instrument, amplifier, and microphone you could ever want were all living in this one, beautiful, acoustically-rich room. Up to that point in time, I really only tried to focus on being a good guitar player. I was just beginning to sing and play bass but I never even thought of being able to play piano, drums, organ, or synth. Yet here were all these instruments in the same room. It was pretty mind boggling to be shown Fender instruments in great shape from the 60’s and 70’s, a gorgeous grand piano, and gleaming drum set with seemingly a dozen microphones set up all around it.

Being only four or so years into playing guitar, I didn’t understand the music industry, how records were made, and I’m not too sure if I even knew that mixing and mastering was a thing. Being pretty very naive about the recording process, I kind of thought you would just go into a studio, get a good take, then get the music out there. Apparently there's a lot more to it than that! Getting a great take is a desired result, but even with one there is still a lot of work to be done to make that particular instrument sound the best it can. The wise men running the boards told me that sound sits on a frequency spectrum and it's measured in Hertz (HZ). Bass sits much lower frequency on the spectrum than an electric guitar. Accordingly, when some of the higher frequencies/HZ are shaved off from the bass and more emphasis is placed on the lower frequencies it naturally produces, the result is a rich, full tone. 

It was like someone had pulled back the curtain to what my eyes couldn’t process. I was seeing sound for the first time in my life. That day at Rocking Horse I was mainly involved in the mixing portion of an a cappella project. In a more peaceful, quiet, and woodsy area of the country with a modern-cabin like feel to the studio itself, I could see why musicians would want to go there to best capture and release their sound. It was interesting to hear strictly vocals with no instruments, yet with every single voice on record, there was a little to take away here and a little more to add there. After a couple hours of soaking up as much as I could, I thanked those that let me sit in on the session and left. As I made my way home, I continued savoring the thought of all of those beautiful instruments, learning about the art of a good mix, and seeing sound for the first time.

The debut single from my band Alpha Pegasi was just released on 6/20/20! Listen to it by Clicking Here

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Summertime (Doin' TIme)

Summertime (Doin’ Time)

Summertime, and the living’s easy…

The lyrics in the verses definitely do not match that statement. When I first heard the song “Doin’ Time” (the original of the “Summertime” version most people know) I felt the lyrics were super conflicted between the chorus and verses. I was in high school circa 2007, at the heart of my Summer of Sublime. It felt like essentially every time I hung out with my best friend Liam “Big Lee” McCarthy, we would end up listening to and/or jamming on some Sublime songs. Both being singers, songwriters, and guitar players in our teenage and rebellious phase, we drew a lot of inspiration from Sublime’s leader Bradley Nowell. So when I heard the lyrics in the verses of “Doin’ Time,” I felt bad for Bradley.

The three verses reflect an agonizing relationship between him and a woman who seems to be doing everything she can to cause Brad pain. She’s running around having sex with a lot of other people, so much so that he doesn’t even get to do so with her. It makes him feel like he’s going through one of the worst experiences anyone can go through: being stuck in jail or prison (really don’t recommend going there, avoid it at all costs). This woman is driving him so mad, he feels like he wants to drown her…yet the chorus cooly proclaims…

Summertime, and the living’s easy

That didn’t match up at all with the tumultuous relationship that he described he was going through. I always thought those sets of lyrics in the verses and chorus seemed in direct contrast with each other, and I let that opinion lie for about 13 years. Then I heard Lana Del Ray’s version of it. I respect Lana as a musician that has made it and turned her dreams into realities in the music and entertainment industries. That being said, I was a bit dismayed at her cover of “Doin’ Time.” She barely changed anything! She even still sang “Bradley’s on the microphone…” Lana, your name and Bradley’s have the same syllables! Her version could easily have been spun into a version more about her relationships, her city, and her life. But it wasn’t. Rather than complain about it, I did something about it.

Lana’s version gave me that final kick I needed to alter the lyrics in a way that matched up with the chorus. I did my best to completely flip the lyrics on their head. Instead of describing a relationship that was a negative influence on the narrator, I wanted to create something as close to the exact opposite of that as I could. In that sense I flipped the script of a sad story into a love song. The goal was to produce lyrical content that described a really beautiful, passionate, and loving relationship for the verses. For the chorus instead of singing about “The LBC” of Long Beach California, I rewrote them to apply to the city where I live in at this time of writing: Denver, Colorado. With that in mind, I wanted the content and context for the music video to be shots taken from one of my favorite sections of the city: RiNo. 

The strip of the River North district on Larimer Street from about 25th to 36th is one of my favorite parts of Den. Huge murals, graffiti, and a ton of street art covers basically every building down there. Just in that section of the city there has to be about a dozen craft breweries. Also, a borderline sanctuary for me is housed down there. RocketSpace is an hourly rehearsal studio that has allowed me to practice parts for various instruments and songs at full volume (something not allowed in a 1 bedroom apartment). I first practiced “Doin’ Time ” on the kit they have set up in the upstairs drum room. From Room #7 and the 5 piece kit up there, the song grew musically.

I’m changing the lyrics, why not the music too? I ended up adding a reggae feel to the verses, a Pink Floyd like approach to the chords in the chorus, added a bit of a drum and bass feature, and a ska section with a short solo before going into the last chorus. 

The single dropped today on the Summer Solstice! Click Here to give it a listen


  • 2 GUITARS (1 electric and 1 acoustic)
  • 1 KEYBOARD TRACK (with a Vibraphone setting)
  • TOTAL=8 tracks recorded in 2 hours

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Art of Jamming

BLOG POST: The Art of a Tasty Jam

I love jamming and improvising sooooooo much. When you are really in the heart of jamming, everyone is speaking with and listening to each other at the exact same time. It’s an incredible way to simultaneously express yourself and communicate with others, both with those you’re making music with and those in the audience. One of my favorite things about making music in the moment is that it’s almost entirely dependent on the atmosphere and energy of those in the room. Whether playing with friends, rehearsing for a show, or playing to a packed house, the environment the music and the state of the people that make it is made in such is a huge factor as to where it goes (Click this link to hear one of my favorite jams from my band). 

If it’s hot as balls while outside at a music festival like Summer Camp, hearing a more chill groove is great because give the body a chance to do just that, while still keeping it moving. On the other hand, if you’ve been waiting outside for hours and hours in freezing temperatures to see the first Oysterhead show in about a decade, you are ready to get loud and get down, with 10,000 other people feeling similarly. Sometimes the jam during a slow song might blast off and soar through the roof at a completely different tempo and key than the one you started in because everyone in the audience is going bananas and only wants the energy to get that much higher than it already is. On the other hand, if the band has really been playing with fire with roaring energy for half an hour, a reggae or dub feel in the middle of a banger gives such a great breather to relax and recharge to have that much energy for the rest of the show.

And then there's the lights! Along with the front-of-house engineer making sure everything sounds as good as it can, a band's lighting designer is the one who really makes the music come alive. An LD is an integral part of a really good jam band. Being able to literally color whatever sounds are coming through the speakers adds a whole new dimension to a show. Being able to do so in real time as the band ventures into unknown territory and paint the picture as it's happening requires so much skill and such a profound understanding of the group's music. A lighting designer can play such an integral role that they can be deemed members of the band. Chris Kuroda, the LD for Phish, is often referred to as "CK5" or the fifth member of the band (like Billy Preston being the 5th Beatle). A really good light show enhances whatever the emotion of the song is. Whether bathing the entire audience in bright white light at the peak of a jam, or a deep red cloaking the band during a heavy rock and roll section, lights and the person behind them really help the music come alive.

A great jam band and lighting designer alike know how to showcase different styles and feels that emerge in any given song or section of improvisation. With jamming, everyone involved in creating the sound and color of that night's event has to listen to each other incredibly well. Though I love being able to shred and really let loose on the guitar, one of my favorite things to do in life is to lay back, listen, and get a groove going off of what other people are playing. As such, the jam tends to have a more simplistic nature on my end. Rather than the spotlight-shining-nature of a solo, jamming is more about being able to build off of what the group has to say. When you play more texture-rich than constantly changing chords, it's easier for others to have their say say provides more of a backdrop than a focal point. When someone lays down a more simplistic than complicated riff, it's easier to match up with and better yet harmonize with that person. When your more focused on listening and hear the bassist and drummer locked in on a groove, it’s easier to emulate that a similar rhythmic pattern on your instrument. When you can lock in on rhythms and melodies that are completely improvised, suddenly you are songwriting on the spot. And when a great jam like that happens, it's indescribably fun to be a part of.

Click this link to listen to a jam from my band Alpha Pegasi, and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Music: The Most Powerful Language?

Is there a language more powerful than music?

You can easily make an argument that music is the most understandable and universal language on the planet. It’s felt and heard even before birth with the rhythm from the heartbeat of our mother. A single band or musician can bring together thousands even millions of people to form a community centered around music. The emotion, energy, and feeling music gives to people goes well beyond words of written or spoken language. It can instantly put us in a good mood and make us feel that much better about where we are at any point in time. Being able to bring out a good mood in myself and everyone who listens to the music I create is a key component of the music I make (Click here for a sample!).  At the same time when times get tough, we can turn to a certain song or artist that expresses the emotions we are feeling to get powerful reminder that we are not alone in feeling the way we feel. 

Everyone experiences emotions and music is an ultimate conduit to expressing the emotions that come with being human. In addition, everyone can feel and even make music. Everyone can dance. Everyone can sing. With practice, everyone can play an instrument. Although food and water are the substances we need to survive, music is soul food that keeps our spirits alive. Music at it’s core is a language without words, a language that transcends words. Perhaps the most I ever felt this powerful truth was shortly after I landed thousands of miles away from the shores of my home country.

What was in many ways the best semester of my college career was not spent in a college, institution, or anything close to it. I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in India for 4 solid months. A group of 9 of us made the plunge to an area none of us had ever been to called Auroville. Recognized by the Indian government as its own entity, Auroville is a place like none other. It is both part of, though independent of, the country of India. As Auroville’s core is focused on all-things sustainability and spirituality, it was the perfect setting to do just that. One of the most distinguishing features of Auroville is called the Matrimandir (pictured above). Meditating inside this giant, silent, golden ball provided incredibly profound experiences time after time. I was lucky that it was so close to where I got to live. The home base for our study abroad group was a sort of tropical-weather-paradise of a place called Verite, French for “Truth” the open airs, gardens, and showers made up our “campus” for the next few months.

Palm trees and greenery were everywhere you looked. It was nearly an entirely self-sufficient arrangement. Water usage was completely recycled and filtered on site. What was grown in the gardens was put on our plates in the morning, along with other food from farms in the area. There were four main buildings at Verite. There was a dining area where we enjoyed most of our meals. The “quiet zone” was a sweet space to relax and it contained a pool where small fish would nibble on and clean dead skin from your feet (talk about tickling!). A big round room also served as “Town Hall,” with yoga classes, sound healing sessions, and various lectures held on site. There was also another completely circular shelter that formed the Common Area close to our living spaces. Here was a place for anyone and everyone who was staying on that site. Fortunately for me there were a few musicians in the abroad group that year. On top of jamming on various rooftops, we also played a lot in the Common Area.

One night, Trevor, Ty, Tim, and I decided to jam there. During our stay, we actually got booked to play while abroad. Our band name was “The OM Collective,” OM being short for Overseas Musicians. Cute, I know. On one particular evening, already there were a guy and a girl who we’d never seen before. A lot of different people from a lot of different countries stayed in Verite to. We nodded to each other, got our guitars and drums and started to play. The other two in the room got up and left without a word. Everyone’s a critic! Much to our surprise the guy came back with a beautifully carved, dark grain flute. Oh! So that’s where you were going. Over the past couple of days before that night, we would hear these gorgeous melodies ringing in the air throughout Veritie. This was the guy that was making them.

Before we started playing I asked, “What key should we play in?” The response came back in a language I couldn’t understand. This guy didn’t speak a lick of English, neither did the woman there, and none of us knew their language. Regardless, he began to play. B minor it is. We eased our way into it and within a good 5 minutes we were trading solos. Trevor, Flute Man, myself, Tim, Ty; all of us having our own say while collectively keeping the conversation going. 

That first jam we had with him was probably a good 15 minutes. Once it came to a close, it was all smiles from everyone. We even laughed at just how amazing that was. You don’t need words to understand happiness. We felt it and shared it individually and collectively. That was one of my favorite experiences ever making music. I’ve gotten the chance to play Main Stages at music festivals. I’ve played hundreds of shows at venues throughout New England and have begun to play live recently out West after moving to Colorado. But of all the raging house parties, all of the bars, all of the venues, all of the festivals, that one jam with Flute Man in India solidified the power of music as a universal language more than any other experience I’ve had.

Click this link to hear of the first single from my band Alpha Pegasi! I would love to know what you think of it in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Meeting a Master

Meeting a Master

Have you ever met any of your personal heroes?

Getting to meet and even hang out with someone who has been such a positive and impactful figure on your life is an incredibly fulfilling experience. It’s like having spiritual gasoline doused on your inner fire. Fortunately I’ve been blessed to have such an experience.

And it was mainly thanks to my brother’s stick shift Volkswagon.
In 2012, one of my favorite bands (tied for 1st favorite with Zeppelin) called Umphrey’s McGee announced their inaugural “sUMmer school” event in Big Indian, New York. I was basically drooling at the keyboard as I read about what would go down: group “classes” on all things Umphrey’s, song-writing sessions, meet-and-greet with the band, Q&As, jam cabins, hiking accessibility in the Catskill Mountain Range, full-course meals 3 times a day, and of course a roaring rock show every single night of this 4 day, 4 night event. Only 150 of us were allowed to attend. And I was one of them.

Many of the shows I’ve gone to and festivals I’ve attended were essentially acts of faith. Even though I didn’t have a car for the first 26 plus years of my life, I bought tickets to hundreds of shows and knew that somehow, someway I would get there. This was no different. I forked down the cash for the pass months in advance and knew that I would somehow arrive. My faith grew stronger when one of my best friends Guy “Moose” Schecter said he was going too.

I met Moose during UM’s magical 3 night run in Burlington, VT in 2009 (a weekend that featured the bassist of Phish Mike Gordon replacing birthday boy Ryan Stasik on Friday the 13th). Moose and I kept running into each other at UM shows in New England and after years of consistently seeing each other, we finally got to hang out and jam. Moose is one of the wisest and funnest people I know and we really clicked our first time really hanging together. As soon as he committed to going to sUMmer school, we agreed to camp together.

As such, I agreed to pick up his camping gear, guitars, and other essentials at his house in Massachusetts while I was on my way down from New Hampshire. The night before I stood on the porch outside, silently ecstatic. Rental car booked, my gear packed up, I felt super stoked for what was in store. While getting fresh air that night, I remember looking at my brother’s car thinking “I wish I knew how to drive stick better.” I had only driven a manual transmission once before during that very summer on a relatively short romp around the neighborhood with my dad supervising. Regardless, at least I had a rental car to get to New York.


I arrived at the airport where I scheduled to pick it up. The guy behind the counter shook his head. “We can’t allow you to drive one of these, you’re under 25.” What. Fuck. Alright. Let’s try another. My Dad and I went to and were denied at two more places before we knew that renting a car was not going to work. I lost it and started crying. It seemed like the biggest, brightest, and boldest dream circumstances that could have happened in my life up to that point just went up in smoke. On top of that I would be leaving my camping buddy hanging with no tent, no clothes, and no instruments to play for over half a week. I. HAD. TO. BE. THERE. 

I looked at my dad. “Let me drive Erik’s car.” He was incredibly hesitant at first but eventually he said if I could handle it on the highway I could take it.

“Dear God whoever, whatever, and wherever you are, please let me handle this car well and please keep me and other drivers safe while I am driving on the road.” Though there were some hiccups during that “test drive,” I “passed.” My father and I were still nervous but this was one of those times I knew I had to act in spite of fear. 

I drove that machine down hundreds of miles of highway and got Moose’s gear along the way seamlessly. It was a gorgeous sunny drive filled with high hopes, especially when blasting Boston’s song “Don’t Look Back” when it came on the radio. When getting into the woods of Northern New York, the radio cut out. Although it wasn’t working at the start of the adventure, the car’s CD player started functioning to continue to add to the soundtrack to this adventure. While pulling onto the dirt road that the directions suggested, I started to question if I was on the right road as it just went on and on. Again nervous, again acting despite it, I kept going. 
Faith rewarded. The fresh air of the mountains never felt or smelt so good.
Seeing the “Full Moon Resort” sign was one of the greatest sights I’ve ever witnessed. I skipped ahead on the CD to one of my favorite Jeff Beck tunes “Another Place.” It’s this incredibly beautiful instrumental played only with an electric guitar and the gorgeousness of the piece complemented the beauty of the Catskill Mountain Range I finally found myself in. I parked and booked it to the main cabin where the full band Q&A was going on. I stood by the doorway overlooking the packed house. Though I missed getting to shake hands with the band, at that point I didn’t care. I was there! I MADE IT! So was Moose. I saw him from across the room and we smiled to each other as we waited to greet one another. The Q&A wrapped up and the band walked right by me. Still too starstruck to say anything, I respectfully let them go by and prayed I would get another chance to meet them. I especially wanted to meet and thank the man who I believe to be one of the greatest guitar players and overall musicians to ever make music, Jake Cinninger.

Moose and I finally met up and I told him the story. “That’s crazy! Let’s have a beer!” We did and had fun catching up before showtime. It was such a fun show and intimate show without a setlist to start the first night off right. The rest of the night, Moose and I jammed until we jammed ourselves to sleep. On the schedule for the very next morning was a 10 am class called “Improv 101.” Getting advice on how to approach making music entirely in the moment by some of the people who are the best at doing just that was a treat to say lightly. The session closed with an important announcement. “For anyone looking to sign up for a lesson with the guys in the band, more spots just opened up. Check the white board by the main office and see if you can snag a spot.” As soon as that last word was spoken I ran. I probably looked a little looney. When I got to the office I stopped dead in my tracks. There on the whiteboard written in blue marker was:

“7pm with Jake-Mitch Melodia.”

The inner wolf let out with a huge howl. They gave  me a spot! And it happened mainly because of Moose. A couple of weeks or so before the event, he posted on Facebook “the greatest email I’ve ever gotten” confirming his lesson with Jake. I didn’t even know that was an option! I immediately emailed UM’s crew. They regretted to inform me that all slots were taken up at the time but more might open up in the future. Did they ever! Blissing out, I walked by to our campsite on Cloud 9. And who do I find along the way sitting in the field? The fire. The brimstone. The motocross. Jacob. Allen. Cinninger.

I didn’t know what to say at first so I just let out a “Jake!” He turned to see who it was and I introduced myself. We shook hands and I “How are you?” He said “Really good, just admiring the colors.” Upstate New York is really beautiful. I told him about what I just found out about and told him how stoked I was. He was pumped for me. Even though it was only probably 10 minutes in length, we launched into the greatest conversation I’d ever had about music up to that point in my life. In wrapping up, he told me to go back and write out what I’d like to go over in the lesson so we could have a good game plan for it. 

Yes sensei.

That night at dinner, I sat with a table of fellow Umphreaks and told them the glorious news. Everyone was so happy for me, including me. It was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had. As 7 o’clock rolled around, I saw Jake get up and make his way towards the lesson spot. Instant butterflies. It was time.

I got to greet a personal guitar hero for a second time that day. I pulled out the journal and filled to where I wrote things I wanted to go over in the lesson. We dove right in. Finger-picking, finger-tapping, hybrid-picking, different patterns of playing chords, different chord shapes, guitarists to check out, arpeggios, tasteful shredding, we got to go over it all. I got years worth of material to practice in under an hour. Additionally I got to enjoy a beer with him. I brought a couple for us but initially I was so excited that was just got going. After a while he said “It looks like someone left a couple beers here.” I almost forgot about them and said “Oh yeah! I brought them for us.” He said, “Now you’re speaking my language” and then I got to shoot the shit with “Jaco.” It was great getting to talk about how great Zeppelin was. The joyful hour started to come to a close, and there was one thing left on the list for the lesson: “JAM.”

And so he began. It was this cool two chord pattern (Em7, F#m7) that he looped at first. It reminded me of another tune. “What if you move that shape up here and change it up a bit?” I suggested. “Woah, what is that chord?” Mentally thinking Did Jake just ask me about a chord shape? I showed him. Using that same shape at the 12th and 10th frets on the A string, boom, we had a song to jam on. 

It gives me goosebumps to write about and think about. Did that actually happen? It sure did! I’ve gotten to be a part of a lot of tasty jams in my life. That one will always remain one of my favorites. Before he left to get ready for the show, he agree to sign my lesson pad and in-scripted/instructed “Play Hard.” People passing by our open-aired lesson remarked about how amazing it was to see and hear. One of the people passing by included a member of UM’s crew named “Louie.” I thanked them both then they drove away in their golf cart to meet up with the band before that night’s show. I was basically speechless. The hour leading up to the show was a euphoric daze. I met up with Moose and told him about the greatest guitar lesson I’d ever been given. I am forever grateful to be able to have Moose as a friend. For helping set me up for a lesson with a guitar God, for being one of my favorite people to jam with, and for all around just being the man, I’ll always love that Guy.


Moose and I took our usual spots right up near the stage itself. The musical fireworks were in full effect that evening (8/8/2012). One of the greatest feelings known to man takes place during a live show. When you are performing and you see, hear, and feel the audience really loving it, you get that much more into it yourself. When you’re that much more into it, the audience is too. That virtuous cycle can deliver one of the best natural highs we humans can experience. On the audience side of that two-way street, it’s still one of the funnest events to be a part of. Every person in attendance is somehow adding to the show that is being performed live in front of and for you. In regards to bands like Umphrey’s that improvise, the music being made in the moment is being drawn from and created in large part by the atmosphere of the audience. As a fan, when you get to witness and contribute to something that is being created right before you that’s never been created before, it’s a feeling tough to describe with words. That night, as with every UM show, the improv was really strong. Especially nearing the very end of that show.

Jake said something to me at the end of the lesson that at the time, I thought nothing of. As he made his way towards his golf cart to meet up with the band, I thanked him again for the lesson and for being able to jam on that song. He said you’re welcome and added “Don’t be surprised if that shows up tonight.” Towards the very last minutes of that night’s show, the whole band stops and Jake just busted into the song were jamming. Instantly I almost started crying. If I completely let go of trying to control my emotions in public at that moment, I would have been weeping openly.

Jake launched into what was for a long while the #1 song for Umphrey’s McGee on Spotify with millions of plays: their version of “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” by Radiohead.

When the band started to play around it I was freaking out. I started telling everyone around me that Jake and I played this earlier in our lesson. Looks of shock and sheer happiness filled the faces of everyone who heard. Jake motioned to Kris their drummer to start singing and he began to. 

“In the deepest ocean…”

There is a full body buzz that comes over me whenever I think about that moment, and whenever I hear or play that song. I don’t know if it was part of their setlist but it seemed like the band was just making it up on the spot. Being some of the best musicians on Earth, they rode it out and created a sublime soundscape for minutes on the song’s initial progression. Thus marked one of the biggest peaks of my existence.

As the euphoric bliss of that pattern slowed and became quieter, they slammed back into the end of their original “Der Bluten Kat” (named that way because of the drum fill in the intro. Yet another thing I learned about them that weekend). With all this in mind, “Der Bluten Kat” may be my favorite drum fill out there. After the show came to a close and he stepped off stage, I gave a hugely heartfelt thank you to Jake. I’m sure he got to see and hear how much it meant to me as it was happening, but it’s always nice to share that gratitude verbally too. As the crowd cleared out, Louie beelined it over to me. “Dude!” We both were beyond psyched at what just went down. Little did I know, Louie had been to hundreds of UM shows before he started working with them. As a true fan of the band, he knows how meaningful those moments were.

I took that high to the jam rooms and literally dropped jaws that night. It was the greatest playing I’d ever done because that was the greatest I’d ever felt up to that moment in time. The euphoria lasted all night, all week for that matter, and still lingers on today. The next day I laid in one of the many hammocks set up around the site by a creek and listened to UM do their thing during a day class. As I calmly rocked back and forth, I wrote a thank you note to Jake briefly describing what it took to even get to sUMmer school. After one of the other classes in the big barn, I again I thanked him for creating one of the best memories of my life and gave the paper to him. I poured my heart into that note and apparently the band took it to heart too.

Months later while studying abroad in India, Umphrey’s made their official full live debut of the song at arguably the Crown Jewel of the Earth: Red Rocks Amphitheater (9/14/12 [the same show featuring a 20 minute “All In Tim”e Opener. What.). Moose let me know as he was at that show. I wanted to believe him so bad and sure enough when I got to the band’s website and went straight to the setlist section, there it was: “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” (debut, Radiohead).