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). 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Alpha Address #1: 4/19/20 (Part Two)

Alpha Address #1: 4/19/20 (Part Two)

For those just tuning in, this is the second half of the transcript to the very first Alpha Address (a sort of quarterly state of the union for the band and biz). We left off from Part One in addressing that it was really time to get to work once quarantine came around...

There were so many missing pieces to the puzzle that I could now work on. To be honest, I didn’t even really want to start getting the word out there to friends and family, much less potential new fans until I really had a professional presence for Alpha Pegasi. Before Quarantine hit, I didn’t. I didn’t have a website, I rarely posted on social media, I didn’t even have a YouTube channel for the brand, much less any subscribers to said channel. There was no system set up for me to have or sell any merchandise related to the band. Bottom line, outside of friends and family, no one even knew I made music or had anything of value to offer to the world. Time to change all that.

For about a month now (as of recording the first AA on 4/19/20), I’ve been pulling in about or over double-digit days for the build. Unlike every single one of the 20 plus day jobs I’ve worked in a bit over a decade, I actually enjoy putting in the huge amounts time, effort, and energy needed because I actually truly care about my art, my business, and what they can offer to others. 

Like the buds of leaves and bits of green showing up on the trees as we segue into Spring, there’s signs of life that my art is beginning bloom too. First and foremost, I’ve got a website! MitchMelodia.com is now fully functional. As a great trifecta, I’m working with BandZoogle for the domain, Shopify for an online store, and Printful for On-Demand printing and shipping of merchandise. There’s some cool stuff in the catalog so be sure to check it out! Additionally, you can hear samples of the whole debut album there.

Speaking of which, the first single for it drops soon! Mark your calendars for 6/22/20, the 2020 Summer Solstice ‘cause that’s when the debut single from Alpha Pegasi drops. It’s called “Summertime (Doin’ Time).” It’s a fresh spin off of the Sublime classic with more of a Denver twist to it. I’m so psyched to get it out there! Sean Weyers from Daybreak Digital Studio did such a fantastic job mixing and mastering both this one, and the next single due out a month after the first . That one is called “Star,” and as Alpha Pegasi is the name of a star, it seems fitting the first original released to be called just that. On 7/20/20, “Star” will be released, and on 8/22/20, the third single called “Next To Me” will make it’s appearance. Lastly, the debut album from Alpha Pegasi will be released on the Autumn Equinox, 9/22/20. It’s called The Birth of A Star and God am I stoked to get it out there.

In other news, my first book is basically done! I believe the final revisions will be wrapped up tomorrow on 4/20, haha. The book is called You Know You’re Stoned When…Part One. (laugh) The title kind of says it all! This book captures the experiences, events, and overall states and situations I found myself in while after enjoying the effects of marijuana. The first part takes place in a tremendously important time period of my life: graduating from high school (an environment I didn’t really like or thrive in) and transitioning into college (an environment I loved and absolutely bloomed in). It’s meant to be a fun, funny, insightful read into the world of weed. Just gotta find a good literary agent and publisher for this subject matter and we’ll be on our way to getting it out there! I’d rather not self-publish, but that is an option nowadays so we’ll see. Either way, I’m aiming for this work to be published by or before 10/9/20 so stay tuned!

Along the lines of the literary front, I’m also working on a Sci-Fi series. I love and I’m fascinated by alien culture. A deep-seeded interest in life beyond our Solar System was planted in my brain near the end of 2018 during a binge of the show Ancient Aliens. Are there many other planets with intelligent life besides our own? Ancient astronaut theorists say yes. And I do too. With this series, I’m doing my best to blend fact and fiction to paint a picture of several other worlds and beings besides our own. A universal schism erupts and suddenly creates a spectrum of entire civilizations competing to either keep life on Earth alive or completely destroy it once and for all. The root of the series gets it’s name from the planet at the forefront of the fight to save our species: Dogazek. As there are galaxies yet to be born, and more of a focus right now going into You Know You’re Stoned When… I’m aiming for the first of the Dogazek series to be out by or before 3/3/21. 

And that’s the general gist of where things are at! To recap, the first single from Alpha Pegasi called “Summertime (Doin’ Time)” will be available for your streaming pleasure on the 2020 Summer Solstice, 6/22. It’s the first of three singles to be featured from Alpha’s debut album The Birth of A Star. That album will be released on the 2020 Autumn Equinox come 9/22 (sample the songs on it by clicking this link). The Birth of a Star is the first of four albums I’ve currently got in the works, along with another EP all set to be released called In A Forest of Sound. Additionally, I’ve got both a full album and a double album charted out and ready to hit the reel in the studio (seriously, I hope I get to record on a tape machine for at least one of them).

The digital home base of Alpha Pegasi is now up and running! Check it out at MitchMelodia.com. I may speak for all performing musicians here in saying that I am reeeeeeeeally looking forward to playing shows again. I may speak for others that also live for live music in saying that I’m reeeeeeeeeeally looking forward to seeing shows again too. Thank you for taking the time to watch and listen to this, and for all those who end up supporting me and my art now and over the years, thank you thank you thank you thank you. With your help, I feel like this year could be the year that I finally realize a dream of mine I’ve had since I first started playing guitar over 16 years ago: to be able to make music and art for a living.

Stay healthy,
Mitch Melodia

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Alpha Address #1: 4/19/20 (Part One)

Alpha Address #1: 4/19/20 (Part One)

        Hello good people of the internet! This is the transcript of the very first Alpha Address. Every quarter we dive into what’s new in the world of AP. This one being on April 19th, 2020, the dates will always be the 19th or 20th of April, July, October, and January. With the band being so new, there’s a lot happening right now! So let’s get right into it.

First and foremost, let’s get to the elephant in the room: the date. This particular address is taking place during Quarantine 2020. For all the people and families who have been affected by this global pandemic, like John Prine and his loved ones, my heart goes out for you. I’m one of the lucky ones that is alive and healthy during this, so I’m very grateful for that. The “worst” part of it for me is being so physically disconnected from essentially everyone.

Having evolved into a more social person over the years, it’s a really tough time of essentially not being allowed to even hang out with friends, much less meet new ones. It’s also a time now more than ever have I realized just how much I had taken shows and live music for granted. One more than one occasion in the past was I upset because I couldn’t afford to go see Umphrey’s or Phish again. At least I got to see them and knew that there were more tour dates where I would get to see them in the future. Now all of that is up in the air and a huge question mark. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels most comfortable, most at home, and happiest at a venue with music and people that I love. Whether indoor or outdoor, at a festival with many great acts or at a show for one band I really love, that’s my favorite type of atmosphere to be a part of. And that’s the seeing shows side. Playing shows, performing, and improvising with other musicians live is my favorite thing to do in life. To not know when that’s going to happen again is not the best feeling. And there are millions of other musicians in the same boat.

This global pandemic has made me oddly grateful that I was not touring the country, in a place where so much of my band’s income comes from playing shows. It’s a strange notion because making a living by my music and touring has always been a lifelong goal. But if I was really reliant on touring money at this time of writing I’d be even more fucked financially than at this time of recording (laid off 3 jobs instantly, meager unemployment to be sent out that hasn’t come yet, hovered above double digits in my bank account, etc.). As much as I wanted to play more and more shows with Alpha Pegasi, I made a choice to stop reaching out to venues shortly before our last show on 2/8/20. I realized there was still a lot of foundational work to be done as far as my online presence went so I wanted to focus more on that.

At the beginning of March I was on a lunch break upstairs at one of the restaurants I was working at, attempting to map out all I really wanted to work on during 2020 especially. Man, even if I had a month or two off right now, I don’t know if I could finish everything I want to do right now, I thought. A week or so later, everyone with a serving related position was sent home after an hour of work on 3/16/20. We were told that dine in restaurants would be shut down until May 11th. As they would only be open for delivery, servers were no longer needed. After going to the Capitol building to find out it was closed, the next day I was finally able to reach someone in the labor and employment department of the state. I asked what they were doing to do for the restaurant workers affected and the response from a governmentally contracted worker for the state said “I don’t know.”

At first I was furious. Pulling the plug on a whole industry employing tens of thousands of people with no plan to help those affected was insulting and financially debilitating for many. Having no emergency plan was in place to help those who were suddenly so deeply hurt by the state is something that I hope will be learned from. As COVID-19 kept blowing up, a reality set in where I would be more extremely in a position that I largely been in since moving to Colorado: alone and on my own, not sure how I was possibly going to make ends meet and fund this music and business that I’d be pouring my heart, soul, and finances into for so long.

At the same time, I was fortunately able to get my head out of my ass pretty quickly and realize that it was a blessing. Though I was essentially completely stripped of one of the two main elements humans crave and need, Money, I was blessed with a huge amount of the other element, Time. Here was literally all the time in the world to tackle what I had wanted to work on. The mixing and mastering for two new singles I recorded were wrapped up days before Denver and the world as a whole started closing down. At the same time, I was in the thick of it in finishing two books I was writing, each one marking the start two distinct series of books to come after them. Along with two new singles, I had enough recorded, mixed, and mastered material for 2 EPs. On top of those, I had music, lyrics, and charts for an additional full album and a double album. Time to get to work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The 5ers Club

The 5ers Club: Giving back one sale at a time

I feel like only when I moved to Colorado did I become "money conscious." There was always a want to earn a lot to give a lot but there was no clear plan of how to earn it or how to give it. Bottom line, I didn't care about my finances yet wondered why I was broke. Then I got turned onto a book called "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" and with it came a new perception of what kind of life is possible. Having all your expenses and lifestyle desires paid for with passive income? I didn't know "financial freedom" was even possible until I read that book. It had a really profound effect on me so I researched more about the author, T. Harv Eker.

The more I found out about him and what he offered, the more my mind expanded in terms of what is financially possible in this life. One important lesson was being able to literally divide and conquer with your money: have goals for specific amounts in specific accounts or "Jars": Necessities, Education, Fun/Self, Long Term Savings For Spending, Long Term Savings to Grow, Emergency, and Giving. The last one really struck me and even though it was only really small amounts to start with, I began setting aside money to specifically donate to good causes. As I did, I started earning more money than I ever had before. Coincidence? I think so.

I love the practice of having a set amount aside to give in my personal life, and I wanted to apply the same principle to my business life. Largely thanks to the spark from the "Jars" system, The 5ers Club was born. My desire for The 5ers Club is to have it grow into a large network of artists, creatives, and business alike that agree to donate 5% of their profits to non-profits. Although not everyone in the Club has to take this approach, the non-profits my band Alpha Pegasi gives to are like the band members themselves in AP: some will be consistent for periods of time, sometimes it might be a complete change in lineup, or perhaps even one raising funds for one specific non-profit with one specific item, sale, or event. At it's core Alpha Pegasi will always be donating to a local, national, and international non-profit each year. Currently and through 6/20/21, the organizations AP gives to are:

1) Conscious Alliance - feeding families in communities that need it most, especially through working with musicians and artists.

2) The Sierra Club - protecting wildlife and wild places

3) Charity Water - bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries

And that's the story of The 5ers Club! For more information about it and how to join, please email mgmt@mitchmelodia.com

Friday, May 1, 2020

Origin Stories: Alpha Pegasi

Origin Stories: Alpha Pegasi

Out of the ashes of about a dozen bands, Alpha Pegasi was born. It only had its first breaths of life after I decided to have the balls to go after what I always wanted: to be the leader of a high-energy rock band that also has the soul of an improvising jazz group. With essentially every other band I was in, I always tried to play peacekeeper and make sure everybody else was happy, even if it meant sacrificing my own wants and my own happiness. Meanwhile, dozens leading to hundreds of original, personally-written and composed songs continued to pile and grow. Many never got to see the light of day what was a long, ongoing battle to be happy.

I constantly carried an attitude of trying to make everyone else happy before even giving thought to what would make me happy. I acted that way in every single band I was in, making sure that other people got what they wanted even if it meant shutting myself up…even though I always wanted to lead a band and share my songs with the world…but not if it meant this person wouldn’t get what they wanted…but I’ve got all these songs…but they want to play something else…Cognitive dissonance anyone?

The fact that I didn’t exactly think highly of myself as a kid didn’t help. Though he may have had trouble dealing with and expressing his emotions, my dad was one hell of a back-to-back state title winning basketball coach. My brother excelled in sports. I didn’t. As such, I never felt good enough when I compared myself to my younger, popular, more in-shape and athletic brother. I mean why would girls want to be with me if they could be with someone like him? As such, even when the few friends I did have blatantly told me “This girl likes you and wants you to ask her out,” I’d make up a bunch of excuses and not even approach that girl that I liked too. With that painfully crippling complete lack of self-confidence, I remained largely alone and constantly single throughout the first two decades of my life.

Music was my only constant companion that was always there for me and allowed me to say and express whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. Although I generally sucked at sports, (outside of Wiffleball) I had a knack for music that was apparent to my parents when I first picked up the violin around age 10. One day over my aunt’s house, she played the main theme from the start of the Star Wars movies on piano. I thought that’s cool. So I went home and learned it on violin. My mom was pleasantly shocked. She suggested I bring it up to my violin teacher and ask if I could play it as a solo piece for an upcoming recital. He agreed and I was stoked. When my time came, I jumped up and took center stage. Feeling such complete attention, amazement, and admiration being directed entirely towards me the music I made for minutes on end, followed by a huge round of applause and cheering was the greatest thing I had ever felt in my life at that point.

That being said, I stopped giving a shit about violin when we moved…again. Big surprise, finally got a few friends, finally starting to feel a bit socially comfortable at school, and we’re out! Third different school in less than three years. I cried on the first day in front of all the kids in my home room. Great start. Over time I found a friend or two, and one of them was taking guitar lessons. After sitting in with him one lesson, I knew I wanted lessons too. My parents agreed and half a year before I turned 13, I started learning how to play guitar.

It’s tough to describe the magic that ensues when you find out that you’ve got a knack for doing something you really love doing. My earliest memory of “playing” a guitar was first touching some strings of the acoustic that my uncle let me borrow. I didn’t even take the guitar off the stand it was on, I was just plucking 3 of the 6 strings on it (that I later came to find out were called the D, G, and B strings, notes that naturally form a G major chord, hence God I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing here, but this sounds great!). Love at first sound.

Maybe this could be a way to make friends and even meet girls. It was with girls, but I was still to shy and painfully self-conscious to ask any of them out, much less hang out with them outside of school. I at least had better luck making friends through this instrument. Some kids at my school were getting into making music too. Through jamming together, I was able to find what would become my core group of friends in high school. I even formed a band with some of them called The Mango Garden. Great times with the Garden! The first real shows I played on guitar were with that band, and to see people dancing to it was a huge high I’d never really known before. I’d been playing guitar for about 3 years when we got the Garden going. Up until then, I was really only a guitar player. I rarely sang and never wrote my own lyrics. When our lead singer came to the table with his own lyrics I thought Well if he could, I probably could too. I largely owe the birth of me as a songwriter and singer to one of my best buds to this day, Liam McCarthy.

Fortunately, I was able to become more social over time because making music with others, seeing shows with others, and playing shows for others is a really social thing by nature. The more I jammed with people and the more gigs I played, the more friends I made. Even meeting people that liked the same music was such a euphoric feeling Freshman year of college. Wait you like Phish, Umphrey’s, and the Dead too!? No fucking way! It didn’t really exist in my family or outside of the Garden where I was from. Through breaking out of my shy shell, I kept meeting new people, new musicians, and in turn formed and played in a few bands. And I kept my songs hidden. That others first mentality continued to follow me. I think it was most prevalent in the 2.0 version of the band I was in called Leon Trout. And it all started at a party one night while attending Keene State College.

With a band in the living room, people (myself included) were raging and getting down so hard that the floorboards were cracking and caving in. So one of the owners of the house made a wise, executive decision: “Alright let’s move it to the basement!” We cheered, grabbed the gear, and went downstairs. The party roared on, now more alive than ever. One of the guitarists took a quick bathroom break and I asked if I could step in. The band agreed and we started jamming. 
       The drummer and I really clicked, rocking out for over 10 minutes straight yet having never even said “hello” to each other before that night. Right before I left that same summer to see if I wanted to live with my mom in Tucson, (too fucking hot. Cool spot, too fucking hot) I got into my first relationship at age 22. Turns out she knew the drummer  I jammed with from their shared Environmental Studies major. His name was Roger and when I got back, we started playing and we knew we were cooking with gas. Enter a bass player, Ethan, and suddenly we had a band. We rehearsed, jammed, threw house parties, (including the epic Toga Jam event) and booked shows wherever we could in New England. We had a really fun time doing so and we were even starting to see our stickers on passing cars. Then the bass player left.

He too left for a summer and when he came back he said he didn’t want to be in Trout anymore. At Kilkenny’s (Killers) Pub, Roger and I met to discuss the fate of Trout: both of us nearing the end of our college careers with potential to pursue anything, anywhere, we wondered if Ethan leaving would mark the end of the band.

“Hey, aren’t you guys in Leon Trout?” 

         A random guy at the bar in the middle of the afternoon recognized us and told us how good he thought we were. Then and there we decided to keep it going. Enter Samman. After playing a gig at Franklin Pierce and hearing of our situation, a guy that went to FP reached out about having us back for a party on Halloween and mentioned a bass player who could play with us. We packed up our gear, drove down, and met the guy we were set to play a show with in about an hour. It was another wildly good time. We asked Sam to join and soon after told him of our plans to move to Boston to pursue this band. He agreed to both. So the three of us moved in together.

Really quickly after we did, I knew that the path I was on was not one I wanted to stay on. In moving to Boston, I thought I had to live a sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll fueled lifestyle if I wanted to be like the Guitar Gods and bands I looked up to. I only saw the successful side of it. When you crave drinking, drugs, and sex with random women, it’s toxic. And I knew it. Towards the end of high school and throughout college, I continued to learn more and more about sustainability and spirituality through the likes of meditation, yoga, and supporting to even working with local farmers’ markets. Visiting and doing volunteer work in Uganda and studying abroad in India really opened my eyes to a much healthier, more holistic way to live. I was a far cry from being healthy in Boston, or happy for that matter. But I felt trapped. I thought that Trout was the only path I had to realize my lifelong dream of making music for a living. 

After almost a year and a half of a lot of fights, yelling matches, and a whole lot of liquor, I needed to leave and I told them just that. It didn’t go over well, especially considering we were still living together. The decision came at a time where I felt like I was going through two breakups at once: one with a girl I was in a relationship with and another with the band I co-founded and was in for over 4 years. A lot of tears were shed during that period, but I stuck to my decisions. Though I told my bandmates/roommates multiple times that I was done with the band and moving out, it seemed like they didn’t buy it or believe it because where else was I going to go? My Dad had a suggestion, “you could come live with me for a while.” 

As much as my childhood was “messy” to say nicely, my Mom and Dad have always helped, housed, loved, and supported me any way they could along the way. This was one of those times, so I took him up on his offer. Thus began “the 5am phase” of my life where I would wake at 5 am, make it to the bus station by 6, hopefully be in Boston around 8, take the Red Line to Harvard station, then take a bus to Watertown and walk a mile to hopefully make it to a soul-sucking office job by 9-9:30…and then do it all over again in reverse when 5pm rolled around. It was fucking awful, but in doing so I saved up and had more money than I ever did in my bank account, about $6,000. I figured that would be enough to move out of New England and start over.

The best part of moving to Boston for me was meeting Greg King. He’s a funny, fellow craft beer nerd, and an Umphreak like myself. He is also one of the best guitar players I have ever jammed with (his band is so tight! Check out his group Squeaky Feet here: INSERT SF LINK). We share a love of a lot of similar music, especially with Zeppelin being our favorite band. Whenever we made music together, magic was in the air. It was a ton of fun to do that and just hang out when we could. Near the start of 2017, he said he was moving to Colorado and got a job there as a guitar teacher. He said I should do the same. So I did. 

In moving to Colorado, I knew I wanted to make great music with great people but that’s about it. I didn’t have a shining, guiding focus of how I was going to make music for a living, much less make a really good living in doing so. (I was pretty wishy-washy with my focus and direction yet wondered why I got wishy-washy results. Odd.) Should I pursue a solo career? Should I be in a band? Should I join a band? Should I just try to play with whoever I can wherever I can? The thought of leading a band was never something I even considered doing. Until I started seeing a therapist.

Though I saw one in high-school around the time of my parent’s divorce, it had been over a decade since I had professional counseling from a licensed psychologist. A month away from turning 28, I was at a real low point when I started going to Denver Dynamic Therapy in March of 2019. I had lived in Colorado for 2 years with next to nothing to show for it. I had no girlfriend, had been single for about 3 years, had next to no (at many points negative) amounts of money in my bank account, few friends, no family, no support system, no job I loved or even liked, and I had just left a band I was in because of a story similar to Boston: my songs didn’t see the light of day and there was excessive drinking and drug use going on. I moved to Colorado to largely literally keep my nose clean and aside from one occasion that instantly reminded me why I no longer wanted to snort anything, I’ve done just that. In living a healthier lifestyle by drinking way less and cutting out drug use, in wanting to give so much to organizations looking to improve the health of people and the planet, in working out and exercising consistently, and in wanting to professionally pursue music to bring people together, create connections, and add enjoyable experiences to people’s lives, where the fuck was I going wrong?

Well for one, I continued to tear myself down daily with a steady stream of insults that were internally directed. I’ve always tried to have as much compassion and kindness for others as I could, yet I didn’t even consider that demonstrating those two traits for myself was an option. I essentially had only motivated myself by criticizing myself in the past. While the intent to “get better” was good, the means of doing so by mentally beating myself up with a lot of negative inner-talk, I kept pushing myself away from the goals I had and from the person I wanted to be. I had deep-rooted thoughts of never being good enough and living a pathetic existence compared to other musicians making a living from their craft, much less touring around the world in sold-out stadiums. Combine those factors with being so broke and so alone for so long, it created a vicious mental cycle that only intensified as time went on.

Needless to say, early 2017 to early 2020 was the lowest and loneliest period of my life. A lot of forces came together to save it. The first couple years in Colorado wasn’t my first bout with suicide, but it was definitely the strongest. Feeling so far from the person, giver, lover, musician, author, and artist I wanted to be, it didn’t seem worth it to get out of bed a lot of mornings. A whole lotta love and a whole lotta of art felt trapped in my heart with no external recognition, awareness, or appreciation of it. No fanbase (having gone from playing Main Stage at festivals in New England), having had sex only a handful of times in years (as opposed to 5-6  times in a day back home), no touch given or received for so long (my primary love language), my heart felt like my stomach consistently did in that period: empty. One night got so bad I was convinced that I was not going to live to see a single day of or a single day past the year 2020. The plan was to buy a bunch of sleeping pills, a bunch of alcohol, and lethally mix them together. 

Fortunately that didn’t happen. What did happen is ordering a book called The Self-Compassion Workbook. Again, self-compassion didn’t even seem like a possibility to have in life. Yet it’s what I needed most. When I started making my internal dialog a lot better, my external world got a lot better. I was still working the 22nd job I ever had in my life as a busboy, (the first job I had a dozen years earlier in high school) I had no car, (having gotten in a collision with a bus the day before Thanksgiving) and didn’t have nearly enough money coming in to pay for bills, food, and rent, (having been mainly working for Uber at the time of the crash) yet I was so much happier with myself than I ever had been. Offering myself some sympathy, support, and unconditional love was a novel experience for me. Things were starting to look up, especially as I now had professional recordings of my own under my belt.

it’s strange, I’ve been through a lot of emotional pain over such an extended period of time while professionally pursuing what gives me the most joy and happiness in life: making music. Though I had no idea where they were actually going to end up, I wrote 13  new songs in the first couple of months in moving to Colorado. I felt strongly enough about them to decide to record them at a pro studio in Boulder. I took care of all the vocals and instruments on there, except for drums. Those were done by a  drum teacher I worked with. He  ended up giving me a lot of pointers and informal lessons along the way on how to play drums (Thank you Carl Holz!). Playing the kit a really fun, new, creative outlet. It also offered an opportunity to hit something as hard as I could to release the demons a bit, yet do so in an artistic way. At the same time, learning how to play with finesse and hold down a groove was something I loved (and still love) doing. A year after I started playing drums I went to a different studio in Boulder to record 2 more songs, this time taking care of every instrument including drums (and a 1959 Hammond organ with a Leslie Tallboy speaker cabinet, oooh baby).

From around the start of to the very end of 2019, I began working with another Mitch, this Mitch of J. Mitchell Management and Lionheart Records. He gave me such a better blueprint and sense of direction as to how to finally become a professional musician. First thing’s first, he honestly asked and I honestly answered. “What do you want to do here?” Lead a band. Make music on my own terms. Have the freedom to play with whoever I want and play every instrument on any given recording. Have ownership of this business and how it operates, including donating 5% of all profits earned...

       The answers came quick as did rapid stages of progress. Now it was clear of what I wanted to do and the role I had: being the bonafide leader of the band called…? Just Mitch Melodia? Mitch Melodia and a band name? Neither. While I was looking for cosmic and/or star-based names, there were a few that I liked but they were taken. After scrolling a bit through the “names of stars” search, I came across one and instantly stopped scrolling. It jumped out from all the others and I did a quick check online and on social media sites. With that clearance and it's cosmic relevance, I knew my quest was at an end: I had been guided to and found the name to my band, brand, and business: Alpha Pegasi.