I grew up in Shaker Heights, where learning that simple Shaker tune was a requirement in music class. It’s amazing how when you try to find out who you are, you always go back to where you started.
A lot has changed for me over the past year and a half; professionally, personally, and emotionally, and the one overriding theme has been simplification. Everyone’s life incredibly complex, full of factors that shape every decision that no other person can fully know. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves — but there are times when events coincide to force us into change, and we can either make that change for the better or worse.
So rather than espouse the usual mantras to simplify your life, I think I’ll use the changes in my sound to make my point. Not that I write these thoughts for anyone else to follow — these posts are more about figuring out my own pathways than to help others along theirs. But, if they happen to ring true, then perhaps they are worth the pixels they consume.
A dozen or so months ago, my rig included more pedals and gizmos than most lead guitarists. It was a small point of pride that I got attention for all the tools I used to shape my sound: a looper, reverb, delay, flanger, distortion, equalizer, compression, and of course a pre-amp. I wanted to sound as different as I possibly could. I thought that using those affectations would give me the variety of tones that would make one song sound different from another.
Then the change began to happen. As with so many changes in our lives, it starts with something innocuous. A chance crossing of paths that leads you in a direction you never anticipated. Slowly, I realized that I had the sounds I needed at my fingertips the entire time – I merely needed to trust myself that I could make them happen. The chaff of my massive pedal board began to fall away, one effect at a time, like an onion shedding it’s layers of skin. I’m now left with nothing more than a Paracoustic DI and a tuner. I still use the looper at duo and solo shows, and it’s a wonderful tool for a song or two, but never more than that. Seeing that I use it only to create music in the moment (nothing is pre-recorded — I do everything on the fly) I don’t consider it an effect as such. Just a tool to create harmonies.
So much of our lives run in parallel lines, if we take the time to look closely. I needed to find the core of my sound, and the core of myself as a person. I found that I no longer had to — or wanted to — bury myself in layers that diffused the sound. I needed to strip it down and make myself bare to find out what exactly was underneath. It’s not all about me, but about how I relate to those around me. I had to turn inwards to be able to be the person I, and the others in my life, needed me to be.
And I found that I liked that inner core — that tonality, that person — and that I wanted and needed to let all those layers fall away, leaving me with an exposed and stronger self.