Landscapes and weather have always been great sources of inspiration in my creative works.
Although I have spent most of my life in Mississippi, the first memorable years of my life were spent on the plains of Oklahoma, staring across endless fields of grass. What I feel when I think back to that time is a bit like the feeling I get when I’m out on the ocean. There’s an emptiness that resonates with me, an awareness of an expanse that makes me feel small, and I feel like I have continued to carry a love for things like this.
It was in Oklahoma where my musical journey began. My parents put me in violin lessons at the age of six, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It was difficult, and it made my fingers uncomfortable. I enjoyed talking to my violin teacher about Star Wars: Rogue Squadron far more than practicing and playing – but my parents made sure I worked at it.
At the age of 7, I moved to Mississippi.
Imagine that difference.
Now, instead of grasslands, I was faced with a horizon of trees that rarely ended more than a few hundred feet from my face. But the openness and freedom of the Great Plains was well-traded for woods to explore and trees to climb – places where I would come to imagine stories and play games with my siblings. I was home schooled, which meant that the faster I could do my work, the sooner I could spend the day reading a book or playing a game.
In Mississippi, my parents had a difficult time finding a violin teacher. We lived in the country, about 15 minutes from Decatur, the nearest (small) town. They eventually found a teacher in Meridian, about 45 minutes away – but the lessons were more group oriented, and they wanted me to have one-on-one practice.
I switched teachers a couple of times after that, but lessons were expensive, and the drive was nearly two hours away. As our family faced financial struggles, my lessons became more infrequent. When I stopped taking lessons, my parents encouraged me to continue practicing – but my overall lack of discipline didn’t help my attitude about it.
By the time I entered a public high school in tenth grade, I had become far more interested in piano and singing. I had begun teaching myself piano by listening to music and repeating it, and by watching people play music on YouTube – and inspired by my father (a singer, songwriter, and guitarist) I began writing music. All of the emotions of high school were poured into that music. It was a great way to express what I thought and felt.
By the time I went to college in the Fall of 2011, I had developed a much more enjoyable relationship with music, which led me to try being a Violin Performance major. However, my life circumstances at the time (and that lack of discipline I mentioned earlier) didn’t lend themselves to my attempts, and it didn’t take long for me to decide that being a music major wasn’t for me.
Nonetheless, I kept writing music and improving my piano skills.
Now, it had crossed my mind a few times over my life up to this point to compose more complex music, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t really have the drive to – but in the year 2015, I had a moment where I suddenly felt a deep desire to compose. After talking with my wife (the real love of my life, who I married in 2014) I decided to pick up a subscription to Sibelius and I started composing sheet music.
And I loved it.
And I still do.
Composing, for me, is something that I engage with in a fuller way than many other forms of music. I don’t just get to express – I get to arrange. I get to adjust and tweak and BUILD. I get to build something big.
My favorite songs are the ones that remind me of an expanse that makes me feel small. The ones that evoke emotion and depth, that remind me that there are greater things than myself.
Those are the songs I hope to keep building.