What was your first guitar? What attracted you to that instrument, specifically?
When I was six, I nailed two pieces of wood together in (roughly) the shape of a guitar. I made “tuning” pegs out of nails and wrapped rubber bands around them. I used to run around the house strumming that thing like nobody’s business. Drove my sisters crazy. Guitar just always made sense. I loved feeling the strings vibrate under my fingers and how personal you could make your instrument look and sound.
Why did you choose a major in comparative literature? What did it allow you to do that made you choose it over a degree in jazz?
It wasn’t easy. Growing up, my dad always stressed the importance of having strong writing skills and expressing yourself clearly and thoughtfully. I was fortunate enough to have English teachers and literature professors that always went beyond the text and got into interesting and often difficult ethical discussions. Being so emotionally invested in what I was studying always made it interesting.
In college I started to look at music from the same analytical perspective. There are a lot of overlaps between literature and music in terms of creative expression. I was still able to take a bunch of music courses and play a lot. Our 30+ person jazz band only had a couple music majors so there were a lot of people playing music but studying something else.
You lived in New York for a few months during undergrad. How did that experience influence you? Did it change your understanding of cities, the global community, music, etc.? If so, how?
Everyone calls NYC the melting pot, but you don’t really understand it until you’re there every day. It was fascinating to me to see how quickly the city changes over just a few blocks. Look at Harlem and Spanish Harlem or the East Village and West Village. You realize how small a city like Cincinnati is.
When I was living there for a semester, I couldn’t get into the fast-paced, kill or be killed lifestyle. I’m not sure when rudeness became endearing. I just found it exhausting. I did enjoy the jazz clubs and food. Hard to beat either of those.
You could have pursued any music genre (probably). Why jazz?
Jazz is unrestricted opportunity through improvisation. It’s hard to find another genre where you could play the same song a million different ways. Jazz has such rich and diverse musical language and it’s constantly changing. You can play whatever you want.
If you had unlimited resources for the next two years, what would you do? (After two years, you go back to your life as is now.)
Grad school. I’d get my masters in jazz composition.
Name one completely useless thing you’re really good at.
I got a pretty sick pen flip.
What is the most ridiculous thing you have spent more than $10 on?
Fried alligator at a blues festival. It was $11. I had to buy it. I asked the guy “What’s it taste like?” “Crocodile.”
If one phrase were to appear on your headstone, what would it be?
I’m in between oops and lol.