In 2004 I got a drum set for christmas, and bongos for my birthday. My older cousin James asked me if I wanted to be in his band “Inferno Monkeys”, and I was overjoyed to join. We practiced once and learned the song “Low Rider” by War and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana which was really impressive now that I think about it for a bunch of 10 year olds. Once him and his friend left the practice studio in my house, Inferno Monkeys was no more.
Music is something that has always been part of my life. My father has played guitar his whole life, and so he would always play for me and my brother as kids. My dad started a band with his brother and some friends from high school, and I always loved seeing them perform. My dad’s band was definitely my first major influence into music. In 4th grade I joined my elementary school band as a mallet percussionist. This was really my first exposure to music on such a personal level. I remember staying after school to learn the Lord of the Rings theme song on my xylophone and thinking it was the coolest thing ever! As a mallet percussionist I learned how to read music, and I learned how to play all the scales. Up until middle school though I had no idea that music was something I actually wanted to pursue.
In 8th grade I was allowed to get a myspace and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of being a musician at such a young age. I guess writing music was something I always associated with adulthood. In spring of 2008 two albums were released that totally changed my life. Pretty Odd by Panic! At The Disco released March 21, 2008 and The Yippee - EP by Never Shout Never released on June 29, 2008. Never Shout Never was a band consisting of one 16 year old named Christofer Drew and his guitar (at the time). He began releasing music on myspace and it turned out there was a huge market for cute little acoustic love songs. He started playing music because he got a broken bone and had to quit his tennis team, so healing at home, he picked up his dad’s guitar and learned some Bob Dylan songs. In my eyes this was real life proof that a kid like me could pick up a guitar and make music that people would care about. Though I didn’t exactly know where to start.
In May of 2008 me and my girlfriend at the time, Sierra went to see Panic! At The Disco on the “Pretty Odd - Honda Civic Tour”. Panic At The Disco has been my favorite band since I was in 5th grade, so this show was a really big deal for me. The line-up was Doug, Motion City Soundtrack, The Hush Sound, Phantom Planet, and Panic! At The Disco. This was my first experience in this music scene, and by the time the show was over I was 100% sure what I wanted to do with my life. I started going to a lot more concerts, seeing kids who were just a little older than me performing for hundreds and thousands of people gave me this overwhelming feeling of motivation and excitement that I could make music too. Never Shout Never gave me a place to start, and Panic! At The Disco gave me a goal to work towards. So by 2009 I started taking piano lessons. I only took piano for 1 year and then I just continued learning piano on my own. As a xylophone player for 6 years (at this point) I knew my way around a piano pretty well.
While I was still taking piano lessons Never Shout Never released his 2nd EP called Me and My Uke (January 2009). I was totally obsessed with this release. It just so happened that at the time, the place where I was taking piano was selling a $60 ukulele in the front window. I saved up my pennies, and begged my parents to let me buy it. Learning Ukulele pushed me over the edge. All I did was listen to Never Shout Never, and play his songs on Ukulele. Literally I’d wake up early, I’d skip class, I’d skip tennis practice just to go learn new songs. The first song I ever learned to play was “Your Biggest Fan”. Eventually I picked up my dad’s acoustic guitar, and started learning all the songs I knew on ukulele on guitar. Since all the songs off “Me and My Uke” were only 3 to 4 chords it was a really great place for me to start. I started my first “real” band with one of my best friends Erin Thoms. We called ourselves “Llama! With A Silent Jay”. We used loops from Garageband to create crazy little songs about drinking water…and driving vans… and….. okay we were in 9th grade. Anyways, Once we realized how much fun we were having we started a new band called Hello Sage, where we recorded covers of Never Shout Never, A Rocket To The Moon and Secondhand Serenade songs.
By 2010 I was beginning to write my own music, although It was not very good. I had no plans of showing anybody the songs I was writing. I was basically just taking the 4 chords that Never Shout Never used (C, Am, F, and G) and switching up the order and putting my own lyrics to it. The first song I ever recorded was called “My December”, and I called myself “Stars Shooting South” (after one of Never Shout Never’s almost band names “Stars Shoot South”). I released the song on December 1, 2010, and I am still to this day so proud of that recording. No, it’s not great. But that song was the start of the most important chapter in my life (so far). That song got about 1,000 plays on myspace when I first posted it, and I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. I started to dress and talk different, since at this point, I was on the road to being a myspace famous rock star and nothing anyone could have said would have made me feel differently.
I began releasing more songs and more covers. I began posting my music all over the internet, myspace, facebook, soundcloud, twitter, reverbnation, bandcamp, youtube.. honestly I can’t even tell you all the places i posted it. In spring of 2010 I played my first show at my high school’s first annual Coffee House Fund Raiser (which I organized of course). I was a nervous wreck. I played 5 songs, Not A Second to Waste - A Rocket To The Moon, Fall Back Down - Lights!, Betrayed By Bones - HelloGoodbye, She’s Got Style - Never Shout Never, and lastly Cherry Blossom Hearts - Stars Shooting South. Cherry Blossom Hearts was the first song I was extremely proud of (i’m actually hoping to re-record it this summer). It was exactly the sound I was looking for at the time, and by the end of my performance everyone was singing it with me and that was one of the proudest moments of my life.
In 2010 (10th grade) I met my best friend Kyle Woodin. We both liked Never Shout Never and Owl City, and we hated spanish 101. We started hanging out and playing music together. We pretty much only played covers of Never Shout Never, and Ronnie Day (both of our favorite bands) but we did write a couple of songs together (about Lights Poxleitner). Kyle was in a band with his cousin Joey called “Saving Chivalry” which was one of the top myspace bands in CT. Their music had a really big influence on me, they kind of showed me the ropes around how to work social media to get your name out. I started posting youtube videos playing covers, with Kyle and by myself. We also hosted web shows where we would play concerts and my biggest one had 70 viewers which was really cool. I started selling Tshirts and posters online. Stars Shooting South got sponsored by a small company who made bamboo gauges (which were all the rage in 2010). My sponsorship got me free advertising, and a professional myspace layout (which was also big deal as i’m sure you all know). Unfortunately, they dropped me. Since I was so young I was not able to go and meet with them which was a problem for them so it just didn’t work out. Kyle and I tried to start a band a number of times but it just never ended up happening. In 2010 I released my first real demo called “Something About The Clouds” which had 3 songs on it called Cherry Blossom Hearts, My Heart, and Something About The Clouds. Still not great, but I love listening back to this point in my music. It was around this time that I started playing music at family parties, where me, my dad, my brother, and our uncles would all play music together. Mostly Grateful Dead stuff. I miss those family parties!
11th Grade was the year music started to take over my life. I took a Music Technology and Production class with my band teacher Mr. Siegel. Me, Erin, and Kyle all took it together. We learned how to use Pro Tools, and the fundamentals of music theory. I recorded a bunch of songs in this class as projects. My dad built a recording studio into my house when they built it, so once I learned how to use recording softwares I got to start using his equipment. I re-recorded Cherry Blossom Hearts this way, and that was my first song not using Garageband and the first song I ever posted on iTunes. This is also the year I met my other best friend Sarah Paisley on my high school cross country team. She was also in one of the top myspace bands in Connecticut called “The Brightest” (formerly “Backing Up Forwards”). She actually got to play shows with A Rocket To The Moon, and Lydia, and The Morning Of which is like the coolest thing ever. Members of Sarah’s band went on to start The Guru. I met Sarah while talking to Kyle about Never Shout Never on the way to a race. She actually recorded one of the youtube videos which made Never Shout Never famous so Sarah was like the queen of all that was cool to me. Me and Sarah recorded a Christmas EP called “The Dream Of Angels - EP” together where we recorded 3 songs. One I wrote, one she wrote, and one we wrote together. We sold it on iTunes and sold about 100 copies which to us was incredible! Sarah and I auditioned for our school play “Damn Yankees” together, and we both got leads. I began taking singing lessons to prepare for the performance. I was singing show tunes, with my teacher Dave which was great. Here I learned all the fundamentals of singing. I wasn’t in love with the idea of learning how to sing theater music but it was a great way for me to learn how to sing with emotion and character which has really helped me in the long run. I took lessons with Dave for 2 years, and I stopped when I graduated high school. Sarah and I did 2 school plays, and 4 coffee houses together. By the time I graduated high school I was in Music Theory, Playing xylophone for Band, piano for jazz Band, bass drum for Pep Band, and Marching Band, tenor in the Choir, and lead in the play. All while i’m writing my first EP Odd Season, which had 5 songs which I put on iTunes that summer. By this time myspace was dead so I was posting mostly on Facebook, Soundcloud, and Tumblr. My senior year I took a creative writing and poetry class, and in this class I read a book called The Alchemist which inspired me to write a song after it this song.
Once I went to college at SMC I started as a music minor in music theory 2, Bill Ellis, Nat Lew and Brian McCarthy were really big inspirations to me. They all have really impressive musical backgrounds and careers. It was in the SMC where I would say I found my voice, ear and direction for music. Never Shout Never was not so much a big influence to me anymore, and I was looking for a new direction. Summer going into freshman year on POW one of my leaders Halle Dyer showed me this band called The Lumineers whose music a huge influence on everything i’ve done since that point. I also started to get way back into Panic! At The Disco who I was discovering slowly was heavily influenced by Jazz. I began digging deep into Jazz music, specifically Dixieland and Ragtime. I released 2 free Eps on sound cloud that year called 7 South, and The Shot Heard Round The World.
Summer going into Sophomore year I got an internship at an entertainment law firm, which is what I want to do for a living. I gave a collection of my recordings to my boss, and he decided to put me into a recording studio to put my song “The Alchemist” on the soundtrack of a movie he was producing called “Silent Cry”. This was an amazing experience for me, I’m interning for him again this summer and i’m hoping for another opportunity to get into the studio. Words can’t even describe what it was like for me inside the studio. It was totally a dream come true.
This year I took History of Rock and Counterpoint, as well as declaring my Political Science and Music double major. History of Rock got me way into The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Ella Fitzgerald and so their work is very much so inspiring my current writings. I also started taking jazz vocal lessons. My new music is very folk driven, with some jazz and blues mixed in but it’s all still acoustically based. This summer I am planning to release 15 new songs off of “Flashes”. I released a demo of the title track which was played on SMC radio this past semester, thanks to my friend Nick Ferguson. I was also just asked to record background music for a Youtube artist named “Rocco The Great”, which is a huge opportunity for me. I’ve been watching his videos since I was in 7th grade! Now I play music with my friends Sarah and Anna, and I also just recorded a (muppets) cover with my brother for the first time which was really cool. I also just got a tattoo honoring the 6 year anniversary of Pretty Odd by Panic! At The Disco, the album that still stands as my musical goal.
Music has taught me that I can do anything I work hard at, it has taught me to appreciate art, and the work that goes into it. It has brought me closer to my friends, my family, and myself. I no longer wish to be a famous myspace rock star, or anything close to it. I’m going to write and record music until I die, I know that. I don’t post my music on iTunes or sell tshirts anymore, because that was never really what it was about for me. I am very excited to see what doors my music will open to me in the future, but for right now i am very much so excited to just study how my music turned from a thought to this weird kind of tangible being which grows and evolves as I do. As of this year i’ve dropped the name Stars Shooting South, although I would never take any of my old content down. I am planning to start releasing music under my own name, so look forward for my new release “Flashes” coming this summer. Expect a full play-through of the album on SMC radio in September. #Shamelessplug