Aside from playing guitar with my longtime band Seeking Homer, I've spent most of my life in transit. Living in more places than an Army Brat, I’ve called many places on the East Coast my home. But I consider Philadelphia and Syracuse, NY my homes, even though NYC was instrumental in making me who I am.
The music bug hit me very early in life. I had the advantage of a sister who was a few years older who introduced me to bands like The Rolling Stones, The Police, Pink Floyd and Journey. It was also around this time that MTV was born. I was blown away by what I saw. David Bowie. J. Giels Band. Devo. Blue Oyster Cult. Tom Petty. Aldo Nova. Van Halen. Pat Benetar. I could not get enough.
I was the only kindergartner with a record collection…albeit second hand. My parents had given me Fisher-Price tape recorder for Christmas. I used to hold down the record button while pressing it against one of my sister’s stereo speakers yielding quasi-bootleg versions of albums like The Stone’s Tattoo You, Journey’s Escape and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I was a 5 year old with an iPod about the same size of my Dukes of Hazard lunchbox.
I was still far too young to go to any concerts, but I would just get lost in what MTV was doing at the time. I got it. I understood it. I loved it. I could not get enough. But it wasn’t on my radar yet as far as a career. At this time, I was contemplating such careers as stuntman, bus driver, police officer, truck driver and garbage man – or anything that Burt Reynolds was in a movie.
But on July 13th, 1985 – my entire world changed. Live Aid was broadcast on MTV from Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. For the first time I got to see most of the world’s greatest acts perform live. I had always seen the name “QUEEN” scribbled somewhere at the playground or etched into desks at school. But man oh-man, the performance Freddy Mercury put on was fantastic. He took 100,000 people and turned them into one rockin’ being not only with the power of the music, but the power of the performance. When U2 took the stage, same thing. Bono and the boys did a 9 minute long version of “Bad” in which Bono broke into a Lou Reed ditty. Tina Turner and Mick Jagger ripped it up later that night. It was during this that I knew I wanted to play guitar and create music.
That Christmas Santa snagged me my first electric guitar. I was daunted at first. The guys on TV made it look so easy. But this wasn’t easy at all. I tried to make sense of it on my own, but the guitar collected a little dust as it was competing with other things I was involved in i.e. baseball, football, detention, three newspaper routes, basketball, more detention and general laziness. My mother then signed me up for Intro to Guitar night class at a local high school where I learned a few fundamentals. But it became work. The practicing. The memorizing. Ugh. It was around this time that my grades where suffering a bit too.
Up until 5th grade I was in public school. But in 6th grade, my parents tossed me into the control of the nuns of St. Peter’s in Riverside, NJ. I was waaaaay behind. We never diagrammed sentences in public school. I didn’t know what participles were. “It’s something on my body, right?” My times tables were very slow. Whereas everyone else around me could rattle of what 8 times 12 was like mathematical gunslinger. Not me. I was behind and needed to catch up to prevent “red-shirting” 6th grade. At one of my many mandated Parent-Teacher conferences, my father mentioned to Sr. Donna Marie that I was learning the guitar. She then came up with a brilliant idea. She would tutor me in my studies to bring me “up to speed” – and in return she made me play guitar with her for daily mass at 6:30AM….every day. At first, it was such a drag. I would get up and deliver my newspapers at 5AM, then ride my bike to school to play for the Mass. Then go to school all day, get tutored until 4, deliver the afternoon newspapers, have dinner, then off to whatever sport I was playing at the time. My nights would end with more homework and eventually bed, which would be around 11. That was my life. But slowly things all started to change. Not only did my grades improve and no more tutor needed, but due to all the guitar playing I was doing – I got really good. Because it was an evolution, I never noticed it until one spring day when I put my U2 Joshua Tree tape, and just by hearing the songs, I could figure them out on the guitar. I then made it a personal challenge to learn all the songs on every tape I had.
My best friend Danny Brennan and I would play music incessantly. We would play and write songs from Friday thru Sunday like it was our job. I was 11 years old. His older brother Jamie would remind us that we “sucked” on a regular basis. I also began to learn the mandolin and attempt to sing. Puberty was cruel however. With my voice cracking all the time, it made it very difficult. My high school in Syracuse, NY (Bishop Ludden) had a great class called “Jazz Ensemble”. However, it wasn’t really jazz. Instead it was more like Rock Band 101. We had guitar players, drummers, keyboard players, bassists – all of which would bring in songs to learn and we would just jam. Our teacher would orchestrate the whole thing. We’d play everything from Stevie Ray Vaughn, to INXS and Eddie Money. It was a blast. Then we lost our teacher to another school and hence the class was going to be dropped. We were able to convince the principal to keep the class and continue without a teacher but be overseen by the school’s chorus coach. He agreed. We then started writing our own songs as well as playing others. I began singing more and more around this time, because nobody else would.
When I first got to college, I had my guitar and amp in my dorm room – but hardly played it. Between my studies, playing lacrosse and binge drinking – it was very difficult to find the time. Plus my roommates were nocturnal so I could never play during the day. But one day, one of the kids on my hall (Dave Oberacker) stumbled into my room and noticed some CD’s I had by the Boulder, Colorado based band, The Samples. He mentioned how he was a fan of theirs as well and could sing and play harmonica. Immediately, we began writing parodies and playing for a couple open mic’s on campus. We were then asked to play a college house party and that’s where the hurricane that became Seeking Homer began.
Many of the best times I have had in my life have been with my brothers from Homer. We had the time of our lives doing the “rock and roll” thing. Lived in a few vans/motel rooms/fans’ dorm rooms for many years but got to see some amazing sights and meet some great people along the way. During these years, we got the chance to tour with bands like Maroon 5, Dispatch, Guster, The Samples, Living Colour, They Might Be Giants, Naughty By Nature, The Lost Boys, Howie Day, Richie Havens, Joan Jett and many more that escape my brain right now.
There were also times where we were fairly certain that we were going to die. One time was very similar to that scene in Almost Famous when the band’s plane is about to crash. We were in an ice storm after a show at Colgate University in Upstate New York and we were so close to falling off a highway and freezing to death numerous times. It was these experiences that were not only the inspiration behind Homer songs, but gave us all more perspective on our lives.
I have always been writing songs. However, some are ideal for Seeking Homer and some are not. I’ve been holding on to some of these loose ends for years and from time to time, play them live. I have always appreciated the marriage between song and lyric. American songwriters like Robert Earl Keen, Richard Shindell, Mindy Smith and Freedy Johnston have been such inspirations of mine. (If you have not heard of these artists, please look into them.) I have always envied their ability to tell deep stories in less than 4 minutes. Inspiration is an odd thing for me. It never comes to me when I force it. Ever try to watch the sky for shooting star? But you often catch them out of the corner of your eye when you are not paying attention or hoping to see one.
Some of the songs I put together now, took form many years ago – it’s only now that I’m finding that second verse or melodic chorus that I begged for years ago. Some other songs have been coming together in minutes. Hopefully you cannot tell when you hear them. In 2018 I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the nationally touring R.E.M. Tribute band, MURMUR. As a kid, all I wanted to do was be in a band that played R.E.M. or U2 songs. Another project I am involved in is the 80's MTV-Era Tribute, The Arcade. Each band member is not only an amazing person, but a skilled musician. This new adventure of shows will be great. Keep checking in for updates. Come see me play somewhere. Drop me a line. Don’t be a stranger.