I was born and raised in Easley, SC, your typical small town where everyone's always talking about getting out: whether it's the social norm for residents of blips on a map or just that feeling of restlessness that comes from staying one place for too long, I've always known that Easley always was – and only would be – a childhood home.
Don't get me wrong. Easley was an ideal place for my parents to set their, and inherently my own, roots. If I could describe it in one sentence, I'd say, "It was in the middle of a lot of things, but never really part of anything.” At a university now just half an hour from Easley, I'll tell friends of my hometown, and the classic response is, "Oh, yeah. I drove through there on my way to [insert more exciting destination here]." And that's just fine with me because there's no real connotation – positive or negative – that comes with being from Easley. You have to write your own story.
Unfortunately for the reader, however, mine growing up in Easley is relatively bleak and full of suburban clichés without leaving much to the imagination. So, I’ll try to make an 18-year-long story short and cut to the good stuff.
Few things are particularly noteworthy about my upbringing: the first is a nearly perfect set of parents. I realize to say the word “perfect” is usually quite long stretch, but if you know Chuck and Kathy, you kind of get what I mean. Humbly loving, generously giving, and stern where it counts, they set the bar high for my sister and me. For now, I’ll leave it at that because I’m sure we’ll touch more on them later on in this series.
Next on the list is a friend who has become a brother over the course of my life. Since preschool, Paul has proven himself to be exceedingly loyal at every stage of life: from backing me when the school bully wouldn’t return our basketball, to following me to Nashville, he’s the best friend I’ve had or could hope for, and it all started in Easley. But again, I’m sure this series will touch on him more as it continues.
Last – and really more of a recipe than a single event or person – I was brought up in an environment that rewarded curiosity and the pursuit of personal achievement. There was never a skill or challenge, in sports, academics, or the arts, that I thought was insurmountable, and whether it was of my own or my parents’ will, I was always being put in a position to explore. For example, I’d claim that few first-graders sign themselves up for church choir, but those early vocal lessons served as my first exposure to training and nurturing a talent that, at the time, seemed unnecessary. Fast-forward nine years or so to my first year of high school, and I’m writing poetry about the philosophical pitfalls of mankind or the vicious nature of love lost – concepts far-beyond a ninth-graders pay-grade or scope of reason, but I at least thought I was getting somewhere. Fortunately for me and those reading what I wrote, those poems eventually developed into songs, which eventually needed musical accompaniment, which eventually transitioned from piano to guitar, which eventually nurtured the passion for creating and playing music that I have today.
And that’s what my time in Easley gave me. Like I said, nothing particular to the city itself, but rather the people who were there that have – and will continue to – set me up to pursue what I love, and really, I think that’s all you can ask for from a hometown.
So that was a bit about me then, and here’s a bit about me now and why I’m starting this public journal: music is a process. It’s a skill that’s developed over time. It’s a creative work that’s formed, broken down, and re-formed again. But most of all it’s a journey. It could be a three-and-a-half minute long walk through your favorite song that you may or may not cry to on occasion. It could be an entire album that takes you back to that time in your life when those verses were the only thing that could make you feel like everything would be alright. It could be a semester-long cycle of rehearsals and recording sessions after you’ve put yourself on paper and wonder if people have been through the same thing. And, for the lucky few, it could be a lifetime – where music provides, so you can make more of it.
So, why am I here talking about it? To document the process. To ask questions and leave them answered, to talk about why it’s come to this and inform those who care, to explain to those who say, “I don’t get it,” and to make an attempt at answering with words, “What does music mean to me?” But I think the last one is most important – even if no one ever reads these things – to answer for myself. As a last-semester student at Clemson University with a degree in bioengineering who’s going to follow his dreams in the world of music, my justification to that question will be constantly tested because the golden handcuffs will start to look nicer and nicer as my bank account gets lower and lower.
I know. What I plan to do is ill advised to some and, in the very least, unconventional to most, but that’s just how it’s got to be for me. The music is too big, and the time is now.