My earliest memory in life is of making music. Screaming, wailing, plucking rubber bands and dancing for a crowded living room of eager relatives.
My first guitar was a blue flyswatter and the music I made could drive insects to drink. The adults were busy with the weight of adulthood but not too busy to smile at a short ginger holding a tiny guitar and wearing batman pajamas, singing his heart out.
I sang the classics then: Elton John, Allen Jackson, Row, Row, Row, Your Boat. Nothing that would get me to Carnegie Hall, but it made my fans smile, and that was my whole world.
My first real stage performance happened as a joke. My friends dared me to sing R. Kelly’s hit, I Believe I Can Fly, in the school talent show. It was the spring of 1997, I had just turned nine and my universe revolved around interstellar travel, largely where it concerned Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny defeating Swackhammer at Moron Mountain. I was not to be trifled with.
I did sing, and astonishingly the crowd stood and sang with me. A chorus of three hundred small voices rising up above the basketball goals, up to the top of the dreaded climbing rope, up to the rafters where hats and shoes and kickballs went to die and some miscreant threw a condom, whatever that was, that could still be seen hanging like a sad, dead slug.
Our voices filled the room, filled me from the soles of my size 10 sneakers (I had a big foot) to the rims of my new glasses (my first pair) and trickled out my every pore. It was then, that very moment, singing R. Kelly at the top of my lungs along with every K-5 grader, teacher, school administrator and the heroic janitor that kept the whole engine purring, that I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.
I’d say I’ve never looked back, but I’d be lying.
Since that seminal performance, I’ve stood on stages in front of thousands of people and sat on bar stools in front of dozens (or less). I’ve waved from beneath of the majestic dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica while singing the Kyrie, and shed tears with a gymnasium full of high school students in Pennsylvania raising money for Invisible Children in Africa.
I’ve shared songs about love to an amphitheater filled with hundreds of hippies, yuppies, gangsters, goths, hipsters and other confused youths; that was a beautiful moment. Picture the bleeding blue trails of two hundred fireflies soaring up, waving and dancing, crawling up the sides of twin dormitory buildings as the sun settles over the city. Every firefly is a cellphone in the hand of a kid like me who could be texting, tweeting, snapping, gramming, vining, tubing, telegraphing some other moment, to some other person in some other place, but they’re not. They’re all smiling and crying and singing—harmonies, layers and layers of beautiful voices—and they’re all following along, with me.
I’ll spend the rest of my life searching for fireflies like those.
Music has always been the common denominator in my life. The great transistor, amplifying my every thought and emotion. It has been my social conduit, my private religion, my personal savior, and my ice breaker.
For almost five years, I spent hours every day in my home studio crafting sounds and songs for film and TV. It was and still is one of the fondest memories I have, that time in my life, and I’m hoping once I have the space again I can get back into the game.
Today, music is my stronghold and foundation. It is the rock on which I build every creative project. Although I’m not currently in the business of performance, I wouldn’t count out the possibility of a comeback very soon. Right now, though, I’m using music to bring fluidity and depth into my writing. Still, my love for the Universal Language is evolving every day.
Today, I am singing.
Tomorrow, I’ll be singing.
Til the day they put me in the ground.
You can bet your ass if there’s something after that, I’ll be singing then, too.