Kicking The Bucket List: Making My Rock and Roll Dream Real (Part 2 of 7)

This is the second in a series of articles. To read part one, click here.

Part 2: Music & Me

Those who know me understand I’ve written songs for my own enjoyment since I was a teenager. Though I view the songs more as a personal form of journaling and general creative outlet than any means of achieving recognition or compensation, I am proud of much of the material I’ve created and as I get older, I feel more and more that some of it deserves to be brought to life and shared.

But to this point, pretty much everything I’ve recorded and performed has been acoustic. The reason for that is simple: I can pick up an acoustic guitar and sing a song all on my own without having to rely on anyone else or having to lug around a bunch of gear. It’s as economical as you can get if you’re going to perform or record music. And I really love a lot of those songs. But I’m betting that most of my friends who have seen that I write music probably think, “Oh yeah – Kevin does that acoustic stuff.”

Yes. But that’s only part of the story.

There are many artists in the acoustic vein that I respect greatly and whose work I absolutely adore. But my true heart and soul have always belonged to rock music. Ever since I first saw Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme (yes, the “More Than Words” guys – the most completely misunderstood rock band of my generation, in my opinion) perform for the first time, I was hooked. When Cherone climbed up from behind Paul Geary’s drum perch, over a stack of speakers and onto a makeshift walkway high above the stage while Nuno (guitar) and Pat Badger, the bass player, crashed into the opening chords of “It(‘s a Monster)” at Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario in 1992, I thought, “Oh, wow. I want to try that!”

It was then, after Extreme’s “III Sides to Every Story” spun my head off my shoulders, that I first began to write my own lyrics in earnest, and eventually took vocal lessons and taught myself how to play guitar by trying to fumble along with Nuno on songs like “Cupid’s Dead” and “Peacemaker Die.”

Extreme wasn’t the only band I liked, of course. They were simply my favourite, and remain so. But I love all sorts of rock bands and artists. Off the top of my head, some of them are: Volbeat, Saigon Kick, King’s X, Zakk Wylde (Pride & Glory, Black Label Society), Green Day, The Trews, Thunder, Airbourne, Rival Sons, Harem Scarem, Jackyl, ZZ Top and sooo many others. Like anyone else, there are certain songs by bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith and Van Halen that I simply must listen to every now and then.

And by the way, I’m not asking you to like what I like. I’m past the point of needing to validate my own tastes. Like what you like! And if we agree, great! If not, that’s cool too. I’m just explaining a little about how I got here.

But after my band favourite broke up (in 1996), I got away from listening to that kind of music for a while, and wandered toward artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, then later to the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Great Big Sea, David Francey, Will Kimbrough and Todd Snider (Springsteen and Earle’s songs inspired me but I was attracted to their darker material, which wore me out after a while. I found the optimistic nature of Buffett, et al, very refreshing in the early 2000’s).

Extreme at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, July 2nd, 2006. I took this photo with a disposable camera. Times have changed!

Extreme at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, July 2nd, 2006. I took this photo with a disposable camera. Times have changed!

But then, in the summer of 2006, the members Extreme came back together to do three shows in the New England area. Ecstatic, I drove all the way to Connecticut to see them perform (I’m in Ontario, Canada, so that was an 8-to-10-hour drive). I thought I’d never have the chance to do that again. Since I’d last seen them, in 1995, I’d finished school, started my career and started a family. Indeed, my entire life had changed, and because of work and, well, life, I had not even taken my guitar out of its case in years.

Seeing the musicians that initially inspired me perform together again was an electric jolt that was like having a missing piece of myself reattached. Theirs were the songs that resonated with me when I was an 18-year-old kid trying to figure out who I was, and I still get emotional when I consider songs like “Am I Ever Gonna Change.”

The experience reminded me of what I was really passionate about. After the long drive back home, I ran straight into my basement, took my electric guitar out of its case for the first time in years and immediately began to play the riff from a song I later titled “Dangerous,” which goes something like this:

Then and there, I committed myself to exploring my music more from that point on (I recorded and released an acoustic EP the following year, put out a full-length CD in 2010 and another EP in 2014). I have been planning and thinking about my rock project ever since then. And it’s my opinion that the best music I’ve ever written is my rock music. I believe it’s my best because I am so passionate about it and I make little effort to filter it. And yet no one’s ever heard or seen it.

Somehow, I’m going change that.

Join me here tomorrow for Part Three.


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