1. How did you learn to play the guitar?
When I was a freshman in high school I had two good buddies named Jim and Tim. Tim was a really good guitar player and he started showing us how to play. The first song he ever taught me was Faith by George Michael. From there I basically spent my high school and college years learning from friends. College was great because it was a whole dorm full of guitar players, and I spent a lot of time watching and learning from upperclassmen. I remember my first day of college and meeting a guy named Kurt who was in a band and had recorded a demo and he played me his cassette tape of his music. He had this great bluesy funky style and it was a big influence on me and my future writing.
2. When you and your wife were writing their songs, did they initially write them for their daughter? Me and my wife Carrie have 2 children, a boy and a girl. Our son Zander was really our muse for our first album, and our daughter Everly was more our muse for our second album. The song Hush Now Baby on our new album was one that I made up and sang to both of my kids as I put them to sleep each night. The song Went Walking was based off of walks that Zander I took out back behind out house just throwing rocks in the creek and looking at nature. The song Little Caterpillar is Everly’s song. When she was a baby I used to prop her up in a cozy chair and sing that one to her all the time. The Animal Song came out of just sitting at the piano with Zander and playing around. He actually sang the melody and lyrics of the first line of the song “little baby duck”, and I thought “hey this could be something” and we played around with it some more.
3. When you write songs, do you write the music or lyrics first?
When I write songs I either write the music first, or it all happens at once with the music and the lyrics together. It almost always comes out of just hanging out playing music in my home with my children, or just picking my guitar up to play. And usually something hits me – a certain guitar riff or a mood or something and I go with it. I then try to take the song as far as I can go without making it feel forced, and then record it on my phone for later review. Carrie and I write as a team too. But I am more the song generator and she is the polish. I come up with a lot of the raw material and piece things together, and then Carrie (who is a fabulous editor) helps the song along to where it needs to be as a finished product.
4. What’s your favorite children’s book and grown up book?
Oh wow this is a hard one! Too many good books to chose from! I do love reading, and enjoy children’s books and grown up books too. With children’s books right now I am really enjoying anything by author Jan Thomas. She has these great simple and super silly picture books that just crack me up. Something about her comedic timing with her illustrations that just remind me of watching Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes as a kid growing up. And children seem to get lots of giggles from her books too. I also really like The Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. This picture book has a great message about giving to others in need and being selfless that is inspiring to adults too and makes me want to emulate it in my life. For adult books I really love The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien and have read them several times. Right now I am really enjoying the Joe Ledger book series by Jonathan Maberry which is a prequel series to his Rot & Ruin zombie series (which was also excellent). I’m on book four right now. This Joe Ledger series does make me chuckle though because it reads like a 90’s action move, and I keep expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone to be in it with some corny 90’s-tastic catchphrases.
5. Do you give guitar lessons to kids or recommend a place in Frederick?
I have given lessons before on guitar. But I take more of a non traditional approach, and just show students how I was taught and what I’ve learned along the way. I know Frederick has several music stores and I’m sure you can take lessons from the instructors there although I never have personally.
Connect with Mr. Jon
Right now I am passionate about:
1. My family
2. Making music for kids and their parents
3. Seeing the ocean any chance I get