I heard Eddie Van Halen play [on] Michael Jackson's "Beat It." The sound of it was so attractive, very exciting, very intense. The song grooved very hard. Later I was out getting shoes for high school -- DeMatha -- and I saw a music store. [My mother and I] dropped the idea of getting shoes, went home and got my clarinet and brought it to trade in for a guitar. I never looked back from that day on, never wanted to be anything but a guitar player.
The emphasis of jazz is self-expression. Jazz inspires you to dig deep, to learn your instrument, to learn your craft. It starts within and works its way to the surface. It's a lifestyle of extreme sacrifice and discipline, constant listening. Like a conversation. Having this conversation is very much what a jazz musician does. In the context of a band, five or six of us, we're all conversing. Some
people say, "Oh you're just bashing it out. It's cacophony." But really it's a conversation. Back and forth.
I wake up early, put in four hours of practice. I would play to an empty room. Most of the time we do. The venues that have music today -- restaurants, bars, clubs, we tend to be the background, the wallpaper, unless it's a special concert. We say to each other, "We're going to do this." That's what motivates us -- not if people are clapping. The music. It's hard to play to an empty room, even harder to play to a room full of people who are not listening to you.
Musicians very rarely do make a living strictly on gigging alone. There are not many places to play. Especially in these times, and when you play you might get about $50 a night. There are sacrifices: You have no personal life, social events are nonexistent. You do this for the love of the instrument, the love of the music.
-- Interview by Patricia E. Dempsey