1: What were your earliest musical tastes and how did you discover the world of blues?<br> When I first started playing guitar I was really into classic rock. One day my dad got me a line6 spider jam amplifier which had a 100’s of backing tracks from pop, rock, country and also blues. I found myself always wanting to go back to the Blues track. That led me to start researching what blues was about and listening to blues artists like Little Walter, Albert King and Howlin Wolf. Later I went to a Blues summer camp and that changed everything. That is where I learned to play with a band. I might not be playing guitar today if I had not found the Blues. The Blues challenged me to be a better player and it helped me grow.<br>
A series by Dave Watkins
2: Who were the artists that you listened to that made you want to play this music? When did you realize you had the talent to do it?
We always had music in the house, everything from greats like Otis Redding and Jim Croce to ACDC, Zac Brown Band, Michael Jackson and everything in between. My parents always took me to see live music of all kinds. My first memory is going to see The Bus Boys when I was about 3 year old. I also remember seeing Dwight Yoakum & Hank III when I was 5 or 6 at the Greek Theater in Hollywood. When I was 8 or 9 I started taking piano lessons. While I picked it up really fast, I didn’t love it. The day that really cemented by desire to play was when I saw a band called the 44’s perform at the Doheny Blues Festival when I was 10 years old. That is when I knew I wanted to play guitar.
When I started guitar lessons I loved it. My first teacher Dave Osborne was super encouraging, not only was he an great musician himself but he was an amazing teacher, which helped me pick it up even faster. Now I learn from watching blues and jazz players like Gino Matteo, Chris Cain, Matthew Von Doren, and Joe Bonnamassa and country pickers like Albert Lee. I always had the ability to listen to a song and very quickly play it. That is a something that I am very grateful that I can do; I am lucky.
<strong>3: Being young, did your friends wonder why you didn‘t play Rap or Rock music?</strong> Most of my friends don’t know what exactly it is that I do. They know that I front a decently successful band but they don’t know what type of music I play. I don’t know, I guess I just keep that separate. I am not sure they would even know what blues is, they would probably just played rock. We get compared to the Black Keys and Black Crowes a lot. Sad thing is that a lot of the kids have never heard greats like Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Hendrix and Cream, and they don’t even know that it is blues.<br> My Band has played a stop on the Vans Warped Tour two years in a row now. They have mostly punk and ska bands on that tour but we get a pretty good crowd every year , and they like us on social media, so it is cool that a lot of kids really get it and they like what we are doing. <strong>4: How important is your family to supporting you and the band? And how did you meet Matt and Randon....was it at school or somewhere else?</strong> I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so it has always been just me and Mom and Dad. I think that is why I always got to go everywhere and see all that live music as a kid. We still spend a lot of time together and we are super close. They go to all my shows. All of the band’s parents go to all of the shows and they all help out taking by pictures, videos, selling CDs and t shirts, talking to fans, hauling gear, you name it. This band is like one big family. Matt and Randon are like my brothers. We are blessed and we are grateful.<br> I met Matt about 3 years ago at a free week long Blues summer camp called Blues Kids of America put on by a Chicago blues guy and professor named Fernando Jones. That was where I learned how to play with a band. Playing with a band is very different than playing in your bedroom. I have learned a lot since then but that camp got me started playing with a band. Music education for kids is so important. The CWB still donates every year to support music in schools and we have a page on our website to help raise money for Blues Kids of America. If it were not for that camp I don’t know if I would be playing in a band right now.<br> Matt and I played together in a band at camp and later after camp for a few months until that band started playing too much pop music, so I helped them find another guitarist and I left that band. Matt soon followed and he has been with the Chase Walker Band ever since. I met Randon at the Orange County School for the Arts. I attended school there for a few months during my freshman year of high school. He is a great Bass player and brings a lot of energy to the band. Musically, we all really clicked instantly and the three of us have been together for almost 2 years now.
5: How do you fit in school work alongside the music?
During the school year my music career slows down so that I can focus on school. In the past, we had fewer shows during the school year. Last year slowing down during the school year got harder because the buzz about the band was building and we got so many great opportunities. This year the CD comes out in September, so it will be a balancing act for sure. I want to go to college maybe at Berklee, Belmont or possibly Thorton School of Music at USC, so my grades must come first. It is tough, but it just means I have to be organized, I take my MacBook Air everywhere and sometimes I do homework in the car or on a plane.
6: Which song of your own are you most proud of? Can you tell us the story behind that song?
I am pretty new at songwriting. I have only been songwriting for a little over a year. Most people think it is just a creative process but there is a lot more to it and it is part creative and part technical. Of course, I always love it when the fans like the songs. We asked the Fans to listen to song clips form our new album ‘Unleashed’and pick one for a pre-release single. The result ended us with both good and bad news. Good news was we got votes for almost all of the songs; which means that we did something right and people loved it. Bad news is that we still needed to pick one song. In the end we let management make the decision.
I guess I have two favorites. “Too many Days Ago” was a winner in the John Lennon Songwriting contest so I am very proud of that one, but I am probably most proud my song “Need you Tonight”. I think Need You Tonight is the most well written song I have done. It is about that awkward time when you don’t know where a relationship is going, or you maybe said something wrong and now your girlfriend is giving you the silent treatment, but you just cant stop thinking about her. For me it is that quite time at night before you fall asleep that drives me crazy the most; when your head is full of ideas and questions. So I do a lot of songwriting at night.
7: When you sit down to write, what comes first – the lyrics, the tune or an idea for a whole song?
It varies. Sometimes I have a theme or subject in mind and I will start out with the lyrics that tell that story. Other times I have a melody in my head and I will begin with the music, finding the words for it later. Or in the case of DIY and STB I just left them as instrumentals. I just got back from a trip to Nashville. I played a ton of writer nights and jams and played a show with my super talented friend Lily Nelsen. The musicianship and songwriting talent there is very humbling and inspiring at the same time. Like I said, while I have won some songwriting awards, I am still pretty new to songwriting and I learn something new everyday and the songs get better and better.
8: Tell us about your favorite instrument in your collection? Is there any other instrument that you would like to own or want to learn how to play?
Hahaha!!! I have one bass guitar, keyboard, trumpet and drums in my studio at home, just so I can record all the parts, but I have 14 guitars. So I guess I am a guitar nerd. My prized possession is my 1968 Gibson ES 335. It is in perfect condition and it came with its original case and price tags. It even came with a vintage pair of sting in their original box. The lady I bought it from had inherited it from her Dad. It looked like he played it for a week and then left it in the case for the next 45 years, waiting for me to play it. All of my guitars are my favorite but for different reasons. They all sound a little different. I love my Fender Custom Shop Telecaster that was built by John Cruz for Lucinda Williams. I just picked up a ’72 Ibanez ‘Les Paul’ lawsuit guitar that sounds almost as sweet and warm as my ’68 335. I play through a custom reverb tube amp from Carp Amplification. He does amazing work and his amps are as beautiful as they sound. Don’t even get me started on the pedals.
I don’t know if this really counts as new, but I brought home a Resonator and a new slide from Nashville. I’ve been learning to play slide, and playing around with different sounds. I guess I have also been thinking about learning to play mandolin so that I could incorporate it into my music.
9: Where do you like to see your career heading to in the future? What are your main ambitions?
Hopefully I can continue to grow my fan base which will allow me to play bigger festivals and play in other parts of the world. We already play 30-50 shows each year and with school it keeps me busy. As long as music is fun and I feel inspired I will continue to write and play music. Who knows where this path will take me. I know for sure that I want to be in the music business longterm, one way or the other; so that means college and much to learn about the industry and making music. I take every opportunity that I can get to meet people and learn from them. The industry is changing so much now so, I attend songwriting conferences and ASCAP conference every year. I have been lucky to have some extreme talents to learn from. The musician community in general has been very supportive and helped me learn a lot. I am so grateful for that. <strong>10: What do you like to do outside of music?</strong>
There is something other than music? Hahaha! Not for me. My mom, who is not a musician, lovingly jokes, “you finally found the alien mother ship (music) where you (and all other musicians) must come from. “ I found my path and it is with music.