Meet Chris Hawkes.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to Chris Hawkes.

Chris is 1/2 of the Austin, Texas-based husband-wife duo Dawn & Hawkes. The group formed in 2012, and have been recording and touring ever since. In 2014, they were featured on Season 6 of "The Voice", where they joined the team led by Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Their most recent release, "Yours and Mine", is a fantastic album, so make sure you buy it immediately after reading this blog!

But, how do I know Chris?

Back when I was in high school, I used to frequent local shows down in Deep Ellum. My two favorite bands were Forty Percent and Greatness in Tragedy, and I tried to never miss one of their shows. Walking into the Curtain Club, getting punched in the face by second-hand smoke, having a giant X on my hand to let everyone know I wasn't old enough to order a Shiner (I'm sure my thin frame and lack of any signs of facial hair may have given it away, also...), seeing my favorite local musicians walk past me, people watching for days...all of these things remain some of my favorite times ever.

Chris fronted a band called Redtag at the time, and I noticed that they opened almost every show I went to. Chris was a no-frills frontman; which was the polar opposite of the two bands I mentioned previously. He didn't transform into some other person on stage, which was refreshing. He was himself. I could relate to him in some way, even as a 17-year old who didn't know who I was or where I fit in. In watching him, I could see that he was probably the most talented musician on each stage he stepped onto, but he never tried to exploit that. There were no gimmicks. He simply loved playing music, and he did it with humility, hard work, and a lot of talent.

My first interaction with him was on AOL Instant Messenger, otherwise known as AIM. I was getting into music and recording, so I reached out to Chris with a bunch of questions that probably drove him insane. He graciously answered them all and talked back and forth with me a few times. It meant the world to me that a musician I had great respect for would take the time to have a conversation with a teenager, and it means the world to me that he would take the time to answer a bunch of questions for my blog!

Throughout the next few years, I watched Chris continue to write and produce in a few different bands, including a solo project. I got to see him play a solo acoustic show when I first moved to Denton, Texas. Every musical endeavor he's been a part of has been really great, but I always got the sense that he hadn't found exactly what he was looking for yet.

Fast forward to 2017, and I think he's found it. He writes and records amazing music with his wife Miranda Dawn, and he did it all the right way.

I strongly encourage anyone who reads this to support Dawn and Hawkes as much as you can. My wife and I saw them perform in Denison, Texas a few months back, and it was a phenomenal show. We bought a vinyl LP of their newest record "Yours and Mine", and we listen to it all the time.

Without any more rambling from me, enjoy the interview with Chris.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I'm a musician, guitar and taco enthusiast living in Austin, TX. I write songs and perform concerts throughout the country with my charming wife. I'm thankful every day to love what I do and the people I do it with.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I grew up in Arlington TX and went to school in Denton before moving to Austin a decade ago. Arlington was a window into the world of middle-America's Top 40 and Classic Rock – Denton showed me how an intimate artistic community encourages more expression and rich creative energy and Austin is an endless stream of music and musicians flowing through a infrastructure built by people with love and respect for legends and rich history that inspires, encourages and challenges me all the time.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Making music! I'm grateful to have a way to make ends meet doing what I love. The administrative or business aspects of a music career (researching, networking, booking, promoting, accounting) are time consuming. We spend about 2hrs a day making music or rehearsing and 10hrs working on the background business. Added financial freedom might allow even more free time to create and perform.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
People, landscapes and art inspire me. The stories people share are motivational – hearing how someone similar deals with something so different or a person who seems different has the same struggles and joy. Those interactions are the most inspiring things.

Landscapes, especially in nature, are also thought provoking. I love how looking out at a road winding through a mountain or river waters pouring into the ocean can start a whole stream of new thoughts and ideas. Anytime I feel stuck in a mindset, there's a landscape that can change my mind for the better.  

Creative arts, musical, visual, theatrical and even technological expressions are inspiring. It's so cool to see the creative outlet of individuals represent them in a way that simple words couldn't do alone. Inanimate objects become so full of life and meaning by relating back to a person. The temporal nature of us being here can become slightly more permanent through a recording listened through generations or a piece that's preserved and celebrated in a museum. I also appreciate the more fleeting performance arts because they impart those same larger-than-life insights as memories held by other people. It's lovely to share a life with people who want to share themselves with you.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
I struggle with balance. Maybe a lot of people do. Finding the right amount of time to spend creating but also taking care of the chores of life. It's like having enough wood for the fire but not letting it go out while you're busy looking in the dark for the perfect log. That shows up for me as being in pursuit of success but also being consistent with the quality of our art and communication with people.

Being in Austin raises the stakes a bit because of the city's parabolic growth in the cost of living. It's an inspiring place to be but it's a challenge to balance with affordability for the creative community. I really want generations after us to be able to experience and submerge in the same inspiration we've had from the artistic side of the city.

There's also obstacles navigating the moving targets of the music business – I hesitate to use the word "industry" because it's not all a coalesced, refined and conventional thing that musicians take part in. It's like a wild land of tribes. Some tribes quickly flourish and stay for a good amount of time, like iTunes and downloadable music, but that can change even quicker when the listeners find convenience with another structure like streaming. It's not new or a "frustration" all the time for me because it's part of the information age that has been integral to my even having a musical career.  The straight and narrow path for "professional" musicians is more open now – more confusing but more open. It's a constant activity to keep learning and adapting.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
A first defining moment for me was deciding to drop out of art school and pursue music full-time. I was late to a ceramics class while talking to a band about recording their album. I had the choice of going to class and making a clay pot I might sell someday (only if I got MUCH better!) or pay my rent in a few days recording rock songs.

The second moment was when I moved to Austin knowing only one person, my new roommate. It was exciting to be in a city that was named "Live Music Capital" and felt like a turning point of fully committing myself to pursuing music.

The third moment was asking my girlfriend and bandmate to marry me. That was fully committing! I moved to Austin, grew up a little and lucked out a lot.  

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
I would love to keep traveling and playing music for decades. I'd also love to start a school or mentorship for young musicians wanting to make a living in music. I found pivotal moments of inspiration from mentors growing up and I'd like to put more back into the musical world. It seems trickier now for kids just getting started. With all of these wonderful years watching people's lives be enriched by making music and hearing music, it would be a shame to think any of those moments didn't happen for the next generation.

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (specific art, books, music, activities, etc.)
A few of my favorite things: Making Miranda laugh, finding inspiring new music, listening to Led Zeppelin, dancing to classic blues and country with Miranda, Tacos, Guitars, watching The Big Lebowski and dreaming about beach resorts.
 

Be sure to check out Dawn & Hawkes, and support them by buying their music/merch! Their newest album "Yours and Mine" is available everywhere now.
 

Official Website

Official Facebook Page
Instagram
Twitter
iTunes - "Yours and Mine" (2016)

Meet Nathan Jones.

I'd like to introduce you to my good friend Nathan Jones. I met Nathan when I joined my first metal band ever at age 19. He was only 16 or 17 at the time, I believe, but after rehearsing with him a few times, I knew that he would do some amazing things through his musical gifts.

Fast forward to today, and I was right.

Nathan plays bass full-time for the Zane Williams Band, a local country artist from McKinney, Texas. My wife and I love to go see them play, and it's been really cool to see Nathan up there doing his thing on stage. He even got the chance to play with Zane at the legendary Grand Ole Opry last year.

Nathan is truly one of the best musicians I've ever seen, and has been since I've known him. More than that, he's just a really great person. His attitude is always positive, he treats everyone like they're family, and he will do anything he can to help you out. He's humble, despite the fact that he has every opportunity to be arrogant because of how talented he is. He was even nice enough to record some bass parts for my upcoming EP! I love this guy, and I'm sure you will, too.

Without further ado, meet Nathan Jones.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
The right place at the right time enough of the time to do what I love all of the time.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I grew up in Apex, NC however, my most important formative years have been spent in Plano, TX. Coming from a musical family, I was given every opportunity to explore any and all musical avenues I wanted. Unlike most starry eyed, naive, aspiring young musicians, my parents did not attempt to dissuade me from a musical lifestyle but rather encouraged and supported my dreams. Having two brothers to play with anytime I wanted also put me at a great advantage. We would spend nearly all of our time covering songs poorly and loving every minute of it. So, I would have to say those early years spent freely playing with my family had the most impact in shaping my playing and my personal outlook on music and creativity as part of life.

Q: Where do you currently live?
Dallas, TX

Q: What do you do for a living?
I play Electric and upright bass primarily for the artist Zane Williams but also for other wonderful people.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
For the most part, what I do now. I would also like to have a free recording studio to help artists and give them a space to freely experiment and create the art the want to without the pressures of time and money. Think how much cool music we could have if there were no rules!

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
The work of great artists and musicians. There are too many to mention here but, I like to listen to records that are out of my depth and experience the awe of what humans are capable of. This translates to all genres. I also draw a great deal of inspiration from the other musicians I work with. It’s important to learn and absorb all you can from every musical encounter you make and to try to surround yourself with people you think are better than you to try and rise to meet them.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
What most people don’t see or understand is that a touring lifestyle is mostly monotonous. You travel, you unload, you set up, you wait, you play, you tear down and pack up, you sleep to wake up and do it all again. This repetition can wear on you and I find it, more than anything else, to be the hardest part of the job. Oh! Also finding a place to poop. Can’t poop on the bus. Most other bands would probably agree this is a constant struggle.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
I’m going to throw a few out...

Victor Wooten Bass Nature Camp when I was 14. Gave me a chance to hang with the greatest bass players in the world but also served me a plateful of humility. I learned that I had a lot of work to do on myself and my playing.

Getting fired from my teaching job. Set me down the path of pursuing music as my career.

Playing the Grand Ole Opry. I felt legitimized in a weird way. Like I deserve to do what I do.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
To have a band of my own. To record a record of music that is an expression of me. To buy a home. Not so easy when you’re a self employed as a musician. Hopefully start a family. Open a lessons school. Play red rocks. Tour the world.

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Favorite Record - Illinois - Sufjan Stevens (really any of his records)

Favorite Bass Player - Pino Palladino (today anyway)

Favorite activities - Bread Making, cooking, Jiu-Jitsu, practicing, recording, mixing

Q: Life motto?
Everything happens the way it happens and couldn’t happen any other way.

Anything you want to promote or advertise?
Check out the brand new Zane Williams Band record called "Bringing Country Back". Also, if you're interested in taking lessons with me, you can contact me at najonesthebassplayer@gmail.com.

 

Zane Williams Band - "Bringing Country Back" (2016)

Meet Christine Quattro.

Let me introduce you to my friend Christine Quattro. To be perfectly honest, my friendship with Christine is one of the more random friendships I have. We met in college while we were both attending UNT in Denton, Texas. She worked at a local wing restaurant that my roommate and I used to frequent, so occasionally we would small talk while gorging ourselves on BBQ wings. If I remember right, we both spoke sarcasm pretty fluently, so that definitely helped the friendship.

Fast forward to a couple of years later, and Christine hired me to take some graduation photos for her. After that, we continued to keep in touch through social media, and she was even kind enough to recommend that her company hire me to shoot photos for their annual Christmas Party. (something I'm still doing 6 years later!)

Over the years, Christine has been a really encouraging person to me. She's given me great feedback on this blog, oversells my photography skills, and is just a really positive person. She's a fellow dog lover, and is constantly posting awesome photos of her pups on Instagram. I'm excited to feature her on my blog, and am really excited to see what she does in the future.

Meet Christine Quattro.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I’ve been a writer my whole life. I’ve been a traveler just as long. I was born in California and now live in New York.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
There is a different feeling in California, compared to anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I’m partial to it because I grew up there, interspersed with stays in Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. This constant travel and return to California informed my understanding of people, and I’m incredibly grateful. It’s easy to sit at home and think you know what the world is like, it’s another thing to actually go and find out what it’s really like for yourself. I’ve learned that we are all more alike than we are different.  I think this continuous travel also helped me create a unique understanding of the word “home”. I’ve found many ways to create it no matter where I live.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I am Director of Marketing for LUMINA Journal, the literary magazine of the graduate writing department at Sarah Lawrence College. I use targeted social media strategies to improve connections to artists and writers, and get the journal’s message out to the community.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Honestly? I would be doing what I am right now, working in a field I love and alongside people who inspire me. I’m very happy with the life I’ve created for myself.

Outrageously? I would take my dogs everywhere with me, like Kelli Giddish (from Law and Order SVU) does with her dog Frannie. I could see myself enjoying travel and work that much more as a result.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
My Nana’s story is something that inspires me everyday. She was a single mother at 19, and worked her way up from bank teller to Vice President (as a woman, in the early 1950s!). When she met my grandfather, and had my mother and my aunt, they moved to something like 48 states and another country to accommodate my grandfather’s air force career. My Nana continued to take college courses in every city that they lived in. It took her almost ten years to finish her undergraduate degree, but she never gave up. My grandparents later divorced and my Nana was a single mother to three children. She still went for, and achieved, her Master’s Degree. She went on to be a teacher, and then a principal, for over forty years. She invited Maya Angelou to read poetry to her students (I’m insanely jealous of those kids). My Nana always dreamed of seeing the Seven Wonders of the World and a couple years ago, she finally accomplished her goal. Her life hasn’t always been easy, and she’s had to make so many sacrifices, but she weathered whatever came her way in order to make her dreams a reality-- she didn’t let anything get in her way. Whenever I encounter a challenge, or think I can’t continue, I close my eyes and remember that the blood of this strong, independent woman  is pumping through my veins. I tell myself that if she can accomplish so much, then so can I-- and maybe even more.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
Honestly, I find myself frustrated with being frustrated about writing, when that’s all part of the creative process. People talk about things like stamina and perseverance when it comes to writing: a writer’s ability to go on, and on, and on, and on…. Because that is what is actually necessary to be a writer. Not just talent or hard work, but the ability to continue on.  Even knowing this, I still sometimes get caught up in the idea that one day, I won’t have to be frustrated, as if that were an actual possibility for any endeavor in life. My professor Jo Ann Beard said something once that I’ve never forgotten (I’m paraphrasing here) :  

“If you wanted someone to tell you ‘Okay, now you’re a writer!’  you’re in the wrong field. If that’s what you’re looking for, you should become a doctor, because at the end of those seven years of school they hand you a scalpel and say ‘Okay, you’re a doctor now!’ Writers never get that. We just have to continue on.”  

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
I lived to please other people when I was a kid. Growing up I thought that receiving praise for doing exactly what someone else wanted me to do was what life was all about. Then the year I turned eighteen, I lost a cousin (who was more like a brother) to cancer. What I learned in those last few months of his life made me realize that he had lived most of his thirty-something years trying to please other people. His career, his choices, his entire life, was geared towards keeping everyone (except himself) happy. He had a lot of regrets, least of which was all the unlived life he was going to miss.  I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t repeat that pattern-- I would not let the course of my life be charted by anyone else. It turned out to be the best lesson I ever learned, and it changed the rest of my life.  

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
I’d like to do marketing for a place like The Met, or American Museum of Natural History. I’d like to find a place to buy my first house (I love renting a little too much right now). I’d like to spend time in Europe travelling for pleasure, and also business. I’d like to work more with friends like James, because that’s the real dream-- working with people who inspire you to be better, work harder, think of things differently.

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (specific art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Yoga because it helps me live a balanced life.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, because every time I come back to it I take away something different.

Our Electric Sun Creatives geometric brass wall hanging, because it reminds me of home wherever we live (it was handmade by the artist, in California).

Drinking morning coffee in bed with the dogs, electronics hidden from sight.

Q: Life motto?
“It takes a lot of hard work to be lucky,” - My Nana

Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
My team at LUMINA Journal. We just published LUMINA Online Journal Volume 7, which you can view using the link below. We’ve paired visual art and photography with pieces of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and all hybrids in between. In February 2017, we will be unveiling LUMINA Volume XVI: Borders and Boundaries at the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference held in Washington, D.C.. I’m really proud of our team, because everyone genuinely cares about creating diversity and opportunities for emerging writers as well as established ones. My year with LUMINA has been one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

You can check out LUMINA Journal Volume 7 here.

Meet Jonathan Blackmore.

Let me introduce you to Mr. Jonathan Blackmore.

I met Jonathan after he offered to take myself and my co-worker/best friend (Marshall Clay Reeves) to lunch one day. We all went to church together, and I guess he was attempting to actually get to know staff members (weird, I know...).

To be honest, I've not spent a ton of time with Jonathan, which is unfortunate because I've never had a bad time or a boring conversation with him. He didn't attend the church I was on staff with for too long before moving on, but we've been able to stay in touch via the magic of social media. His social media posts are almost always inspiring without any hint of cheese. (you know what I'm talking about). He's like the popular guy in the movie that is also a really genuine person.

Despite our limited time together, he's a guy that you naturally find yourself wanting to be around, and also be more like. When he speaks, you generally hear something wise or something funny...two things I'm very fond of. He chooses to value people, which is increasingly rare in our "all about me" society.

Enough commentary. Enjoy getting to know the latest fascinating person, Mr. Jonathan Blackmore.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I’m a husband to an amazing wife, a father to 4 uniquely different children, a creative and someone who tries every day in any little way to help people feel a bit better about themselves.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I was born in Sheffield, England. When I was 2 we moved to Inverallochy, Scotland. At 17 my family moved to New York. And 11 years ago I moved to Texas. I don’t get attached to places. Home is where the people I love are.

Q: Where do you currently live?
I live in McKinney TX. I’ve lived in Little Elm, Plano, Aubrey and Frisco (that not getting attached thing) and wish I’d lived in McKinney all along. Love it.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I’m the Textile Design director for JCPenney’s men’s division. I oversee the people who design tee shirt graphics, prints, patterns, plaids, stripes, basically any surface interest for our men’s clothing brands.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Hopefully spending a lot more of my time trying to help people feel better about themselves. That and owning a cool, loungy bar with great live music and awesome art.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
I’m inspired by people. Particularly people who go beyond themselves for others. I’m inspired by images, art and music. I’m motivated by discontent. I always want to do better. I don’t settle well.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
Not being content! A wise man once told me that very often your biggest strength can also be your biggest weakness. I struggle with being present because I tend to live life a few steps down the road.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
During my senior year of college I was asked to join a church team heading to Albania to work in a children’s hospital. My assignment was to paint murals in some of the rooms. I wasn’t going to church at the time and had walked away from my faith and didn’t want to go but hey I was a rock star artist and they needed me!

Communism had just fallen in Albania and it was in the process of rebuilding. I’ll never forget, at the gate of the hospital stood a guy in a white coat with a machine gun. He determined if you were sick enough to get in!

At the conclusion of our stay we were sitting in our local contact’s apartment taking turns to talk about what our time had meant to us. When it was my turn, I couldn’t speak, I was absolutely overcome, in a way that I haven’t been since, by God speaking to me.

The reason I was sitting here wasn’t due to any decision I had made but simply because God wanted me to know in that moment that I mattered and despite anything I had done, he saw me as good enough. That moment has stayed with me throughout my life.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
To help set my kids on a good path in life. To be a decent husband and father. To not get completely old and out of touch.

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why?
Movies. I absolutely love movies. I have an extremely active creative mind and have found one of the only ways to switch it off is to watch movies. Art, whether that be painting, photography, illustration, graphic design, I love collecting images. And music. Don’t ask me for specifics. That’s like giving me a big bowl of M&M’s and asking me to pick my favorite. Music in all kinds of genres can be inspiring and soothing and motivating and comforting and insanely powerful.

Q: Life motto?
Keep moving forward. (‘Only a fool trips on what's behind him’)

Is there anything you want to promote or advertise?
Here’s where I collect images that I love. - http://fraserblack.tumblr.com/archive

 

Meet Joe Golden.

Joe Golden is a new acquaintance of mine that I'm really excited to feature on the blog. Most who know me know that I'm constantly buying and selling music gear, more specifically guitar amps/pedals. I've owned probably 20-30 different amps over the years, but recently I found myself wanting to completely start over. So, I reluctantly sold my Kemper Profiler and went on the search for something new. There's never been more boutique amp/pedal/guitar builders out there, which is really cool to see. Unfortunately, most of it is impossible to find locally to try out. You end up relying heavily on audio/video clips, or simply word of mouth. In fact, I probably have purchased 90% of my music equipment without ever having tried it out first.

Once I began my search for a new sound, I knew I wanted to find something original. There's so many things out there being made in mass quantities, and I wanted to find something that not everyone had. After a few days of searching online, I came across Joe's "Golden Amps" online store. I looked at a few of his amps, and something in my brain immediately said "this is what you're going to get."

I started messaging Joe with question after question, and he was kind enough to answer all of them without a hint of impatience. After Joe helped put me at ease, I ordered two different small-batch amplifiers from him, and I love them. They're simple, sound great, are built extremely well, and they're beautiful. He even went out of his way to have a local Ohio artist contribute some beautiful pewter castings to give each amp a touch of class.

Joe is a really fascinating guy, and if you're in the market for high-quality audio components, he'd be a great person to talk to. Even if you don't really care much for guitar equipment, it's always inspiring to see someone that loves what they're doing, and takes great pride in their work. We can all learn something from that.

I'd like to introduce you to Joe Golden.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I’m a musician, tinkerer, teacher, and inventor in Akron, OH.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I am from Wadsworth, Ohio. A suburb near Akron, about 45 minutes south of Cleveland. I was enrolled in a catholic school 1st -8th grade where we had little art or music classes. This fueled my independence in those fields and equated to a true desire to educate myself.

Q: Where do you currently live?
I currently live in Barberton, Ohio. About 20 minutes southwest of Akron.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I am a musician for hire, and a circuit builder at EarthQuaker Devices effects pedal company.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
I would be doing the exact same thing I do currently.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
Music and all things audio. Recording, production, and design.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
I always teeter on the brink of financial implosion. It doesn’t always pay great to do what you love. I rely on like-minded people, who believe in what I believe to lift me up when things are thin.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
I have been able to tour and play music with a lot of amazing people that have cultivated my passion and understanding of my field.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
To produce some top quality gear and possibly lift an Audio Products company off the ground. Further things in my relationship with my gal, and help her cultivate the life of her daughter.

Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (art, books, music, activities, etc.)
I love food, of all types. Mostly Tacos though. I mainly read non-fiction and technical documents. I love all styles of music from Bach to Weezer.

Anything you want to promote or advertise?
The fine pedals at EarthQuaker Devices and my own skills as a designer, musician, and builder.


Here are a couple of links where you can learn more about some of the wonderful audio products that Joe builds.

Earthquaker Devices (http://www.earthquakerdevices.com)
Golden Amps - Reverb.com Store (
https://reverb.com/shop/josephs-boutique-26)


Meet Sirak Asfaw.

This week's fascinating person is my good friend Sirak Asfaw. I've known Sirak for over a decade now, which sounds crazy to say. Our paths crossed quite a few times throughout my teenage years, but I never really got to know Sirak until my college years at Collin College, otherwise known at the time as "Quad C."

We were both in the same college ministry at the time (the same one he is still heavily involved with), so I got to spend a decent amount of time with him. It really is difficult to even remember a lot of those times because life was crazy busy, but I've always had a deep respect for Sirak. He's insanely intelligent, refreshingly genuine, and really fun to be around (something I always admire in people because I feel the opposite way about myself most of the time). He's a talented musician, a strong leader, and has one of the most magnetic personalities I've ever been around.

Sirak is one of my favorite people to sit down and have a conversation with, yet I don't think I've actually gotten to do that in over 2 years. Life has a way of turning close friends into distant friends, despite living within 30 minutes of one another. While we don't get to see each other much, he is doing his thing in this world in a huge way, and I'm thankful to know him.

With all of that said, enjoy learning more about my good friend Sirak.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
My life has been affected deeply by people and choices that I've made. The moments when I have chosen to let go of control have been the most revealing. Lots of cultural navigation. I think that I feel deeply and that has been my biggest strength and weakness. 

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I was born in Windsor, Ontario. Moved to Toronto, Ontario when I was 6. Moved to Plano, TX when I was 11 and I've been here ever since. Growing up in Toronto and being raised in a single-parent home forced me to grow up quickly and learn how to pilot my life. My mom has been the only consistent thing in my life (other than Christ). Her hard work, willingness to sacrifice for her family, and patience have all shaped me tremendously.

Q: Where do you currently live?
I live in Plano, TX with 4 other dudes.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I teach sociology part-time at Richland College. I also am a campus pastor with FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian University Students).

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
If money weren't an issue I'd like to think that I'd still be doing what I'm doing...I really love what I get to do every morning for a vocation and I am thankful for that. I am aware that many people cannot say that about their specific work. That being said, if money weren't an issue I'd like to be a freelance photographer. No idea what that means but I envision someone paying me money to travel places (all expenses paid), take photos, and eat ethnic cuisine. They would then look at my photos, send me more money, and rinse/repeat.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
I love a good song. Just, yeah. A good song really inspires me and takes me places analytically and emotionally that is often, indescribable. I also love just a solid, rich guitar tone - that inspires me too. I'm not sure what it inspires me to do...it just makes me feel good. 

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
I find myself struggling with how I perceive others perceiving me. Both of my vocations are people-oriented. I can't escape people. This is good for me. It's also a challenge at times. When what others think of you is a constant thought you tend to not think objectively about yourself or know how to. This has been something that over the last three years I have worked hard to understand: myself. I guess studying sociology has clouded my thoughts a bit in thinking of myself as unique, fearfully made, and loved dearly by those around me. It's easy to think of all the things I'm not and let that define me.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
When my father passed away in 2007 I remember thinking, "Wow. I will never get to talk to my father again," over and over. It was a resounding thought in my mind for weeks. I think it taught me to value and appreciate life in a way I hadn't experienced before. I saw how precious life is and that you only get it for as long as you get it.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
I'd like to record an album, start a podcast, read "Surprised By Joy" by N.T. Wright, visit Ethiopia (for the first time), read several other books, keep exercising, and; if things work out...get married? 

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (specific art, books, music, activities, etc.)
I love music. I know lots of people love music and that's okay and great. I really do just love a good song. Just a good kick drum with some good bass, eh, it just does it for me. I also love good hip-hop with stuff that makes me stank-face. Sho-Baraka's most recent album has been on repeat for me. I love a good story as well. Like, I love a good story. I love asking people questions about random mundane things about their life to see the complexity in everyday situations. Kind of like what you're doing with this blog thing you've got going for you, James. Genius!

Q: Life motto?
Everyone is a universe of information and experience. That sounds so new-age.

Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
I'd like to promote your cute blog thing you've got going for you. I've known you now for over 10 years and man you've become such a dude for the Lord. I think what you're doing is great because you're giving a voice to people and showing the beauty of God's precious gift: people. Love you, James Worsham.


Meet Cory Scanlon.

I'd like to introduce you to Cory Scanlon. Although I've never met Cory in real life, we've spoken a number of times online. Cory builds high-end pedalboards out of recycled wood for musicians, and they are absolutely stunning. I've owned one of his boards for a few years now, and it's a piece of gear that I'm extremely proud to own. You can check out his work here.

(Editor's Note: A pedalboard is a board that holds guitar pedals, and those pedals allow you to change the sound of your guitar's tone in various different ways.)

In addition to building pedalboards, Cory is a great musician, and just an all-around good guy. I love to meet people who work full-time, have families, and are still grinding to do what they love to do on the side. Cory is a perfect example of that, and I've really enjoyed every interaction I've had with him. He was gracious enough to answer my questions, and I'm honored to feature him as this week's fascinating person.


Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
I was born and raised in a small town in upstate NY.  I think in some ways it's had a positive effect, and some ways a negative effect.  When you grow up in a small town, you sort of have those small town values.  You look out for your neighbor, you have pride in your community, you support local businesses.  I think the negative would be that opportunities have been lessened...maybe my full potential hasn't been reached; from a career standpoint.

Q: Where do you currently live?
Little Falls, NY

Q: What do you do for a living?
I create and build products for musicians.  My medium is reclaimed wood.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
I would be playing A LOT of guitar and traveling our great country and abroad with my family.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
Beauty in nature.  Fine musicians. People who tell me “it can't be done.” My wife, she constantly supports and encourages me.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?Time...is incredibly fleeting!  I don't feel I have enough time to do the things that need to be done, and have time for the things I want to do.  Life balance seems to always be an issue.

Q: Tell me about a defining moment you’ve had at some point in your life.
Having my two boys changed me for life.  They are my heartbeat. I love watching them experiencing and learning new things. They are so smart! Starting Recycled Pedalboards was a high too...I've met so many great and talented individuals. I've been humbled by the interest in what I create.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
Make more money, to be comfortable financially. I want to improve tremendously on the guitar. Travel much more. Acquire some vintage guitar gear!

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (specific art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Playing guitar is a spiritual thing for me...I love it so much. I love collecting guitar gear and trying new effects...exploring sounds. I enjoy reading musician's biographies, former President's biographies, Irish History, and inspirational/motivational books. I enjoy trying new restaurants and returning to great ones. Netflix and chill.

Q: Life motto?
Be at peace, enrich your soul, and always move forward.

Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
Recycled Pedalboards! (
www.recycledpedalboards.com)
Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and Snapchat.


Meet Nikolay Kraltchev.

  Be sure to check out Nikolay's  blog !

Be sure to check out Nikolay's blog!

I met Nikolay in 2011. We worked on the same church staff together for about 4 years; I led worship, and he did all the stuff that nobody else wanted to do. You'd never know it from talking to him, though.

Nikolay is one of those people I have trouble describing because I'm not intelligent enough to find the proper words needed to help you understand who he is. I can think of so many random days at the office when a conversation about something pointless would quickly become a profound learning experience.

Nikolay can tell you the best stories you'll ever hear. You'll learn something from every one of them. He makes you think, and he challenges the things you say that he doesn't fully understand. He loves to laugh, learn, and love people. He's always shown genuine humility in every interaction I've ever had with him, including during times where he was working hard at jobs that most wouldn't even consider doing. I love all of these things about my friend, Nikolay.

But most of all? I love that he truly listens to people when they speak. He doesn't just hear them. He doesn't initiate conversation with the sole purpose of making it about himself. He doesn't boast.

He listens, he interacts, he teaches, he loves, and he serves.

 


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I’ve lived in places that have made it very easy for me to feel that what I see around me, what I experience, is somewhere in the edge of reality and fantasy. I like that feeling. But I am also conscious to not get into extreme mindsets. I believe in balance. A balance that is there to be tilted this or that way but a balance nevertheless.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
In an old American movie about the Great Depression a hobo was asked where he was from. His answer was “Do you see this dirt under my feet? Do you see where I’m standing? That is where I am from.” I like that answer a lot because the places I’ve lived are but memories - as soon as you leave a place it becomes a memory. And a memory, as science describes it, is stored as a slightly version of reality. In fact a memory is altered the very first time it is stored. Every time you retrieve it you store it back altered a little more. Over time the places you have been exist in one place only - your mind.

In other words - I like transitions, impressions, knowing that every moment is fleeting.

I was shaped by contrasts - tropical places vs. dark “communist” reality, books describing exotic places vs. a city that literally had 4 or 5 drab colors, seeing highly intellectual people living in very ascetic conditions vs. people with little to give to the world having power, influence, and affluence, noticing the superficiality of most people vs. knowing how easy it is to get into a deep and interesting discussion, having luck that is pretty much impossible to believe vs. overall underachievement in my own life, starving to the point of having hallucinations vs. intentionally gaining 50 lbs. In the course of 3 short months. That is why I have an eye for contrasts and a sense of humor that is based on associations that are obvious but missed by most people.

Q: Where do you currently live?
I currently live in McKinney, Texas, USA. The area is the very image of American suburbia - complete with clean, empty streets after 8:30AM and cars you have known for years but never even seen their owners. I call it “an intellectual desert”, but lately I’ve discovered that there are many suburbia residents that are dying for interaction just like I am. And that American suburbia in year 2017 does not mean white middle class Americans that have weekends off and barbecue as if in a TV commercial. It means everything else. If you can define it. But defining 2017 American suburbia is tricky - one exercise that lets you see that is asking yourself what is the yearly income that makes a person “middle class”. I’ve heard numbers ranging from $30K a year to $250K a year. Actually living in suburbia really opens one’s eyes to how America has changed the last 15 years.

Q: What do you do for a living?
I work a variety of jobs that could be labeled “contracting”. What is important to know is not the details about the jobs themselves, but the fact that all of them allow for a lot of flexibility, and more importantly, I am not in a forced contact with people that are not worth knowing. I guess age makes you understand the importance of not having toxic and empty people in your life. Just a few years ago I would not have understood that importance. Today, with a few people that I knew being gone forever and a few going through serious personal and medical issues, I can clearly say that a daily interaction with people that enrich your life must be the main priority in the job that you are doing.

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Charity. 24/7.
Yes, from a house located on a tropical island, haha.

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
Potential. Seeing that I can be here one day and over there tomorrow. That statement pertains mainly to learning. The process of learning, seeing and feeling the discrete movement forward is very exciting to me. Apparently my main strength is “learning”, but it is just logical to expect that a great learner will also be a great teacher because he intimately knows the fine points of learning. I like to think I make a great, naturally talented teacher. If nothing else, I can get out from under any situation in front of a class so that is at least a great way to pretend you are a good teacher, haha.

One interesting result of learning is a predictable improvement of one’s focus, memory, and ability to grasp and process new information. A couple of years ago I pretty much stumbled on a very effective way to do those things through learning in a specific way. I can clearly say that I invented a methodology for improvement of certain functions of the brain as well as one’s abilities to interact socially. The process takes between 25 and 35 days and it is very simple to implement. I now firmly believe that traditional schooling does more harm than good as far as learning abilities and self confidence is concerned.

Another area that inspires me is the search for optimal physical well being through weightlifting. Weightlifting is usually seen as means to become stronger and more powerful. The therapeutic effects of weightlifting are known, but popular notions alter the focus toward useless goals. The previous 3 sentences sound pretty hollow, but my own experience is interesting - in the last 2 years I have been able to completely eliminate lower back pain that I’ve had for more than 20 years through the use of self thought and self prescribed use of certain basic exercises. At the age of 48, I am in the best physical shape of my life - both power and functionality wise. The interesting part is that there are parallels between my therapeutic weightlifting experience and the “method for improving certain brain functions” that I mentioned above. The common part has to do with very focused and smooth progressive learning.

Something important that I can not miss saying here is Nature. To me, Nature is indeed the source of all things human. I believe that without Nature, something that makes us human and having a soul as we know these two things will be lost forever. I like to look at plants and trees and in the eyes of a dog. In such moments, I find melodies, conversations, remarks, thoughts. I hope that does not sound macabre, but one day I hope to feed the roots of a very tall and very big tree. I find that beautiful.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
That is easy to answer. I struggle with small mindedness. My best guess is that my upbringing did not contain realistic high hopes. It contained abstract high hopes like world peace, love between brotherly nations, futuristic material well being for everybody on Earth. All of that makes for a good childhood, but a person does not stay a child forever. A person needs realistic goals that are also high. That teaches positivism, and of course, a desire to achieve more. Small time considerations are resolved by default. Which is not the case if you were raised with negativism, curbed enthusiasm about practical things, and jokes about your own limitations that were really meant to ease the frustrations.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
Goals for the next 10 years? We live in America as we have never known it. I wish we could have have goals for the next 10 years that we believed in without a doubt. What we could have though is hope. Hope for the next 10 years. So I will answer that question.

My hope is that the subtle thin thread that I feel connecting me to God is always there.  

I apologize if you expected me to mention things like savings plans, trips, children, saving the world, helping my neighbor. Some of these things I will do anyway. Some of them I am weird about and don’t really care for.

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Silence is my favorite thing.
There is silence and stillness in certain kinds of music that I like. Two examples are Harold Budd and Estas Tonne. Both of these men have and are leaving deep impressions in modern music without searching popularity or great financial success. Harold Budd is considered the father of ambient music but that is a misnomer because his compositions are well beyond popular music. Estas Tonne is a virtuoso guitarist of the kind that improvises for hours creating intricately woven tapestries of sounds that seem premeditated, yet they are a result of what he calls “the wave” - letting yourself live.

Q: Life motto?
If you want, you can.
Most of the time we have a hard time actually wanting to do something. Once we want we can.  We can do anything.

That is what my grandmother told me and she was right, so right.

Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
My own blog: https://caminoreal1975.wordpress.com


Meet Marshall Clay Reeves.

In 2011, I was leading worship for a youth group in Plano, Texas. One Sunday, a new guy was being introduced to the congregation as some kind of Lifegroup writer or something. He was a young guy with cool glasses, was dressed well, and it was clear that he had some sort of 'it' factor that, quite frankly, I was a little bit jealous of. As much as I wanted to dislike him for stealing my thunder as the new young, cool single guy at the church (side note: I don't think I ever had that title, anyways), he reached out to me on FB one day and asked if we could go grab some lunch. We immediately hit it off, and within a few days, we were two peas in a weird church-staff pod.

Fast forward to 2016. Marshall is one of my best friends, and is one of the few people on this earth that I can say anything to without worrying about being judged. We've been through a lot of good and not so good together, both in ministry and in life. Marshall officiated my wedding, helped build up my confidence when I had very little, has been there for me in a genuine way, and is a lifelong friend. I'm honored that he agreed to be the first person featured in the latest venture I'm attempting.

Marshall has, and will continue to do, great things. I'm glad he's my friend, and hopefully after reading this, you can be his friend, too.


Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
Somewhere in between fueling ‘this little light of mine’ and ‘letting it shine’.

Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
Midland. West Texas is beautiful in it’s own way. It has helped me to find beauty in things that others find ugly. And to be proud of that. (also, mexican food)

Q: Where do you currently live?
Burbs of Dallas

Q: What do you do for a living?
Advocate for those society has deemed “less fortunate.”

Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Making a difference with my favorite people - likely living on a vineyard. 

Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
People. (cliche, I know). Those who believe in me, those who need me and those who doubt me.

Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
People. Those who believe in me, those who need me and those who doubt me.

Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
Keeping significance separate from money/title/position/things (I would assume this gets harder with money). 

Have enough joy/happiness that I can live off the leftovers. 

Grow a human inside Mrs Reeves. 

Show Marley (my dog) the world. 

Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Books: Love does. It’s a good reminder that the best love/life has no guidelines.

Art: The older I get, the more I appreciate the things I can’t do. Like art.

Music: Music draws me in, lyrics keep me. I’m habitually introspective...to a fault.

Activities: Experiences with: Wife, friends, dog, wine, learning, travel. Simultaneously or individually. 

Q: Life motto?
love all. 

Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
If you believe everyone matters to God, then everyone should matter to you. 
If you don’t believe in God, don’t use it as an excuse to be an asshole. 
If you do believe, for sure don’t be an asshole.


"People are Fascinating" (new blog Q&A series)

In my constant struggle to find ways to create in the midst of the day-to-day grind, I've decided to try out a thing I like to call "People are Fascinating". 

Essentially, I'm going to send questions to people I find fascinating and hope that they answer them for me. Pretty simple.

They might be 'ordinary' people, but they're still fascinating. Everyone is in their own way.

I hope you'll join me in my pursuit to learn more about people from all different walks of life. People have much to offer if you're willing to listen (or read).

First official post will be coming soon. Stay tuned.