George & The Toolbox

Every year, a dear friend and I get together to talk about New Year’s goals. “Making music” in some form or fashion has been on my list for at least 5 years. Several have passed with nothing to show for it, other than a reserved spot on my next New Year’s list. Facing another year of failure in 2015, I took a long hard look in my metaphorical tool kit.



^^internet toolbox kid looks like a babysitting nightmare…lol

My musical toolkit included:

  1. 10 years of classical vocal training. My hammer & nails.
  2. A basic understanding of piano, at a 6th grade level (Damn 15 year old rebellious Caroline for quitting!)
  3. A performing history including high school theater, pageants, National Anthem gigs, karaoke, etc.
  4. A handful of voice memos in my phone of myself singing or trying out my own melodies.
  5. A little cash money. (Money is always a tool. lol)


If I was going to really make some music, I figured I needed to do what the music makers do. This toolbox needed some help. There is a reason Country Opera isn’t a thing. The piano felt like an old enemy. Karaoke does not count, no matter how many Bud Light’s you’ve had.

I deferred to #5. I bought a guitar.


Meet George. (I didn’t name him, my dad did)


I bought George at a music store in Des Moines, Iowa on a cold, icy day in December. I was nervous to go in the store. I knew nothing, and I hate making eye contact with overly-friendly salespeople. Ugh. I knew what I had to do. Inside the modest store, guitars were hung on the wall and lined a corner section. A sanctuary of rock n’ roll fantasy. The instruments twinkled with fresh varnish. It was dazzling.


I asked for help. Fortunately, the guy was nice, and not scary. He looked like a guy who listened to a lot of classic rock. He wore a newsie hat and had a goatee. He didn’t try to oversell me. We decided on a Breedlove that had a tuner built in and a place to plug a cord for an amp (for when I play on stage of course…#butterflies). I picked up a guitar beginner’s book and a 4-chord song book and went to the register. He threw in some guitar picks…cool. 

I drove home through the snowy Iowa suburbs with my new toys and closed myself in my room. I was a child again. I unzipped the fabric casing and pulled out the shiny piece of musical architecture. My first pickings were soft and calculated as I re-tuned. I felt the depth of tone and thickness of chords as I plinked unrhythmic patterns. As I grew more confident, I unleashed violent strums just to feel the power. It wasn’t pretty, but, damn, it was satisfying.


My fingertips became sore.  I stopped for the day. I looked at George, my missing piece. It was apparent I had a long way to go.

In the days following, I formed calluses on my fingertips and learned how to play a couple 4-chord country tunes. It became clear as I strummed the Southern tunes that I wasn’t ready for the $3000 apartments and endless train commutes of NYC. I wanted to be where the music is. I needed more tools in my toolbox.

I made the announcement to my family and friends– next stop: Nashville.


Me too, Deacon. Me too.

Cheers! To George, ear-splitting chords, and what is to come.






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