I remember it clearly. Back in 3rd grade I had to create a shoebox project of “what do you want to be when you grow up”. Now most of the normal kids had things like Fireman, Policeman, Teacher, etc. but being kind of the weird kid in class what I did instead is I cut out from one of my music magazines the pictures of the members of KISS, arguably the biggest rock band in the world at the time, and created a little makeshift mini shoebox stage with each of the members standing up. But with one small customization. I chopped off Paul Stanley’s head and replaced it with my picture.
Now you might think this seems out of character for the most introverted kid in the class, but for some strange reason, put a guitar in my hand and put me on a stage and that becomes a whole different situation. I’m infinitely more comfortable on a stage in front of hundreds of people than talking to a stranger at a party. So instead of going to parties through most of my youth I often stayed home and practiced guitar.
At the age of 7 a guitar was on the top of my Christmas list and that year I got a beginner acoustic guitar on the condition from my dad that I take lessons. Because of my young age we started out with beginner favorites like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. As you can understand this choice of material was uninspiring. Then one day my teacher changed things up a bit. He showed me the intro riff to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Heartbreaker’. As you can also understand this was much cooler and quite inspiring! Led Zeppelin II was one of the first cassettes I ever owned and I wore it out playing it daily. So when I was able to actually play a real bona fide rock guitar riff from my one of my heroes, I was officially hooked. The teacher noticed the next week that I had the riff down and was like, “ahh, I can tell you’ve been practicing”.
Well, that was the start of it. I spent my formative years wearing out my cassette tapes learning the licks of Jimi Page, Hendrix, Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Van Halen, Black Sabbath, etc. And of coursed jammed in the obligatory high school garage bands. I think there is even video evidence of some these musical misadventures somewhere. Taking many many guitar and voice lessons and studying classical and jazz in college all gave me tools I needed to create and perform. Back when hair metal was still the thing yes I did have the huge hair and while still in my teens I was in a band that opened for Paul Di’anno of Iron Maiden.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to have learned so much by playing with top NY area musicians. I’ve played with musicians that have recorded and/or toured with acts such as P-Funk Allstars, Pink, Dion, Paul Simon, Johnny Winter, Little Anthony, Al Di Meola, Mike Stern, Scissor Sisters, Gary US Bonds, and many others. By gigging with these seasoned touring pros I learned what it takes to perform at that pro level. Over the years I played on various recordings with bands, worked as a “hired gun” as a guitarist and vocalist for every type of band you can imagine from Rock and Metal, to Jazz, to Country, to Rap, to Irish, to Funk and Dance and played 100+ gigs a year for the last 15 years.
But after All of this, I had yet to have Any recording that truly represented my style and musical vision. This was quite frustrating and to be perfectly honest a cause of some depression for me. So finally after much soul searching I did the only thing that was left to do and put together a compilation of some my favorite songs I had written over the years. For over a year I would work a full time job during the day, do band gigs and night and in my “spare” time I would chip away at this labor of love by recording a little at a time in my home studio. Finally in 2010 I completed my first self titled album ‘Dave Blair’. It was a long time coming and at the risk of sounding melodramatic one thing I knew I needed to accomplish before I died. It was an amazing learning experience, the skills of which I took into my second album Not Afraid to Bleed. When mixing I got to work with Ronan Chris Murphy who worked with hero’s of mine King Crimson and Steve Morse. He became a mentor of mine, taught me so much and gave me confidence that I did have what it takes to pursue this dream. You’ll also notice from the lyrics, I used the songwriting as a form of therapy to deal with some painful experiences that we all go through sometimes. But what is music for if not to help get through a broken heart?
So you spend your whole life getting to the point and releasing your music. A life’s dream. Now What? Well it’s like, “if a tree falls in the forest…”, well if an album is released without listeners, does it make a sound? Now I’m not much of a self promoter, I kind of do it out of necessity because the days of million dollar record companies doing it for you while you just create are long gone. Today is the day of the entrepreneur musician where you don’t only write, record, mix, lead a band, perform live, etc etc. Unless you are a millionaire you are also your own marketing, pr, promoter, financier, web designer, etc. etc. All that is more than we envisioned when we had our high school rockstar dreams and a bit daunting and scary to be honest. But all in all I think this is a much better musical world for everyone. We don’t have to wait for some bean counter gatekeeper record exec to decide if what you are doing is what they feel is the next big trend or that you need to change your image to sell more units. You just have to make the music that you love, and then connect with the people out there who love the same stuff you love. What is cooler than that? Isn’t that what music is all about anyway? Sharing an experience with others who are into the same things you love? I remember one fan who was struggling with cancer tell me, she would listen to my album when going to chemo and it would help take her to another place. Now if that’s not what this music is for I don’t know what is.
I look forward to many more sometimes-hard, sometimes-painful, sometimes inspiring experiences along this musical journey. Here’s to hoping that you are part of that journey.