The Rewards (and Risks) of Being a Performer

Since the start of 2014 I have played 583 gigs and started keeping track when I came back to Florida.  Excluding additional sit-ins, jam sessions, etc., that equates to roughly 2/3 of my days in that span being spent performing on stage in front of an listening (hopefully) audience.  I don't say this to try and sound impressive, but more to display how of my life playing live music entails.  #583 was a great one as I played with Ancient Sun for an encore showing of their Prince Tribute at Tanquerays.  It was a wild one to say the least and as I walked off stage, I was immediately brought to attention to what occurred at the Plaza Live.  An unthinkable tragedy happened, as singer Christina Grimmie was shot and died shortly after playing a concert opening for the band Before You Exit.  She was 22 years old.

This truly hit close to home not only being at a venue less than 10 minutes away from where we were playing, but a situation that could have happened to any of us.  Performers/Entertainers are constantly in the public eye no matter the level of recognition and you never know who may be watching or why they are there.  We are asked to put aside whatever our own issues and current shortcomings may be, and provide an outlet for others escape their realities if but for a few moments.  Music, and other performing arts for that matter, truly heal and it's a gift I am thankful to present to family, friends and what amounts to mostly strangers on just about a daily basis.  You genuinely connect to a group of people no other outlet can, that has the chance to tap into the deeper parts of a person's being.

I can recount numerous stories and encounters after shows where people have come up to me, some I've never even met till that moment and say things along the lines of, "I've seen you play so many times out here and I just want to say how much your music and watching you perform makes me feel rejuvenated, refreshed, happy, etc."  Or, "I've been having such a rough time lately and this is just what I needed." Or, "You guys really remind of why I push through the difficult times and what life is about; your energy and passion really moved me."  Impactful stuff and quite rewarding!

While that idea is the forefront of what we do, it also comes with a risk that's often not considered.  Being on stage provides an opportunity of vulnerability and not just in the artistic or emotional sense, rather the fact you are known whether you'd like to be or not.  With my own introverted personality and reserved nature, I generally like to be low key in social situations.  As an active musician, I'm not granted the option very often these days once the sun goes down.  With that vulnerability comes increased chance of danger.  I've known too many musicians have been attacked, ambushed, robbed, and so forth before/during/after gigs.  Some instances so tough that bands break up, musicians quit, and then unfortunately even the worst of all...  

This terrible act went down right as we were beginning our show only 2.5 miles away, and it puts into perspective how each time on stage or each day rather, should be cherished.  This travesty happened at the last local venue I would have imagined, at a concert that would have never been stereotyped for violence that was filled with teenagers, parents, and daughters; where it even ended early in the grand scheme of shows at 10pm.  Not outside a nightclub at 3am in the bustle and chaos of the downtown night life where intoxication is rampant and tensions are high.  It brings forth a sad reality of the need to never tread lightly and be aware of your surroundings wherever you might be.  Whether it's down the road or across the world, that risk is there.  My heart and thoughts go out to Grimmie's family & friends, the musicians, the staff, the witnesses and aides, all who attended the concert, as well as my fellow performers.

May this serve as a reminder that we must all look out for one another, treasure every moment and make the best of the time we have!  Thanks for reading friends. 

My First Full Length Project!

My First Full Length Project!

I've been waiting quite some time for this moment.

Not only does this mark a longly anticipated release for the Leisure Chief, but it is also a very notable milestone for my music career. It may be hard to believe between all the groups I've worked with and recorded for, however, this CD marks the first full length album release for me. 

My Top 10 Highlights of 2015

2015 could be summed up in just three short words: WHAT A YEAR!

From sitting in with heroes, to new albums, to attendance breaking festivals, to opening for several notable acts, breaking some personal records, to ALL the driving; it's been a big one.

Here are my ten favorite moments: 


I could make a list of my top 10 Tanqueray's shows, but decided to group them all together for writing's sake.  Whether it be every Thursday with Leisure Chief, the occasional Sunday with Ancient Sun, other nights with Control This, Holey Miss Moley, or Evan Taylor Jones, or sitting with The Groove Orient, Beebs and a laundry list of others; Tanqueray's has provided a plethora of special moments this year!  It is easily the venue I performed at the most this year (67 times to be exact) and is a gem in the midst of a chaotic downtown Orlando.  From sharing the stage with local heroes, to welcoming excellent out of town acts such as Naughty Professor, Loose Willis, Serotonic, etc., debuting new instruments, or jamming with the drummer of Motörhead (that happened!), there are just too many to list.

Thanks to Dan for providing one of the few true outlets for original music in Orlando and to Jereme, Dave, John, Heath, Brad, Scott, Jenni, Crystal for always taking care of the musicians and patrons.


AS @ HOB.jpg

I've sat in with a lot of bands over the past few years and am often mistaken for being a part of said band (TGO and BAHMM, to name a couple).  However, there is one group that teeters the line and that is Ancient Sun.  I've played 5th Beatle with these guys for a couple years and it's always a pleasure to share the stage.  They are some of my best friends and I've happily been a part of several notable occasions in their history.   When they joyously completed their Kickstarter to fund their debut album "In The Fold", and were asked to be a part Dropa Stone's EP party at the House of Blues, it was time to unveil this thing on the big stage.

After recording on a majority of album and doing numerous shows, we were poised for the moment and brought the house down.  We played the album top to bottom and the crowd was nuts.  I've never signed as many things as I did after that night, and I was glad to be a part of Ancient Sun's milestone.  Props to funkUs for having jam on their closing set that followed.

BONUS:  We went to Tanqueray's after the show ended for some after party festivities with The Groove Orient and Captain Green.  Captain Green is one of my favorite touring acts period and I've had the pleasure of hosting them at Red Lion, in addition to sharing the stage at other venues during the Florida stints.  I brought my horn into a packed house and was immediately invited to play.  I had been listening to their recent CD and it payed off in trying to stay afloat with their crazy (in a good way) arrangements.  Perfect cap to an already great night, culminating to one of my top highlights of 2015!


LC @ On the Come UP.jpg

Over the 1st half of the year, Leisure Chief started tapping into Orlando's hip hop community.  At Tanqueray's we often feature many of O-Town's top emcees on the mic including E-Turn, B True, Swamburger of Solillaquists of Sound and our 9th member, Damez.  We opened up for the only and only E-Turn in June for her album when afterword, Swam approached us with a new idea for the Orlando music scene.  His show format would be called ON THE COME UP and would feature one main local act and promote/treat them like the touring headliner they will eventually become and build a stacked lineup of heavy hitters in other circuits all in efforts to build hype for the local band scene.  We were the first band on his list and were honored to take part!

This show was extra special as it marked the debut of Leisure Chief's full band with horns and percussion.  For years we had wanted a horn section to complete the sound of the band as I can only do so much myself, and we found the perfect fit with Gabe Carson (tenor sax) and Paul Chong-You (trumpet).  Add in local legend Ito Colon of Shak Nasti and Con Leche, and a real force was born!

Table For Three was as solid of an opener we could have wanted and playing with our soul brothers in Fat Night is always a treat.  After SKIP's return to the stage, we closed out the show with a bang!

ON THE COME UP is to date our most successful local show attendance and numbers wise, and we are thankful to have started the trend!


Charles Neville Mind Blow.jpg

This picture says it all, (Thanks Arielle)!  To have been able to host and play alongside a legend of New Orleans was truly special.  If you do not know Charles Neville, he is the 2nd eldest brother and saxophonist of the famous family known as the Neville Brothers.  That's Art Neville who is founder/keyboardist of The Meters, Platinum R&B recording artist Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville who is the percussionist and vocalist of The Meters and Charles who has toured with the likes of James Brown, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Dr. John.

When I was first approached by Gent Treadly's management to book this show, I seriously thought it was a joke.  A Neville at Red Lion?  Lo and behold, it was true and I brought my alto and flute hoping to sit in on a tune. To my surprise, Charles presented a very down earth and humble demeanor and we talked about music and life for roughly an hour before the show (see picture above).  After genuinely getting to know him, he invited for a couple tunes on the first set and then the entire 2nd set after that. 

Saying it was pretty cool wouldn't be giving it justice, but this moment was most definitely a highlight of the year.


LC Lion's Den Opening.jpg

For those who don't know, my family owns Red Lion Pub in Winter Park, FL.  I tend to keep my booking/family duties off my site as they are separate entities.  However this year marked a huge step for their business and my musical agenda.  We leased out the adjacent room next door and decided to bring a new music venue to the greater Orlando area building an intimate stage hall known as The Lion's Den.  I was asked to take the reigns as the booker and coordinator of the events and had no idea what would transpire nor what to expect.  Since April of this year we have had a roller coaster of moments in trying to create a new scene.  This show on April 10th marked the official start of it and my venture as a venue manager.

I brought forth 3 of Orlando's brightest up and coming bands in The Groove Orient and my own groups Holey Miss Moley and Leisure Chief, combined with the two main DJ's of the underground movement known as BODY//TALK in VSN QST & GRÜV to bring the heat.  We crammed nearly 200 people into Red Lion and it went as well as I could have hoped, setting a mark on the FL scene and to myself and my family's relief, that this new endeavor was possible.


Sitting in with Cope @ GOJ.jpg

When Kenny Blair asked me to be an Artist at Large after Gov-Fest in February, I told him that I would set a new personal record for sit-ins come July.  Until that point, the most I had was at Bamboo Jamboo in 2014 with 13 total sets, whether with a group of my own or being invited to the stage.  The goal I spread around would be 20 sets for the weekend and with 33 bands on the list, and already having a commitment during for Thursday night of the festival, I had my work cut out for me!  Fast forward to July 4th weekend and I was ready to strike horns blazing.

After the weekend was said and done, in addition to sets with Leisure Chief and Holey Miss Moley (rain delayed to a 3am start!): I took the stage with Jahman Brahman, Cope, Squeedlepuss, Flat Land, S.P.O.R.E., Savi Fernandez Band, Displace, Row Jomah, Unlimited Devotion, Endless Flow, Legacy Orchestra Collective, The Happy Campers, Post Pluto, Wild Root Music, Sarasota Steel Pan Band, Dem Lil Econ Boyz, Este Loves, Jimmy Rector, and Black Peters.  This amounted to 21 total sets in 3 days, just outdoing what I set to accomplish.  I could write an entire post all those experiences alone.

To this day, I still have encounters of fans after shows floored by how much they saw me on stage that weekend.  It flew by so quick, I'm not even sure how it all happened.  But it did, and that marked a tremendous highlight for me.


Serotonic opening for Motet.jpg

Let me start by saying this: Serotonic is my favorite active band in Florida.  I first saw them at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2 years ago after they were the contest winner to perform at the festival, and they blew me away!  Individually, they were all stellar and their music captured the vibe of some of my favorite groups like Soulive and Snarky Puppy.  Since that time, I've become good friends with them and have always had the utmost respect for them.  With that all being said, when I was asked by my good friends to fill in for Jon Tucker on saxophone for this big show, I was honored!

After a couple stints in the saxophone chair just prior (Tanqueray's in Orlando and Ringside Cafe w/ Leisure Chief and Row Jomah), simply learning their tunes off Youtube, I was excited to get a solid rehearsal in and be put to the true test.  Fast forward to the night of, we were ready and the show was packed.  Also joining us was drummer/percussion extraordinaire Adam Volpe, who is another stellar musician in the funk/jazz circuit to complete the sound.

Simply put, it went off and I had one of my personal best performances to date!  With all these factors combined, this show was easily one of my favorites of the year.

3. SUWANNEE HULAWEEN -- 10/29 - 11/1

Shak w: Nick Casserino @ Hula.jpg

By far one of the best stretches of 2015 was Suwannee Hulaween.  Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is hands down my favorite place to play music.  Big event or small, every experience is nothing short of beautiful.  Bear Creek in 2011 was my first ever musical festival and in short, it changed my life forever.  This year I was able to perform there on 5 different opportunities and this marked the biggest one yet.  Not only did I have the pleasure of kicking off the festival with Leisure Chief and winding down Sunday with Holey Miss Moley, but it was also the extra performances that made Halloween weekend one to remember forever.  I also had the pleasure of sitting in with Beebs and Her Money Makers, Come Back Alice and The Groove Orient in additional to some epic late night jam sessions.

Each night with the Leisure Chief crew, we set up guerrilla jams at our camp as soon as the stage music discontinued to packed audiences.  Thursday we brought a hip hop set with Damez, Friday Con Leche took the reigns and then Saturday was absolutely off the chain!  We performed a NASTI CHIEF jam with us and the one and only Shak Nasti that brought some serious thunder and one of my all-time favorite moments.  It was nearly 4am in the morning (with Daylight Savings losing another hour mind you), and we were at the peak.  Just at that moment we were joined by none other than Nick Casserino from The Nth Power (pictured above).  To play with someone of that magnitude (my love for Nth Power is well known) with the cast of musicians on stage on my favorite Shak tune was absolutely surreal for me.  Add in many of my musician compatriots from other bands in the audience from Orlando, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and beyond witnessing this occurrence?  


It felt so rewarding to have taken full advantage of what became Spirit of Suwannee's biggest event ever!  I didn't even mention the great music I got to see/hear myself throughout the weekend, which alone was wonderful.  If you have never been to SOS Music Park, do yourself a favor and go!


Soulquarian Revue - Next Movement.jpg

It's still hard to believe this happened in the same year.  What transpired at Little Econ this past March was one of the best moments of music career.  When Trey Miller approached me on having my own set at the 2nd Little Econ Love Fest, I wanted to put on a show that no one had ever seen before.  Immediately I thought of the all-star sets I have seen at Bear Creek over the years and wanted to do something like that but on a central Florida scale.  But how and what would we play?

Here is where my revue concept was born and I thought of bringing together musicians from all the various groups I've performed with and encountered on the Florida festival circuit since I started on the scene.  That still left the question of what would we play?  Many who know me, know well my passion for jazz, funk and groove music.  I could have went a predictable route but then I thought of my all influences and decided to take a left turn.  

Until I amassed this project together, not many knew my love for hip-hop.  More specifically the neo-soul, east coast hip hop era known as the Soulquarian movement at Electric Lady Studios in NYC.  This collective featured D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, J Dilla, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, and others that launched a new breed of groove and soul that have directly and indirectly influenced a ton of artists today from all over the world.  Before I discovered this music, I was admittedly dismissive of hip hop when I was younger, only knowing the "rap" on the radio.  My whole perspective changed after I heard Common's Like Water For Chocolate, followed up with Badu's Mama's Gun and THEN D'Angelo's Voodoo.  Through these classic albums, my listening palette expanded immensely!

All of this lead to me grouping together 26 musicians from 13 bands between the I-4 corridor, paying tribute to the Soulquarians.  With this many cats involved rehearsals all together would be impossible, so I divided the set into 4 groups to each major artist of movement and had one of my bands bare the brunt of each.  Ancient Sun did Erykah Badu, Holey Miss Moley did the Roots, and Leisure Chief did Common & D'Angelo; all joined by guest vocalists, emcees horns, and percussion.

I put forth roughly 6 months of total preparation into this one set planning, organizing, writing charts, arranging the songs, etc.  When the night came, I was a little on edge which is rare for me nowadays at least on stage.  Maybe it was coming off back to back sets with LC and HMM just before, but I rushed to the main stage after leaving early during HMM's encore to round everyone up and line check.

What transpired was nothing short of remarkable, and with all things considered it turned out about as well as it could have.  Everything flowed so well and it was almost like time was still during it's entirety.  It's difficult to put to words in seeing a project like that come to fruition but it has been one of most rewarding projects I've done.  People literally came to me in tears, it moved them so much.

Without a doubt one of the best moments I've experienced.

You can listen, learn more and relive the set in it's entirety on my bandcamp page.   February marks revue #2 where I take on Frank Zappa!


Roosevelt Collier Trio @ Red Lion.JPG

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be sharing the stage with some of my biggest local idols in my family's bar with the cream of the crop in Orlando's scene witnessing the magic, I would have said, "In my dreams!" . Then throwing in, "By the way Victor Wooten, one of world's best musicians, will also be in the building"; I would have said "never a chance".  Well, long story short that all happened on the magical evening of October 2nd!

I was elated to host Roosevelt Collier Trio + Brown Note, who have each given me numerous inspirational moments over the years as a musician.  This alone was going to be fantastic.

We kick things off and Brown Note is on all cylinders, when Rosie comes up to me saying a special guest will be gracing our presence tonight.  Victor Wooten had a clinic at Sam Ash that same day and Roosevelt went there and invited him to the show.  Now, I had told many friends who went to invite him out but for it to actually be happening at my event, in my family's establishment?  Whoa.

When he arrived, I thanked him for being here and let him inside through the back of the room by the sound so he wouldn't get bombarded by all the musicians in the crowd.  I was then immediately called on stage with special guests Bobby Koelble and Ito Colon already joining the trio.  What a lineup!

Just after I finished taking a solo, I thought I was done for the night.  It actually became quite the opposite.  After Matt Lapham tore up the bass with a solo himself, and the band teased some Michael Jackson, he quieted the band and addressed the audience, claiming there was a special guest in the audience.  When I learned Victor Wooten was initially coming, I had hoped he would grace the stage but never did I think it would be while I was up there too!

Matt hands over his bass and the Doctor simply says "C#...1, 2, 3, 4" and the first down beat that ensued between Victor Wooten and Anthony Cole on drums was nearly too much to handle!  Never had I been a part of a pocket so deep, a groove so tight.  The vibe of the stage and the music went to an unthinkable level for me.  It's hard to describe all the emotions that channeled at that moment.  Everything up to this point in my music and recent booking career lead to this.  Needless to say, I did not sleep that night and since

Thanks to all the musicians involved for that moment!  I will cherish it for the rest of my life.  You can watch for yourself below:

There you have it folks: WHAT A YEAR!

Here's to the Hometeam New Year's Rally this weekend to kick off 2016 and what's in store for the future for all of us!

- Christian

The Importance of Finding Your Muse

Music is the most vital part of my life.  It is my passion.  It is my career.  It is my greatest joy.  

However, as much as it means to me, I believe it is always important for people to have a place to get away and clear the mind of the stresses of every day life and reflect.  Many of you reading this assume it's probably the stage for me.  Surprise, surprise it is not.

When I began playing the alto saxophone when I was 11 years old, I also began a lifelong hobby I've always enjoyed:  Running

Throughout middle school and parts of high school I ran competitively in both cross country and track & field.  I will be the first to say I was average when it came to putting myself along with many of the serious runners, but it was an activity I enjoyed regardless.  Never did break that 20 minute mark for the 5K, but it kept me in shape back in the days when video games ruled my world... 

Note:  This is the first thing comes to mind when I mention "vidya games" nowadays

I was always the crazy kid amongst my band friends who would run 3 to 7 miles for fun and people could not understand why.  I would tell them it was the one place I could go (keep in mind this was before I ever played a gig) to clear my head and escape reality.  Again, more confusion because there are plenty of they could think of doing instead (see video games above).  But unlike video games or anything like that, it made me feel healthier and happier as a result.

In addition to reasons above, I think it is essential that all people have their own outlet in whatever that may be to mix things up every once in a while.  We all can get stuck in routines that eventually lead to plateaus that can be difficult to overcome.  Life can throw curveballs we never saw coming and it can get heavy.  Sometimes it requires taking a step back and completely clearing your head to find the solution.  I find when I'm not running I simply don't feel as well mentally, let alone physically.  The last thing I want to do is burnout pursuing what I love the most with music or let outside forces take complete control.  And I've seen too many people experience that, which in turn can lead to some unpleasant outcomes.  That is why I run.  

Speaking of which, I think I'll go take a stroll now on this beautiful sunny day...

What's your muse?  How do you "escape" and reflect?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part IV: The Groove Orient

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of (although in this case have sat in with).  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

The 4th installment of this series features my good friends and Orlando Rock n' Roll freight train, The Groove Orient

I've known these guys ever since they opened for Buster Keaton at my "Going Away Party" (that sure lasted long didn't it?) at Red Lion Pub back in August, and boy did they pack a punch!  This group consists of 6 members whom are all Rollins students/graduates:  lead vocalist/bassist Harry Ong, guitarist Chuck Magid, keyboardist Tommy Shugart, guitarist David Incorvaia, percussionist/bassist and screamer David Vanegas, and drummer Paul Terry. 

Harry not holds down the main vocals and bass duties for TGO but can also been seen performing with Tampa blues group Josh Lamkin and Automatic Heat.  Chuck Magid hosts a weekly show on WPRK called "Green Eggs and Jam" every Tuesday from 10am-noon, as well as being a manager for bass music DJ/Producer Oldboy.  Tommy Shugart is a musical madman whose main instrument is actually guitar (as well as being a cellist), and he can play it all.  He can be seen performing with Orlando favorites and southeast blues powerhouse, RJ Harmon and Company, as well as folk songstress Laney Jones.  David Incorvaia and David Vanegas were each members of the jazz quintet Sam Byck and the Tricky Dickies, as well as staples for the weekly Natura Jazz Jam and are each active in the Orlando jazz community outside of TGO.  Paul Terry can also been seen with Laney Jones, as well as a frequent fill-in for several central Florida groups like the ones aforementioned, and a future side project in the works featuring yours truly and other killer musicians (stay tuned for that). 

Recently, mentioned in Relix Magazine's March Issue "On the Rise", these guys are only moving up!  You can check out their song "Bananas" that was featured in said article on their brand new Off the Avenue video below:

Make sure to be at their debut CD Release Show at the Haven on April 10th with two of Orlando's best in Shak Nasti and RJ Harman & Company where all attendees receive a CD!  Get a little taste from their SoundCloud below.  You will certainly not be disappointed friends.

Being a Sober Musician

This is a topic I've been meaning to publicly discuss for a while now.  As many of you know, I am practically a straight edge person.  Despite being in what some may consider the prime of their lives, going on 23 years old, I do not partake in any sort of drug use.  

I have never drank an alcoholic beverage, smoked any sort of substance, nor do I drink anything with caffeine or take prescription drugs (unless something life threatening is needed).  Keep in mind, I am not only a musician, but I was also raised in a family who owned a bar.  I am very much the outlier in my demographic.  Why you ask? 

Okay...that's not the full truth!  

I hold a belief that the human mind (and body for that matter) is capable of doing astronomical things, and every thing it needs to do can be done naturally, especially if it is treated well.  If you truly set your mind to any task, it can be accomplished!  All you have to do is make it happen.

I also take my performances very seriously and believe the stage wherever it may be, is a sacred place and I owe the music (and listeners) the upmost respect to give it my all at every show.  If I have a sub par performance, I don't want any crutches or excuses to fall back on.  After all, you are truly only as good as your last performance!  

Some hold the notion that their senses and abilities are heightened after taking certain drugs or they are necessary in order to play at their full potential.   Let's face it, that's been going on since the history of live performance. 

Here's some fine examples of musical sobriety to counteract that notion of Clifford Brown and Frank Zappa:

All this being said, I am not against the use of any substance one chooses to undergo.  As long as they aren't inflicting harm to others, are in a safe environment and hopefully know the possible consequences for their actions if they aren't, I could care less.  For many, certain forms are stress relievers and even healers, and I'm not out to convert people away from how they choose to enjoy themselves.  All I ask, is that you respect my lifestyle and I'll respect yours. 

For those musicians out there reading this, I encourage you to see what's it like in my shoes.  There's always plenty of time to party after the set.  In fact, for those in the St. Pete/Tampa area here is an event you can try.  

Thanks for reading!

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part III: John David Williams

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of.  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

Part three of this series features multi-talented singer-songwriter and friend, John David Williams.

I've known John since our days back at Valencia College's music program a few years ago and it has been a pleasure watching this guy come into form over the years.  Whether drawing from folk hero Nick Drake, the sounds of Motown from Detroit, the harmonies of the Beach Boys, or grunge movement of the 90s, John's influences are ever present in his music.  His latest release, No Need to Hurryfeatures John on only on vocals but performing on every single instrument.  That alone is an impressive task in itself and a testament to John's abilities.  You catch John usually performing at places like Austin's Coffee, Orlando Brewing, Red Lion Pub, Natura Coffee & Tea or The Vine in Sanford.  He is also a part of a new project featuring fellow songwriters Alison Sherberg and Fox Marshall called Foxy Lady Williams (You can catch their debut performance at Little Econ Love Fest on March 29th).

Probably his most popular song would be "Under the Lights", check it out here:

You can listen to John's latest album below, order your copy on iTunes/CD Baby, and can catch him singing backup for Caiti Patton tonight at Wing Shack and performing solo at the Vine in Sanford tomorrow evening!

Creating a Culture

What separates Orlando from the other major cities in the United States (NYC, NOLA, LA, ATL, etc.)?

History?  Somewhat.  Orlando has only officially been a city since 1885, (although no one knew what it was till 1971 when "the Mouse" arrived).

People?  Kind of.  While Orlando has roughly 250,000 residents in the city itself, over 2 million people within it's metro area which comprises much of Orange, parts of Seminole, and even Osceola county.  It also contains the University of Central Florida that consists of over 60,000 enrolling students (as of 2013) making it the 2nd largest in the country.

Culture?  No.

I know you may be thinking: "Huh?  Orlando has no culture compared to these other major markets.  All we have are theme parks, sunshine, night clubs and a NBA team."

I was guilty of similar thinking at one time.  Being born and raised in the suburb of O-Town (Seminole district Winter Park), I was always thinking what Orlando didn't have, as opposed to trying to learn what it had to offer.  Growing up, I was not the social type in school and just kept to my close friends, video games, school band, sports and never really stepped out of my norm.  When I started taking music seriously as a 17 year old teenager, I couldn't wait to leave Florida and play in a real city.   In my mind, there was nothing special about my hometown.

However, as I became more busy as a working musician while in college, I began traveling around Florida and wound up in places I never would have went, meeting people I would have never met otherwise.  My first local awakening was baring witness to none other than Shak Nasti when I was 18 years, who flipped my whole world upside down musically and gave me a taste of what was really going on in the city. 

Over time, playing music opened me up to the many things the Orlando scene did have.  There are thriving cultural spots all around, you just have to know where to look!  And that lack of knowledge to what is going on, is what I believe separates Orlando from the rest.  So how can you or I help spread that knowledge?

I truly believe this is an exciting time to be in this city.  So much has changed since I first dove into the music scene four years ago.  Unlike other places I have been to, people in the various arts and entertainment communities are wanting to work together as opposed to competing for bragging rights and forming cliques.  There is a rise of people in my generation wanting to make a difference with a healthy competition to improve, wanting to continue the tradition that has been set by those before us and I see it every day.

We all have busy lives and it can be difficult to get out there.  In attempting to do my own part, I have been trying to go out every single night I'm not playing a show and seeing something new.  Whether it be a concert, event, or just grabbing bite a new place I've heard about, it's been one of my main goals since returning to Florida.  I think if people found one time a week to go and experience what's out there besides the tourism, chains and "dance" clubs, it would have a significant impact on the view of the city.  Read the local publications such as Orlando WeeklyOrlando Magazine or the Orlando Local Music Examiner, listen to local radio stations like WPRK or WUCF or grab some CD's at Park Ave, eat at local restaurants hubs like Tako Cheena or 4 Rivers, shop for groceries at East End Market or Freshfield Farms; discover what is out there!  Easier said than done and I'm probably preaching to the choir for some of you, but I believe the community is screaming for a culture injection and we are the only ones who can make it happen.  

Check out my new tab for local businesses, step outside your usual routines to support these ventures and lets help put Orlando on the map!

P.S.  If you see any sort of business you feel should be listed or I may have forgotten feel free to let me know!  I'm happy to support your own business endeavors as well. 

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part II: funkUs

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of.  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

The 2nd installment of this series features Orlando's own groove rock legends, funkUs.

These guys have seen and done it all.  From 6 CD releases, to performing at festivals all around Florida such as Bear Creek and Orange Blossom Jamboree, to recently sharing the stage with notable national acts (and some of my favorites) Soulive, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet, Railroad Earth, The New Mastersounds, The Lee Boys, Dumpstaphunk and Consider the Source.  Dubbed as "flavor rock", they have showcased their skills to audiences everywhere since 1998.  Members currently include 4 of Orlando's top musicians in the scene: Dave Mann (guitar/vocals), Bill Bairley (keyboards/vocals), David Cox (bass), and Jason Herald (drums/vocals).

Dave Mann is the man.  Founder of the one and only Jambando, special guest extraordinaire, the host of many epic jam sessions, and one of the most versatile guitarists in Orlando.  The question isn't what Bill Bairley can do, but what can Bill Bairley not do?  One of more busiest musicians I know, in addition to funkUs you can see Bill performing with the Mike Quick Band, ripping guitar in the soulful Black Dust Revival or with his own 8 piece blues group Band of Renown, mastering sessions at his own Bad Bear Studios, and building effects pedals and restoring guitars & amps in his spare time.  David Cox is a pocket machine, which perhaps comes from his abilities not only as a bassist but a drummer and keyboardist.  When not performing with funkUs, he can be seen with his own project Meiuuswe on keys or filling in for many of the top bands in Orlando.  Jason Herald is not only the drummer for these guys but a multi-instrumental performer and songwriter for family favorite The Outer Toons, and a regular working Disney musician.  What a resume for a band, huh?!

You can dig on their latest album, Coconut Monkey, below and see them get down at at Little Econ Love Fest in March!

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part I: Fat Night

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of.  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

Part one of this series features Orlando soul powerhouse and Colemine Records group, Fat Night!

I've had the pleasure of seeing these guys perform on multiple occasions and they were an instant favorite after the first song.  Fat Night consists of 4 members: Daniel Hanson (guitar/vocals), Ted Issen (bass), Nik Ritchie (drums) and Gabriel Gundacker (keys/vocals).

Daniel is not only the soulful front man for this group but can be seen playing with local blues/progressive rock group Fast Preacherand was also the engineer for Buster Keaton's latest EP featuring yours truly.  When not being one of the grooviest bass players in town, Ted is currently finishing up his degree at Florida State University this spring.  Nik has been a staple drummer in the Orlando scene for years in the jazz, hip-hop and funky soul realms, currently drumming for up and coming funk project ISM as well.  Gabriel is a man of many talents who is an actor for Universal Studios (and other productions) and also performs at the SAK comedy lab in downtown Orlando.  Bottom line, these dudes are talented!

If I had to pick a favorite tune, I would probably suggest "Smilin'" off their latest self titled record, Fat Night, which they released last summer.  They are currently in the works of putting out their next record, so stay tuned!


Check out their latest release below and make sure to check these guys out ASAP!