For me it was playing in a band for a living or BUST
Table of contents
- Who the heck am I?
- The beginning
- Discovering I was actually good at something
- My influences
- My first rock band
- The dismantlement
- Playing music > Selling music
- The second chance I had to take
- The unfortunate aftermath
- The joke that changed it all
- Where I am now
Who the heck am I?
What’s up? I’m Trevor for those that don’t know. I’m the guitarist in Stands on Sapphires. I generally come up with the music/melodies for our songs, am the main producer/mixer of our music and also handle all of our web/graphic design needs. I wanted to write this post to give you guys an in-depth rundown of my history with music. Let’s gooooo!
My first hate
I “started” playing guitar when I was just a lil’ guy, I believe it was around the age of 8. Unfortunately, it did not last long. What I started learning right off the bat was sight-reading music and as an 8-year-old, you can bet that I was IMMEDIATELY turned off of the instrument and didn’t move any further with it. To this day I actually still cannot read music and dunno if I ever will be able to. Every time I have tried since then I just can’t stay interested long enough to keep going.
Discovering I was actually good at something in high school…
Then came 8th grade. We had to choose a combo of two electives and, out of the few options, I chose Art and Guitar classes as I had sketched since I was a little kid, had a history of trying out guitar, as well as a Dad who had been playing guitar for the majority of his life. Here is when I really started getting interested because they started us off on learning songs and I was discovering that I seemed to have a natural talent for it, progressing at a very fast pace from not knowing anything. The addiction slowly began to sink in more and more and once I became obviously interested and started practicing at home, my Dad bought me my first electric guitar (a red Squier Strat). Soon after we scored a sweet deal on an 80s Kramer Strat (similar to this) complete with a Floyd Rose whammy bar. That was IT for me.
Over the next few years, I became OBSESSED. I won’t bore you with all of the details but I basically went to school and then came home and practiced in my bedroom for HOURS, sometimes up to 8-10 hours in a day. My Dad also started teaching me and getting me into music theory, scales, improvising, etc. I soaked up as much as I could. My guitar never left my side. Sometimes I fell asleep with it (sorry if this is TMI Beth) and I brought it with me on trips to my family cabin (where I applied black and white electric tape stripes to the guitar to copy EVH, also playing in the car all the way there).
I even brought it with me on a family trip to Mexico by unscrewing the neck so I could put it in my suitcase, screwing it back together once we got there. LOL, I was a cah-razy person. It was in these years that I finally had started saving money from part-time jobs to buy some guitars on my own which only made me want to play more. This was also obviously the stage where my main influences as a player were formed.
Who’s had a big impact on my playing you ask? Lemme gush for a bit here
I won’t list EVERY player I love because this would be a SUPER LONG post and you’d be bored out of your mind so I’ll just name the few key influences. Like many, I started off watching live videos of classic rock bands (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, etc) and idolizing their players (Page, Perry, Sambora) but honestly, this stage didn’t last long. I still loved/love their music and listen to it to this day but I soon moved on to other players as my main source of inspiration.
I remember the first player to absolutely stun me was Randy Rhoads. He was insane for his time and I started practicing every exercise of his I could as well as learning his songs and solos. I couldn’t comprehend how someone could play the way he did. But THEN my Dad introduced me to two key players of my musical genetic makeup; Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai. These guys BLEW. MY. MIND. I immediately started learning how to tap like EVH and tried to shred like Vai. I watched every live concert of EVH or G3 or whatever they were playing over and over and over and over and over and over and… you get the point. Another key influence for me is John Petrucci BUT not until later in my life when I got into prog music. Finally the biggest influence of all. Nuno. Freaking. Bettencourt.
Nuno gets his own paragraph (or two) so deal with it. Also, if you don’t know who Nuno Bettencourt is, do yourself a favor and go look him and his band up (Extreme). While they are mainly known for their acoustic-ballad mega-hit “More Than Words” their main catalog is anything but. They are the biggest band that nobody really has heard of and they are CRIMINALLY underrated and underplayed. Their songs just have so much groove and style (go listen to the guitar riff of He-Man Woman Hater RIGHT NOW) and Nuno’s little changes to different parts throughout the entire song are amazing.
My Dad introduced me to Nuno a little while after EVH and Vai and his signature playing style of funk metal and groove just clicked with me. He was insanely talented both technically and musically as well as being super stylish and SO DAMN COOL. A big part of me becoming a musician was my personal style (could you tell from our photos?). I wanted not only to be able to play like a rockstar but dress like one too, like the people I was trying to emulate. Nuno, to me, was the epitome of a rockstar guitar player with his amazing technical abilities and ridiculously cool sense of style. I got to meet him recently and it was definitely a life-changing experience, but more on that later.
Just a quick sidenote to another big area of musical interest/influence for me. I’m huge into ALL things Japan (I’m a TOTAL gaming/anime nerd and learn the language in my spare time) so I’ve been really influenced by J-Rock bands such as My First Story, One Ok Rock, Survive Said the Prophet and more.
Anyways, BACK TO THE STORY…. Sorry about that.
Finally joining my first actual rock band
So by Grade 12, I had been playing in my local church’s youth band for a few years. We traveled around playing at kids camps and other churches which was awesome and honestly some of the best memories of my life. BUT I had always wanted to start an actual rock band. I finally got the chance to in the second half of the grade. One of my lifelong friends played bass (not Wade) and came to me asking if I wanted to play lead guitar in a band he and some of his other friends were starting so they could play at our upcoming Grade 12 talent show. I IMMEDIATELY said yes.
We called the band “Echoes” (so edgy right?) and we actually got to headline the talent show because WE WERE AWESOME. The funny thing is, we didn’t have a singer. None of us were equipped with an exceptional voice and while my bass playing friend was just “going to go for it”, we had all hoped we’d find someone before the show. We were playing “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne and we didn’t find a singer until about 2 hours before we went on stage. LOL. One of our friends who was also performing was really into classic rock and she knew the song inside out. We asked her if she would be willing to sing it and she killed it!
Through doing the talent show we had found out that another one of our good friends was actually a REALLY GOOD singer and none of us knew! We decided to keep the band together after the talent show because everyone loved it, and we immediately roped him in to come and sing for us. It was great. We actually got another friend to be a second singer/hype man but mainly because he could lift me up during the “Crazy Train” solo the way Ozzy did with Randy. We started learning more covers (I feel bad because I pretty much only ever wanted to cover Extreme songs and the band got so annoyed haha) and I started writing a few originals with the singer since we were good buds (we still are to this day, he’s helped out with some of our SonS photoshoots and videos). We played a Battle of the Bands show at our local community center which we won and to this day was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played.
After that, we played a few more times at our school at a week-long outdoor concert (which I definitely DID NOT abuse my power of also being the guy who ran the setup/sound of all equipment to get us to play 3 out of 5 days of the week). We LOVED it and had a blast. But then things started falling apart.
Shortly after, my lifelong bass player friend and I had a bit of a falling out. We had both made a pact to go to Musicians Institute in California together after we graduated to pursue music as a career. While he got to go, I couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, while I know it wasn’t his fault, this built up some resentment on my end since it had been my dream for years. He also started going back to our old youth group and hanging out with the people there but I was in the middle of the standard rebellious teenage phase cause I was cool like that and didn’t want to go. He drifted away from our group of friends and ultimately left the band. Our rhythm guitar player also decided to leave as he wasn’t enjoying playing as much anymore. Luckily, because of the band, Wade and I started hanging out again.
Wade and I had been best friends in elementary school for a few years, we lived a few blocks away, and used to always game together after school. We stopped hanging out just before highschool but we don’t even remember the reason (probably something stupid because we were dumb kids). We’d still say hi in hallways and such but never hung out. My bass playing friend was in band class with him and Wade didn’t know I had gotten as big into music as he had until he came to the talent show/battle of the bands and saw me play. It was also around this time that we ended up attending a Dream Theater concert together with the same group of people and we hit it off again right away. By the time the bass player had left, Wade and I were hanging out all the time so we snagged him for the band.
After that point, we played a few more shows together but it all kinda fell apart after our singer went abroad for school. We dissolved the band but Wade and I still hung out all the time. I also had to start focusing on what I wanted to do with my life. As I said, I really wanted to attend Musicians Institute but since I couldn’t afford it I debated attending some local music programs. I ultimately decided against it as I honestly didn’t want to be a teacher (which is what usually happens when you go to school for music). For me it was playing in a band for a living or BUST. I kinda gave in to my own internal self-doubt that it would never happen for me. Also friends and family can act like you’re CRAZY when you tell them you wanna be in a band for a living and their reactions honestly dissuaded me. “Try to do something safe and reliable, not something crazy that you dream about” and other similar words of advice were given. So then I did the next best thing I could, got a job in a music store.
Playing music > Selling music
I got a job as a salesperson in the biggest Canadian chain of music stores called “Long & McQuade”. I got to spend my days around guitars and meet other like-minded people as well as get a pretty steady paycheque. There was only one problem. I HATED selling to people. Even though the company doesn’t run on the commissions, we still had sales quotas we had to hit every month and it drove me crazy! I hated trying to be pushy if I was behind on sales because I’m just not that kind of person. I only wanted to sell people gear they REALLY wanted because, being a fellow music gear nerd, there is no better feeling than bringing home that one thing you’ve been saving up for.
Probably my favorite thing about the job was being able to bring gear home on weekends to “test” it and “learn how to sell it”… I definitely didn’t have AS MUCH GEAR AS POSSIBLE with me at home every weekend… nope, not me. Also, the employee discount allowed me to upgrade the hell out of my own gear. Then I finally had saved enough money to buy my dream guitar (at the time) Steve Vai’s signature. Then I bought my first huge tube amp and effects board to go with it. I ended up just giving my paycheques back to the company haha. This may sound amazing but something really bad came out of it.
I didn’t realize that by not following my actual dream in music BUT still being around musical instruments all day, I was killing my love of music and guitar itself. I came home from work and rarely practiced anymore, I just noodled in front of the TV. Wade and I stopped jamming and fell back to younger habits of gaming when we hung out (not knocking gaming, I still love it to this day and it really helps me just chill and relax).
So basically I didn’t really think about music other than while at work. Then I met a guy, who is a really good friend of mine now, who was a regular customer at my store.
He was the worship pastor at a local church close by the store and constantly came by to try new gear and rent anything they needed for weekends. At the time, I hadn’t started going back to church yet but he and I hit it off and he invited me out anyway. I decided to go and hang out in the very back one day. I slipped out before anyone could notice but he saw me from the stage and made sure he set somebody up to snag me, should I show up next week, and make sure I didn’t leave. Well it worked! I think within two weeks of attending I was at my first worship practice with one of their teams and it was AWESOME. There are so many stories to tell with this church but I won’t go into them all (we did play a killer Christmas Eve rock concert one year with a setlist consisting of mostly Trans Siberian Orchestra music. It ended with me soloing on a platform above the actual stage. Epic) It really ignited my passion for music again as I felt like I had a reason to play because I performed twice a month and stayed there for years.
The second chance I had to take
A few years into playing at the church (and in the January after our epic TSO Christmas Eve) I found out that Musicians Institute was holding a “Full-Ride Scholarship” contest in which contestants had to write, record, and film themselves playing an original song, submit to their website with the top 3 people winning 100%, 50%, and 25% paid tuition to the school. I freaked out. I had to try and win right? Unfortunately, I found out about it just TWO WEEKS before the entry date deadline. As it so happened, I was in between jobs at the moment (I had left Long & Mcquade to go back to school for Video Game Character/Environmental Artistry but ultimately decided it wasn’t my thing) so I had the time to make it happen. In one week I wrote all the guitar, bass, and drum parts to an original song, had my old band’s singer come over and help me write some lyrics, and filmed myself playing it with Wade and two of the members from the worship team at church. I can’t believe I got it in on time.
Once the entries were in, the voting lasted about two weeks, if I remember correctly. Then the top three contestants, based on online public voting, would be flown out to the school to perform live and then would be sorted into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Even though it would have been financially straining, I could potentially still have attended the school if I came in 3rd and had 25% paid for, so I just had to place. I was in 1st place for the entirety of the competition, until the last day when I fell to 4th. FREAKING 4TH. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I was absolutely crushed.
The unfortunate aftermath
Losing caused me to all but proclaim that I quit playing guitar. I set it down for a long time, only really playing at church, got really big back into my childhood hobby of gaming, and went to school to become a Graphic Designer. The program I took was a 1-year cram program so I was basically at school all day and then came home, did homework, maybe played a game for a bit and then went to bed. I honestly felt kinda dead inside, just going through the motions of life, making excuses to myself as to why I gave up. While I did/do enjoy graphic design and I made some incredible friends at school and at subsequent jobs, my main passion in life was just dead.
Gone. Almost forgotten. Abandoned.
It was a really bad time in my life and honestly, it just really sucked. This went on for a few years after I graduated while I got into my career. I had this gut feeling that Graphic Design is not what I’m supposed to do, not what I’m here to do. But I just was too hurt by the contest loss and paralyzed by the fear of potential failure that I didn’t do anything about music. Then a turning point came.
The joke that changed it all
Wade and I were still hanging out all the time, we pretty much did everything together. He basically lived at my house on weekends. One night we were having some drinks and playing some games when Wade jokingly suggested “we should jam for old times sake” and we both laughed. But then we stopped and thought about it. Wade ran home to grab his bass and we just did it. It. Was. A. Blast. What started as a joke statement turned into the thing that re-ignited my passion for music.
‘I started becoming interested in practicing again and even got back in purchasing new gear. It became a tradition that every weekend we would start with a glass of whisky and jamming and we began to learn more and more songs to play along to. Everything from Dream Theater to Fall Out Boy. We pretty much had a new song down every other week.
It was around this time that Beth and I met, started dating and ultimately got married. The three of us were inseparable, hanging out every weekend. Wade and I would jam and then hang out with Beth afterward for the evening. I had always known Beth was a good singer and kept trying to get her to come jam. Finally, one day she did and it was the best jam ever! We all had a blast and Beth started singing with us every time. This carried on for a few years.
Wade and I had been talking about starting another band for AWHILE but we had two problems. 1. We didn’t have a singer and 2. We didn’t have a drummer. Beth jamming with us made this idea more possible and she was willing to take up the mantle. We actually started talking about starting the band and what kind of music we’d want to play about a year before we actually did anything about it. Ultimately, life took over and we used the excuse of not having a drummer to never start.
A few months later, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my graphic design job to pursue both a freelance design career AND to start a business with Beth with dreams of moving to Japan and running both remotely from there. We wanted to start a business in fashion & personal style as it was something we had always enjoyed and had a passion for. But soon we realized that, while we loved our own sense of style, we didn’t have a passion for helping others dress better or to start a clothing line. We had to ask ourselves why we were killing ourselves working 80+ hour weeks on something we didn’t even really want in the end. We decided we were going to switch gears and try and start some kind of online business in a different area of interest.
Then I got the same old familiar gut feeling that I’ve had many times before.
The same gut feeling I had gotten at every live show I’ve ever been to. You should be on that stage entertaining others, start writing music. NOW. As I said before, I had ignored this feeling for years because of the competition loss and personal fear of failure or not being talented enough. But THIS TIME I was gonna shut up and listen. I had ignored it long enough and it was time to let myself go after my dream again.
I brought the idea to Beth and she said that she had the exact same feeling and that we should stop making excuses and just start. We talked to Wade and he was on board too. We had invested in an online business course (Zero to Launch by Ramit Sethi, highly recommended if you wanna start an online business) when we decided to do the fashion thang and we were still within the eligible refund period should we not want to continue the class. We added up the cost of everything we’d need to get a good quality home studio and make great-sounding music (thanks to some old friends from Long & McQuade) and it was THE EXACT price of the business course we had bought. Our minds were blown. You can’t make that stuff up. We immediately returned the course, bought all the gear, and started writing music that week and learning how to mix it all to sound professional (thanks mainly to Recording Revolution). After all, we had now seen a handful of other musicians start out by making music in their home only to now be hugely successful and touring the world. Why not us too?
Where I am now. 2020 is CRAZY!
Enter 2020. We actually have music out on streaming platforms around the world. It’s insane. Also, on January 2nd I flew out to California to spend a weekend at Tom Morello’s Guitar Revolution camp to meet and learn from NUNO!
Meeting him was an incredible experience. It was surreal learning from him + the rest of the players and just getting to talk to them for a few days in a row. He specifically, was so gracious and down to earth with all of the attendees. They say never to meet your heroes but he exceeded all of my expectations. I even got to write a song with him and a small group of others! I will NEVER forget that experience. Especially because while we were jamming it out, he looked at me and told me he loved what I was playing, not once but twice, then told me to take a solo in which I IMMEDIATELY screwed up HAHA. I was so nervous. Sidenote, Nuno can’t read music either SO HA, it’s not a necessity 😛
Anyway, we are planning to have a full album released this year and things are going incredibly well with the band. We have new fans every day (which I am so thankful for all of you! You’re awesome!! Thank you for helping our dreams become reality), we are growing at a very steady pace and I know it’s only going to get bigger as we go on. We ultimately want to be able to tour and pursue making music as a full-time career and I know it will happen one day. All because I finally listened to my gut and am no longer making excuses for myself like I’m not good enough or we need a drummer. I virtually program all of ours, and while I’d love to have someone join someday, it’s better than not putting music out at all.
I want to end with two things:
First, to encourage anyone reading this not to ignore that feeling of what you were meant to do as long as I have. Dig in and go for it. Disregard what others may say to/about you because it won’t happen if you don’t put the work in and you only have the limitations you set for yourself. Also, when you start putting yourself out there, don’t listen to or interact with any hate you get from it. Haters are only saying the things they do because they are dealing with hurt or are jealous you’re going after what they are too afraid to. Take it from me, I used to judge every musician or band ALL THE TIME just because I was jealous I wasn’t doing that. After all, “No one’s gonna care until you make it and everyone’s a critic with their fingers. You have to learn how to be strong enough for you” (thanks Survive Said the Prophet).
Second, don’t let the concept of “time” stop you from starting. It’s never too late and you won’t ever regret just going for it. Also, if you think you’ve waited too long, don’t believe that either. I believe everything happens for a reason and you can’t see the reasons until you reflect later in life. If I hadn’t joined the band, it would have never led Wade and me to reconnect. If I ended up going to Musicians Institute I may have never met Beth or became a Graphic Designer which has given me the ability to design all of our branded materials, build our websites, and shoot/edit our photos and videos which all help make us look even more LEGIT! If we hadn’t tried to start our own online business we would have never invested in the business course which took away the excuse that the recording studio was too expensive since we had already spent the money, and so on and so forth. Just. Go. For. It.
Anyways, sorry for this crazy long essay.
Thank you so much if you’ve read it all the way to the end, I appreciate you and your time and really hope you’ve enjoyed hearing my story and that I’ve hopefully inspired some of you as well.
I love you all, great things are on the horizon!
Oh, by the way, I also play drums.