I really do remember it like it was yesterday. I was 16 when I got my first guitar. It was a Yamaha acoustic six string, and when I opened up the case, the pure smell of the wood, and the newness of the purple plush case lining, filled my senses. The excitement of seeing the guitar surpassed the joy of playing it, because I really couldn't make music very well at that time. The strings were so golden, and as I brushed a light gauge pick over them, I could have sworn I was Cat Stevens. Back in those days, we listened to cassette tapes. (Yes, I'm dating myself here, but I have no qualms telling you that I'm 46 years young.) My Dad's orange Toyota Celica always had the same three tapes in it, and we wore out those Cat Stevens, Elton John, and James Taylor cassettes in the car and in the Sony Walkman (look it up.)
Now, don't get me wrong, I will always have a place in my heart for 80's pop and rock, and those early videos from MTV always take me back to a simpler time and place (as if childhood was simple.) Every time I hear "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats, my brain feels like it's in a time warp. But it was the sound of Cat Stevens' guitar that made me want to strum. It was the gentle vocals of James Taylor that offered the promise of some kind of musical salvation and peace of mind within those sultry harmonies and completely perfect finger-picked melodies.
So, I suffered through those initial years, attempting to glide my fingers from a G chord to a D chord without hitting too many off color, out of tune notes along the way. It takes a year or two at least to build up decent calluses on your fingers to even play without pain, but something kept me going. Playing music was a place to be uniquely me, and writing songs gave me a path to find out who I was. And of course, I still don't know, and that's why I am still writing, and accidentally finding new chords, and stumbling upon melodies buried deep in my subconscious, delighting in the creation of a new yet familiar song to call my own.