Meet Christian, this month’s Student Spotlight. Christian takes singing lessons with Ben, along with our Tuesday evening songwriting class. Well versed in guitar, singing, songwriting, and digital audio work, Christian has explored a variety of aspects of the music industry. Starting with guitar in 7th grade, he has since then sung and played lead guitar for a band, among many other things. Enjoy!
MM: How’d you get started with music?
CC: Well in 7th grade I got a guitar, because my older brother had a guitar, so of course I wanted one, too. I still have that first guitar, it was an acoustic-electric. I taught myself a lot of the standards like “Smoke on the Water,” a lot of alt. rock. The internet was getting bigger then so Ultimate Guitar as a resource was a really big deal. I was pretty into it in Jr. High, and in High School I started doing more singing and playing, even took maybe a year of lessons. I started recording a little bit, and then transitioning into college I was also playing at a few coffee shops. If I was into it before, I was reallly into it then.
It didn’t stop either. I joined a band eventually as their lead guitarist, and did backup vocals. I also took classes over at CSU San Marcos for recording and computer production.
MM: That’s right! Didn’t you get to make a practice movie soundtrack?
CC: Yeah, some of the classes were just focused on using Reason and Protools software, DAWs like that. [Editor Note: That’s a Digital Audio Workstation, Garageband counts as one, too, it’s just a software that lets you edit recordings.] One of the classes had us using Protools to insert a scene from one of the Bourne movies into it, and create a soundtrack to the scene. Since the movie was in the software, you could time it just right to have the music and sound effects you make match. That school also had a really nice recording studio, I had the 9pm-12am block for it. There was a main room with the control board, and isolation rooms that could connect into it separately, too.
MM: So after college, what did you do musically, and how did you get to us?
CC: Well, I was still in that band some, we were busy with shows but I was driving down south twice a week to practice and doing lots of shows. I’m also more into acoustic-style guitar than all the electric. Eventually, I started recording covers a lot at home using my own set-up, and what I remembered from school. It made me think about taking voice lessons, because it’s such a long process recording, just to find you don’t quite like how your voice comes out, and you’re not sure why.
I always was interested in singing, but had just been more into guitar, so I hadn’t ever focused on just singing. But like last year I was getting bored more just working, so I thought I’d try out some singing lessons. It’s nice, now that it’s been a few months I can listen back to those recordings, and I know what’s wrong now, like I know what I could’ve done different to fix it. I don’t really have time to record right now, but it’s been fun working on songs with Ben – I’m doing “Like a Stone” from Audioslave.
MM: Very cool. And, I know you’re doing the songwriting class, too, since we’re in it together. What’s been your process with songwriting, and what are some of your favorites you’ve written?
CC: My process has always been a combination of figuring out the music and lyrics, though the first song I ever wrote with my band was just the music, since the lead singer figured out the lyrics. We did a demo of that one, it’s one of my favorites – it’s called “Saturday Night.” But, the process, it’s really just playing a bit on the guitar and writing down what words fit. Or maybe I get a thought on kind of spur of the moment, and I jot it down on my phone.
The class has definitely made me plan my songs out a lot more. Before, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason, now I have a bit more of a goal, like the song we’re doing now that’s focused on recoloring. Or, like the last one using a concrete example of emotion for the chorus and title. That last song is one of my favorites [he wrote a song called “Satellite”]. I outline my ideas for a song a lot more now, try to make it more tangible.
But, I mean I have a fair number of choruses, or just quarters of songs or good riffs written out or in my head. There’s maybe 5 or 6 full ones. My girlfriend really likes one I wrote about us, too, though I don’t like it as much.
MM: And what kind of music inspires or influences you?
CC: Well, it was a lot of that alt. rock stuff growing up, like Third Eye Blind. I didn’t even realize just how good they were until I was like 18/19 and started going to their concerts. Rage Against the Machine, too. More recently I’ve been into 90s/2000s era country like Alan Jackson or George Strait. Justin Moore too, and Jason Aldean.
MM: Very cool stuff. Obviously you do more than just music. What’s your day job, and any favorite shows or movies or books?
CC: Yeah, I’m always coming to class straight from work, I do sales for a production facility that builds military-grade flashlights, mostly to big distributors. So, lots of monthly quotas and pressure. I take care of customer sales now, too, so people who just want to buy batteries for their flashlight, balanced with huge orders.
Honestly, I can’t say what the last book I read is, but I love The Office (American version). My favorite character has got to be Dwight, or maybe Michael. But I can’t take Steve Carrell serious in any dramas he does now, because he’s just Michael Scott.
MM: Alright, last question. Any advice to other adults on the fence about lessons?
CC: Yeah, you know, just go out, put yourself into it, get your focus off work and try it. Don’t just think about it. Sometimes I have to drag myself to lessons after work, but usually I leave happier.