Hello again, Friends
Many of you might have been wondering why I chose to make the move from Chicago to New York City last June and what exactly has been happening since then.
First let me say that The West Side Winders is most certainly not over – just on a bit of a hiatus.
After 10 years of slugging it out in the clubs of Chicago-land and occasionally out of town, various lineup changes and many ups and downs, I decided that I needed a change.
Despite some cool moments (opening for Bon Jovi at United Center in 2011, making the top 5 finals in 3 high profile national guitar competitions 3 years in a row – North American Rock Guitar Competition 2007, Guitar Superstar 2008, King of the Blues 2009 – and some nice media coverage – Fox Morning News, WGN Morning News, Guitar Player Magazine, Guitar World, etc.) it just seemed that I couldn’t get out of that same spot of being in an under-exposed, under-payed original act in a town that was placing less and less importance on the local original music scene. Crappy clubs, shady club owners, small audience turnout, low pay, lack of respect, etc. That gets very old after awhile.
And so it took me that long to realize that although I can make a decent living in Chicago (and it really is a great place to live,) I’ll never get to that next level of success staying there.
So the thoughts and many discussions began – with my family first and foremost as well as a key discussion with my old friend, guitarist Joel Hoekstra (Rock of Ages, Nightranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra,) who suggested a move. And that’s exactly what I did.
I arrived in New York City on June 2nd, 2012 and rented a room on the upper west side at 92nd and Broadway.
By June 15th I was subbing on lead guitar for Joel in Rock of Ages. A great perk to that show is that the band is on the stage and actual characters in the play. I get some big solo moments as well a couple of spoken lines. Great fun and a real highlight to my time in NY.
In August I was asked to join The Ryan Link Affair and began a weekly house gig on the upper west side at 78 Below. It’s been great networking for me and I’ve met and played with some amazing musicians. Ian McNabb of Icicle Works and Simon Kirke drummer from Bad Company have come in to jam with us as well as jazz/pop keyboard heavyweights Henry Butler and Ray Angry.
In September, I was asked to join a new project that fuses rock, classical and fusion. Rocktopia brings to the stage a 5 piece rock band, 5 singers, a 50 piece symphony orchestra and a gospel choir. Rocktopia has tour dates this May and a full national tour in the fall including a taping for a PBS special. http://www.rocktopiathemusical.com
I’ve even put together an east coast version of The West Side Winders and performed a handful of shows last fall and early this year. I believe there is a good & receptive audience for us on the east coast.
Coming up – In late spring/early summer of 2013 I begin subbing on lead guitar for Ric Molina in the long running Broadway musical Wicked. As many of you probably already know this is an amazing show. It is also one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever had to learn with plenty of key instrument switching between nylon string, steel string, electric, banjo and mandolin.
Looking back now it seems that I made the right decision last year moving to NY although it has been a very difficult road. One in which I second guessed myself a lot.
The most difficult aspect being the time away from my family.
My wife and son remain at our house in Morton Grove, IL and I fly back and forth as much as I can.
It’s certainly taken it’s toll on me.
Having a child in 1st grade, a wife with a full time job and 2 mortgages make it difficult.
Would it have been easier to throw all caution to the wind and just move the family to NY from the get go? Maybe, maybe not. But this is where we are now.
Hopefully, I can continue to raise the bar on my level of success with more work and higher profile gigs. To the point where I can finally just say it’s time and get my family out to the east coast with me.
Stayed tuned. More to come on my continued adventures.