I didn't exactly grow up in a period of musical renaissance, so I'm still trying to unlearn a lot of what I spent my time listening to as a kid. Growing up I listened to what any kid in the 80's listened to - your typical MTV experience. My older cousins helped me a little by letting me hang out with them and listen to stuff like New Order, Depeche Mode, and a great band from Texas called the Judy's. My mom was a teacher, played the piano and was fan of early rock & roll stuff. (Beatles, Elvis, Ricky Nelson, etc) She also worked for The Oil Palace, a big concert hall in my hometown, and brought all kinds of music acts into town. I saw them all - good and bad - as a kid. Dad played guitar and was a fan of surf music - The Beach Boys, Del Shannon, some of the instrumental songs and stuff that was a little more dangerous. After he retired as an oil rig foreman, he became a Baptist minister. Later when I moved to Tennessee, I started listening to different music, bands like REM, the Judybats and The Indigo Girls - mostly late 80's/early 90's college rock stuff. I discovered The Jayhawks and Matthew Ryan, and bands like Wilco and Son Volt. From there I continued going backwards, rediscovering The Beach Boys, learning about The Replacements, Big Star, Velvet Underground, Gram Parsons - all the guys who influenced the music I was really digging on. I guess you could say the same thing about the way I approach my music. I try to find what attracts me to the music that I get off on, and then search one level back of that to the artist or music or thing that influenced that sound or that decision that is affecting me. I try to continually work backward and outwards in creating music. I always find that I'm asking myself, "what is it about these lyrics that wreck me?", or, "why does the song do that here?" I try to approach songs from that spot, so I'm always looking one level back. One of the places my backward progression has taken me in the past few years is into the genius of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello & The Clash. I've really been amazed by the fearlessness in which they approached or, in The Boss' & Costello's case, approach music. By constantly redefining and reinventing themselves, they redefined a genre and, I think, a generation of musicians. Musically, all three come from very similar places so, to me, the interesting point is what direction they went from that place. Music is very visual to me. I hear music as colors and images. I try to write songs that are visual - a hand brushing another hand subconsciously. I try to write songs that give me the feeling I get when I'm affected by a particular image or scene that I see - whether I see it in real life or make it up in my head to give me something to write towards. But I also try to write music that's visual. What color does this sound like? Does it sound like something that coincides with the colors I see in my head? It sounds crazy, but you can't create a blue song using red sounds just like you can't create a warm scene using cold lights. Music didn't become something that was a real or serious goal until I started writing my own stuff (does anyone really take music seriously just playing in cover bands?). Once I started writing my own songs it definitely took a turn for the serious. It's a totally different feeling having people clap or yell for a song that you played well. It's another thing entirely when that song is one that you created. So I continue to work backwards and outwards. I pretty much just want to be able to make a nickel doing what I love to do.