Question #1: Congratulations on the release of your newest album, J Town Suite! What was your inspiration for making this a tribute to your hometown?

Thank you I appreciate that. On my last handful of albums, I’m always trying to think of a theme or story to connect it. I really dig albums that make sense together and can tell an overall story, but still stand on their own with separate tunes.

I’ve joked for years about writing an album for my hometown, but my business partner always shut it down. We were in Joliet once and I was showing him places and telling him some old stories and he thought they were kind of cool so he finally got on board. I’m glad because I’m very proud of everything we’ve put together, and think people will not only dig the music, but the cool stories behind it as well.

Question #2: How is this project different than your previous albums?

Well, the project is very much still me, and has my personal stamp on it, but there are chord qualities and time signatures that appear in every single tune, even if just for a short bit of time. You hear callbacks to each tune, very subtly at times, which ties it all together.

If one were to listen throughout the entire album, they would hear the separation of each tune, but also at the same time, how they’re all connected. Diminished & half diminished chords play as the basis for everything.

And as I’ve written tunes in the past for people, places, and things around me, this is the first album where it all falls into one larger subject.

Question #3: All 12 of your albums have been original tunes! Having written so much original music, what does your composition process look like?

I wish I had an easy answer for that but my composition process varies from day to day and week to week. There are some compositions that just come to me and I write down within a matter of minutes. Others take months or even sometimes years with me walking away from it, and returning later with more of a focus.

Lately, I try to think of the subject that I’m writing the tune about and see what pops into my head. Especially with an album like this where I have a lot of emotions involved with the subject matter they all flushed out pretty quickly and easily. So, I ended up writing this particular album over a weekend last December.

Question #4: How does your ensemble prepare to record a CD like this?

For this particular album, we had a series of rehearsals, but we also would sit down and have some food and beverages, and I would tell them the stories behind the tunes. I just thought it was cool for them to know that and it did help and how they approached certain elements of certain tunes.

Question #5: In addition to your performing career, you’re also an experienced educator. Do you feel like your teaching experience has affected the way that you approach performance?

My teaching has made me a much better performer and overall musician. I feel teachers sometimes get a bum wrap, and should get more respect.

Being an effective educator is hard to do.

One of the things that made me a better educator was knowing that I needed to teach the student that’s in front of me and what level they’re at instead of where I think they should be or I want them to be. I now know not to overdo it and go farther than what can be absorbed by them.

I would say my performing brain is very similar to that. I’m always trying to think when I play this, is there a point to it or am I just doing it just to do it? Does it make sense? Does it help to tell an overall story?

Question #6: With this being your 12th album, you’re a seasoned pro in the recording business. What is something that you learned over time that you wish you knew when you recorded your first album?

The best thing about recording is, you can do it again. The worst thing about recording is that you can do it again. Ha. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as perfection and I would rather hear performances, live or recorded, with minor flaws, but a ton of emotion and heart to it.

In the past with recordings, I tried to make everything really clean and try to do it over and over and over and I think it may have lost some of that heart.

Emotion and telling a story is the most important thing and sometimes you need to let some little things go.

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