Shaken, Stirred & Almost Settled: My New Life In Bozeman, MT

I love Bozeman. My wife, Nancy, and I decide 3 years ago to pick up our lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and move our family to Bozeman. We had tired of 13 mile commutes that took 45 minutes. We'd run out of patience with planning kids play dates months in advance. We wanted to be closer to the mountains, for the sake of skiing, hiking, backpacking and Nancy's photography. We were convinced even before we made the move that Bozeman would be an overall improvement for the family and that the kids and Nancy would make the most of our new home. I knew that one side of my life would be better, but...

By leaving the Bay Area, I was walking away from a songwriting partnership (with Steve Rosenthal) that had spanned decades. I was leaving all of the musicians I'd grown up with, the clubs, the music stores, my recording studio...everything musical I'd built up over the years in the Bay Area. To be totally transparent, I'd done some interesting recording projects in the last decade, but my songwriting partnership hadn't generate new material since the 1990s, and didn't show signs of picking up pace anytime soon. Those factors combined to make me hope that Bozeman would somehow be the change that I needed and would lead to a new chapter in my musical explorations.

Very soon after our arrival in Bozeman, I got some indications that my hopes would play out. While planning the relocation of my Redwood City studio to Bozeman, I met Billy Costigan of Poindexter's. Billy had attended P.I.T. (The Percussion Institute of Technology) in Hollywood only a couple years after I had gone to G.I.T. (Guitar...). My conversations with Billy over the first year or so in Bozeman led to the vision for The Music Tech Center, so in essence, Bozeman had spawned a new musical chapter.

And yet, the thing I want the most, to be writing, arranging and performing original music, well, it just hasn't happened yet. I live for heavy, melodic music and there really isn't much of that in Bozeman. Lots of country, bluegrass, Americana, even blues and jazz. But, thus far I'm aware of 3 or 4 heavy bands. My high school (Berkeley High, population roughly 3000) had more actively gigging metal bands than Bozeman does (city population around 30,000, county population around 100,000). Suffice it to say, heavy music isn't particularly big here.

So, I'm now left to wonder what really comes next. Do I somehow transform myself into an avid bluegrass guitarist? Do I admit the obvious, that I was somehow meant to be born in Finland and relocate to a country whose language I have no clue how to speak? Do I finally decide that the music "hobby" is over, sell all the gear and learn to play golf?

Some of those ideas are crazier than others but I don't think any of them really nail the solution. I am what I am. Heavy, melodic music is in my blood and has been ever since my first concert (KISS, the Oakland Coliseum, age 13). But I've also learned recently (while attending the only all-metal concert I've been to in Bozeman) that I can't turn back the clock. I'm not in my mid-twenties anymore and I can't pretend that I am. Whatever comes next for me musically has to begin where I am today. It has to reflect some unique combination of my years of classical guitar lessons, followed by jazz lessons, followed by the great realization that what I really loved was heavy, melodic rock. It has to reflect the fact that I'm now a happy and proud father of two great kids and that my wife and I have known each other for 24 years and been married for 19. The next chapter has to benefit from my ability to focus, and to complete projects that I start. In a perfect world, though, what comes next will involve other musicians, not just me.

Maybe the Bozeman band I'm looking for, the one that's ready to crank out a masterpiece if only they could find the right guitarist, maybe they're just around the next bend. Maybe the MTC gets the last infusion of funding it needs and takes off, surrounding me with inspired, creative people, day in/day out. Or maybe, it's all on my shoulders. Maybe I just need to start writing songs again and, when the time comes, put a budget together and pay to have the right players on the session. Maybe I just need to learn how to channel my musical drive directly and much more efficiently, and then use my inherent stubbornness and determination to create a finished work, or two, or three.

How have you found success where it appeared there was only failure?

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