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  • Writer's pictureMike Dynamo

Playing Music In My Late Teens

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Playing with your best self across your entire life

Playing with your best self across your entire life

For some people, playing music is as old for them as breathing as if they come out of the womb simply doing it. For the rest of us, it takes a long battle against the self before we ever truly ever get to that brilliant new musical place.

Looking back, I had my pedigree despite not knowing it. I was the grandson of a Bluesman from Mississippi.

A man who’d once lost his brother in a knife fight over a woman at some blues club back in the 20s. This event hit my grandfather so hard that he gave up playing the blues and doing anything with music outside of the gospel. If any of his 13 children would bring any gambling or den of iniquity items into his house, he took it up. No cards, no dice, not even a pair of tiddlywinks. Since he'd died before I was born, I didn’t get to learn about any of this until it had already happened, but now I can see my musical brain happening as I grew up.

For some people, playing music is as old for them as breathing as if they come out of the womb simply doing it. For the rest of us, it takes a long battle against the self before we ever truly ever get to that brilliant new musical place.

In elementary school. I got to play the recorder and appear in our school productions as Santa Claus or the cutest elf people had ever seen. In the 5th grade, I was able to get good enough grades to sing in our Honors Choir and I always managed to have fun in music class as we learned about various personalities from the music over the years.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't get to play any real instruments until we left for Junior High School the next year.

In the 6th grade, I first joined my first band as a bass clarinet player. My joining the school band was simple. You see, the choir was already going to Astroworld and I’d already been there several times already. The band, on the other hand, was going all the way to Splashtown and that was the bit of newness I needed to hear in order to make the right decision. Looking back, it is beyond amazing that I would make such a life choice based on which theme park a school organization was going to take me to, but that is how our tiny brains worked back then. I spent two entire seasons playing the bass clarinet. I did not play it particularly well, either.

I did not much like being in the band. I tried my best to stay in the background, but no one made me practice, I got in silly fights with eighth graders, and I don’t think I’d ever felt more worried than when my parents presented me with a saxophone for Christmas one year. All I could think about was how to tell my Band teacher that I wanted to switch instruments in the middle of the session. My parents were ecstatic, but I was a mess…

Goodbye Music Brain

Goodbye Music Brain

In eighth grade, I had to go to a different school and took that opportunity to leave the music behind. There was little shame or pain. In that decision. I started doing Wood Shop and piecing together the wrong-sized wooden pieces to make an entertainment center. It was literally half the size it was supposed to be to work correctly. So it became a strange little trophy case that just sat in my room waiting for a guy who'd quit getting awards for his sporting achievements years ago. Junior High was messy and somehow I only left time for the sport I liked the least. Football.

The music in me now felt dead and gone. I loved listening to it and made several interesting new friends that took me to raves between getting beat up in arcade fighting games. I spent more time smashing shoulders with Nina from Tekken's armbars than I ever bothered with the bass clarinet or building messy structures in Wood Shop. This was a place where I felt like I mattered again. Music and shows of my yesteryear felt so far away now.

The Return of the Music

It wouldn’t be until college that I finally got to take my musical career at least a little more seriously. I may have had the forgotten bluesman pedigree, but I certainly didn’t have the spirit of a Robert Johnson going to any crossroads in the dead of night for a week until the Devil showed up to teach me the guitar.

Eventually, it would be me hanging out with a group of Freshmen boys at Jester Jam Fest at the University of Texas that would slowly unlatch this musicality I had inside. Essentially, we'd watch these other people play music with their bands, decide we could totally do that, then go upstairs to the 14th floor and play with each other. I remember once working my way into the room of a guy that brought a drum set to his tiny dorm room. The bass player, Rob, became one of my best friends in college, and while none of us had a microphone it hardly even mattered. I was singing again!

These little memories saw me go from a bass clarinetist to a rap/rocker in a matter of moments. I hadn’t sung since the 5th grade, but there was something in the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs they wanted me to learn that brought out this new bad side of me. It slowly taught me how to be a little star.

Rob and I hooked up with Brian and created a little coffee shop band that played Creedence Clearwater Revival and Linkin Park songs. I eventually met Gregg in an elevator and started making these amazing Timbaland versions of songs with him. Suddenly I was in different people's houses throughout Austin, joining new bands and recording in the studio that Sublime recorded in back in the mid-90s.

This all happened before I also got going with these groups that would eventually become my bands. I got to be the singer for Lost in South Austin, Benny Versus the Beast, and Rival City. I was able to keep creating the music rather than playing it on my instrument. I’d write long ridiculous songs about interesting women and have an amazing time out playing my shows over the years. For some reason, that is the thing that never changes. No matter how the circumstances may flip as I began to live in new countries over the years, I try to have the best time making the independent music I’m lucky enough to be able to make.

So thank you again, Granddaddy, for wherever you got your musical spirit. We’re still out here using it as best we can. Whether igniting the parties of Cambodia, writing for our own music production company in Estonia or making more interesting songs for amazing women we happen to meet. So until we meet again, please promise you won't don't collect my dice or tiddlywinks when you see me.

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