Updated: Dec 2, 2021
It is December 22nd - the year 2000 - the Christmas tree is fully decorated with ornaments and tinsel and little homemade popsicle stick Santa Clauses in the family sitting room; a room dedicated to guests, hosting adults and quiet discussions - no roughhousing aloud. Anyone else have one of these rooms? #sittingrooms
On this eve as we approached Christmas, my brother and our parents gathered to open our customary 'one gift' before we left on our annual Christmas vacation to Kananaskis the next day. [These were good times]. I can't remember what Ben, my younger brother, got that year. It must have been jostled from my mind when my parents excused themselves upstairs for a moment, building enough anticipation to erupt a volcano, only to return, descending the stairs together to my widening eyes at the sight of a brand new, shiny, ebony electric guitar. A Mansfield (a brand I've not seen again since) accompanied by a little 8" Squire amplifier.
To be honest, I don't remember actively wanting a guitar, or to learn music at all, at this point in my life. Hockey was my life. I lived and breathed for the ice. I hadn't really considered playing music but when a 13 year old kid gets a new guitar their priorities waver a little. I think my parents were questioning whether my chunky, early pubescent ass had what it took to play hockey at a high level. I remember my dad asking me during one of Ben's minor hockey games at the Adams Arena (now the #LoganBouletMemorialArena), "Hey Nick (awkward positioning pause) What would think about piano lessons?" To which I immediately responded with a reaction of disgust akin to a child's first taste of broccoli. "What??! No, I wanna play hockey." Why would he ask that, I thought. Looking back, he looks like a prophet.
I never stopped playing hockey, I still play on a local senior AA team but hockey is no longer my priority. Acting, filmmaking and music are my passions and my livelihood now, and I think that all started on that Christmas in Y2K.
I loved that guitar; played it all the time - I had no idea what I was doing at all; didn't even know what a chord was. Not sure I knew chords existed but I played those untuned open strings like a god and, in my 13 year old head, I was on rubbing shoulders with Led Zeppelin and Vertical Horizon #VerticalHorizon. I still remember my first song... BB BB BB BBBB BB E G GGG GG GG B A AA AAAAA AA AAAAA AA AAAA G E EEE EE EE - a masterpiece.
- REALITY CHECK -
About a month after I got my guitar I started guitar lessons in the basement of Prugers Music on 5th Street in downtown Lethbridge with a coffee drinkin' - cigarette+ smokin' rocker named Harley. Harley was always late and, looking back, I don't think he really liked his job. I remember getting "Alfred's Guitar Basics - Book 1" and working through it as best I could at the time. I used the CD. I followed the lessons but when I got my in-person lessons with Harley I would always forget. Eventually... ... ... Harley taught me the song American Psycho by 'Treble Charger' but only after pulling his teeth, hair and nails out to get me to that point.
I remember one day Harley pulled my mom into the studio room after a lesson and told her in front of my face that we should reconsider lessons and that "Nick probably won't be able to learn guitar." Maybe there was a "...at this time" in there but not in my memory, in my memory it was "ever. Ever. EVER!!". I remember feeling pretty embarrassed but probably directed that frustration into skateboarding or hockey where physicality and aggression can help you excel.
Music production, performance, creation, mixing and mastering are a huge part of my life today. I can play and improvise on multiple instruments, read music, compose, arrange, write melodies and more but between the ages of 13.5 and 16 I was so discouraged about music that I maybe picked up my guitar a handful of times. Sad considering how malleable my mind was then but, alas. Part of that was a lack of tact and care from my instructor, part of it was my level of commitment and part of it was that hockey, skateboarding and friends were still a much stronger guiding force in my life.
One day, years later, in October 2002, after a grade 10 drama class, my new friends Justin and Jacob approached me with an idea to start a band. You see, some music store in Lethbridge must have done a strong marketing push because a bunch of us high school students got entry level musical instruments. Jacob got a drum set, Justin got a beautiful red acoustic guitar and I had just got a cheap natural coloured fender acoustic guitar as a wanna be angsty emo-kid. The timing was right we all had instruments, we were friends - we were a band.
Eventually another buddy from Calgary, Shane, joined the squad and Justin decided to leave for different styles. We played battle of the bands and recorded an EP in our buddy Donovan's basement. We even moved in together and really made a go of it for a few years before Shane and his partner at the time got pregnant and our priorities again changed. That bond lasts to this day. Shane, Jacob and I still collaborate and I can't wait to share what we've been cooking up on the back burner - a wicked slow simmer on that one indeed.
My time as a young musician in a small town with big ambitions gave me a hunger for more. A bigger city, more opportunities and more music. In 2008, at the ripe age of 20 I moved to Vancouver and started school at the Art Institute of Vancouver for Professional Recording Arts. My career was about to begin but I had to learn the tools and skills to take what was in my head and put it in speakers - in ears.
And that's where I'll leave it today, at the precipice of the 1st chapter.
Where did it all lead? Watch my newest music video below: