All I had was a small toy acoustic guitar buried in my closet. 5 years after I first heard that Weezer album, I got sick of not being able to realize my dream of making a rock band. If I was going to become a songwriter, I would have to learn to play the guitar. How the heck was I going to learn to shred on a toy guitar though? That’s what’s cool about rock ‘n roll; it’s not really about glam. It’s raw and gritty. So I made the best of what I had. My rock ‘n roll underdog story began with nothing more than a toy guitar.
That’s what I think draws us to rock ‘n roll; it’s an underdog story about people like you and me. It’s wild and untamed. It doesn’t always go with what’s popular. It’s about unlikely success. Maybe it’s not even about success at all. Maybe instead, it’s about unlocking a part of ourselves that’s been buried. It doesn’t matter if nobody else gets it. Let’s celebrate our underdog stories with this short 2-minute video!
You probably have your own underdog story. I don’t know what your dreams and aspirations in life are, but I would imagine they’re not too different from mine. To some extent, we all have a deep longing for meaning and connection. We want to be fully alive. We want to thrive. Sometimes it’s hard for us to feel fully alive when we’re trapped in the routine of the daily grind. The stress of life’s problems can suppress part of our personality. But I think the energy of rock music gives us a glimpse of what’s really inside of us. Turn on the stereo or crank up the guitar and suddenly a part of us that was dormant starts to come out.
As I began learning to play the guitar, a part of my personality started to wake up from what felt like a “deep sleep.” I was also looking for connection. Rock ‘n roll is a sort of “brotherhood” after all. I think we even form a strong bond with others when we share the same musical tastes or experience a concert together. I didn’t quite understand this until later though…
Our journeys don’t always begin with the best of motivations. But hey, maybe that’s just part of growing up. I’m a little embarrassed about what finally pushed me over the edge and motivated me to learn to play guitar. What was the crazy reason? My theory at age 12 was that girls were magnetically attracted to guys who played guitar. I wasn’t having much luck with girls. In fact I was invisible to them but I thought if I could learn to serenade girls with a guitar, my problems would be solved. Yeah… maybe that wasn’t the best motivation but I can laugh about it now.
At that time, I had been listening to several Green Day albums and I fell in love with their guitar sound. I dug out that old toy guitar and decided to teach myself to play it. First I tried to play along with Green Day’s album Insomniac by ear. I loved the energy of punk, but learning guitar without sheet music or lessons didn’t go very well. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I was stuck.
Lucky for me, when I’m faced with a musical obstacle, my mind cannot stop until it comes up with a solution. I remember the day I found the answer to all of my problems. I was riding the school bus while listening to Green Day’s Nimrod album when I had a light bulb moment; “I wonder if I can find guitar music online?” When I got off the bus that day, I hopped online and discovered something called “guitar tabs,” which is basically shorthand guitar music. I looked up music for Green Day’s song Time Of Your Life and my rock ‘n roll journey had begun.
Check out the song below from my debut album The Essentials. If you listen closely, you can hear the Green Day influence in my songwriting.
My plan to win over all of the girls in the universe didn’t quite pan out though. I don’t think it even worked on one girl! As much as I tried, I was still a lone wolf. Maybe it was the toy guitar?? Haha!
As it turns out, it didn’t matter that playing guitar didn’t change my luck with girls. I loved punk rock and playing guitar too much to stop now. I saved up $90 and bought a really beat-up red Stratocaster at a local guitar shop. The paint was falling off, but I didn’t care as long as I could jam out to Audioslave and Soundgarden. The following summer was spent in hot garages jamming with friends and playing Sega Genesis. Remember that ancient device??
Now you know how my underdog story began. Sometimes things don’t turn out as planned but it can still be glorious in the end. The 80’s almost tricked us into thinking rock ‘n roll was about money and glam, but I think you and I know what it’s really about. Our stories are much more valuable than money, attention, girls, etc. The truth about rock ‘n roll is that a toy guitar buried in your closet can help you unlock a part of yourself that you never knew was there. It’s a journey of self-discovery. So what is your underdog story?
Nathan (aka Vandarth)
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