beth callenThis is Beth. This is Beth’s Life in Music. All these words are from Beth:

Music always fascinated me. I started playing piano when I was five and after a few years of lessons someone in the house brought home an acoustic guitar. I would sit in my room and pour over a sheet of guitar chords and I taught myself as many as I could figure out. I’d play them to see what ones sounded good together. At that time I was also digging around in my parents’ music collection – getting obsessed with Hendrix and the Doors, and also some pop goodness like Madonna and Michael Jackson. My parents had an eclectic taste in music that ranged from classical to rock to jazz and pop. Everyone in the house loved music and singing. I remember driving around in the car singing harmonies together. I even remember using my parents’ old typewriter to type out lyrics to songs. So I guess I was a songwriter in the making since then.

I wrote my first songs back then, when I was about 10 years old and eventually studied songwriting at Purchase College. Over the last decade, I was lucky enough to record and release two albums and an EP, get signed to a record label, and perform throughout the northeast. There’s nothing quite as exciting – and quite as terrifying – as performing your own compositions live. But I was living the dream!

A couple years ago my band called it quits. I found myself unsure of what to do next musically. I really wasn’t sure what to do with myself and it made me feel depressed. Should I get a real job? Should I keep writing songs? With the encouragement of my closest friends, I decided to keep going for my dream. I started learning jazz and began reading through standards. I locked myself in a room by day practicing and would go hang with other musicians at night. I got really into Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and began going out to clubs like Smalls to hear guys like Peter Bernstein and Gilad Hekselman. I also discovered some old recordings of lessons taught by the late Emily Remler.

After about a year of study, I got an audition to sub the part of Slash for Guns N’ Hoses. I had never played so loud and so fast. Holy hell. But I really wanted that gig! I did the audition and they hired me. Then the real work began – learning a two hour set of Guns N’ Roses songs and one or two guitar solos per tune. Goodbye friends. Two to three months later, I did my first tour with them. That time really changed the way I looked at musicianship. I realized I hadn’t been working hard enough. I feel really grateful to have had the opportunity to study one guitarist’s work so deeply. It’s like I learned a lexicon – in the style of Saul Hudson. It was also really cool to notice influences of other guitarists in his playing. Lately I’ve been trying to dig into other people’s playing in the same way – Jimi Hendrix, John Scofield, Wes. I want to get to know all the details of what these guys are doing.

As a side note, can I also say it’s kind of interesting that most of the famous guitarists are male. That gave me a complex for awhile. There are some great lady guitarists… Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Batten, Emily Remler… but these ladies aren’t well represented in the categories of the “best guitarists of all time” category. People don’t know who they are. I hope someday the old boys club fades and makes room for some lady shredders.

To close this out… I’m still working as hard as ever to hone my skills. I practice every day. Today I’m learning a Bach violin sonata (thanks to a good friend and great guitarist for turning me on to that) and working on sight reading. I don’t think this journey ever ends. And that is exciting.

If you’d like to see what I’m up to, I currently play with some great bands – Tim Kubart, Guns N’ Hoses, The New Tarot and just started my own instrumental group, Watch Band. I also work with a Brooklyn-based artist collective called The Round Table.

So.. if you love music, go see bands live! We don’t work without you If you’re trying to be a musician, keep going, it’s about the journey, not the destination. I feel really blessed to have found my way onto this path.

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