What was it that first got you interested in playing the guitar, mandolin or banjo?
I grew up listening to American Folk and Traditional Irish / Celtic music so had an early appreciation for acoustic instruments and traditional melodies. I began to attend local bluegrass and music festivals in my teens, particularly a large bluegrass festival in the hills above the Western Branch of the Delaware River and was hooked on the energy and presence of the five string banjo.
How long have you been playing and what's your motivation to play?
I've been playing and singing bluegrass around 25 years on banjo and guitar as I started in my early teens. I've only recently gotten into mandolin. I'm continually motivated by seeing and playing with others as I love the spirit, camaraderie and willingness to share and learn. My oldest daughter has shown interest and aptitude which is another level of joy watching her develop.
What’s your favorite lesson on Ben’s site and how has it helped you improve?
It's hard to say as I really like the presentation of the melodic lessons - If I had to pick I'd say Bag O' Licks as they are structured perfectly for adding repetoire quickly.
What's your goal when playing?
These days I'm really focused on the fundamentals and application of theory to make me a better all around musician, not just a tactician. As I did have some formal training there's a background in there somewhere that Banjo Ben lessons seem to bring out with a disciplined 'Practice not until you get it right, Practice until you can't do it wrong' approach.
Are there any other instruments or genres of music that you enjoy playing?
I also play electric guitar and have played trombone and drums. I was in a barbershop quartet and have been in several mixed choirs. I spent a lot of years in garage and local cover bands with a mix of classic rock and old country / singer songwriter type influences. I worked with a touring outfit that wrote and released their own material which would be best described as a cheeky and irreverent take on being Irish - American.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would definitely play music and fly fish more as those are zen activities for me.
How long have you been a Gold Pick member?
Almost two years although I've been learning from Banjo Ben for far longer than that.
Do you have a favorite technique? What is it?
Singing close harmony with no vibrato - as a baritone in a barbershop quartet I really got an appreciation for harmony structure.
If you could play in anyone's band, who would it be and why?
Impossible to pick just one band.
What type of gear or accessories have you found that work best for you?
I love my DeVille 212 Tube amp with the American Tele. The Snark tuner I got in the Mandolin bundle is a pretty darn useful accessory.
If money was no object, what would be your dream instrument(s)?
52' Telecaster, Loar Mandolin, Gibson Mastertone, Pre-War Martin.
How did you find out about Banjo Ben?
Either a facebook or youtube wormhole years ago, before he was in Tennessee. I was on flatpick guitar searches and someone mentioned in a video. I loved the homespun flavor and earnest attitude of the early productions. It has been fun for me to see Banjo Ben evolve as a business, as an entreprenuer myself I appreciate all the value Ben shares for free as brand building, is a great study on social marketing and value proposition.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Happy to be a small part of the Banjo Ben community, I find a lot of value in the lesson content and General Store. I’m very happy with my mandolin bundle purchase from last Holiday Season and get compliments on the instrument setup which I am sure to tell people is Jake.