Well, so I wrote the other day that I haven’t won a grammy… have never even been nominated for one… maybe someday… but if you read my last post about my youngest son Connor, I’ve won the biggest prize… but, guess what? I won again? Because it feels like my son JJ won a Grammy tonight!
Ok, you know me… I can’t tell a short story so here goes…
So we were living in Utah having moved there temporarily when my mother in law was informed her breast cancer had returned. That’s a whole other story of how we picked up and moved to Utah… well, ok, let my attention deficit kick in for a second.
There we were in Nashville having said this is where we’ve ended up and will stay, forever. I mean we had just had that discussion not more than a couple months before this happened… Tracy and I had talked about it. The boys were really getting integrated into the city and it was all going smoothly.
Then, the life piece happens… as I said, we got the news that the thief had returned to my mother in law and I started thinking about what our life would be like. Tracy would be going back and forth to Utah, which would be fine, but you know what? *I* wanted to go back and rally with them.
So I suggested that we move back to Utah. It completely caught Tracy off guard. Truthfully, I thought she would have reacted so over the top favorable to it but she said she needed to process this… she was out in the city doing something and said when she got home we’d talk about it. Remember, in her mind she had just committed to staying in TN forever.
But, when she walked in the door and I was already packing things up she later told me that was such a turn on because I was just leading the situation.
Well ok, get this… from that day, deciding to go to Utah, starting to pack up we were moved, unpacked and into our Utah rental and it felt like we’d been living there for years. And this was in 3 WEEKS! Yes… from the moment she came home and I was packing up we were moved out and moved into our rental in Utah in 3 weeks.
Looking back on that it’s one of those decisions that I knew we’d always reflect on as taking in a moment in time we’d never get back. Sure, it was the last 3 1/2 years of Linda’s life but as we were there, the dignity and grace she demonstrated planted a deep serenity, the kind they say happens when you’re in the middle of an unthinkable situation is happening, yet you are able to get calm about it.
That’s what happened in Utah.
But the other thing that happened was my oldest son JJ started getting into DJ’ing. He had built a following in Utah and was starting to play live events and he loved seeing what he could do with a crowd. It was another one of those moments that made me so proud. There he was up there whipping the crowd into a frenzy.
He was really starting to think about his future and saw himself as a bigtime DJ producer and that’s when I had *the talk* with him.
I said it in a very encouraging way but I wanted him to start considering some things that if he took to them I knew he’d not only start growing exponentially but increase his value exponentially.
We sat down and I said, “So this is GREAT! You’re starting to rise the ranks as a DJ and starting to get a following. I wonder what would happen if you added any kind of musical instruments to the show. What if you’re standing there and getting everybody crazy with your mixes and you had an instrument sitting right there and you just grabbed it and played some insane lick real quick, put it down and now they’re seen you *play* something and now it’s part of the mix they’re hearing! And next to that, what if you sang some insane lick over the mix you’re blasting? Like imagine if any of these DJs all of a sudden sang some Stevie Wonder lick over the music, the people *saw* this and they’re seeing an actual instrumentalist/singer building these dance tracks on the spot. I think that would be insane!
And the reason I say this is because of this… you are GREAT at what you do, a DJ. Your competition out there is immense. There are a TON of great DJs out there. If you added some musicianship or singing to your arsenal you have now narrowed the field of competition. Get it?”
I was remembering all of the pounding my mother did on me to start *singing* when I was a kid… and she was right. The fact I had that skillset. Play instruments, multi, sing, write songs, produce… that single handedly upped my value that I know without question get me into the band Chicago.
I know he was listening to me. And remember, he was 17 years old. And here’s where it gets SOOOOO cool…
JJ had such a vision that he started doubling up on high school classes so he could graduate early and that he did. Graduated a year early and then came to me and did one of the best sales presentations I’ve ever seen.
He actually sent it in an email. He basically told me his vision was to get out to LA and that he was ready. He laid his entire plan out and then he really nailed me when he said, “Dad, I’m going to follow in your footsteps…” When I thought of an argument to go back to him with I thought, “That’s what I did. Living on my own at 17, working in a band 5 nights a week taking care of myself. How could I argue?”
So Tracy and I started looking at where he would live and we found an apartment in student living over in Northridge. I drove him down from Utah to LA and we went and got his apartment. What a trippy thing that was. My boy, was going to be in LA, BY HIMSELF! Sure, I reached out to some friends and made sure he had some numbers to call if he had any issues… but this was REALLY weird for me.
I called some friends who had some recording studios and asked if I could bring my son by to possibly look at an intern position? No pay, just a place to go and be around music, recording, etc. and not have idle time in his new apartment. And how knew the people he’d run into and where it would take him.
I remember some of the people I met in LA at 17, 18 years old and we were ALL very shady. But, I had to take this chance. My son wrote that beautiful email and there’s no way I could say no.
And actually, thinking back now, my wife and I talked about it and realized if we said no, he’s only got 6 months before he’s 18 so if we tried to hold him back he could easily build up a nice resentment and tell us to buzz off and split anyway.
I took him in to meet a good friend of mine who runs one of LA’s top recording studios. This studio usually has the world’s biggest modern Pop/R&B superstars in their rooms so I figured if there was any way to get him an internship he’d be around some pretty cool stuff.
We sit down with her and I tell her what’s going on, he’s moving to town by himself and if we could get him in there it would be great. She looks at him and asks, “How old are you?” and he says 17. She says, “Well, we normally don’t take anybody under 18 but I can tell you’re a good boy so I’ll take you to try out.” You have no idea how happy this made me… I knew he had a place to go and he was going to be looked after. I was that much more comfortable about this experiment.
We left and he was to report to work the next day and she said, “You know what? I’m going to put you on Bruno’s sessions. You’ll be his personal runner to get what they want.”
JJ thought he had died and gone to heaven. When we got back to JJ’s new apartment she had called and said she needed to put him in a more general position, that some of the other interns might get upset that they’d been working there for months already and this new kid just gets ushered in to Bruno Mars sessions?
I could see this was a disappointment to him but what a great first lesson… you’re going to not get what you always want.
Now I need to scroll back for a second and say that I had called my friend from Utah originally and told her what was going to happen and asked her about the internship. She told me on the phone she was going to put him on the Bruno Mars album. Maybe I shouldn’t have told that to JJ but when we look back now it’s really funny how this all played out and we have SUCH a great laugh about it now!
When I look back on that move out west for JJ he got dressed in his latest cool outfits he’d wear back home… when he’d DJ… I’ll tell you what… I think he thought he was going to waltz into LA, go into Studio A at this world class facility, meet Bruno Mars and he’d be in his band, overnight! Ahhhhh, the thought processes of kids! BUT, I like that he was thinking big! And, part of the process is how you handle the setbacks.
So the first setback was my friend saying JJ was going to start the next day and do general work around the studio… whatever that meant, right?
We pull up to the studio, we go in, the front office staff was very nice, my friend was wonderful and the next thing I know they tell him his first job is to go sweep the front parking spaces.
I got in my car, looked back and saw him in this parking lot and I had a mixture of feelings… one, was that I was so proud of him… he’s out in LA and starting his life’s journey… I’m leaving him on his first day on the job… and the part that broke my heart is in his posture I could tell he was SO IRRITATED! His first job, on day 1, was to sweep the parking spot Bruno Mars uses when he comes to the studio!
It reminded me of the few jobs I had as a kid and HATED doing anything like this. JJ had a broom and a little scooper thing to sweep the leaves in. I pulled my phone out to take a photo of him and to this day when I look at that photo I can’t help but laugh. He didn’t even know how to hold the broom!
All day I’m just imagining myself in his shoes… wondering if I’d show up later that day and he’s say, “Sorry Dad, I can’t handle this” but, I picked him up and he was smiling… we started driving away and he said, “You know what Dad, when you were driving away this morning I was so irritated and then I thought of what you would always say… *It’s Part Of The Story!*
I was so happy. He was GETTING it! So within a week something happened with one of the people working on Bruno’s sessions and there was an opening and she put JJ in on the project. I couldn’t wait to tell all the guys in the band! JJ is working on the Bruno Mars album! Proud Papa I am!
I returned to Utah and then headed out on the road with Chicago so I’d stay in touch with him and he was doing so well. And here’s what I mean by that… he was keeping his *head* together. Think about this for a minute. A 17 year old in LA? On his own? With a car? Being in the studio with one of the world’s biggest superstars? Most people would lose their minds… but again, I went back to his email that sold me on all this. And he was pulling it off.
Once he was in the flow of things he started sharing a frustration he was having. He was working so much that he wasn’t able to work on his own music. At first I’m thinking, “Come on man… this is an opportunity of a lifetime!” but it kept gnawing at him…
He’d share about it now and then and once it had really been several months we sat down and talked about it and it was very simple, and pure and authentic. He told me he was in LA to make music. To create.
So he thought about it long and hard and eventually went in and told my friend he was going to have to move on. He was very clear on how grateful he was for this opportunity but he needed to make music. She was so sweet and understanding and I will always thank her and be indebted to her for making that happen. The biggest takeaway for me about all this is my son was 17 years old working on a project that would ultimately sweep the Grammys surrounded by the biggest pop stars in the world. He had worked for all kinds of people during his stay and had rubbed shoulders with everybody from Bruno, of course, Pharrell, Hit Boy… it was about the best/worst environment for a kid to lose his mind as you can imagine… and he passed the test. Didn’t fall prey to the jive. Never went to any of the parties… he would always be itching to get home and work on his music. Driven.
Well about this time it was driving me crazy being away from my son. I had missed so much with all the traveling I’d done throughout my career and here I was looking at my son moving on and away. I was really happy for him but I felt the sadness of the end of an era.
And right about this time Tracy had been told by her doctors she had a condition of inflammation due to all the stress she had been going through. At this point her father had passed and her mother was battling breast cancer.
Tracy’s doctors told her she was on the verge of a heart attack with all this inflammation so I found us a place to rent back in LA. JJ moved back in with us and our family was together again. That next year was pure bliss as far as family goes. And JJ was REALLY starting to come up with some incredible music.
I then went back in for the kill… I told him to start singing… I said, “Ok, I’m going to do what my mother did… I’m going to pound on you to sing because I’ve heard your voice and you have a great voice. BUT, I’m not going to do it like my mother did… she wanted me to get out in FRONT of people and sing… but I’m just telling you to do it every day… go into your bedroom… close the door… nobody has to hear it… but listen to me… GET THE REPS IN. Get READY. You want to be ready for when the opportunity comes. That’s what happened to me. Vocal lessons at 21 years old… vocalizing every day… so when the opportunity came up to join Chicago I was ready… well, at least the technique had been built.
The next thing I knew, Tracy came into me and asked, “Did you hear what’s going on in JJ’s room? That’s his VOICE!” I pressed my head to the door and heard the most angelic voice coming through his speakers! He had gone into his room and was quietly getting his reps in, but, it didn’t take long! And you know what? That’s what happened to me. When I heard my voice being recorded with great reverb… I was off to the races… and now, so is JJ.
So in summary… the Grammys were on last night and Bruno Mars won 6 of them! They call that a SWEEP! And how profound… the photo above shows JJ SWEEPING the parking space for Bruno Mars while he was making this album! I immediately smiled and said to Tracy, “JJ won at the Grammys!” Hey, he worked on the album!
And for those of you who want to hear what JJ’s doing, check it out!