My Formative Years

Teen years are important time. I was living in Brazil, attending a Japanese-speaking school and I got exposed to rock music in English, probably around 14-years old.

I was always good at music, but until then I thought nothing of it. My mother made me take piano lessons starting at 10. I sort of enjoyed it but to be honest, I believed that it would be better for a boy to be good at sports. I listened to the likes of Europe “Final Countdown” Bon Jovi “Living on a Prayer” and “We Are the World.” They somehow seemed more important than cutsy Japanese “idol” music I listened till then.  

I told my parents that I wanted a guitar. They bought me a cheap classical guitar and found a classical guitar teacher.  I was 16.  

It quickly became obvious that this was not the guitar nor the music I was interested in.  Sensing the lack of interest, the teacher showed me a couple of Beatles song. I learned chords. This was more up my alley. 

My best friend Fred from my English-speaking high school introduced me to Queen. We discovered Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare together. The next time I went back to Japan, I bought myself an electric guitar, a white Ibanez RG550, which looked similar to the guitar that Vai played. 

Around the same time, I went to the US on my own for the first time during the summer. I spent two months in Iowa, at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp. I bought my first steel-string acoustic, a Sigma. I accompanied songs during campfire, and was exposed to Christian music, likes of Michael W. Smith, Petra and Whiteheart. 

I don’t remember exactly when or how the idea emerged, but I realized I wanted to write songs. Which I did at age 18. It was written on a piano, actually, and sounds like Michael W Smith’s “Friends.” After that, writing songs became my main focus.

So those were my formative years. My passion for making meaningful rock music was forged between age 14-18.  

What were some things you thought about and exposed to around that age? Or if you have kids, what did they get exposed? It’ll be curious to compare notes of how those years influence our sense of identify.  

My Sigma, the first steel-string acoustic guitar I bought when I was 16.