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Last Call

“Music is inherently a collaborative process, and quite often, our heroes work better together.”

In 1986, my friend Jon Small produced the video for Run-DMC and Aerosmith’s version of “Walk this Way.” Small starts the video with Aerosmith loudly jamming in a rehearsal space with an annoyed Run-DMC shouting from the adjacent room, “Turn that noise down, man.” When DMC realizes they can’t get around it, they have to get into it.

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Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler

Public Domain

Sad music, ironically, seems to make us happier when we listen to it. The explanation for that could be either scientific or philosophical.

Sad songs make me happy like drinking makes me thirsty. It’s a strange paradox most of us share; nobody enjoys being sad in real life, but boy do we love to listen to a song that makes us miserable. It’s magic, or maybe a better word is “alchemy”: If you take a few inert ingredients (one C major scale, one D#, a 3/8 time signature), then arrange the ingredients in the right order, like Beethoven had in mind, and play dynamically with a flowing tempo that breathes a bit, the final product can tear your heart out.

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As one of life’s simple pleasures, playing acoustic guitar—especially outside—can be the perfect mental-health solution.

“Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so.”—John Stuart Mill

My heroes have always been musicians. After a lifetime of gigs and a decade of Rig Rundowns, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of musicians that I have loved, emulated, followed, stalked. For the most part, they are nothing like the demigods I imagined. If you get an unguarded glimpse into who they are, often you will recognize a kinship, for we share this same fragile, nervous, socially awkward, somewhat insecure core. Distill it all down without smoke and mirrors, or smoke and beers, and you can see that like most of us, they were drawn to music from an early age because it gave them something they needed.

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A positive attitude won’t fix your problems, but accepting things as they are is a good start.

I did not enjoy the transition from childhood to adulthood. Going from a loving, nurturing home to an indifferent and, at times, seemingly cruel real world was not a good fit for me. My freshman year in college, I was adrift, scared, and, occasionally, what I now recognize as clinically depressed. Out of desperation, I took a philosophy course to get some answers. There, I read Nietzsche’s book, The Gay Science (perhaps the greatest title ever), and learned the phrase amor fati, which is Latin for “love of one’s fate.”

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Jared James Nichols performs with John Bohlinger at the “Rock to Remember” concert live at Nashville’s Gibson Garage in February 2023.

I was hired to lead the house band for a benefit to raise funds for veterans battling PTSD. Jared James Nichols, Kirk Fletcher, Dave Mustaine, and others joined the cause, and here’s how it went.

Often with multi-act shows, limited budget, space, and inputs on the mix necessitate that some acts share a house band. Because I’ve been slugging it out for 30-plus years in Nashville, I occasionally get hired to lead it. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get the call to lead for “Rock to Remember,” a concert/live auction collab between Guitars for Vets (an organization that provides guitars to veterans struggling with PTSD) and Gibson Gives.

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