My Musical Life 0 — 20

Age 4 – Gets into the Beatles.

Age 6 – Writes first song, entitled “I’m A Guy Who Likes Potatoes,” a taxonomy of the ways they can be prepared. Still my finest composition.

Age 7 – Started a Beach Boys fan club consisting of me and my two cousins. No one cared as much as me.

Age 7 – Tell my dad I want to learn how to play the guitar like him. I don’t, but know he will like hearing it. Lessons commence and I am miserable.

Age 10 – Really hear hip-hop for the first time as my step-brother Tommy (he lived with his mom) makes me wear his headphones and plays “Nightmare on My Street” on his Walkmen while he dances in front of me mouthing the words. I was blown away.

Age 11 – Dad teaches me “Blackbird.” Suddenly I love playing guitar.

Age 13 – I become the replacement drummer in my dad’s Southern rock band, Rock Bottom, for the summer. We never play out, but I do develop a life-long affection for the Marshall Tucker Band.

Age 14 – Nirvana

Age 15 – I buy Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain to impress the dudes who work at the Record Exchange, my local record store. I begin buying indie rock when I can afford. I never like it, but the clerks like that I’m buying it. Or I think they do.

Age 16 – I hear “Web in Front.” Now I “get” indie.

Age 16 – Get an internship at WUVT, the Virginia Tech college radio station. Upma is the station manager and I badly want her to like me. Her favorite band is the Fall. As much as I try, I cannot get into them. We don’t click.

Age 17 – Play two songs on my guitar in front of the whole school at a choir concert: Beatles, “Girl” and Oasis, “Married With Children.” And yes, I did the pot inhales in “Girl.”

Age 18 – New Years Eve, back from college. Gang all together again at a cabin in the middle of nowhere singing “A Long December” by the Counting Crows as it turns midnight. Will never forget it.

Age 19 – Write my first piece of music criticism. It’s for a new site called Pitchfork. It’s terrible but they take it. Six weeks later I am (justifiably) fired for a really bad review of Joe Pernice’s one record as Chappaquiddick Skyline. I included more than one Ted Kennedy joke.