Tell us a bit about your musical childhood.
I grew up in a rural farming community in Upstate New York, in a beautiful old home by a winding river. Childhood was very peaceful and simple: our home was full of music, as my parents are both musical people; and every night as they made dinner they would put music on – from opera to Billy Joel to John Denver. They also took us children to the symphony frequently, and sometimes to see John Mayer, too. 🙂 From the age of six I took lessons in classical piano, and performed in recitals up through high school – the works of Debussy and Chopin were among my favorite to play. When I was in high school I taught myself how to play the guitar and often performed at open mics every week in town.
What is your guilty pleasure song that you sing at the top of your lungs?
Africa by Toto and Classic by MKTO.
Where did you get your musical talent and inspiration from?
As I mentioned earlier, my parents are both musical: mom sang professionally for a number of years before marrying Dad, and Dad taught himself Spanish guitar. The two of them fell in love over playing music for their mutual friends’ weddings in college. They also exposed us children to many wonderful musicians throughout childhood: John Denver, Eva Cassidy, Jay Ungar, Eric Clapton, Emmy Lou Harris, Andrea Boccelli, Billy Joel, Peter Paul and Mary, classical works, and a wide array of others. I explored music on my own, too, in my teens; and quickly came to form a deep appreciation for artists such as John Mayer, Chris Thile, Norah Jones, Chris Martin, Jon Foreman, Sondre Lerche, and others.
When did you first start performing?
In high school, when I was around 16.
If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Probably Middle Eastern food!
Who would you perform in front of if you could only choose one person?
I think I would perform for whatever person was most on the edge of despair – the person who most needed to be reminded that they have dignity and that they are loved. If we’re talking about a specific individual, living or deceased, then I would say Karol Wojtyla: that is, Pope John Paul II. He has had an immense impact on my life.