I’m so thrilled to be introducing my friend and Teton Ranger, Adam Klinger as a guest writer on the blog today. Connecting with Adam a while back on Instagram and building a relationship has been a high point of manning our social media channels. When he visited in person, I clicked with him and his wife Michelle immediately. Music brings so many aspects of our lives together and I consider Adam part of our Teton Family. May his story of finding Teton and inspiration to write music inspire you to do the same.
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I’ve always been too shy and self conscious to share my original music. For some reason, I always convince myself that sharing my songs with the people I hold closest will yield a response that seems like an obligation. An obligation to tell me that they like it, or worse, even love it. Maybe I was scared that it would give them a view into my life, or the opportunity to decide who I was or what I should be feeling. But, really, would that be bad? The older I get, the more I understand that it’s actually a good thing, and that has helped me be able to share my music with whoever chooses to listen.
I used to write about myself and the things I was going through, good or bad. A girl I chased in high school, or trying to navigate feelings about coming from what they call a broken home, that really wasn’t so broken in the end. Songs about the girl that ultimately became my wife, the state she grew up in, or how much I loved her before I knew that I was actually in love with her. (Yes, those are two completely different things).
I grew up playing music, mostly with my family or people close enough to call family. From a young age, I played at church on Saturdays and Sundays; I added school gyms, bars and even Wrigley Field to the venue lists in high school. When I moved to Cleveland from Illinois right after I got married, I moved away from my music network. When I left, I think I forgot to pack my will to play or write songs. I would try to write, but my topics were feeling redundant and I found it easy to talk myself out of any motivation I had to play. I would go months without touching any of my guitars, which was not at all who I was or wanted to be.
Fast forward to July of 2016. My wife and I embarked on a brewery tour in Eastern Pennsylvania and stopped in State College for a night. We had taken our bikes on the trip and we headed out for a ride around the Penn State campus and town. My wife knew of a small music shop in an alleyway there called Alley Cat Music and she took me there. The night was warm, but raining, so we parked our bikes and headed inside to check it out and see if the rain would stop. This place was like a basement, packed full of guitars, almost too close together. I thought, “one wrong move and the whole place goes down!” It was fantastic.
I browsed around playing several different guitars; electric, acoustic, twelve string and baritone. And then, there it was; a guitar company I had never heard of. I knew it was a parlor guitar, and I knew I wanted to try it out. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (and one of my heroes) plays a parlor frequently, and he has made me want a parlor of my own. I picked it up, and when I looked inside the sound hole, I read Teton for the first time. The sign woven between the strings on the fretboard said “Solid Top, 12 Fret join/slot. Killer! $329.“
Well, they were right. It was killer. I felt something playing that guitar that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I wanted to play. And, I wanted to write. I wanted to write the same way that Jeff Tweedy or John Mayer writes. Where it doesn’t have to be about you, but it can encompass your feelings in a moment and make so much sense. It was unreal.
How could I possibly take this guitar home with me? I couldn’t. I was on a bike, in the rain, in a city I had no idea how to navigate. I didn’t buy the “Solid Top, 12 Fret” that day, but I thought that maybe I could take that feeling back home with me. I thought I could bring the desire to play home to the guitars I already had and, to a certain degree, I did. I started playing a bit more and tried to write more often, but I kept it to myself, like always. And even though it was never mine, that Teton was still lingering in my mind.
My wife and I are really into National Parks, and we like to plan trips around the ability to visit them. We took a trip out west to kick off 2018 and spent our time mainly exploring the parks in Utah. I could talk about it forever, but on our last day, we stopped at a place called Music Works in St. George, UT (as is my custom to check out a local music shop on our trips). This place was nice, had a huge selection of guitars and a wonderful acoustic room. As I looked around the acoustic room, I noticed the usual Taylor and Martin walls. But then, I saw it. An entire wall of Teton guitars!
I couldn’t believe it. I never thought I would see another Teton again after passing up the one in PA and it felt like I had the whole shop in front of me. I played as many Tetons as I could, but kept going back to the STG180CENT. I swear I only played it for ten minutes, but when it was time to head out to catch our flight in Vegas, my wife asked me “so are we leaving with it or what?” She had told me that the “ten minutes” was actually more like an hour. She saw something that day she hadn’t seen in me for quite some time, and I felt it too. I took that guitar up to the counter, and the kid that worked there, Aaron, got me into a case so I could take it on the plane home with me.
The first song I wrote on that guitar is called ‘Homesick Home.’ It’s about trying to make a new place home enough that you would be homesick if you left it. While it’s definitely about me, it was also my first attempt at writing a story. Something that if you closed your eyes, you could see or feel.
With my new guitar in hand, I started writing more and more. I started writing songs that were about more than just me, or not even about me at all. It has turned into writing stories or scenarios and how I would feel if it were actually my story. I started developing my own style, and I started having fun again.
All these songs sounded great in the living room, even those that only get played a few times before moving on. How would I ever know if these songs were actually good? It was time to stop being shy and self conscious about sharing my music and writing. I needed to start putting it out there for someone to hear, and be open to getting honest feedback from strangers.
Enter, Instagram. My Instagram has turned into mostly a bunch of short clips of me playing a short cover or a snippet of an original. This was big for me! I could share something without having to see people’s expressions and I could get feedback from people’s comments and “likes” on my posts. I began coming out of my shell, and it was good.
About a year later, my wife planned a birthday trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. She suggested that since Teton Basecamp, in Idaho Falls was close to our route, maybe we could stop by and tour the shop since I had started building a relationship with them through Instagram. When I reached out, Jenn blew my mind and invited me to play my song “Homesick Home” in their studio, followed by a short set in the showroom for their staff and anyone else who wanted to join. I was completely shocked. Me? I’m just some guy from Cleveland. This was a dream come true – I had to say yes.
I was unable to bring my own guitar, but Jenn assured me that they had plenty to choose from. Once there, I looked at the huge wall of Teton Guitars and played several, but I kept going back to the STP180DVB. Yup, a parlor. It felt perfect. So perfect that days after I left, I purchased one and had them ship it to me. I finally had my parlor guitar, just like Jeff Tweedy.
So many songs have come pouring out of me since then. Once again, they all sounded great in the living room by myself. I continued sharing snippets on Instagram, but I would only share full versions of my songs with a select few people. People who I’m still convinced would tell me they liked them, even if they didn’t. Knowing I needed to put my music out there, but feeling my recordings were not strong enough to enter the streaming world. Seeking advice, I reached out to my friend Jenn from Teton. She shared some thoughts on what I could do with my home recording gear. There was one particular piece of advice Jenn gave that really pushed me to finally do something. “Why not just record on your phone and post that to SoundCloud? If nothing else, it’s a start.”
Already recording songs in the Music Memo app on my iPhone, which was basically my digital songwriting book with versions of songs all the way from initial thought to acoustic demo. For me songwriting happens fast, all at once, and it’s sometimes overwhelming. Might be a strange system, but it works for me and I enjoy going back and listening to all the different cuts until the song is in full demo form. I’ve found a couple of great spots to record my demos that will eventually make it onto my SoundCloud. None of these recordings are perfect, but that’s the great thing about a demo to me, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I almost prefer the demo because it leaves open possibilities for where the song can go not only for me, but for the listener too.
I’ve found that posting my demos to SoundCloud is not only a way to get my music out there, but is also a great confidence builder. It helps me fall in love with my music, not just love it. It also helps me to be confident in my abilities as a songwriter. It’s helped me grow, learn to appreciate any and all feedback, and to believe that people are being honest. The bottom line is this: People may love it, or, they may hate it. But, at the end of the day, I’m proud of my work whether it speaks to one person or a million.