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Brandon “Taz” Niederauer: A Minor with a Major Future

Brandon “Taz” Niederauer: A Minor with a Major Future
Alan Bryson By

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I want to play off the music of all my ethnicities, whether it's my dad's love of rock & roll and blues, or my mom's island ways, all the reggae and ska she showed me—I want to put that in there somewhere. —Brandon 'Taz' Niederauer
Though only seventeen, guitarist/singer/songwriter Brandon Niederauer has amassed a staggering list of accomplishments. At age ten he was a guest and performer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show—the YouTube clip of which has over 3,200,000 views. Two years later he landed a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Broadway Musical, School of Rock. He has performed a Hendrixesque version of the National Anthem at games for Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

He has worked with Lady Gaga, and played with Gregg Allman, Buddy Guy, Widespread Panic, Jon Batiste, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Oteil Burbridge, Dr. John, Eric Krasno, George Porter Jr., and many others. Currently he can be seen in Spike Lee's Netflix series, She's Gotta Have It.

He tours with his own band, nationally and internationally, playing his own signature guitar by D'Angelico. Finally, nurtured and guided by his parents, and grounded by friendships he has retained since early childhood, he excels in science and math at his public high school in Long Island, New York.

Strange Attractor

In chaos theory there is a pattern which Merriam-Webster explains, "is known whimsically as a strange attractor, because the chaotic system seems to be strangely attracted to an ideal behavior." On the Southern music scene, Col. Bruce Hampton was the iconoclastic "strange attractor" who held scores of talented musicians in his orbit. Duane Allman considered him a brother, while both Jimmy Herring and Derek Trucks have stated that they might not be professional musicians were it not for their relationship with Bruce Hampton.

Brandon Niederauer was the final guitarist to come into Bruce Hampton's inner circle, and theirs was indeed a special relationship forged over nearly six years. To give you a better understanding of Bruce Hampton's approach to mentoring, here is a bit of what Jimmy Herring shared with me in a 2017 interview link just after Bruce Hampton's passing:

"He wanted to work with new people, get them ready for the major league, but staying tight with them after they left... His true genius was in giving musicians an outlet to discover their own voice. He never told you what to play, he didn't work that way. He might make you listen to music you've never heard before that he loves... Bruce was a father figure to a lot of young musicians who could bring things out of them they didn't know was in them. We viewed Bruce kind of like an Alabama football coach version of Miles Davis...You know, he was Southern, and being around him was infectious... He would give you an outlet, and if you played long enough with him, you would stop sounding like your heroes."

An Unlikely Friendship

It seems clear that Bruce Hampton saw the same spark in Brandon Niederauer that he had seen two decades earlier in young Derek Trucks. He recognized in him someone from the current generation to whom he could pass the torch. Moreover, Bruce Hampton and Brandon Niederauer shared the distinction of being musician/actors. Hampton is best remembered for a scene in the film Sling Blade written, directed, and starring his close friend, actor/musician, Billy Bob Thorton -it's a clip which captures his essence.



When Hampton was offered the starring role in the independent film Here Comes Rusty, he immediately thought of his friend Brandon and convinced the producer to write in a part for him. Before a showing at the Atlanta Film Festival in March of 2016, Hampton spoke with the Atlanta Journal Constitution about Brandon Niederauer:

"I was (helping teach) a class on the Jam Cruise a couple of years ago. Brandon was in the audience, and he was 9 or 10 years old. I heard him play, and he sounded so good it was unbelievable... Now he's in School of Rock on Broadway. They're extending it through November. He was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Jane Fonda fell in love with him. He stole that show. And he was in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He's a great guy, has amazing intent and an ear like nobody. He's more than a prodigy. ... He's hopping a plane right after his show on Broadway and coming right here to play our show."

Cosmic Sendoff

On April 30th, 2017 Brandon Niederauer joined over thirty musicians, including members of Wide Spread Panic, Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge, John Popper, Jimmy Herring, Jeff Sipe, and Matt Slocum for a sold out show at the Fox Theater in Atlanta celebrating Bruce Hampton's birthday. At the end of the four hour show, all the musicians went out on stage for a final encore, and Col. Bruce made sure young Brandon was front and center between Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes.

As an inspired Brandon Niederauer unleashed a high energy solo, Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage at his feet. He was known for his campy humor and theatrics, so it took a couple of minutes for those present to realize that this was not an act. Brandon Niederauer has spoken about this before, so I saw to need to revisit that traumatic moment. I did, however, ask John McLaughlin for his thoughts a few months after it happened. link Here's a bit of what he said:

"Jimmy and I have become quite close over the past few years... so I heard about it within hours. For me it is an ideal way to go, but for the fans it is dramatic—I don't know, it would upset me to have seen that. To witness the loss of a friend, you know. But from his point of view I think it was perfect, there couldn't be a better moment in one sense, could there?"

Probably not, he was on stage doing what he loved, surrounded by loving friends and loyal fans there to celebrate his birthday, and witnessing his star pupil shine before a packed house during an encore. He truly couldn't have planned it any better. Now let's meet that young man.



All About Jazz: Let's start off with a few fun time machine questions. First one, if you could go back in time and sit in with the original Allman Brothers Band during the At Fillmore East, 1971 Capricorn, recordings for just one song, which song would it be?

Brandon Niederauer: I'd probably play "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" because it's such an iconic recording, and my favorite recording that they did on that album. Also, it's really long, so I'd be able to have my time with it, stretch it out, and be able to play with everybody. That would be such a cool thing, they should invent time machines so that people like me can do that.

AAJ: You're a young guy, it may yet happen.

BN: We'll see, but even if I got to go back and just witness it with my own eyes and ears, I'd be totally okay with that. But getting to play would be insane, so I'd say "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed."

AAJ: By the way, do you have a favorite Duane Allman solo?

BN: It's really hard to choose that off the top of my head, because every single one was just so amazing, but if there was just one that changed my life, it would have to be his solo at the end of "Layla."

It's so iconic, and I have a friend who has an original pressing of that album, and sometimes I go over there and just listen to it on a record player. That solo just changed rock history forever, and it my not be his most technical solo, but you can feel what he's going through, and he's totally invested into it. It's lived on, and it's one of those records that will never die, so I feel like that one would be the one I would choose.

AAJ: Second question, still the same time machine. If you could go back to Chicago in the heydays of the blues and sit in with either Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf, which would you choose?

BN: That's a very hard choice, but I'd go with Muddy Waters, because I've been a Muddy Waters fan since I was probably about six. In elementary school I would do projects and reports on him—I'm a Muddy Waters sponge when it comes to knowledge about him. He's pretty much the founder of the Chicago delta blues scene, so I would love to play with him and see him, and I'd ask him a bunch of questions about how he got started. He's basically synonymous with the Chicago blues scene, so I would just love to see that.

AAJ: Third and final time machine question, this one is about jazz. If you could go back in time and see either Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, or Jaco Pastorius live on stage at the absolute top of their game, which would you choose?

BN: (without hesitation) Probably Charlie Parker because at the top of his game with songs like "Donna Lee" and playing with Miles Davis—so it would be a chance to see all those things. Coming out of the Harlem renaissance with musicians like Louis Armstrong in the 20s and early 30s, Charlie Parker really revolutionized jazz in the 40s and 50s. I would just love to see him, I love all of his albums.

AAJ: You never suffered from stage freight did you?

BN: Not really, no. I've gotten a little nervous, but never like the feeling I was going to throw up or anything like that. It was never hard for me to just step on stage, even in school before I started playing guitar I was never afraid to stand in front of the class and do a report. So I never had to deal with stage freight, ever.

AAJ: The reason I asked that, is because of a clip of you that impressed me. You were on stage with Jon Batiste, and just before he called on you to solo, I noticed your guitar strap came off, and you were a little guy back then and you were just barely holding up your guitar. You handled that so cool, and then you walked to the front of the stage and just smoked the place, I thought that was a great save.

BN: Thank you, I mean when you're a guitarist on a live performance, you've got to be prepared for the worst things to happen. I can guarantee you that was not the first time that has happened to me. When you get an embarrassing moment like that, you've just got to keep going, and try to make it cooler—like maybe put it on my knee or something like that. It's a live show, and the show must not stop, (laughs) I can't ask Jon to stop the show so I can put my strap on.

AAJ: I'm curious, have you ever seen any YouTube clips of a band called Frogwings?

BN: Yeah, that's a super group, you've got Butch Trucks, Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, John Popper on vocals and harmonica, Kofi Burbridge on keyboards and flute, and Oteil Burbridge on bass. It's absolutely insane what they were doing, I wish they would have stayed together longer, but man that was a great band.

AAJ: The thing that interested me about you and Frogwings, is that you weren't even born when they were together (1998-1999) but I think that you've played with everybody who was in the band.

BN: I've been blessed, yes I think I have literally played with every single band member. I know there are millions of people who would take that opportunity that was given to me, and I'm grateful for that—that they would let a kid come up and play with them. It's awesome I get to play with the A-List musicians, they are such cool guys, I'm inspired by all of them, and I never take it for granted.

AAJ: As a guitarist, because you've played with both Jimmy Herring and Derek Trucks, what is your insight into them in terms of their sound, phrasing, and technique, could you maybe compare and contrast?

BN: I would say Jimmy is a more technical guitarist, but other than that, their playing is based on feel, they are both super knowledgeable about the neck, they just play in different ways.

Obviously Jimmy uses a pick, Derek uses his fingers, so that's going to vary the tone, and they've got different tones. They basically both play straight into the amp, no pedals, but the thing that's great about them, and that separates them, is their feel. They both have separate feels that are completely different, but work so well together when they play. If you watch any videos of them together you see that their chemistry together is just electric. They both have completely different feels and sounds, but equally amazing tones, solos, and the way they play rhythm, they are different, but each is awesome in his own way.

AAJ: Like you, Derek's musical career began before he became a teenager, so you two have a lot in common. In general, what have you learned from his example?

BN: He's a huge influence on me. Of course we were both child prodigies as the headlines like to say, but it's really cool that he leads by example—and not just for me, because there's a million child guitar players out there who are looking at him. I'm inspired by watching him lead the way as he trail blazes this path of building a brand around the guitar. Not only that, but in Atlanta a couple of years ago he invited me up to play with him, and it was an unforgettable experience.

I think the thing that really separates Derek from everyone else is his personality, how nice he is, he's so humble, and how he treats the people he employs, it's amazing, and I hope to do that as well. I'm glad I got to see that with my own eyes. He could act like the typical rock star, but he chooses not to.

AAJ: So many musicians were influenced, mentored, and or inspired by Col. Bruce Hampton, and you also had a special connection with him. Could you share how you two became friends, and how he impacted your life, personally and as a musician?

BN: I met him on Jam Cruise '12, that's a cruise line that features jam bands, and he was on it. I was a passenger, I wasn't playing—I wasn't supposed to, but I ended up playing as a passenger. He was one of the mentors at the camp they were having, he was super cool, and fast forward, I did a movie with him. I played with him so many times, he was a bundle of energy, always cracking jokes, and he could guess your birthday in an instant. I guess you've heard that a million times.

AAJ: No, I didn't know that.

BN: Yeah, he was like a complete psychic, anyone who knew him well will tell you that. He knew what was going to happen before it happened. He could just look at you and tell you your birthday without even knowing you, that was like the first thing he told me when I was nine years old. He gave me so much advice which changed my life in the short time I knew him, which was only five or six years. In that short time, he completely changed the way I look at the world, the way I play guitar, and the way I am going to go about my life—just by knowing him.

Five or six years isn't a long time, but the amount of knowledge he shared with me could last a lifetime. I want to thank him for that, and I know he's watching over the whole music industry now from space, and we all love and miss him. You know I got to see him on his last day before he left the world, and it's something I'm really thankful for. All of the advice he gave me could be put into music or real life, for example, "rules are meant to be broken," "blaze your own path."

So hearing that as an eleven or twelve year old, knowing I could break the rules, it was revolutionary. I'll always be grateful for everything he did, and when I die, I'll go up and thank him again.

AAJ: You mentioned you were in a film with him. I read an interview him and he actually had the film producer write you into the movie, that demonstrates the connection he felt for you—and he put you front and center on stage at his 70th Brithday Celebration. It seems like he had plans for you for a long time.

BN: He was amazing like that, he would include people he cared about in things he cared about. He was always so humble, he could be playing at a dive bar in a random city, or at the Fox Theater, and he would give it the same amount of energy. That's something else he taught me, just by playing with him—you've got to put 100% in all your shows and everything you do in life. There are plenty of people who do that, but Col. Bruce demonstrated it the best.



AAJ: I know the film, Here Comes Rusty was shown at a few film festivals, but never released. Did you ever get a chance to see the finished film?

BN: Yes I have, I have a link to it, but unfortunately it's not released yet, for some reason I don't know. But I've seen it many times, it's a really good movie. It's hard to watch now, because I was a cringy eleven year old kid, and it's so weird to see myself like that.

But it's a great movie, I love it. Unfortunately, the actor Fred Willard just passed, and some of the staff of the movie passed away too, so I feel like this movie really needs to get out somehow.

AAJ: From what I understand Brandon, the producer died right before it was going to be released, and they couldn't pay the music royalties which were about $25,000. So they were trying to raise the money for the rights to use the music.

BN: So many of the cast and crew have now passed away, they've really got to get it out. It holds so much sentimental value to everyone who was in it, or worked on it. It was such a joy, everyone who was there on set was just having the greatest time ever. So I hope all this sentimental value gets passed along and the world gets to see this movie.

AAJ: With all the people he inspired and his musical friends, I wonder if perhaps someday there will be something like an auction of autographed guitars that might raise enough money to cover the royalties. I'd love to see it and buy a copy.

BN: You'd need to get some pretty big names to get $25k, but yeah that would be awesome.

AAJ: I understand your Dad had a pretty extensive music collection that had quite an influence on you. Could you name a few of your favorite albums from his collection?

BN: All of the records he has are super sentimental for many reasons, I'll start with this, he has a pressing of Jimi Hendrix's Axis Bold as Love 1967 Reprise Records. Obviously, Jimi Hendrix revolutionized the guitar, and once I heard that album I was set.

To go on, there's an album by the The Doobie Brothers called The Captain and Me Warner Brothers Records 1973, and there were other ones too, but that's probably the big one. It has "Long Train Runnin'" on it, and whenever we would go on trips, like to upstate New York to the mountains or go to the lake, that's the music I want to hear, the Doobie Brothers, that's it.

AAJ: Is that the one with "China Grove" and "Black Water"?

BN: Yeah, I love all those songs, "Black Water" is my favorite, but I don't know if it's on that album. That album is super sentimental to me, because of all the memories attached to it. That's the good thing about music, because if you can attach a good memory to a song, that song will live with you forever. That's part of the reason music is a universal language, because other people have memories connected to the same song and you can bond over that. I just love that album.

Other albums, the Allman Brothers At Fillmore East and let me think of a couple of others. The Muddy Waters album with "Got My Mojo Workin,'" I don't think he wrote that song [Preston "Red" Foster], but when you hear that song or the words "mojo workin'" you immediately think of Muddy Waters.

So many people have rearranged songs or did them in their own way because of what Muddy Waters did with that song, and "Hoochie Coochie Man" and all that. I just love that song. Again, more priceless memories attached to that song, you know, throwing the ball outside with your dad, pool parties with that song playing.

I think the final one, and it goes without saying, but The Last Waltz by the Band, Warner Brothers Records 1978, it was a great movie, but also every single song on that is banger when it comes to how it was performed. The Band was on fire that night, and they brought out amazing guests, like Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and I remember listening to that in the car and being so amazed by it. As a sixth, I would add any Bob Dylan album that ever was. My dad is a huge Bob Dylan fan, my brother's first name is because of Bob Dylan. I share my dad's love for Bob Dylan.

AAJ: You've been asked a lot of times about rock and blues musicians, but I'd like to know some jazz musicians who have particularly inspired, influenced, or impressed you?

BN: There's so many, George Benson, Kamasi Washington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Jaco Pastorius, Pat Metheny, and neo jazz and neo soul bands like Ghost-Note, people like John McLaughlin, I'd say that's more fusion, but it falls under the jazz umbrella.

All the artists that I named, they either trail blazed their own form of jazz, or multiple forms like Miles, or they took a genre under the umbrella of jazz, like fusion or be bop, and made it their own. That's something that I want to do, with a genre of music that I don't know yet, but we'll see. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same, to change music like they did.

AAJ: Your approach is interesting, you take influences from multiple genres, and that makes things more interesting, especially if you're in music for the long haul. It's great to not be stuck in a genre.

BN: Just playing one genre, like playing pure blues is pretty boring when it comes to the grand scheme of things. Your audience won't be deep, I feel like if you can put a lot of genres in the music, or make your own genre if that's even possible, then you're broadening your audience. Myself, I'm not just one ethnicity, I'm a lot of ethnicities. I want to play off the music of all my ethnicities, whether it's my dad's love of rock & roll and blues, or my mom's island ways, all the reggae and ska she showed me—I want to put that in there somewhere. I play off the influences of both my parents.

AAJ: Do either one of your parents play musical instruments?

BN: No they can't. My brother and I are first generation musicians when it comes to my family, I don't think there's anyone in my whole extended family—maybe one or two, but I don't think so.

AAJ: That's kind of amazing.

BN: My parents came up without a lot of resources, and I don't think they had the time or the money to take up something like an instrument. Thank God, in my situation I had a school that allowed me to pick an instrument and learn how to play it.

My first instrument was violin, because schools forced you to pick up an instrument and see how you like it. I think it's cool that New York public schools have to have a music program so we can keep music going for the long haul.

AAJ: I never read that about you, that you had learned violin.

BN: I started very early, I played violin for four or five years.

AAJ: That probably really helped you when you started guitar?

BN: It helped my musical chops develop, so I already had an ear for music when I was picking up guitar. A lot of kids start that way, they'll go from a traditional instrument like a violin or cello to a modern instrument like a guitar. It definitely helps your musical ability if you start that way, but you don't have to.

AAJ: On YouTube I saw a clip of your school concert from 2013, I think you were nine years old.

BN: (laughs) Oh wow, that's still there.

AAJ: It seems like that year, 2013, something must have really clicked for you, because eleven months after that school concert there you were playing guitar on national TV on the Ellen Show. Did being on the Ellen Show change your life?

BN: I wouldn't say it changed my life, but being on the Ellen Show set the trail for my life. It allowed my parents to see that, okay, this is something that can really happen. So in that respect, it did change my life. I'll always be thankful for what Ellen did. Going out to L.A. and being in that space and being able to go on a show like the Ellen Show at eleven years of age, or whatever I was, I'd say, yes, it definitely changed my life.

AAJ: And the Les Paul guitar she gave you didn't hurt either?

BN: I haven't picked that up in years, it's just sitting in my closet, it's just there. I don't even want to play it, because it's so important to the development of my career—I just want to have it, to know it's there. I could never take it out and risk breaking it, or play a gig with it. I played a couple of gigs with it, but not in a long time. If something happened to that guitar, I don't know what I'd do with myself—that show was super important.

AAJ: What's the back story, how did you get booked on Ellen?

BN: To be honest, I really don't know, you could ask my manager or my dad, but if I really had to guess, I'm pretty sure I did a thing at City Field and then there was a local news story that got picked up by ABC or something. They might have seen that, anyway, there was a huge audition process, there were four or five interview calls, just so they knew that I could talk. After that they called my dad, and said we could come on, so we did.

AAJ: Just a month after the Ellen Show, in January 2014, you were on stage in Daytona Beach with Gregg Allman soloing on "Whipping Post," and if you compare that to your school concert from a year earlier—wow, what progress you made. That had to be a surreal moment for you?

BN: I mean it's surreal looking back now, but at the time I just felt like it was normal. I wasn't taking it for granted, but I just felt like it was supposed to happen. Now looking back as a smarter and wiser individual, I can see that was crazy. It felt natural to me, the way the events came about. I was grateful then, I knew it was special, but I didn't understand the extent to which it was special. I got to sit in with Gregg Allman.

AAJ: That year you also shared the stage with George Porter Jr., Warren Haynes, and Eric Krasno. It was a pretty wild ride.

BN: Definitely a super wild ride. George Porter Jr. was my first sit-in, or if not the first, in the first five. To sit in with a rock and funk legend at midnight or 1:00 a.m. in New Orleans, that came two years after I started playing guitar— it's absolutely crazy. I'm super grateful to him, I always loved George Porter, Jr. and the The Meters, that's another record my dad played for me before we went down there.

I was always grateful, and I knew all this was special, but I didn't yet grasp how this wasn't normal.

AAJ: For you it was normal.

BN: For me it was normal, but I was grateful, so there's the difference. It felt normal to me, but I knew it wasn't, and now I really know it wasn't.

AAJ: If that weren't already enough, at 12 years of age you landed a major role in a Broadway Musical, School of Rock. That must have been an amazing learning experience in terms of discipline, nerves, stage presence, and learning to read an audience?

BN: The movie, School of Rock, was instrumental in me picking up the guitar. I remember watching that in a car ride going to ski in Vermont, when I was probably seven or six. I was like, "Kids can learn to play the guitar! Dad, can I get a guitar?" And he said, alright, Christmas you'll get one. Sure enough it happened, they nurtured me and made sure I practiced—they never had to because I loved it.

The thing is, when I went to audition for Broadway, that was a six month process. Once I finally got it, I realized I had to learn how to sing, how to dance, and how to act. Basically, I had to grow up fast to be on that show, because we were working twelve hours a day for the first six months, on top of tutoring, so that's really more like fourteen or fifteen hours a day. I was completely fine with that, because I was hanging out with my best friends. Those kids are like family, they know that, I love them from the bottom of my heart.

We got each other through so much. It made me grow up, it gave me discipline, it made me understand what it is to work, and having to work hard at such a young age—it gave me a bunch of insight into the world and it gave me knowledge that I'll use for the rest of my life.

AAJ: There was a time when lots of artists and bands hoped to land a gig as an opening act, but you have an even sweeter deal. I'm not sure what you call it, but you get invited by festival promoters to sit in as a guest with major artists—is there a word for that?

BN: I don't know, but when I go to a music festival just to sit in with another band, they call that an artist at large. So I get called out for my band to play, or for me to sit in at a festival or a club with other bands which is really cool. It's fun, it's been constant new things happening since I was eleven, it's awesome that I get to do all this stuff.

Sitting in with other bands helped me to diversify my knowledge of music, because not every band has the same genre of music. Whether I'm sitting in with a funk band, a rock band, a reggae band, or a blues band, all that really helped me to expand my knowledge of music and learn new styles.

AAJ: Do they give you any advance notice of what you're going to be playing?

BN: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. But either way, you've just got to go up there and do your thing. A lot of times I wouldn't know the songs and I'd just have to use my ears and figure it out. Sometimes the songs would be simple, sometimes they wouldn't. A lot of the times I did know, but I'd say forty percent of the time I don't— especially in those early years.

AAJ: So during the week you are a regular high school student, and on weekends you're trading licks with Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring, or acting in a Spike Lee Netflix series.

BN: The major sit-ins don't happen that often. Before Corona, on the weekends I might be playing a show with my own band in L.A., Poughkeepsie, New York, or Lancaster, Pennsylvania—it doesn't matter what town it's in, we're going to play. It's usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then the next week I'm back in school.

Sometimes I miss a week or two, like in February I missed two weeks to play on two different cruises with my band. To play six shows in two weeks, that was super fun. But yeah, I'm thankful the school works with me to miss some days. But the big sit-ins like Widespread Panic and Tedeschi Trucks Band, those don't happen very often. (laughs) It's not like every weekend I'm off to play with Stevie Wonder or someone like that. Usually it's with my band at a club or festival.

AAJ: In terms of your band, I particularly enjoy how you and your second guitarist Mat Godfrey work together. That's a great sound you have, how long have you been playing together?

BN: I've known him most of my life, which isn't that long. He wasn't my first guitar teacher, but he's the one who has lasted the longest. Basically I got my band members from him, from an old band that he was in, he brought those guys to me. I needed a band because a promoter in Canada called me up and said he wanted me to do a show, but only with an adult band. So once we played that show, we said, let's do it again.

That led to a perfect storm where we got a booking agent, and now we're just playing on the road. I'll always have a connection to all those guys, especially Mat, he's like an older brother to me. All those guys are basically my brothers. Mat and I have so much chemistry together.

It's not like one of those bands where the lead singer or the main guy is in his own van, he's staying at the Four Seasons, and the other guys are staying at some dumpy hotel across town. We're always in the same van, we're doing stuff together, I love those guys. All for one, one for all, we're a team. That team aspect, where those guys know that they are loved, and I treat them the best that I can, that really helps the chemistry.

I feel like it's electric on stage when I get to play with them. Playing with them is just as important as any other sit-in, no matter how big or small the other artist is. I just love playing with my guys. And playing my own music is definitely a breath of fresh air.

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