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Musician Bios

I Want to Continue as a Duo with Jonna Forever
The Musical Journey of Greg Garcia

Welcome to the first in what I hope to be a series of articles I plan to write for the Silicon Valley Blues Society newsletter based on the lives of us, the SVBS members.  My hope is to interview SVBS members from all walks of life and discover your journeys, both musical and beyond, to share in future SVBS newsletters.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet up with Greg Garcia, a local musician and band member of SVBS who loves to talk about music and about life, not as separate paths but as intertwined, complementary entities that inform and expand each other.

Greg grew up in Los Angeles back in the sixties and seventies, a time when some old musical forms were being reworked for a new audience and when some new musical forms were being created from a growing rebelliousness within the youth culture. He told me of the revelation he felt as a freshman in high school when he watched a clip of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival. The song that particularly stood out was Hendrix’s performance of “Killing Floor.”  The song, and Hendrix’s performance, captured Greg’s attention like no music quite had before and led him to wonder, “Who wrote ‘Killing Floor’”?  That question led Greg to the music of singer/songwriter, Howlin’ Wolf which then led Greg to discover the music of Willie Dixon and other blues musicians.  In the words of Jimi Hendrix, “Blues is easy to play but hard to feel.” 

Feeling the music grew over time. Sitting in a converted garage with his older brother, listening to LP’s as they’d drop one-by-one from the record changer onto the turntable, is a fond memory for Greg.  “We’d each pick three records and place them on the record player,” and they’d listen for hours to artists such as Chicago, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Auger, and the Allman Brothers. When I asked Greg why he picked up his first guitar, he told me that his older brother had played in a band and that had influenced him to also try his hand at guitar. His first guitar?  A 1978 Takamine maple acoustic, one for which Greg still has the original receipt.  He had never seen a “blonde” guitar before, and it immediately caught his eye. Beyond the unique look, he loved the way the guitar played and sounded. To this day it’s his “go to” guitar. In 2018, Greg purchased another 1978 Takamine acoustic guitar, similar to his first guitar but made from a different wood.  I asked Greg if he names any of his guitars, and as a matter of fact, he does. Since there is a level of intimacy expressed through the playing of each of his guitars, all of his guitars have feminine names:  Nancy is the ’78 Takamine; Marilyn is the Bass VI; Mary Kaye is his custom-built Telecaster, and Francine is a G&L Telecaster, to name a few.  Of course, there’s a story behind each one.  “Jonna,” Greg’s wife’s name, is engraved on his customized capo.

One of Greg’s greatest musical influences is musician and singer/songwriter Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac. Green’s playing is as expressive and genuine as Greg’s ever heard.  Of course, Green himself was heavily influenced by the great B.B. King.

Since Greg, in his work life, is a Software Engineer, he’s able to apply his inquisitive engineer’s brain to the study of music and musical forms.  When he finds a song that interests him, he asks, “How is this built?” “Why does this work?” “Why does this make me feel this way?” and he proceeds to deconstruct each part of the song down to its individual components. He then transcribes and arranges those components back into sheet music. Greg shared the two most seminal “A-ha!” moments of his musical journey, 1. Learning chord construction in 1988, and 2. Truly understanding modes, around 2015.
We discussed what it’s like to play in a band, and I asked him about his rehearsal process and about his biggest challenge as a musician. Regarding rehearsal, he makes it clear that he’s very up front with the band members about the rehearsal process. He clearly delineates the role each member will have. He is the bandleader, and Jonna, who sings, chooses the songs that the band will perform and also chooses the keys for each song.  Greg writes up the charts for the songs and distributes them to the band.  The band will typically rehearse at Greg’s rehearsal/recording studio in San Jose, and Greg will often record the rehearsals for reference and share the final version of the songs with each band member.  His bands have played at Charley’s LG, The Sports Page, The Tabard Theatre, and Veteran’s Halls, and Greg also enjoys playing at local jams as well. Does he have any advice for people who would like to start a band? “You have to ask yourself, where do we want to go with this? What sound do we want? Can people commit to the rehearsal time?  And, will people do their homework?” He added, “It’s best to start small and add musicians later, as needed.” When I asked him what’s his biggest challenge as a musician, he quickly responded, “Finding the time to practice to improve my skills.”

As far as an ultimate direction for his music, he’s realistic; he wants to teach music part-time to support him in his retirement, and he wants to play music for beer money. He continued, “I’d like to add one more person on guitar or bass to help round out our music, but “I want to continue as a duo with Jonna forever.” 

Keep an eye out for Greg who, as previously mentioned, can often be found out and about playing at local jams. And, be sure to tip your musicians.  They would likely all appreciate some beer money.

On a personal note, I truly enjoyed my time talking with Greg about his life and his musical interests and journey.  Thank you, Greg for your graciousness and for your time.

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