August Burns Red wasn’t my first experience with a band; I had actually started bands when I was around fifteen years old. My first concert was a Strike Anywhere show in a hole-in-the-wall called New Brookland Tavern.
I fell instantly in love with music when I first experienced it live in concert I knew right then and there that music was going to play a huge part in my life. Watching the band on stage, sweating as they poured all of their emotion into what they were preaching, it ignited feelings in my heart that I knew were part of my identity. Despite my struggles with family, my problems with feeling abandoned, just being in that room had a strong unifying feeling; a sense that we were all feeling some sort of pain and that the music from this band on stage was bringing us all together.
It was a life changing moment to say the least.
After the show I went up to the vocalist who was talking to fans on the side of the stage and I asked him if he would sign my arm. He said of course and signed it with the black sharpie I had given him but then as he pulled up his sleeve he asked me if I would sign his arm. I was shocked and honored that an actual REAL musician was asking for MY autograph; what had I done to deserve this? I knew right then and there I wanted to be a front man; I wanted to share my struggles and stories and to bleed my heart on the stage every night, and I wanted to be able to have an impact like he had on me.
So I went home and found some guys who wanted to start a band with me and so I ended up starting this pop punk band called Smash Atoms. We started rehearsing in the room above my mom’s garage and God bless her soul I don’t know how she put up with the noise that was Smash Atoms but she did as we played well into the evening hours. We were small and inexperienced so we didn’t have opportunities to play shows with high caliber bands but we had to start somewhere and that was at a place called the Dutch Fork Community Center. This was a VFW Hall that I rented out on several occasions and it would cost a few hundred bucks to do so. I would then go to the practice sheds to look for bands that would want to play the show which were actual storage sheds that local bands, at least the ones who were serious about their music, would rent out to practice in.
So after lining up the bands for the show I had created I would then hit the Kinkos down the street. I made my own fliers by cutting images out of magazines and printing band names out with different fonts; then I would tape all the images together on a piece of paper and get that “Final Draft” flier printed out at Kinkos. Next I would hand them out at school, at Hot Topic, downtown, to other guys in the bands to help promote the show; basically anywhere I could hand them out. The cost of the show was usually $5, granted that was a decent amount of money for a show full of local bands, but I did this quite a few times before being able to go to a real venue and play on tours that would come through the area. During that time I went from band to band, around five or six, before landing home at August Burns Red.
When Smash Atoms broke up I then started a metal band called She Walks In Beauty; we were actually serious enough that we got a spot at the practice sheds. I ended up quitting college soon after and when my mother asked why I told her that it was taking time away from my music career. She wasn’t’ very happy to hear this as college is more promising than being a guy in a local band. However I did take a couple classes over Music Business and Introduction into Audio Engineering in.
She Walks in Beauty
She Walks in Beauty became my baby. I would have done anything for it to grow and when asked by friends and family what I was going to do with my life I told them that I was going to be a touring musician. They would laugh at me and tell me I wouldn’t make it and I even had people who were supposedly my friends telling me I should give up. I wouldn’t; I couldn’t give up. It was all I wanted. So what did that look like?
It looked like this.
I practiced with my band three days a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays from 5-9pm and I worked multiple jobs to make money to save for recordings, mercy, equipment and other odds and ends. I worked at Sonic, Hot Topic where I would hand out fliers to my own shows to customers who came in the door and I would also play my demo in the store multiple times a week to get customers’ thoughts and opinions. I worked at Journey’s shoe store and at CiCi’s pizza at the same time and even ended up at a printing shop where my paychecks wouldn’t even be written out to me because it would go towards making an order of shirts for my band to sell at our shows. I also sold my ‘91 Nissan Maxima for a Chevy Cargo van; you know the big white vans that only have windows on the back and mine had an outline of the Bell South Logo. I traded that car because my band needed a vehicle to pack our gear in and head to outer cities to play. Eventually I ended up playing with a lot of bands that I respected and looked up to such as when we opened up for Between the Buried and Me, Norma Jean, Beloved; I made sure to do what I could to try and build relationships with them.
Sure enough when I was trying out for August Burns Red, Tommy Rogers, from Between the Buried and Me, remembered me from She Walks In Beauty. He actually told ABR that I was a great frontman and that they would be stupid not to keep me; I believe those words were a huge reason why I’m in the band today.
As most of you know, She Walks in Beauty didn’t work out and for months after we broke up I was a wreck. I felt alone and in pain but I got up and asked God to take me in a new direction and lead me out. Sure enough He did and I continued working hard and in January 28th of 2006 I played my first show with August Burns Red.
Now you may be asking yourself, “Okay Jake get to the point! Why am I reading all of this?” The point of all this is that I want you to reflect on your life and imagine if someone asked you “What do you want to do most in your life” what would you say? What would it take to get there? What is your “All I ever wanted“? Asking these question may be the beginning to a spark of something long dormant…