We love getting suggestions from our readers on things they think would make good stories on One Unified Project. While we can’t get to all of them, this one, that was suggested by one of our featured musicians, Brodi Valos, was too inspiring not to share. Michelle and I often write about music, as you all know, being avid music lovers and knowing that music is the great unifier. We think you’ll agree that this story fits the bill. Thank you Paul Keen, for sharing this story with us.
How long have you been a musician and what style music do you play?
I’ve been singing for as far back as I can remember. I think when I was four years old, I ran around the house singing Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 stuff. I specifically remember singing “Rockin’ Robin”. My mom has a cassette tape of me singing “Jingle Bells”. I just sang the chorus over and over because I didn’t know the verses. I’m sure it was annoying.
I first learned harmonica and guitar when I was 17. So, I guess it’s been 20 years since I’ve been taking it seriously. I learned guitar from watching Oasis videos on MTV. Right before MTV stopped showing music videos. Now I play singer-songwriter type stuff with a bit of an edge to it.
Something pretty lousy happened to you recently. Can you share those details?
I was getting ready to play a gig in Levittown on a Wednesday. I was waiting for my duo partner, Jason Jonik, to pick me up and decided to load my gear out onto my front porch. I loaded out my PA system, waited a little bit, and was like “oh i’ll just load out my gig bag too”. I went back inside for a few minutes, which turned out to be a huge mistake. When I went back out, the PA was still there but the gig bag was gone. Now, the gig bag didn’t just carry my guitar, it had almost everything in it I owned. 2 mics, tons of cables, a capo, a tuner, a $300 tablet, and on and on.
What was the first thing, other than anger, that went through your mind?
The first thing that went through my mind was total confusion. Is this seriously happening right now? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I finally calmed down a little enough to call my duo partner to tell him what happened and (to say) that we needed to cancel the gig. I wasn’t about to try to borrow gear and go ahead with the gig. I needed to file a police report, and just start figuring out what the hell I was going to do next. So, I called Sparky’s in Levittown, and explained my situation and that I had to cancel.
The thing that hurts most about this is that that guitar was really special. I got it when I was 18, and over the years I’d worn a hole in it from writing tons of songs and playing what’s probably, at this point, 1,000 shows. Also, my Uncle Hank, who was also a musician, helped me find that guitar, and he had just passed away a few days prior to this.
Some friends sprang into action after that and I’d love to hear all about that.
I was pretty lost as to what I was going to do. That was pretty much my last working guitar. I’ve got a few others that need a lot of work done to make them playable. I make a living playing music, so it’s not like I make a lot, let alone have any sort of guitar or renters insurance. Then next thing I know, the very next day, Justin DiFebbo and Zil Fessler had started a GoFundMe to buy gear so I could get back to playing shows. At first I felt a little weird about it, but the reality was that I really didn’t have a choice. Just having to cancel that Wednesday gig messed with my money situation, and now I need all new gear?!
Were they able to raise enough for you to replace your equipment?
They set the goal for $2,000 which would be able to cover everything. The goal ended up being reached in just 16 hours! I couldn’t believe it. I told Justin DiFebbo to immediately shut it down. I didn’t want to milk it. I was able to get two mid-priced guitars and all the rest of the stuff I needed to be able to play out again. I figured I’d get two guitars instead of one expensive one. This way, I can rotate them and not put wear and tear on just one.
If the person that robbed you were in front of you, or even reading this, what would you want to say?
I’d probably say something like “Obviously you’re in a rough situation right now, and have resorted to robbery to get by. I feel bad for you, but also, just sit back and think about what you’re doing. The person you’re stealing from might really need that stuff. Those were my tools!”
What did you walk away with from this experience? Did it change you at all?
When the goal was reached I seriously almost passed out. I’ve always been kind of a pessimist, but this completely changed my perspective. I couldn’t believe how many friends and fans chipped in. The entire world is not out to steal your stuff. There are more people who want to help out and care more than you think. I’m forever grateful.
Our calendar was published before this post (he’ll be on the entertainment calendar beginning this week), but wanted to plug his performance taking place tonight. Check him out.
Whitpain Tavern in Blue Bell, PA. duo 7:30-10:30