One of my earliest memories of the power of music was when I was a little kid, maybe 6 or 7. My dad was driving our old Ford Econoline down "the" hill from my Aunt Sarah's house in the sunset district of San Francisco - the Beach Boys came on the radio and my brother suddenly jumped up and started flailing his arms out, pretending like he was on a surf-board - singing "Everybody's gone surfing..", then we all screamed out "Surfin' USA".
Despite my mom's admonition that rock n' roll was the devil's music (I'm pretty sure I'm not making that up) when I was around 10 or so - I always felt a powerful tug towards music. Fortunately, my uber-supportive parents signed me up for violin and piano lessons starting in 2nd grade.
When I was 12, my mom dragged me and my brother to our first rehearsal with the Superstrings, Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. I remember everybody playing the Pachabel Canon way too fast and wondering why I was sitting with the violas as a violinist. Although I never liked to practice, PACO was my gateway into classical music, and more importantly, transcendence through music.
Oh yeah, for the record - Pachabel Canon will be played at my wedding one day...nice and slowly.
When I was 15, my whole world was hit from another angle. David, from my youth group taught me my first few guitar chords and opened me up to popular music, music that I could relate to. I went home and promptly learned how to play "In My Room", the song that gave me the most comfort at the time (sorry "In the Garage"). I think I might have even composed a song that first day, that I wrote out in text tabs amidst my pubescent excitement.
By 16, I had been sucked into the choir world at my high school. We got to skip school and tour around the world, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria. My AP scores reflected that, but the best part was - I had formed a boy-band (who am I kidding, an a cappella group) with 3 of my friends. We called ourselves Foursquared and soon began rehearsing in my bedroom to sing to girls and ask them out to dances. Who knew what singing "On Bended Knee", on bended knee, to a girl in a tux outside her front lawn could do?
That same year, I remember playing the first song I ever wrote, "If I Could Touch the World" for my English class. I had to close my eyes to get in the zone. 3 minutes whirled by. When I opened them, the class was silent. I was super embarrassed that I had been to emo, and probably shouldn't ever do that again. Fortunately, the cutest girl in my class came up to me afterwards, blinked a few times, looked down at her feet and said "Peter, that was really good."
Armed with a lot of 18 year old chutzpah, I entered my first year at UC Berkeley. Resolute to stop being a resume-builder and to do what I enjoyed -At our first Putnam 5 Hall Meeting, I introduced myself - "Hi, I'm Peter, and I'm looking to form a band". I joined the UC Men's Chorale, the University Chorus, and Noteworthy A cappella, and even moonlighted at the KALX, Berkeley's college radio station for a semester.
In my 2nd year, I found a new interest - business. I joined Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity, where I learned how to drink, met some of my best friends, and oh yeah, learned about business. Little by little though, I had less time for music, and my "forming a band" dreams slowly faded.
By my senior year, I had a choice to make - join my friend Steven's band as his bassist and finally be in a band, or lead my fraternity as President. I chose the latter, and it was worth it, to serve a group of people I really cared for. But if anybody were to ever ask me if I had any regrets, or what-if's - not joining the band would be one of them.
At 21, I graduated from Berkeley and joined Goldman Sachs as an investment banking analyst. Basically, everything I had worked for in college - on a professional level was coming true. There I was, about to fly out to New York City, to train, to go become a Big Swinging Richard. Fast-forward a few months, and I was working 100 hour weeks, and for the first time in my life, seriously considering quitting something. I'm glad I persevered and learned a ton about finance, managing processes, financial modeling - but most importantly, I learned that being blindly ambitious wouldn't fulfill me, that I had to do something I loved.
Although I'd only have a few minutes each night to strum a few chords on my guitar before passing out, they were becoming louder.
At 23, I joined a $2 billion early stage venture capital fund on Sand Hill as a VC associate. I liked it - talking about interesting problems with ambitious entrepreneurs trying to solve them, funding people's dreams to change the world. Going to board meetings or giving advice to entrepreneurs in the trenches, I couldn't help but feel like an armchair advisor - and wanted to actually be the guy creating stuff. I remember seeing on of our portfolio company CEOs walk into our lobby one day, the week after his company got acquired for a couple hundred million. I remember thinking about how he had achieved his wildest dream and asking why not me?
I thought about starting a company like him. But realized that the main reasons I wanted to do a startup were because people thought it was cool and I could make a ton of money - the very same reasons that had left me unfulfilled at Goldman Sachs. I knew I had to do something I loved. Creating music was the purest thing I knew. It was time I gave it a fair shot.
At 25 - I decided to finally heed the call and left my VC job. I went into hermit-mode, to focus on songwriting. After a year playing all the openmics in SF, forming Gin and Tronic, I realized I wanted a fresh start where people knew me as Peter, the musician - not Peter, the finance guy - and would support and encourage that.
At 27, I snuck off to LA in January of 2012 to take my first class at the Songwriting School of LA. To this day, I still feel terrible for not telling more of my friends about my move. Looking back, I didn't tell people because I was embarrassed by my lack of musical progress in SF and didn't want to keep blasting people about my music, and just wanted to go make it. Good intentions, bad execution. It turned out to be a good move though, as the last 2 years in LA have really helped me to find my voice and hone to craft to express that.
From taking a week to learn a song by tabs, I can now write out a song and tab it for you in a few minutes. I can write the song, make a record of it - mix and produce it. I have a lot to learn still, but I'm getting better every day. All the lyric, melody, production classes I took - all Songwriting Challenges I did (write 30 songs in 30 days, demo 14 songs in the month of February, Pat Pattison lyric-writing exercises every morning for a whole summer), co-writing, performing at different venues in LA, and now busking - have all taught me how to connect with myself, and with others.
Now - 3 years after making that choice, 3 years of diving into myself, learning songwriting - I've written more than 60 songs, and narrowed them down to 8 that I'm proud of. I'm calling it "Into the Sea", naming it after my favorite song on the album, but also because it means a lot to me on different levels. The journey out in the the unknown, going below the surface to live in one's subconscious - to find those hidden desires and feelings, to have faith in yourself that everything will be ok.
Well, that's where the story stands now. I'm super stoked because I finally get to share with the world what I've been working on, and know it's just the beginning.