Once upon a time, a young boy was born into a family of musical talent in Virginia Beach. His mother played piano. His father played guitar. His sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins all sang lovely melodies and played every kind of instrument.
One afternoon, the boy’s parents bought him a guitar. But the boy was only 6, and he did not yet know where to place his pinkies or how to pluck the strings. The boy let the guitar sit for a few years while he explored his vocal chords.
At eight years old, he imitated the sounds of country music and made up his own country tune, which was met with fascination and disbelief by his sister.
When he turned ten, the boy belted Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode for a school program. “This is it,” he said. “This is what I will do.”
Finally, at 14 years old, the boy picked up the long-abandoned guitar. He slowly learned how to massage and scratch the strings. He played fast, then faster, then faster even still until he mastered the art of shredding.
Eventually, the young boy became a young man. He turned 21 and grew a beard and learned about something called “the blues.” Blues became poetry became folk became blues, and the young man, who once only listened to music, became a maker of music himself. He wrote his first songs, and signed his name: Aaron Randolph.
Like many young men, Aaron liked adventure. Unlike many young men, Aaron decided to do something about it. He packed up his things and hopped on his bicycle. The Virginia vineyards saw him. The mother hanging her clothes to dry in the Colorado sun heard his humming. The Midwest’s fields and Oregon hipsters, and the skylines from here to there, caught wind of his voice.
While traveling and exploring the world around him, Aaron found himself constantly writing songs. He sang lyrics while motorcycling, wacky poetry that didn’t rhyme, and even tried his hand at blogging. Stories fell out of Aaron Randolph like loose change.
After that, he went to seminary. And after that he lived in a van. “This is what makes my way of thinking broader,” he said to himself.
Now, Aaron finds himself back in elementary school on the coast of Virginia. He teaches kids how to carry the one and add it all up as a site-assigned substitute. Students appreciate his beard and refer to his voice as a “diesel-engine.” When people ask him what will pay the bills, he says, “well, maybe, music!”
Like any passionate artist of repute, Aaron fears getting stuck in his own brain. Also like any passionate artist of repute, Aaron is confident in his songwriting and guitar-playing abilities. “I just came out of the womb with these vocal chords,” he says.
Aaron sounds like smooth butter, and comments to the ocean, “I feel all your girth when you’re grooving.” He is pretty sure the “postman is x-ray[ing] his sympathetic trash,” and he has some nuggets of wisdom about whether or not to eat from grandma’s apple tree. This is the heart of Aaron’s place in the world: by means of storytelling, he teaches others to observe the world with shrewd and compassionate senses. His music is a way to “cap an event,” because this helps himself and others grieve or rejoice over life’s moments.
Though he’s no longer a boy, Aaron continues to learn and jump and question and write. Rather than letting his guitar be his instrument, it turns out his whole life is a musical vessel to convey perspective, joy, and wonder to anyone who lends an ear, or a friendship.
From the man himself:
“Storytelling gives you a framework that you have to stay within, but it also allows for subtleties to be capped within it. If you write a 10-page book for a kid about wisdom, like ‘wisdom is this and here’s the definition,’ a kid is not going to get it. But you can write a really short story and, because of the gaps of time that take place and the things that you fill in with your mind when you read it, it holds so much more as a container than a definitive explanation. So the thing about a story is that it has parameters. Like G.K. Chesterton says, ‘the essence of every picture is its frame.’ It begins and ends. I just told a story to a kid at work the other day because they were mad about something. I just knelt down and told a story about my life, and that was better than just saying, ‘hey kid, cheer up.’ The other thing is the mystery that is inherent in a story, because you are creating a setting in your mind, and making up your own bits of it to make sense of it.
My music mentors are Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens. I have no clue what they did, but I feel like I could get there. Neither of them set out to be famous for the sake of being famous, but they both have so much to say and such good ways to say it. I would love to make money from music because I would like to get married and have kids. That’s my goal.