by Caleigh horan
From my large, round eyes to my extremely small nostrils, I have inherited many subtleties from my dad. One trait that was passed down from my dad to me that is quite far from a subtlety, however, is my love for music. From an early age, my dad incited a passion within me that has carried me through some of the best and most difficult parts of my life and forged a bond between us that is unlike any other.
One of the earliest instances of music that I can remember comes with the Beatles’ “1” CD as I sat buckled into a car seat on the long drive to my Nana's short-lived double-wide trailer. Back in the day, my dad had a subscription that would send him various new CDs throughout the month, and we always got the first sampling of his collection. Some of the fruits of this subscription included The Killer’s “Hot Fuss” and Gorillaz’s “Demon Days,” which would become staples in my early rock education. Speaking of said CD collection, my dad has thousands of CDs in his possession that are meticulously organized and cataloged on sheets of notebook paper, a true testament to his craft.
Starting at the age of six, Saturday mornings were spent at piano lessons, which guaranteed me a delicious breakfast sandwich from Burger King compliments of my dad. Another treat was found in the School of Rock soundtrack that was almost always playing on our trips to and from lessons. This soundtrack was the inception of my love for classic rock and made attending early morning lessons with my crusty old piano teacher much more bearable. Thankfully, I eventually switched to a piano teacher who was much sprier, but my dad has never stopped supporting my endeavors in piano. One of my favorite nighttime activities growing up was practicing piano as my dad washed the dishes after dinner. It was always a goal of mine to be able to play one of his favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, “Thunder Road,” and right before I left for college, I was finally able to accomplish that goal. It is so much more rewarding to play music for an audience that you know genuinely appreciates it, and I have always had that support in my dad.
This support does not end in my pursuit of a musical instrument, however. If I could encapsulate my dad’s support into a single experience, it would be him driving me all over God’s creation for the first fifteen years of my life. Whether the trip was to a friend’s house or a volleyball tournament or even a lengthy trip up to Six Flags, I could always count on my dad to get me where I needed to be. This entailed plenty of time listening to the radio, from Acoustic Sunrise on XM to Lin Brehmer on XRT. I soon transitioned from passenger to driver on these quiet morning destinations, as I learned to drive the old, faithful Honda CR-V. These driving sessions were a point of consistency in a time of my life where not much seemed certain, and they were always accompanied by quality tunes alongside my dad.
If I could describe my music taste in only one word, I would choose “expansive,” and my dad has everything to do with that. When I got my first iPod (a 512-megabyte iPod shuffle) around age 8, my dad sat me down one afternoon with his aforementioned CD collection and proceeded to pick out the cream of the crop, providing me with what I can only describe as an essential education of classic rock to load up onto my iPod. This was only the beginning of my education, as my birthday and Christmas presents became anything and everything music-related: a vintage Queen t-shirt and endless boxed DVD sets of music videos among the gems. I can now confidently say that I know more about obscure bands from thirty years before I was born than just about anyone my age. My dad laid the foundation for my wide range of musical knowledge and appreciation.
If you thought that this musical education stopped with music from before I was born, you are sorely mistaken. My dad is one of the original hipsters (he proudly notes that he caught onto The Police before any of his friends did). Some of my favorite indie and alternative bands were not of my own findings but through a simple suggestion from my dad. Mumford and Sons, my gateway to the alternative world, was one of our first tip-of-the-iceberg discoveries, and we watched excitedly as the band we once referred to as the “Irish banjo band” rocketed into the mainstream. An archive of our text messages from the past seven or eight years would reveal a wealth of music discovery, both on up-and-coming bands and acoustics and covers that would blow your mind. He is the first person with which I share any and all musical treasures.
It would not be a well-rounded education if he did not expose me to the one of the most important facets of music, the unexplainable rush of live music. My first concert was a 14th birthday present from my dad, a trip to see the Beatles tribute band American English, coupled with a meal at an amazing Italian restaurant. This was only the beginning of what I hope is a life-long affair with live music. I attended my first large-scale concert at 16. Mumford and Sons rolled into a show at the Chicago Theatre on my first night of school, and even though the tickets were exorbitant I’m sure, my dad still got us a pair, with the excuse that “Sometimes you just gotta say fuck it”. He continued the concert tradition by taking me up to a small club in Milwaukee to see Imagine Dragons the next year, right as they were on the cusp of fame. Since that time, I have attended countless concerts and festivals across the country and seen some of the greatest of all time, but the concerts with my dad will always be beyond special in my memory.
All of this music obsession has manifested itself into a robust career in college radio in the past three years of my life, and my dad has been one of my most ardent supporters throughout it all. Not only does he provide me with many of the great songs and bits of trivia that I share, he even came up with the name for my show. After nearly every show, which he stays up past his 9 o’clock bed time for, he texts me encouraging words or thoughts on the songs I played. It has made me endlessly happy to continue to share music with him even though we are no longer under the same roof.
My dad is my unsung hero for so many reasons. He has taught me the value behind appreciating every part of an experience, like a good song from start to finish. Similar to a deep-cut from your favorite artist or a hidden gem from a new band, he is as authentic and genuine as it gets. He does everything for everyone, without asking a thing in return. And I hope that one day I can be half the person he is. Until then, I’ll keep finding good music to share with him.