Few people can pinpoint the precise moment in time that heard their calling. Fewer people can say that revelation came to them before their age was in double digits. Steve Vai recalls with much exactness the moment he knew he'd spend the rest of his life with a guitar.
"I remember I was in kindergarten and I saw a third grader with an electric guitar. It was like I had an epiphany," says Vai. "It was like I immediately knew exactly how it worked."
Eight years later, as a 13-year-old, Vai began playing one such instrument and he hasn't looked back since. He took lessons from Joe Satriani, started a band, auditioned for Frank Zappa and graduated from the Berklee College of Music. By 1980 he was an official member of Zappa's band and while many would count that induction as the end all, be all, it was just the beginning for Vai.
Almost 50 years later, his affections for the instrument haven't faded. "The love affair hasn't waned," he says. "I think it's even more so now. The guitar is such a cathartic tool for me."
As the owner of over 200 guitars and the designer of many as well, Vai's often known for his affinity for multi-necked axes.
"There's just so much more opportunity to be creative on a bizarre level with two or three necks," says Vai. "You can create all these textures that you can't use on one neck. Sometimes I'll build a guitar for show, but I'm really not satisfied until there's that quality there."
Speaking of building guitars, Vai says though he can study and learn all the academics of what it takes to make a quality piece, it's something that goes in one ear and out the other, but thankfully so.
"I don't work on any of my guitars. There are so many people that are much more qualified to do that," he says.
He's sold millions upon millions of albums, won Grammys and worked with the veritable who's-who in the music business, but the man certainly isn't jaded. In fact, he seems to be doing more within the industry now, after 30 years in the business, than he has ever before.
"I've got so many beautiful things lined up," says Vai. "I'm touring in the states for about the next six months and then I'm going to be writing a symphony."
This symphony won't be his first either. In fact, he's already written a few. And writing music isn't where it ends for Vai either. He's also in the middle of writing a movie.
"I'm writing a script right now. It's about a day in the life of performing. The film will follow different parts of being on tour. Eventually, it will evolve into 13 different episodes," says Vai.
With so much on his plate, it's easy to wonder how this ridiculously talented 52-year-old manages so much at one time. And although it seems seamless for him now, that wasn't always so.
"I used to suffer from a lot of anxiety, thinking there wasn't enough time in a day. Then I heard a quote by a very intelligent man and he said 'There's 24 hours in a day. There is more than enough time. You find the time.' Now I delegate my time. I have a professional life and a private life. My biggest problem is trying to organize my ambitions," he says.
With so many of those ambitions working their way into fruition, we have to say we're happy this man's found the time to bring his musical greatness to the Motor City. | RDW
Steve Vai • 9/21, 7:30 p.m.• Royal Oak Music Theatre • 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak • royaloakmusictheatre.com • 248.399.2980 • $30/$35