Musical Biography Gilbert Jean Thierry Namur Writing this Musical Biography is opening up a flood of memories. As I write it, I know more will come to me. I also know that my closest friends and family will help me fill in the voids. I tell you this up front as I know that this document will be dynamic. I will add to it and edit it over the next few months until I have it right.
Ever since I can remember, there has been music in my life. As a young child in Belgium, my parents exposed me to French musicians like Sacha Distel and Georges Brassens. As well, there was often classical music being played on our stereo by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin. My sisters Michele and Carol in turn made sure to round this out by introducing me to the Beatles, Elvis Presley and eventually in 1970, Carlos Santana. By the time I was eight, I distinctly remember often falling asleep humming or singing songs and found it most interesting to try to make up my own melodies. I need to say here that my parents and my sisters were always supportive of my music, always an encouragement but never ever pressured me.
At first, it was actually my sister Michele’s guitar that I used. A lovely nylon strung instrument. If my memory serves me, my first guitar was a Kent acoustic nylon strung guitar. Then, for my tenth birthday, Michele bought me an electric guitar and amp. I remember being so thrilled with this. After bedtime, you know .. the lights out bit when you are a kid, I would sneak out of bed, plug that guitar in and with the volume way down I would pluck away hoping to not get caught. Eventually I purchased an Aria steel string guitar through paper route earnings on which I learned to sing and play many folks and pop songs. At that time, around 14 years old, I was hammering out such tunes as Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy (which took me ages to memorize the lyrics to) as well as songs by The Beatles, Three Dog Night, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and Tom Rush.
While I never really had too much in the way of formal instruction, I did have a teacher for a while back then by the name of Ted Quinlan. Ted would walk me through some of the more complex chord changes I could not figure out. However, he did something remarkable. After every lesson, he would sit me down in front of his stereo and have me listen to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. At the time, I could not really fathom why but what he did was open my ears in ways I would only come to appreciate later. Ted has gone on to become one of the most versatile guitar players in Canada and was the recipient of the 1998 Jazz Report Award for Guitarist of the Year.
Soon after this, I was riding the bus to high school one day. A girl by the name of Adriana Santini (I sure hope I have the spelling right) had overhead me speaking about music and chatted with me on the subject of bands. A few days later, and to this day I have no idea why, she came onto the bus with 3 albums for me to check out. King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King, Emerson Lake and Palmers first album and The Yes Album. These albums had an enormous impact on me. Understand that the segue from Three Dog Night to King Crimson was huge. I believe that it was Ted Quinlan’s “expansion” of my ears that helped me quickly appreciate this music. The Yes album in particular was what led me to my next major step .. I started thinking of the guitar more as a lead instrument. Adriana … THANK YOU!
I developed a taste for progressive rock and fusion and started listening to bands like Gentle Giant, Strawbs, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and as much Yes as I could get my hands on. I would sit for hours working out Steve Howe’s (guitarist for Yes) solos note for note. This forced me to develop much better technique which was essential to playing these pieces. By the time I started listening to jazz fusion guitarist Al Di Meola, I had enough technique to take a stab at some of the pieces on Elegant Gypsy and Casino.
In my 20’s I moved to Western Canada and continued to work on speed and scales .. scales .. scales! I think this is something so many guitar players go through. Thankfully, I was introduced to the music of two players who would forever change the way I think about the instrument. Larry Carlton and Pat Metheny. What did I learn? That the space between notes is so much more important than how much we play. That the melody is the thing. That dynamics and heart are paramount. I do not mean to say by this that any of the aforementioned players do not have these attributes. Each of them helped me to grow in unique ways. Larry Carlton and Pat Metheny just really drove the point home to me.
Over the years, I have had many opportunities to join bands that played top 40 cover tunes. I always passed on these opportunities, as I wanted to do my own thing. So, instead of playing music, I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey with the idea that once I made tons of money, I would be able to afford to produce my own music. I have had some good success in the corporate world and in my own businesses. I have also known failures. Along the way, I got so involved in the means, that I lost sight of what I really wanted to accomplish and a large part of who I really am.
I never stopped writing though and have amassed well over 100 songs, a great many ideas I need to explore and dare I say finish!
And so, here we are. Another challenge, to find the balance between the musician and the entrepreneur! I cannot predict where this will lead but I do know it is a road I must take. And so take it I shall never forgetting those that helped me get here. That is why this document is so important for me to get right. It reminds me of how blessed I have been and while moving forward is the objective, looking back is very empowering.