“The first time I actually started sitting down and practicing my voice was this December.”
December? My eyebrows push surprised wrinkles onto my forehead like waves in a pond. I had heard Chris Paterno, A&S '15, play music at a recent open microphone event on campus, and based off that performance alone I would’ve never guessed his vocal training had only begun months earlier.
“I just put in a lot of time. I always sing in the car, and I guess that helps. I've always loved singing."
Even if he hadn’t always sung, he must have played guitar since he was a kid, as his first instrument. But my assumptions prove to be wrong again.
“When I was really young, my dad would tap on the steering wheel to the radio, to the Goo Goo Dolls. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, I want to be a drummer!’ So in fourth grade I started taking drum lessons.”
He goes on to discuss how he believed drums would be the instrument for him. The transition to playing guitar only came as a freshman in high school, partially for his band, partially because he loved the thought of it.
“I fell in love with writing songs.”
What about the harmonica then?
“The harmonica I picked up at the beginning of senior year of high school… The hardest thing is controlling your breath. You have to hold enough breath in to be able to sing the verse next.”
Moving on from his evidently vast musical talent, I ask Chris how he would describe his music to someone who hadn’t heard it before. He chuckles because he’s been trying to answer that question for various blogs recently.
“It’s like if Ed Sheeran and James Bay had a lovechild, and then that child had two involved uncles with John Mayer and Amos Lee… It’s pretty percussive. You’ll hear a lot of me slapping my guitar. Vocally, I like to write raw, emotional lyrics that just come out.”
I think back to his performance again, emotions showering out of his mouth, eyes closed in uncontrollable passion. Even then I could tell that, for Chris, music is more than just singing words and playing a guitar—it’s a vivid, mind-seizing experience.
We finally come to the topic of balancing school and music, and his answer only confirms his work ethic and dedication.
“It’s pretty challenging—I’m Pre-Med. I do homework for my science classes… I practice about an hour to two a day, and spend another two to three hours on social media, just sending out emails to blogs. All my free time is consumed by music, and I think that’s a good thing.”
As I ask about his career plans, the spark in his eyes tells me he’s hoping for his music to take off.
“It’s definitely a pursuit of a professional career, either as a songwriter, or as a singer-songwriter.”
But I can tell that Chris isn’t the type of guy to wait on a prayer, to leave it up to chance—he’s ready to work for it.
“As long as my music is heard.”