It’s not surprising that the three musicians who will be playing at the TEDx American Riviera’s “The Unthinkable” conference on Nov. 11 at Bacara Resort & Spa mentioned the same golden thread of inspiration for their music: The Beatles.
Singer, songwriter, blues pianist and hometown Santa Barbara boy Orlando Napier of the Orlando Napier Band, a Los Angeles-based R&B Soul group, said that his musical inspiration began not only with the music of The Beatles, but also with Ray Charles, Al Green and Aretha Franklin.
“There was always good music playing at my house,” he said.
Napier used to travel around with his father’s R&B band, Cats and Dogs, a name that soon changed to the Orlando Napier Band once the younger Napier’s talent became apparent. (His father maintains a place in the band as the “tenor sax man.”)
For jazz, pop and soul artist Chris Pierce, it was John Lennon of The Beatles and Franklin who inspired him to greatness and to reach inside of his heart. Recipient of the Ella Fitzgerald scholarship for jazz studies at USC and former opener for the musical performer Seal, Pierce called himself a “product of my parents’ record collection.”
Moi Navarro (Moi rhymes with “boy”), a Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, balladeer and up-and-coming voice in Indie Rock Music, said his musical influences were The Beatles, American folk singer John Jacob Niles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Queen and Jeff Buckley.
“I get my inspiration from my mistakes and my aspirations from the people I love and the people who love me,” confessed Navarro, who credits his parents and the way they “choose to love people” as additional important inspirations.
This year’s TEDxAmericanRiviera theme The Unthinkable is inspiring all three musicians to relate how they overcame adversity to achieve unthinkable things.
When Pierce was 15 and already a musician, he lost his hearing to otosclerosis, an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear.
“Music was a place of refuge for me,” he said. “And, then I lost my hearing.
“I had surgery where they replaced my eardrum with synthetic pieces and I regained hearing in one ear .... It made me evaluate what does music mean to me? What do hearing and sound mean to me? My immediate reaction was, ‘Wow. I have to do whatever I can to still make music.’ ... Over the years, what it has meant to me is that, if you love something, you fight for it.”
For Navarro, it wasn’t illness or disease. Instead, it was life circumstances that he had to overcome.
“I’m Hispanic and grew up in the ghettos of Los Angeles,” he said. “Spanish was my first language ... My parents were both missionaries. They are from Mexico City and moved to Los Angeles County to work with the Hispanic community ...
“My story is the story of not giving up and continuing to grab a hold of things that will help you move forward. Music was a big part of allowing me to be able to break through.”
With Napier, it was through a variety of misadventures and the School of Hard Knocks that he came to learn who he was as a musician.
“You have to be able to look inside yourself and not care what others are thinking,” he said. “You have to just keep playing your song.”
It’s a lesson Napier knows well as he was a participant in Season 2 of the musical-reality show The Voice.
“No matter how good you are, someone is going to say that you’re making the wrong choice,” he explained. “Stick with what you love and trust what you love is going to be loved by others. Your passion will translate. Don’t get pulled or pushed in a direction that doesn’t fit you.”
It seems that doing what you love and loving those around you while doing it seem to be the keys to achieving the unthinkable. Perhaps Pierce said it best: “I’m a very naturally emotional person and I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. It’s brought me a lot of joy and some heartache ... I get to go on stage. It is my responsibility to be as honest and complete in the moment as possible. I never write set lists. I always feel what the moment is ... In the end when you look back, it’s about what you give. To touch hearts is such a beautiful opportunity.”
Orlando Napier, Chris Pierce and Moi Navarro all seem to have learned their lessons well from their lives, the people in their lives, their fans ... and The Beatles. After all, it was The Beatles who sang, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Limited tickets are still available for TEDx American Riviera 2012. Click here for more information.