More is more to lose (Part 1)

Editor's note: I used to blog about the guitar on a website called JoshGuitars dot com. That blog had thousands of subscribers and followers. I went through several major life changes in 2016 and decided to end the blog, delete all of my social media accounts, sell everything I own and disappear for a bit. I did it.

This post was originally written to that large audience of fellow guitarists. I chose to restore three of these "minimalist guitarist" posts here on this blog, as I still get emails about some of these early posts nearly everyday.

If you don't know what any of this guitar gear-talk means, don't worry. You're better off. This post and the one right before it sparked a lot of controversy and created a lot of conversation within the guitar community as a whole.

It was actually reposted by several manufacturers of guitar gear and several recording artists. It was shared on a guitarist Facebook group and on guitar gear forums where it received very, very mixed reviews. I caused a huge stir.

More is more to lose

I can't get that line out of my head. Having more means having more to lose. I'm going to share just a bit of my story in this blog post in hopes that it reaches someone out there who can relate, but keep that line in mind as you read: "More is more to lose."

I started playing the guitar 15 years ago in church. Church-goers will recognize these songs: 15 years ago, we were singing "In the Secret," "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever," "I Want to Know You," and "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

15 years ago, Chris Tomlin had just released his debut album "The Noise We Make," featuring his hit single, "We Fall Down." Hillsong had just released "To the Ends of the Earth" and were slowly gaining popularity in the States. Matt Redman had just written "Once Again."

I was just about to enter high school and had been playing the saxophone for four or five years when my youth pastor asked me to put together a worship band. My only qualification, if it even counted at the time, was that I had played in a jazz ensemble. Knowing I couldn't lead from the saxophone, I picked up the guitar.

A friend from Liberty University's worship band taught me my first four chords and with one week of practice I led worship. It was not good. It was not even passable. I was awful but I was totally hooked. I spent that summer practicing eight hours a day.

I led worship all through high school and decided to pursue a calling into ministry. I went to Boyce College, the undergrad program of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "Mighty to Save" had just been written when I went off to college.

I auditioned and was asked to come on board as lead guitarist for Boyce College's chapel worship band. Back then, I had my trusty Gibson Les Paul Jr, a Fulltone Full-Drive 2, a Boss DD-5, and a Vox amp. I think I made the band because I was the only guy at school who owned guitar pedals.

I took lessons and got to work learning the lead guitar parts to every worship song that was popular at the time. "Hosanna" had just come out and I was cutting my teeth to Nigel Hendroff riffs. If you were playing the guitar at that time, you'll remember, it was an exciting time for church music.

I had a teacher who was a professional, touring multi-instrumentalist. I also learned a lot from a local pro guitarist who took me under his wing. He was the member of a Christian band that got a bit of radio play. I got backstage to some huge shows early on and through this mentor I met a ton of pro guitarists.

I went to Passion in 2007 and got to speak with Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, and Kendall Combes. I met James Duke in '08 and he helped me put together my pedalboard. Through a mutual friend, I hung out with Jack Parker a few times and chatted about gear and life.

My second semester into college, I made the school's touring worship band. We were given scholarships to travel, promote the school, and lead worship at conferences and student events. I was asked to play for the seminary orchestra and I joined a large local church where I played four services each weekend.

I was playing the collegiate chapel on Monday nights, seminary chapel on Tuesday mornings, rehearsing with the touring band all day each Wednesday, playing for student groups on Wednesday nights, and playing a combined chapel on Thursday mornings.

Then we would travel each weekend to play youth conferences all over the country. And on Sundays I was back at my home church playing four, sometimes five worship services in a single day. In other words, I was playing at least one worship service every single day and rehearsing for hours each week. I did this for two years!

I was sleeping in buses and vans, sleeping at sponsor homes, or not sleeping at all as I completed homework between 30-40 hour weeks as a full-time guitarist. We played in Bible-belt megachurches and in small multi-generational, multicultural churches all over the South, all throughout the Midwest, and in Canada and Mexico.

Back then I was using my Gibson Les Paul Junior, I was given an awesome Telecaster, I had a Vox AC-30 and Dr. Z Maz 18 Reverb in stereo (I was borrowing both), a Dyna Comp, Full-drive 2, DD-20, Memory Man, and RV-5.

College was a blast. Eventually I expanded from church bands to playing several different genres. I played in an indie band that got some radio play and traveled, I played with two country artists, I recorded with a couple of singer/songwriters—everyday was new and different and awesome and I was broke but living my dream as a guitarist.

After college I got a great job, moved back home, and began to really only lead worship as a volunteer. I started an Instagram account where I gave advice on guitar and answered questions, helped people plan out their pedalboards and just kind of generally talked about guitar for the church.

My Instagram profile kind of blew up. I gained 5,000 followers within about two years. I posted some live videos and chatted with people, but to be perfectly honest, it blew up mostly because I was buying gear like crazy. So much so that, at one point, someone asked me if I owned a music store.

I was spending a grand each month, easily. Cables, power supplies, custom boards, custom guitars, vintage guitars, amps, boutique pedals—I had it all. It was wholly unsustainable. And it's the reason I'm writing this to you today. If you'll stick with me a little while longer I'd like to tell you what happened next. See Part 2.

Part 2 can be found here